Episode 5: Clayton Oates – How to Create a business and design a Life

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Gold Nuggets

  1. It is not enough to be passionate and do what you love. The world must also want what you are offering.
  2. Entrepreneurship is about helping others by adding value or creating value where there was none before.
  3. Everything we do has a price. It is either moving you towards your goal or away from it.
  4. If you are open to hearing and listening, there will always be something that will impact you in some way.

Meet Clayton Oates

Our guest, Clayton Oates, Founder of QA Business in Australia is a twenty-year entrepreneur and self-professed “small business enthusiast.

During our conversation, you’ll discover how to stay relevant in the most difficult of times, how to build a business while designing the life that you want, the importance of being kind to ourselves and knowing our purpose and why passion is not enough for success.

To learn more about Clayton, visit http://www.qabusiness.com.au/index.php

Smart Man, Smarter Woman References

We talk about a lot in each episode; however, we don’t want you to miss a thing! Here are some key items were mentioned if you want to take a closer look.

Books referred to during this episode:
Winning the Battle for Relevance – Michael McQueen
Atomic Habits – James Clear
The Obstacle is The Way – Ryan Holiday
e-Myth Revisited – Michael Gerber

Learn more about our Cloud Accounting Services here


Steve Loates (00:00):
Welcome to our Smart Man, Smarter Woman Podcast, a podcast by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs to help them on their own journey. I am Steve Loates.

Juliet Aurora (00:14):
And I am Juliet Aurora.

Steve Loates (00:16):
And we are your co-hosts. We have a great show for you today with our very special guest, all the way from down under in Australia, Clayton Oates, accounting technologist and small business enthusiast. How are you doing today, Clayton?

Clayton Oates (00:33):
Ah, good day, Steve. Good day, Juliet. I’m awesome, feeling great. Absolutely thrilled to be on the podcast here with you guys today.

Steve Loates (00:41):
Awesome. That’s great, and I’ll do an official introduction in a minute or so, but let’s hear from my wonderful cohost first, the smarter woman herself, Juliet. How are you doing today, Juliet?

Juliet Aurora (00:54):
I am excellent. Thank you, Steve. And welcome to everyone in our audience. Welcome, Clayton. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun over the next half an hour. I think it was probably Steve and I first heard Clayton speak when he was presenting at a conference, and it was a really entertaining 40 minute presentation that he did. I’m not sure if it was the content, because honestly I don’t remember what the content was, or perhaps it’s the accent that just makes everything more entertaining, but I think that we’re going to have a great conversation over the next half hour and look forward to learning more about Clayton’s journey.

Steve Loates (01:36):
Thank you, Juliet. Now, as I mentioned at the beginning, our podcast is for and about entrepreneurs. Our goal is to provide some entertainment, hopefully, but most important, some value for you, some insights, and hopefully some gold nuggets that can help other entrepreneurs, like you, no matter where they are on their own journey.

Steve Loates (02:02):
So without further ado, I’ll give you a little bit of background on our guest that I was able to dig up on him from the internet. So I’m sure this is all true, because of course it was online. So he currently lives in Alstonville, New South Wales, which is on the east coast of Australia, with his wife and five kids, Holly, Jack, Luke, Matthew, and Rachel.

Juliet Aurora (02:31):
There’s a lot of information online.

Steve Loates (02:33):
Oh, there is. He received his bachelor of commerce and accounting from Monash University, began his career as a tax accountant at PwC, realized that tax accounting wasn’t really for him. And so, in 1997, over 20 years ago, founded QA Business, which was designed to help small business, accountants, and bookkeepers improve their business efficiency.

Steve Loates (03:04):
He is recognized as one of the top 25 thought leaders in the accounting profession, and is a regular speaker and presenter at conferences all around the globe. And by the way, Clayton, I love your LinkedIn profile, especially the headline, “Small business enthusiast and each day appreciator.” I think that’s awesome. So welcome to the podcast, Clayton, and thank you very much for joining us. How are things going for you during these crazy times?

