Independence — Being your own boss, the greatest high and the greatest low is being the person who calls the shots. Having that autonomy gives you the greatest buzz and no one can tell you what to do or how to do it. The flipside of that is when times are tough, or you’re feeling challenged you are the person who has to come up with the answers and that can be a very lonely place at times.
Award-winning sales and leadership expert, internationally renowned coach, and philanthropist, Gordon is amongst the most successful 1% in his industry and viewed as one of the leading visionaries in his field.
Gordon has inspired and educated audiences around the world. His presentations and training at Global Training Conferences have been attended by audiences of tens of thousands. Gordon has shared the stage with motivational speakers such as Rachel Hollis Mel Robbins, Connie Podesta & Paul McKenna. Sharing his thoughts and solutions with his audiences; his ideas touch and transform the way they feel about themselves and others.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I was born in Ayr and grew up in the West Coast of Scotland. When I was young, my family moved to Dumbarton — a small town famous for its Castle and where Mary, Queen of Scots sailing to France as a young girl, it’s Ballantine’s Whiskey and the shipyards that built the fastest “Tea Clipper in the world, “Cutty Sark”. It was fifteen minutes in the car from Loch Lomond and so the environment I grew up in was all you imagine Scotland to be. Looking back, I can see how fortunate I was in that regard.
It was my father who got me my start. He persuaded his friend, John Lindsay, who’d recently purchased the Formula One, Racing Car Driver, Sir Jackie Stewart’s car dealership and it was there I got my first job: washing cars — for £1 per hour!!
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I wore the golden handcuffs at my last “job”. I was a good one. I was paid extremely well but like many worked like crazy for the money, so the defining moment for me (in deciding to become an entrepreneur) happened in the year 2000, when I am sitting on the M25, between Jct 10 & 11 at 7.15AM in bumper-to-bumper, mother of all traffic jams. It was appalling.
I did that commute every single day. Twice. It was so grim. I also didn’t enjoy my alarm going off every morning at stupid o’clock, I disliked the commute from Epsom to the Slough Riviera because it was an hour and a half commute — there and back (on-top of the 9–5 workday — if I didn’t work late). But hey — money compensates. Right? Well, on this particular day, the traffic was gridlocked.
My car didn’t move for at least 1.5 hours due to a bad accident and as per usual I was listening to Sadie Nine’s breakfast show on Liberty FM — the irony wasn’t lost on me. Also, for some time before I’d been feeling that my life and career wasn’t going in the direction I wanted and now it was manifesting itself in a metaphysical way like never before. It was a sign. As I looked out of my car window, I could see the other commuters behind the wheels of their vehicles — some applying make-up…others smoking, and the rest just looking frontal lobotomised and half asleep– I thought to myself, “there has got to be more to life that commuting to Silicon Valley every day to do a job I don’t like in an Industry that sends me to sleep”. I knew that if I continued doing exactly what I was doing and changed nothing in my life then I was going to become one of those lost people.
It was at that point I had my epiphany — to be fair, at first I thought it was wind, but then realised, no…it was indeed an epiphany and in that moment I decided that as soon as the traffic started to move I was going to get to work and tell my boss that I was going to quit and follow a career that involved more lifestyle based with time freedom, and, that something would put me in charge so that I could build my own dreams rather than be a minion in someone else’s. Life’s way too short…and that was the moment I went from the wages system to the profit system! And that was that…
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
I think I was, well, I mean I learned it from my parents, who’d both been entrepreneurs. So, I suppose I had an advantage in that respect. I saw them work for themselves, my mother in particular worked extraordinarily hard and I watched and learned as my father’s business went “belly up” and the uncertainty and challenges that brought us. It was a learning curve.
My first taste of being an entrepreneur came when I was about 16 years old. I was elected as Sales Director of our Schools own pupil run business. “Sticky Business” was a pupil run company where 16- & 17-year olds conceived a business from scratch, raised capital, manufactured a product, sold shares & built a profitable business through the sales of a consumable good — in this case our own formulated hair spray (don’t ask). This was a National competition with the Scottish Enterprise Organisation in which we turned a product and repaid all our investors.
On reflection I probably should have started my own business after school, but I really wanted to be an Actor — so didn’t pursue it. Little did I know that to be an Actor, having a secondary income stream would be essential.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
Yes. Sue Cassidy. Sue is one of my closest friends, she’s also A-type personality and a serial achiever — whether in song writing for Tina Turner, Property Investment, Network Marketing or writing. She was also married to David Cassidy — one of The World’s most famous popstars. Her personality is huge and someone I admire very much.
