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Pete O’Keeffe: “Apologize unreservedly”

Shared Stories. Sharing a personal story in your life or someone who has inspired you and why. We know where our colleagues live, if they have a partner or children, but we don’t really know them. Shared stories, brings out so much more than we possibly knew, leading to greater understanding and empathy for our […]

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Shared Stories. Sharing a personal story in your life or someone who has inspired you and why. We know where our colleagues live, if they have a partner or children, but we don’t really know them. Shared stories, brings out so much more than we possibly knew, leading to greater understanding and empathy for our colleagues.
A story that was shared. This employee lived in a warzone before coming to the UK. One day she was walking through the battle torn streets with her Mum, when both warring factions opened fire on each other. They were caught in the middle. An RPG rocket was fired by one side, passing between her Mum’s legs and exploding against the wall, 20m away. Both were knocked to the ground unconscious. This saved their lives


As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pete O’Keeffe.

Pete has run multiple Businesses. He helped multiple Businesses owners through the G.F.C. in 2008 and Corona Virus Pandemic in 2020 by guiding and supporting them to achieve a better and stronger business on the other side of each Epic event. Pete & Janelle have 6 children, who they are extremely proud of. They have provided the same opportunities to their children as they have to Business owners to be successful. Their children have gone to achieve in their various fields of endeavour, such as International Rugby Referee, & Doctor of Ophthalmology, Olympian, NZ National dancer, USA University scholarship recipients, NZ Army Special Forces, & PhD in Virus identification.

Pete has his pilots’ license and has a love of the outdoors, & hiking & fishing.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I am a maverick and was being constrained by the Policing system. I wanted to get out and run my own business before I became too ‘bitter and twisted in the Police!”

Two days before my 40th birthday I left the Police and started my own business. (Just proves it’s never too late to start!)

Over the next 3 years I set up 2 more businesses. Other Business owners came to me and asked what I was doing that allowed me to have time off I was having, and make the money I was making. This helped me morph into the training and mentoring environment.

I realized one of the key fundamentals that was letting business owners down were disengaged employees. In fact, a Gallup poll tells us that 87% of the worlds work force is either disengaged or highly disengaged from their work. This means that 34% of all salary is wasted due to this lack of productivity. So for every £10,000 paid out in salary, £3,400 is wasted. This is criminal.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Let me share a story with you!!!

I changed countries in 2014, coming to live in the UK from New Zealand.

I opted to move in to a Franchise here, as I had no friends, family or connections. It seemed the logical thing to do. I believed in myself, as I had been very successful in NZ.

That belief soon came crashing down!!! I couldn’t gain any traction in the Franchise and after 4 years I was making no money and was on the bones of my bum. I had asked the Franchisor for help. He said to me, “I’m not throwing good money after bad!” Wow, that set me on my backside.

Janelle (my wife) I decided to head back to NZ and start again. We had been successful there in the past. I couldn’t see any other option at that time and was mentally in a very bad state.

So, we were set to leave Britain.

We had given notice on our business premises, and given notice on our house, we had the container booked. We had a 1-way flight to NZ. Then one Sunday night in September 2019–4 days before we were due to leave, we had dinner with Jessen, our good friend, mentor and confidant. The conversation stopped us in our tracks and changed our lives.

Jessen is 5’10”. Slim build, deep brown eyes, dark luminescent skin, short black hair. He dresses immaculately and his intellectual candlepower could light up London if they plugged him into the national grid.

‘Hey Pete n Janelle, good to see you both. What happening in your world?’

‘Jessen, we’re heading home and starting again in NZ.

Our Franchise, is just restricting me and I have no FREEDOM.

It’s closed around us like a noose around our neck.

We have to throw the noose off, as I don’t want to lose my marriage

So we’re heading back to NZ to do what we do best and without the restrictions placed over us’

‘Hmm, No you’re not Pete.’

‘Well Jessen, this airline ticket says Heathrow — Auckland, I don’t see a return portion on here!!!! Besides we’ve given notice on our house and business premises and the container to load our furniture comes this Friday — 4 days away.’

‘Pete and Janelle, you’re not going guys. I have spoken to several of your clients and I’ve read your testimonials. You’ve done amazing work with you clients. Look at Luke — you’ve helped him put an extra £46,000 every month on to his bottom line. That’s a 27% uplift. What about Mike, he now stays at the upmarket hotels when he travels, yet 3 years ago, he looked over the fence at these hotels. You’ve helped him increase his turnover 5X to what he was making.’

‘You are meant to serve in England here, and Business Owners in Kent need you. You both have a great reputation here. You don’t belong in NZ, you belong here. I’m telling you now, if you go back to New Zealand, you’re being selfish!!!’

‘Come and work under my umbrella, use my IP if necessary. You will become part of my company until such time as you’re up and running on your own again. You guys are mavericks and I can see how the Franchise system has restricted you. You want to look after B/O’s, not have to stick to a system. Look, all you need is a little bit of direction.’

And that’s what we did — we stayed in the UK, and it was such a good decision.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes people can see things we can’t?

In life, sometimes there are people who come into your life so they can help you, and others so you can help them.

And I realized it’s never too late to change, especially when you take responsibility for the great decision.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Since staying in the UK, we have set up a new company Global Business Performance and where we have set up our E.L.S. programme. This is for Elite Leadership Specialists as we realised, and especially going through this current Epic world crisis, Business Owners and Entrepreneur’s lack leadership skills and training to lead their teams.

Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

The number is actually higher than 50%. As I cited above, a Gallup poll tells us that 87% of the worlds work force is either disengaged or highly disengaged from their work. This means that 34% of all salary is wasted due to this lack of productivity. So for every £10,000 paid out in salary, £3,400 is wasted.

My belief is, it is so high due to leaders not leading. Business owners abdicating their responsibility to lead. Business owners not understanding the 3 pillars to having a successful and productive team.

And here’s the thing, if you only have 2 pillars functioning, you only receive 1 benefit. You need all 3 pillars to gain 3 benefits for an ENGAGED workforce.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact

Based on my research and experience running employee engagement programmes, a proper employee engagement programme will lead to:

a) company productivity

51% increase in productivity

43% more productive staff

b) company profitability

22% more profitability

28% less theft

10% higher customer ratings

c) and employee health and wellbeing?

87% less likely to leave

48% fewer safety incidents

500% more free time

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

  1. Collective Accountability, Buy-in and Behavioural Bench-marking. A story: A company we worked with, we asked them to pick the 5 behaviours they wanted in their business. Every week they had to choose someone who had exemplified those behaviours during the week. Productivity increased 13% after 5 weeks of implementing this process.
  2. Shared Stories. Sharing a personal story in your life or someone who has inspired you and why. We know where our colleagues live, if they have a partner or children, but we don’t really know them. Shared stories, brings out so much more than we possibly knew, leading to greater understanding and empathy for our colleagues.
    A story that was shared. This employee lived in a warzone before coming to the UK. One day she was walking through the battle torn streets with her Mum, when both warring factions opened fire on each other. They were caught in the middle. An RPG rocket was fired by one side, passing between her Mum’s legs and exploding against the wall, 20m away. Both were knocked to the ground unconscious. This saved their lives
  3. Individualize Goal setting and KPI’s. If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter where you end up.Goals and KPI’s are fundamental for all organisations and individuals. It gives a sense of purpose and commonality of direction to achieve.
    A story: A client had never set goals in his business. We helped him set a collective goal for the business, and then guided the staff on what each individual employee would do as their part to achieve the goal. At year end, profitability has increased 23% and everyone received a bonus.
  4. Emerging Leader Pipeline. Giving individual employees the opportunity to step up into a Leadership role. A Story: An employee never put themselves forward, or always hung back from any supervisory role. Seeing potential, we asked the employer to give them a supervisory role., which they did. All of a sudden this ‘ugly duckling’ spread into the most beautiful ‘swan’ who lead the company through one of the most extra-ordinary growth spurts the company had seen. (They had forever been castigated and put down as a young person. The potential was always there, it just had never been utilized until they were asked.)
  5. Unearthing Creative Thinking and Innovation. When employees are asked for their input, its extraordinary what ideas they harbour that have lain dormant until asked.
    A Story: When we introduced this concept to a company, one of the HR team came up with a blindingly brilliant recruitment policy that saved hours of CV sifting and interviews.
    It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
    Not only in the USA, but worldwide. Accountability and Focus are the 2 secret sauce ingredients to ensure lasting change occurs and happens. It’s really simple but few are willing to hold their employees Accountable and give them Focus. Hence the cycle of lack of productivity, leadership inability, employee disengagement continues…
https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/0ee00cd7c3a6cfd7f7d04a1750f045cb

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

I am democratic, ensuring I have the behavioural buy-in of my staff to achieve what they have agreed for the common good of the business.

I will become autocratic and hold people to account if they are not achieving their KPI’s (which they agreed and signed off on)

I won’t tolerate excuses, denial or blame. I accept, responsibility, ownership and accountability — even if someone makes a mistake. I then ask the learnings they have obtained.

An example. A staff member made a mistake that cost the business £1000’s. They came to me before I was aware of the potential ramifications of the mistake. Together we worked through a plan of action to remedy the mistake.

  1. Admit fault
  2. Timeframe to rectify the issue
  3. Apologize unreservedly
  4. Rectify and ensure client(s) was happy with the outcome

Once the issue was sorted, the employee and I spoke. I asked what their learnings were.

They outlined their learnings to me.

I let them know I was proud of them for fronting the issue, so we could sort it. They replied that they knew they had made a mistake, but that they could come and let me know what had happened, knowing I would be angry at the behaviour that led to the mistake, but that I was a leader who would accept the failure so long as they were honest , and learnt from it– which they were.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Jessen James, my mentor. The person who told me I would be selfish if I left England!!!!

Refer above story again.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

2 ways

  1. Keeping a Business and Family together is incredibly difficult. So much so, I have written a book on it
  2. ‘Family matters, So does Business.’ 5 ways to keep your family flying.

I have used my knowledge to ‘pay it forward’ to help struggling business owners who don’t have the financial capacity to pay me what I normally charge, to get their business going. They will always pay something, as FREE gives them no ‘skin in the game’ and no value.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

If you make a PROFIT, but don’t give VALUE — you’re a THIEF

If you give VALUE, but don’t make a PROFIT — you’re a CHARITY

I have used my knowledge to ‘pay it forward’ to help struggling business owners who don’t have the financial capacity to pay me what I normally charge, to get their business going. They will always pay something, as FREE gives them no ‘skin in the game’ and no value.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Greed was no longer part of the world. People shared and helped each other. People held each other accountable to do what is right and honourable.

People are given 3 chances. If they haven’t learnt how to behave and realise it is about their fellow human beings not themselves, after the 3rd chance, then they are cast out. It’s about accountability.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!

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