Clayton Oates (03:37):
Well, yeah. Well, I mean, by the way, I couldn’t have written that better myself, Steve, so thanks so much for digging that up. I’ll have to get a copy of that. Look, we are in interesting times, aren’t we? And I suppose all times are interesting, in some respects. This is just different again and we’re going through some sort of phase or cycle that perhaps all of us individually have never been through before, but perhaps the world has seen some of this previously.

Clayton Oates (04:01):
So it’s really interesting, I supposed, noticing how myself and others respond or react to this moment, and I’m really trying to focus on responses that are carefully thought through, and we’re obviously detaching, if you like, from attachment and expectations and all sorts of other things that we felt as though we’re entitled to.

Clayton Oates (04:28):
So it’s a wonderful moment in terms of benefiting us. I think it’s happening for us, but it’s also happening to us, and the health challenge is a major one and I feel for anyone whose been impacted directly or indirectly through all of this, but we will get out the other side of it. It’s just, what can we learn from this experience? I suppose that’s the way I’m trying to view it.

Juliet Aurora (04:54):
And it is going to be, and it is, I find, that it is going to be interesting, that we’re actually living through something that the next generation is going to study in their history books when they’re looking back 30 years, 20 years, and we’re living through it now. So I think that’s fairly interesting as well, as to what our perspective is versus what they’re going to teach 20 years from now. So what is the legacy we’re leaving behind for 20 years from now?

Clayton Oates (05:26):
Yeah. And I think just also around that piece of understanding, what we can control and can’t control, you just see that theme sort of recurring, and I read a bit about it over the years. And sort of from a philosophical point of view, as to what is it that we can actually control? And what is it that’s outside of our control, in order to then sort of take action where we can, actually take that action and build a bit more solid ground under our feet, I suppose, through some sort of certainty through action?

Steve Loates (05:56):
Very, very true. Maybe we can get started, Clayton. If you could share a little bit maybe about your background and your own entrepreneurial journey. How did you get from point A to point B, where you are today?

Clayton Oates (06:14):
Yeah. Well, it probably goes back. Business was something I always wanted… Well, sorry, not always, but there was probably a time around the teenager years where I felt as though I wanted to have my own business one day. Now, so my mom actually suggested, when I was in my final year of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do, I had no real plans, and she went to the accountant one day and I happened to be sitting in the car waiting for her and she came back out and she said, “Ah, Clayton, why don’t you do accounting? You’re good with numbers.” And, “Oh, okay.” So she sort of planted this seed.

Clayton Oates (06:49):
Now, what I correlated in my mind was, “Oh, I don’t want to be an accountant,” but I think if you understand accounting, it might help you in business. And the thing about business, and I go back to also a family friend who, when I was growing up, always seemed to have this lifestyle that I wanted when I got older, and they traveled and they lived in a nice home and all that’s a lot of materialistic things, but they just seemed to be able to do what they wanted to do, and I found out that he owned a business.

Clayton Oates (07:21):
And so I just drew this straight line between business equals freedom. Oh my gosh. Now, we know that the price of freedom is definitely not free, and for many small business owners and operators, we tend to create a model that actually reduces our time and freedom and choices, but I thought, “Okay, if I could have my own business, I’ll have freedom, and if I do accounting, I understand business.”

Clayton Oates (07:45):
So that was sort of the logic to go and study at university. I spent five years doing a three year degree, so there was lots of subjects I saw twice and once, three times, very, very average student, uninspired basically. And then I picked up a job at Pricewaterhouse. My goodness, how does an uninspired failing student do that? And essentially it was through relationships and connections with others, and stayed there for half a dozen years, really enjoyed it, actually enjoyed the ethical standard really that was sort of ingrained into me. It was a lot of alignment from a cultural point of view as to who I am and what I believe in.

Clayton Oates (08:23):
So then, moved to the country, New South Wales, met my wife, moved 2,000 miles away from the city, and the only job I could get was in accounting. I thought, “Okay, well I’ll do that.” But a year or so into it, I felt incredibly frustrated. For many years, I felt, “Well, how am I going to have my own business here?” And look, being a partner in a chartered accounting firm was definitely an option. It wasn’t something I wanted to pursue. I didn’t want to go down that path.