I’d already set up my business but hadn’t really done anything with it. I had some doubts which were all fear based:
1) I was concerned by what people might think (as I walked away from a corporate career to start a business which had many negative prejudices attached to it).
2) I didn’t know if I could succeed in this new industry because I’d no previous experience and I didn’t know anyone who had achievement in it either to look to for inspiration. I also knew that success to the level I desired was low.
Sue cast her vision with me and shared what was possible for within my industry of choice. The picture she painted was so vivid, so enormous and so tangible, that I felt like I just had rocket boosters attached to my back. I never looked back. She told me I was looking at a “turd through a straw” and my fears had removed my ability of perspective and seeing the bigger picture. Other people’s opinions were not going to pay for my bills nor get me further in life so, I chose to believe her and take the road less travelled. Which came with many challenges but was the right thing to do and I am forever grateful to her for that.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My network marketing company stands out as the oldest and largest B corporation of its type in its sector. Our overnight success has been years in the making and built upon the foundation of clean, cruelty free products, positive values, community and giving back — creating an environment where there are better options for people and the planet.
This might seem rather ubiquitous today but in 1980 people did not understand this concept or this language. Someone had to go first, someone had to have the courage of conviction and stand behind themselves. Together we made that decision to make a difference.
You are a successful business leader. Which three-character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Thank you. If I’m successful it is only because of the leaders who initially followed me into my organization and then achieved their goals and ran with the opportunity. I think I was a good picker!
1. The character traits that I think were most instrumental in achievement for me was my fast thought processing skills (this can also be a negative by the way). I have a pragmatic ability to really simplify a situation and proceed with it with a focussed urgency.
Whilst I realize there are challenges — in my mind it is easy and attainable. I actually think I can do anything — and that’s my folly — which means I often run at something and then midway in, I think “oh, beep…this is really beeping hard”. It’s somewhat childlike — and I blame it on the Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney movies, “let’s put on a show in the barn” …you know? But that leads me to my second trait –
2. Resilience. I have a lot of resilience. If I want something badly enough, I focus with laser beam precision on getting my needs met. It’s almost obsessive and I won’t stop until I’ve achieved it. My reasoning is attached to the above — if someone else has done it, why can’t I? Then I think, “well, someone’s GOING to do it…so it might as well be me…”
I put up with a lot in my childhood. My father’s challenges and the struggles with his disease affected the family, that trauma had a positive and that was the desire to survive and that is where I believe my resilience comes from.\
3. Charisma. That sounds so narcissistic but the ability to like and influence people is an essential part of achievement (in my mind anyway). Some people have it naturally and some people learn and develop it.
I think it’s always nice to be nice, and I believe you can succeed in business without having to be J.R Ewing. Having manners, being pleasant and making the other person feel recognized and important can never be underrated, we used to say in our business — “get nice or get out”.
If you want to get nice — then I would encourage you to read, “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie. Once you’ve read it. Read it again…once you’ve read it again — read it again.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
I actually have more regrets about opportunities I didn’t take, rather than ones I did because I’ve always been rather determined in my own mind, but one of the biggest mistakes I made, or at least the one that springs to mind is a situation that happened in a previous company.
I was new to this particular organization and at a company sales event — a member of senior management got drunk (I was sober) and attempted to harass me in a disgusting, sexual & homophobic manner. There were witnesses. I reported it to my line manager and was very clear (to all involved) that I wouldn’t accept this type of behavior but ultimately, I was dissuaded me from taking it any further. I regret somewhat not having the courage of my convictions at that time to make more of a stand because who knows how institutionalized this was and who else was being effected but I guess I hoped that the incident was enough to change future behaviors and attitudes with those involved. This was so long before the “ME TOO” movement. A tough one (then).
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
Company politics and gossip are two of the biggest culprits — whilst I believe in transparency — everyone doesn’t need to know everything — sharing company challenges or directional changes with your team immediately because you want to be liked is a “NO-NO”, gossiping about what’s happening with who and where, only creates fear, uncertainty and overwhelm. I would caution against that culture.
Let the company do what the company does and just you focus on you and what your role and responsibility is — don’t allow other people’s negativity, doom or fears to seep into your consciousness — it will take you out of the game. Nip this in the bud and set boundaries. If someone wants to share a juicy tid-bit just say, “before you start — if this is about X — I don’t want to hear it…”. Misery loves company — stay away from gossip and intrigue. It will beep you up.