Clayton Oates (08:51):
So eventually, I got frustrated enough and annoyed enough to actually start a small business as a joint venture with the accounting firm, setting up small business accounting technology, training and educating, and so it was like, “Wow, I’m not a business owner.” And so then I had to work on the model to actually get the freedom piece worked out. But starting my own business came out of intense frustration, a fear, overcoming some fears, probably more importantly though, overcoming inertia that really had set in for six to eight years before I made that final decision to take the leap, and incredibly thankful that, for whatever reason, I did actually make that choice.

Steve Loates (09:36):
Yeah. That’s great. And in fairness, maybe you were not an uninspired student. Maybe you just really enjoyed those programs and so wanted to do them a second time.

Clayton Oates (09:49):
Well, that’s what I thought. Microeconomics, my gosh. Yeah, a third time, third time. Yeah, okay. They’ve improved the course.

Juliet Aurora (09:56):
Or maybe it was that you were a keener and you wanted to make sure that you got every single thing out of that course.

Clayton Oates (10:05):
Well, and I think I realized though that I had a very low attention span, and also I had higher prioritization of my university college life experiences than doing the course. So eventually, I got there, but yeah, it was that balance of human interaction, connecting with others, and trying to instill some self discipline that was severely lacking.

Steve Loates (10:27):
Sure. That’s great.

Juliet Aurora (10:30):
So from your story, it sounds like you’re certainly grateful and thankful that you went that route, that you started as an entrepreneur and spent time building your business to what it is now. You said you had to tweak the model, but what’s the one thing that you think is your biggest benefit out of all the effort that you’ve put in as being an entrepreneur?

Clayton Oates (10:57):
Yeah, it’s a great question. I think it’s fulfillment or just peace of mind. You can look at yourself and say, when we have these moments, and we tend to be quite hard on ourselves of course most of the time, right? We’ve got very high expectations, but when we do ultimately take a breath and go, “You know what? Let’s look back and reflect on what it is that we’ve been able to do or achieve.” And this could just be over micro-moments, months, weeks. It could be over years, it could be over decades. There’s just that sense of, “Ah, accomplishment.” And I mean, I get that when I mow the lawn as well. It’s like, “Wow, I can mow the lawn. It looks fantastic. Okay, I’ve created a business.” Now, we don’t tend to settle or stay there. Sometimes we’re a little unsettled. We think, “Oh, we’ve got to keep doing more, keep doing more, being more, having more.” But part of it is really enough. What is enough in terms of that inner feeling of fulfillment or stillness? And I know when I have those moments and take the time, and this COVID-19 lockdown moment for many of us is that time to actually pause, reflect, and acknowledge what it is that you’ve been able to do and achieve and then reset perhaps some new goals or new future that you want to achieve as well, but it’s not all about just chasing the next thing either. It’s just going, “Well, hey yeah, I’m happy with that.”

Steve Loates (12:22):
That’s a great point. Giving us time to reset and the important thing is, I think is what are we going to do with that time as we reset?

Clayton Oates (12:35):
So just add on to that, I mean, also that analogy of what is enough? So you’ve got to know your freedom line basically. I talk about this a little bit in terms of well, what is the level of time and income? What is the income level been? What is the time investment required to achieve that freedom line and whatever freedom means to you? Now, one thing I can say and I’ve had moments where what I perceive to be total freedom where I could do whatever I wanted. I had the income and the time to do it. That’s dangerous time because you’re actually left to your own devices and you’ve got this complete choice and freedom which actually can be challenging as far as a discipline, self discipline point of view. So don’t begrudge the effort and work that you’re doing as well. I mean, you can grow incredibly by being active and contributing to others and then in return to that you receive value. So I think that’s an important thing that I’ve learned over the years.

Steve Loates (13:31):
Very good. Before we get too far down that road, I would like it if you could just tell us a little bit about your business. How do you help other small businesses? What do you guys do? Because it’s a little unique, if I understand it correctly.