With regards to Burnout I think people can deal with a lot and I’d never caution someone on what they think they can or can’t achieve, but if there’s no tangible reward and recognition for their efforts and a personal observance of boundaries it can create a lack of productivity and burnout. Boundaries and good culture are key. I personally worked 24–6 for the first two years of my business — I always took Sunday off. I did this because I knew you had to ride the momentum whilst it was there and I appreciated that my aggressive goals whilst uncomfortable at the time would not be long term, so I was able to set expectations and give myself “breaths — not breaks” to achieve my goals without burnout. The adrenalin of achievement and the positive culture of frequent accolades and recognition both physical and verbal helped sustain and propel me further.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Avoid populism, religion and politics at all costs.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
You will never win. It’s rarely a win-win situation. In business, when you can see topics or scenarios that could be divisive in nature, you’re always going to lose half your people if you side with one or the other. There will always be those for and those against those particular examples and because the nature of populism is incredibly fickle (i.e., so what looks good and exciting today may not be flavour of the month tomorrow) you may end up with egg on your face and on the receiving end of a lack of credibility and trust. Be clear on what your company values are, get behind them and keep your personal opinions to yourself — I would avoid merging business and pleasure. I think that when you’re a leader you sometimes have to put your personal opinions to the side and keep them private — this is business — not a TV show. HM The Queen is a very good example of this.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
It’s when they start growing. Some lose sight of the core product, the values and beliefs and what made the company so compelling in the first place.
As a company grows and expands, it brings more officers to the management table. Everyone comes with an opinion and an agenda — not all are welcomed or helpful. With time and investment, you might see the product evolve but the core nature of the business and its values might not have to just because someone “new” has some great idea of how to mix things up. If it ain’t broken don’t fix it. The founders are ultimately the ones who imagined the story and if the CEO and member don’t fully understand what that is or aren’t in alignment with it, it can cause trouble and stall growth. With new investment comes new voices and if the boards vision and mission is in conflict with the employees through lack of communication it can cause unnecessary challenge.
I think every board member should work on the floor and understand what it takes “today” to sell the product or service they are making decisions on. Work from the bottom up. When we become disconnected from the business as a whole error can be made and whilst there is transparency and a culture of communication and understanding you can create a healthier environment where everyone feels value — regardless of their position.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
The commonality of being an employee and an entrepreneur is that, if you love what you do and care about your company’s wellbeing it’s likely you will become emotionally attached to many outcomes you’re presented with. I think that as an entrepreneur that is just accentuated somewhat. You just have extra. This is basically only because you likely conceived your business, have invested so much of your time, money, emotional intensity, work, sweat and tears into it and no-one will ever love it more than you. You may disagree but I think the emotional roller coaster is greater because there is so much of you invested into the business and therefore it’s hard to be dispassionate about it.
It’s also about risk. Whilst there is risk involved in being an employee, there tends to be far less financial and emotional commitment. You might put more hours in than your contract states but if your company needs to expand and there is a need for money to do that, it’s unlikely that the employee would, for instance, re-mortgage their house, take the cash out and invest it into the core business to make that happen. The love and intensity for making your business succeed is inextricably entwined in your very being that the inanimate object almost becomes “alive” and your need to sustain and nurture this only makes the feeling of responsibility greater. It’s like having a baby.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
This story comes with a disclaimer because it isn’t typical, but I remember my business earning an incentive award for generating exceptional sales in my first year of business. It was a huge milestone event and my company recognized me and rewarded me with a cash reward which ultimately resulted in me purchasing a new Mercedes-Benz. The car represented validation for me and the risks that I’d taken to walk away from corporate were vindicated. I remember when the car was delivered, I sat at the steering wheel with a tear in my eye, just soaking up the emotion at the magnitude of the moment because I knew what earning this would mean to my organization and what the domino effect would be for them. The rest is history as they say but who would have thought a car would be so impactful!
Less than 1% achieve NVP: earnings.arbonne.com
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
I felt unusually disappointed when a competitor launched into the UK and rather than working hard to build their own leadership and client base, they chose to cherry pick at my organization. They targeted my leaders and were the epitome of bad network marketing — you know, everything that people dislike about my Industry was epitomized. Yet it never stopped them, and they were much frowned upon and their reputation suffered as a consequence. Unnecessary conflict upsets me most and this was an example of such. I’m pretty easy going and think, just follow the rules and play in the sandpit nicely — there’s room for all of us, this does nothing to raise the vibration of our industry in any way and I don’t think people realize that when they’re only focussed on themselves.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
There’s a bright side to the story, some of the people who left were considered particularly negative anyway and had caused many challenges and conflicts within our business, so in a way them leaving created a vacuum which was filled by those who flourished by their departure. How did I bounce back? I’m a pragmatist — it spoiled my breakfast but didn’t ruin my lunch, besides I was too busy working with goal orientated people who wanted better than crabs in a box.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Time — One of the biggest highs and one of the biggest lows of being your own boss is being in charge of your own schedule. When you start building your business, you may have another job (or another business) and therefore you’re running the purpose driven business around those commitments. This can mean you’re often working 24 seven. That can take a great toll on you, but the pain is temporary, until you make your part-time job the main thing. Set your expectations and rope in those who are part of your life into your vision and help set boundaries around this to help keep yourself sane.