Clayton Oates (13:52):
Yeah. If that means I don’t quite know exactly what it is, yeah, we are a little unique. I’m still working it out. Try to describe to my kids over the last 20 years, “What does dad do?” Well, we do this, we do that. We’re agile, aren’t we, as a small business owner and operator. I think when we first start out, we’re looking at, “Well, what’s the future opportunity? What’s the wave that’s coming that we could be a part of and actually benefit from being a part of it? But how do we do that by helping others ultimately in the first instance?” So specifically what I started was a software advisory division in an accounting group to start with, to actually teach, educate, train and support small businesses in the use of their accounting software technology. And this is the last century, mid-1990s, and I had this intense feeling that, “Wow, every small business in Australia’s going to need or have a small business accounting software product that’s going to be perfectly set up and trained. It’s going to give them realtime current data, within about probably I’d say maybe six months to a year, this whole thing will be over.” And I thought then, “Okay, and we can also teach every accounting firm in the country to do the same.” I mean, we’re in a small regional accounting firm and we took this sort of leap of faith to build a separate division of the firm, which was my entry point to entrepreneurship, but I didn’t go in it alone. I was sharing it with the firm. So I was gaining leverage but also a connection to a larger group. So what happened was, we built this business. It also got me out of a tax and doing the day to day accounting, so that was great, and there was a need right there and then for people to actually get help in this area. So we sort of built that out over four or five years, and then the accounting group got purchased by a large public company that went around and bought 70 accounting firms before the year 2000 started and our GST was being introduced at that time and I thought, “Wonderful. We’ve proofed the model, we’ve got a lot of recurring business, we’re bringing business into the accounting firm. Why don’t we now go and do this and teach 70 other accounting firms how to do this?” Because I was passionate about the teaching and education piece, and this public company said, “Ah, we don’t think accounting technology is a thing. We would like to focus on financial planning.” And it’s like, “Oh no, how do I get out of here?” And I had my own business at that stage and fortunately they gave me an exit point where I could actually acquire at a reasonable price the remaining balance of the business. So we’ve been independent since 2001, which has enabled us to continue to work with our small business clients, but also teach, educate, and train accountants and bookkeepers who want to go down this path of actually tech and helping clients on what to watch out for, maybe some fine tuning, maybe looking at what the business model could look like, and actually how to make a difference to a lot of people. So that’s been a fulfilling role, but it’s had its dips. Obviously when cloud came along, we were heavily desktop and then suddenly cloud comes along and it’s like, “Oh now, I’ve got to change everything. Does this mean we lose what we’ve got?” There’s all that that went on in there, but all that means is, every small business has moments whether your market changes, your relevance changes, how are you going to respond to that? How can you double down and focus more on what your customer, client, prospect need from you now and in the future? So it’s been fascinating looking back. It seems like such a short compacted time, but it’s been more than two decades.

Steve Loates (17:38):
That’s great.

Juliet Aurora (17:39):
So a lot of business owners, when their business, whatever industry or whatever service they’re providing, undergoes a shift like what you described, where there’s a new player or there’s a new technology that shifts the landscape, there’s a lot of businesses that don’t survive that shift. Is there something that you from your experience could recommend or advise for them to be able to stay relevant and survive that shift?

Clayton Oates (18:14):
Yeah. There’s actually a great book, called Winning the Battle for Relevance. It’s by an Australian researcher, called Michael McQueen, and he has spoken at so many events we’ve spoken at over the years, and I read that many, many years ago and he articulates actually that we all go through this. Now, not just us as small business owners and entrepreneurs. Industries go through this, products have a lifecycle, countries go from relevance to irrelevance, civilizations, there’s all this stuff. Could be religious, religion, it could be all sorts of things that have happened over human history.

Steve Loates (18:54):
Just to switch topics for a moment, most entrepreneurs that you meet are continuous learners. How do you keep learning, Clayton, so that you can stay on top of things in your own field? Do you like to read? Do you watch video, conferences? How do you keep that momentum of learning?

Clayton Oates (19:26):
Pretty much all of the above. It has been over my life. Look, I actually never read a book until after, well part way through university, but an actually book sat down and read a book cover to cover until probably in my early 20s. I did realize that I needed glasses actually in my early 20s which probably was a condition that wasn’t picked up earlier, which was challenging in the learning side. So yeah, definitely reading for me has been something that’s been pivotal. I am a voracious reader. However, part of this, I noticed I’ve got into stages at different times in my life where I just was insatiable about reading and learning, or fixated more manic even around having to learn, having to get that podcast in, having to actually do XYZ. I’ve got to be learning, got to be learning. So when I’m in those moments and beyond, I sort of think, “Well, okay. That’s not my mode of learning. I should just be more open and freer in the accepting what it is that I’m picking up to read or listen to.” And perhaps have some structure when you’re looking to deep dive, whether it’s technical or product genre that you’re trying to learn about. So reading definitely events for me is something that I started probably going to in my early 20s as well, so professional development obviously, but more personal development was an area that I had a lot of interest in. Obviously picked up the Tony Robbins Unlimited Power tapes back those days and all those sorts of things. So face to face events was something and look, that’s how we met, but to be able to go to an event and hear people speak and see them, meet them, shake their hands, greet them, have a conversation has been a huge part of my learning, particularly in my industry, and also podcasts, just what you guys are doing, conversations with others. There’s always something, someone that says, if you are open to hearing and listening, there will be something in everything that will actually impact you in some way, shape, or another. So the reading has probably moved more so in the latter years for me as one of the benefits of creating a business where you don’t have to be just frenetically working to just put food on the table and I’m in a fortunate position is to actually have time to read and time to learn and time to be still, which we could all do but we’ve got to learn that habit. So it’s more around perhaps some philosophic ancient philosophy readings, or could be stoic philosophy or roman emperors and stuff that’s been around for thousands of years and you’re reading it and going, “Ah, they went through tough times too.” And it’s like, “I thought we had a strangle hold on this.” And so that’s enlightening in itself.

Steve Loates (22:26):
That’s great. Yeah. I know when I speak with entrepreneurs, I mean, most do like to read, but it is amazing how many of them like to read biographies and history. In other words, to learn about the past, to realize that things do repeat, that a lot of what we go through somebody else has gone through it and so if we can learn about that history, then it may help us deal with that same situation today.

Clayton Oates (23:04):
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So just on that, I mean, that definitely rhymes, history and some say dips and repeats as well, but that whole notion of other people’s experiences, learning off those experiences. Now, there’s not a cookie cutter approach to say, “Ah, they did it like this, so I’ve got to do exactly the same.” I don’t think that’s it. I think you bring yourself to whatever it is that you’re doing, but there are some shortcuts or avoiding pitfalls that if we’re open to hearing about them, could save us a lot of time and effort and energy.

Steve Loates (23:41):
For sure. And I think you mentioned that a couple of times, that the important thing is you must be open to listening and learning because if you’re not, there’s not point in taking the time to open the book in the first place.

Clayton Oates (24:03):
Yeah. And I don’t want our audience to be thinking, “Ah, Clayton’s an amazing reader, and just reading all the time.” No, no, no. I struggle with it. There’s books that I pick up and I get to page 100 or 50 or whatever it is, no, they’re just still sitting on the shelf. It’s a habit. It’s actually a discipline. It’s a bit like exercise, isn’t it? We know it’s good for us, but we have to actually develop the habit of first starting and so Ryan Holiday’s got a book called The Obstacle is the Way and sort of that structured habit process. We probably don’t like it even, and it’s okay not to like something but still do it. Sometimes we don’t like to go to work but we still do it or we don’t like exercise, but know it’s good for us and we feel better after having done it.

Steve Loates (24:47):
Absolutely. A great book as well is Atomic Habits.

Clayton Oates (24:52):
Oh yeah, James Clear.

Steve Loates (24:53):
By James Clear, yeah, that’s-

Clayton Oates (24:56):
He’s outstanding. It’s a fabulous read.

Steve Loates (24:59):
It is, and also his weekly newsletter. I use the term loosely because I’m not quite sure as an exact definition it is a newsletter, but awesome. I look forward to it. I think it’s every Thursday it comes, and it’s one of the things that I actually look forward to getting the emails.

Clayton Oates (25:23):
Yeah, yeah. Any James Clear material and Ryan Holiday, I would suggest that those are fantastic.