2. Money — often as you start your own business cash flow can be slow to begin with, and money can be tight. This is normal, but it is also vital to understand that in the beginning you will work hard for very little, midterm you will work hard for OK money, And long-term work less for more. Again, this is about expectations and understanding the process of being an entrepreneur, many people have a job around their business in order to support this aspect.
3. Gossip — Not everybody is going to understand or agree with what you are doing. They may talk about you behind your back, they may disagree with you to your face. Whatever they say, it’s important that you are clear with your vision and where you’re going and what you have in your hands. Set your expectations and set your boundaries and you can deal with these people, and know that when you are a great success they will be your biggest fans, and tell you they always believed you could do it!!
4. Expectations — This is expectations and respect to what you can achieve. Many entrepreneurs underestimate what they can do over a long period of time, and are focused only on their immediate gratification stage and what they can achieve in the short term. Most people quit their business in the first one to three years, before the golden period in the third to fifth year. Always look to the long term and don’t quit before payday.
5. Independence — Being your own boss, the greatest high and the greatest low is being the person who calls the shots. Having that autonomy gives you the greatest buzz and no one can tell you what to do or how to do it. The flipside of that is when times are tough, or you’re feeling challenged you are the person who has to come up with the answers and that can be a very lonely place at times. This is why it’s great to have a mentor, or a coach to support you when you feel that you could do with support outside of a friend or family member who may not “get it”.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I may have touched on this earlier but without being too cliché it is about bouncing back and bouncing higher. It’s hanging in there long enough for your big break. We live in world where there are few truly “unique” products or services anymore, so many things have been invented (or there’s a similar alternative), the consumer has SO much choice. Hanging in there and being the last person standing is half the battle — somebody once said, 80% of success is showing up — I agree 100% you have to show up (and shop up with the same energy and attitude as the first time) because the moment you don’t someone else will. They work 1% harder than you over 12 months and they win. It’s a simple as that and you can’t argue against the math. Our footsteps are being made in the sand and every day we have to walk the walk again and again before the tide washes away the impression, business is no different. You keep showing up, you keep a smile on your face, and you keep on showing up “until” and only you know what the “until” is, but I promise you if you don’t it won’t happen for you and someone else will live the life you’re supposed to be living — so why not you? Why not me?
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
My father suffered from the disease of Alcoholism. It was in that environment that I built my particular high grade of resilience. It would be unfair to share a story, but I will tell you it made who I am today, and as much as I’d prefer many of the lived experiences never happened, I don’t think I would be living the life I am if they hadn’t. I consider myself a survivor and I made the decision that my past would not predicate my future, it hasn’t.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Yes and No. Mostly yes but I’m not a Pollyanna. I look at each challenging scenario (and the different outcomes that could happen) and then basically prepare for the worst case but mostly (hope and) work hard towards the best case.
Once you realize, that whatever happens is not the end of the world, it takes the pressure off and you can just start again. No great shakes, there’s always another day. It’s only a lesson that needs to be learned. There’s always tomorrow. Beep them!! 😉
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
Well, it goes along way. I mean what’s the alternative. I also think you have to be careful if you have a dry sense of humor because it can come across as negative, equally if you’re too positive and everything is wine and roses then it can go against you.
I think positivity based on pragmatism is good. If you tell people a compelling reason “why” you’re as positive as you are it makes for better understanding and engagement.
I think positivity is a better way to build a business and create client relationship than fear. What’s in it for them, why and how it will enhance their life in a good way, never gets tired.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
It’s one of my own, “I have the courage to live a life true to myself, rather than the life others expected of me” ~ Gordon Fraser.
The pursuance of greatness is sure living the life you choose and throwing away the bits that don’t work anymore. In fact, being happy and engaged in that chosen life — the one that you want for you — your best you. It took me years to finally get behind myself and vocalise what I truly wanted and at the height of my corporate career, I walked away from it — I had the key to my gilded cage for years and chose to stay in it all those years till one day I decided that I couldn’t live with the regret of not following my dreams — so I quit. If ever you want a reality check — watch the clip of Marlon Brando, from the movie, “On the Waterfront” the scene when he says, “he could have been something” that hits me viscerally and reminds me to always follow your gut instinct and do what’s right for you.
How can our readers further follow you online?
You can find me at www.gordonfraser.co
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!