Steve Loates (25:29):
Yeah. For sure. Is there something as you look back over your accomplishments is there something you wish you would have known when you began your career that you now know?

Clayton Oates (25:48):
Hmm. Well, I wish I perhaps knew how to kinder on myself. That’s something I’ve learned to develop and really going through a burnout experience, which took several years to recover from. So I’m incredibly thankful that it’s happened to me. I learned from it because it gave me new found empathy for others that go into that experience, and to come out the other side of it with a different perspective on life, but even wishing that I knew it, well if I knew it, then I may not have gone through it. So I feel as though I’ve benefited from the experience, so I wouldn’t actually change it. But definitely just being kind to yourself, treat yourself well. It’s not an egocentric kind of way, but just everything that’s going on really is between the space that’s between our ears, isn’t it? There sort of is no good or bad in the world except our thinking that makes it so, as sort of Shakespeare said, and that’s a hard thing to sort of process and digest, but ultimately, this is where it all is. It’s all inside of us, and then that manifests on what happens obviously outside.

Steve Loates (27:08):
And I think it’s one of the great challenges for so many entrepreneurs, is that they just, they pour themselves into their business that they almost become their business and that’s all they are, or that’s all they think they are, even though that couldn’t be further from the truth, and they just, they pour themselves into it and they’re working the 60, the 70, the 80 hour week and then they wake up one day and look and go, “My God, what have I done to myself here? And it’s very, very common. Is there something to help others see it? Is there something do you think? Is there a trigger? Or is there something you can see when you’re going too far down that road and it is time to say, “Well, wait a minute. It’s time to put that oxygen mask on myself.”? Any insights where at all?

Clayton Oates (28:22):
I think part of it is having a team around you that can actually perhaps recognize it before you do. That’s obviously your family, but when you think of entrepreneurship and small business, we tend to be in business for ourselves. Right? And for many small businesses around the world, we’re also by ourselves, and that needs to change. And that’s when you find your tribe in your profession or your industry or whatever, that’s why it feels so great because we’re running sort of solo in a lot of areas and then suddenly we come together with like minded complementary non-competitive effectively people that start to be our extended team, our mentors. So pay attention to that, and be brave enough if you are part of an extended team for someone, to have the conversation, flag it. Often we don’t do that. We can see that someone’s perhaps heading down a path that maybe you’ve been through. So put your arm around them and be open to opening up that dialogue. We still have to learn things for ourselves probably, this experiential learning of life, but I think that’s a part of it. So notice that, but I know for me, myself coming out of it, it’s now just paying attention to the body, getting regular exercise, notice my breathing, how I’m starting to perhaps be short with the family or on edge a little bit, going for a walk, and just trying to let it sort of notice, I suppose, what’s going on without dwelling on it, just actually notice those thoughts and reflect on them, not to dwell or fix or change them necessarily. So a bit more mindfulness I suppose around how we are and what we’re actually taking in and taking on, because ultimately, the times I was in my best space and one of them is right now, is where I just felt as though things are going to work out. There’s sort of this blind faith, if you like. There’s just this confidence and belief that things are going to work out, and we’re doing activity of course to make that happen, but not getting too sort of fixated on this has to happen by then, by then, by then for all this to work. It’s just like, “Hey, it’s going to work out. It’s going to be okay.” I don’t know how you’d teach that necessarily, but I think for all of us, we’ve had moments like that in our life, all of us. We just need to get back to them and have some more of them.

Juliet Aurora (30:59):
And I think that is great advice, not only from a business perspective, but from a life perspective, whether you’re an entrepreneur or not, I think that’s just great advice.

Steve Loates (31:11):
Yeah. No, I think it was great insight, I thought.

Clayton Oates (31:15):
These are borrowed skills actually so I’m just learning off others for thousands of years. So grab the pebble grasshopper. I feel like when the student is ready, the teacher does appear. But on the business side, when you talk about sort of creating your business, we’re sort of doing two things, aren’t we, as entrepreneurs. We’re building our business and that’s totally up to us. It’s literally a blank sheet of paper, right? And we’re also designing our life, and that’s pretty much a blank sheet of paper as well. And we can both, but they need to fit together. You can’t have one that’s way over here and incongruent with the other and thinking, “Ah, once I’ve made my millions, I’m going to live like this.” Well, that isn’t quite the order that things actually happen in life.

Steve Loates (32:06):
Sorry, I’m just going to say, or once I have made my millions. Then I’ll start taking care of myself and my family. Right?

Clayton Oates (32:14):

Steve Loates (32:15):
Just doesn’t work that way.

Clayton Oates (32:16):
Not at all.

Juliet Aurora (32:17):
Yeah. So you have the two blank sheets of paper that you’re filling, but you actually have to draw on both of them at the same time.

Clayton Oates (32:22):
Correct. Yeah.

Steve Loates (32:23):
Yep. Yep.

Clayton Oates (32:25):
And knowing why, I’m going at that whole knowing why you’re doing it, so start with why. This is allowed to be and should probably be a selfish why. I know we’re going to serve our customers and absolutely but the first why is like, “Why am I doing this? Well, I wanted time with my family. I wanted choices and freedoms to be able to have time with them and have this baseline that was enough and even if it isn’t enough, what are going to do? We’ll work it out, have that faith that it’s going to work out. And then you just get your head around okay, what skills do I need to learn? What business models do I need to actually put in place? Because everything’s doing one of two things. It’s either adding to you achieving or moving you closer to achieving that or being in harmony with that goal or purpose, or away from it. Everything we do has a price, and so which direction are we actually moving in? If you’re saying you want to have more time with the family and suddenly you’ve taken on and bought two new businesses for the sake of, “Well, I also want to triple my income,” or I want to be known as a serial entrepreneur around the world, okay, well then you’ve got to work out how those two fit together.

Steve Loates (33:40):
Very, very true. I think we would probably all agree that the life of an entrepreneur can be exciting, one of the most rewarding anyone could ever have, and I think we’d all agree that it can also be filled with some challenges. What advice would you give to someone who was thinking of becoming an entrepreneur?

Clayton Oates (34:10):
Well, I think first of all, there’s a seed of entrepreneurship in all of us. Now, sometimes that’s fostered and grown and nurtured, and sometimes it shouldn’t be in a particular area perhaps. Look for opportunities to serve others. Don’t be opportunistic. An entrepreneur is not someone who says, “Oh, the world needs this right now. I’m going to charge nine times more than anyone else can get it for, therefore I’m going to make more money, and it’ll be over in six months and I’ll sit on the beach after that.” That’s not entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is adding value to others, creating value where none was before, fulfilling or helping someone via a product, service, whatever it is that you’re actually bringing to the world. I think I would also say that the hardest part of entrepreneurship is actually stepping across that line from perhaps just being not having a vehicle to actually realize your entrepreneurship. That is sort of inertia. It’s purgatory. It’s a tough place to be in. I like the way Jack Welch sort of puts it around the whole there’s three concentric circles and they overlap and there’s a middle point of finding your purpose, and so how do you find your purpose? It’s where these three circles interact and the circles are made up of what do you like, what interests you, what is actually needed in the world. There’s not point being the greatest I think in our world knowing an accounting software product that’s 20, 30 years old that doesn’t have a future. The market’s not going to want that from you. So the third one really is actually what’s the world going to reward you for? Is there some value exchange that can actually happen? Because you can be incredibly passionate and purposeful about something, but it may not be wanted or there’s no chance of value being exchanged for your delivering that. So I think that’s fundamental. We’re got to use our head around that a fair bit. I hear of people just saying, “Just be passionate.” Well, I know a lot of people that are very passionate and no one wants to be around and no one wants to buy their product or service because they haven’t really thought about what is the actually match or use case fit for the community or audience you’re trying to attract. So discern that and I think you’ll actually have a lot better chance of achieving what it is that you want to achieve out of your entrepreneurship journey.

Steve Loates (36:50):
Great answer. That brings us to certainly one of my favorite parts of the podcast, and if you’re a first time listener, you may or may not have ever heard of a TV show called The Actor’s Studio, with James Lipton, was on for many years, and one of my favorite parts of that show was James Lipton always used to ask his guests some questions and they were always the same questions of every guest. And I always used to really enjoy it and I decided that if I ever had a podcast, I would do exactly the same thing. Well, here we are.

Clayton Oates (37:35):
I am very nervous right now, Steve. Oh my gosh, rapid fire?

Steve Loates (37:39):
No. No. You’ll be just fine, I can tell.

Clayton Oates (37:42):
What if I don’t give the right answer?

Steve Loates (37:45):
Well, that’s the great thing about these questions. There is no wrong answers. So if you’re ready then, I’d like to get started.

Clayton Oates (37:54):
Let’s do it.

Steve Loates (37:56):
All right. What one word best defines an entrepreneur?

Clayton Oates (38:03):
I love the word authenticity, authentic to you, first and foremost, and bring your authentic you to your entrepreneur venture.

Steve Loates (38:15):
What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?

Clayton Oates (38:22):
Well, I would have to say golf profession, golf professional. That was a childhood dream. Spent a lot of time on the links, was fairly average it, but loved it. So yeah, put me down for golf professional.

Steve Loates (38:37):
Perfect. What profession would you not like to do?

Clayton Oates (38:44):
Ah, sorry for all the lawyers out there. I love you when I need you, but I’m out.

Steve Loates (38:53):
Okay. Okay, great. What sound or noise do you love?

Clayton Oates (39:00):
Oh, sound or noise? I’m stumped on that one. I mean, if I went back to the golfing analogy, it’d be the sound of that ball just dropping into that cup, job done.

Steve Loates (39:14):
Perfect. Perfect. What book would you recommend for entrepreneurs?

Clayton Oates (39:23):
Well, a foundational one for me was the eMyth Revisited, Michael Gerber. So that talked about actually building, creating a business that had the recurring component to it and could extract you from it. And we’ve only really been a small business in terms of numbers of people in the team over the years, but I always viewed the business as being separate to me and I was the CEO of this business that I was creating. So I had a role and responsibility to actually build it in a way that a CEO or someone who’s responsible for creating a business would, and I’d naturally then benefit from it by doing that.

Steve Loates (40:04):
Excellent. Yeah, that was a great book. When your own entrepreneurial journey is completed, what do you hope your legacy is?

Clayton Oates (40:18):
I’m not a huge one on legacies. I don’t even really take much time to think about that because the more you read of history, you read of all these people that aren’t here anymore, and they may be perceived to have a legacy, but out of the billions and billions and billions of people that have existed on the earth, we probably only know a few hundred of them anymore than a few hundred years ago. So I’m not too fixated on the whole legacy thing. It’s more about now. It’s more about actually making an impact and making a difference to others right now.

Steve Loates (40:49):
Perfect. If our listeners would like to get in touch with you or make contact with you, what is the easiest way for someone to connect with you?

Clayton Oates (41:02):
Yeah. Well, I’m quite social, so on Twitter at Clayton_Oates, O-A-T-E-S. Just Google, you’ll probably find me that way. And I’ll tell you what, if you are ever coming to Australia once this thing’s all over and we can fly internationally again, look us up. I’d love to catch up.

Steve Loates (41:20):
That’s terrific. One of the things I’m a big fan of quotes, so at this part of the podcast I always like to share a quote and so this episode, the one that I have chosen, “If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path.” Buddha. So I thought that one fit. Before we close out, Clayton, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Clayton Oates (41:54):
I’d just like to say thank you to Juliet and Steve. You guys are an awesome couple. Making this commitment and sharing this, bringing people on to share their journey with other entrepreneurs, that’s how I’ve been inspired over the years and continue to be by learning and hearing from others. So well done on putting this platform together, and good health to everyone out there.

Steve Loates (42:18):
Thank you very much, Clayton. That’s great. So again, thank you very much to our guest. Awesome insights, some great information. Thank you to my awesome cohost, Juliet, and thank you most importantly to you, for tuning in and giving us a listen. We hope you found some value. If you did, please subscribe to the podcast. Leave us a review, share it with a friend. We really truly would appreciate it. So thank you. Until next time, take good care of yourself and those you love. Bye for now.

Song by Adam Vitovsky / CC BY 3.0

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Episode 5