Paul Hargreaves is the CEO at Cotswold Fayre and Flourish, and author of two inspirational books – ‘Forces for Good’ and ‘The Fourth Bottom Line’. As a B Corp Ambassador, he often speaks to leaders who want to change the world through better business. It was powerful to learn more about his personal and professional journey that’s taken him to where he is today.
Paul joins me today to share what we can learn from his businesses – they are great examples of how you can build a financially sound business and make a positive impact on the world. We also explore the B Corp movement, insights from his books, and why we need to stop more and be less ‘productive’
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Michael Tingsager: 3:00
Today, we should be talking about two subjects that are so so critical, I believe for the future of business. It's actually having business as a driver for good, a force for good as our guest talks about today. And also how you actually got to create that business without the right kind of leadership approach. So we're gonna dive into that today. And today's guest, Paul, whom I met the first time on another podcast, I was listening to while I was running in the hills here behind where I live. And he was talking about a HUNGRY podcast. And he was talking about, you know, creating businesses for good. And Paul runs a business two different businesses building a food business and also a wholesale business. And he was one of the first e-commerce businesses here in the UK. And it's so interesting to hear actually somebody that writes about it and talk about it, there's actually practice it. And I think therefore I really been excited about having you here on the show today, Paul so welcome to the show.
Paul Hargreaves: 4:08
Thanks for having me, Michael. And looking forward to this.
Michael Tingsager: 4:10
Paul for people have, you know heard about you before and what do you do? Could you just give like you know, your elevator pitch because it's quite an incredible journey you've been on and what you're passionate about?
Paul Hargreaves: 4:24
So I think probably most people haven't heard of me but so I'll wear a few hats so this may take a couple of minutes but the main business is a company called Cotswold Fayre. And we are a wholesaler of specialty food and drink we supply between about 1500, 2000 independent retailers in the UK. As you mentioned we were one of the first B Corps in the UK and will no doubt explain what that is later on the basic businesses that are exist thing for people and the planet, not just profits. So I'm also an ambassador for that movement because I think it's incredibly important. And it is the future of business. And we're going to be in trouble unless more businesses go in that direction really quickly. So onto the back of that, I do quite a bit of speaking to other businesses to encourage them to head in that direction. And that's what I've been doing this week, mainly actually.
And then we've also got a food hall and restaurant, which is where I am today. This is set up last year. And that's been a great experiment, actually, of putting in some of the stuff that I've learned over the last 22 years in a brand new business with no people that were in the wholesale business, in effect, starting again, and doing things a lot better than we did right at the start of the whole sell business. And it's been a great experiment on actually, can we prioritize absolutely people on the planet and still have a very successful business? And fortunately, the answer seems to be Yes.
Michael Tingsager: 6:13
That's absolutely amazing, amazing news. You also have two books, you've written about, you know, your learning so you can share with other people.
Paul Hargreaves: 6:27
Yes, so the first book was " Forces for Good", which is really just what I just said, it's looking at businesses that are putting people and the planet before profits. And coming out of the first book, I kind of realized that if we're really going to do that, if we're really going to act as business leaders with compassion, and love, then we actually need to change ourselves, as well, as well as trying to change the world. So the second book is called "The fourth bottom line", which is, you know, in some ways, you've got people planet profits, and it's not a P, but personal change, we could say, and I've been very, very aware in my journey, that if I'm going to really do this properly, I need to change as a person, as a leader and get away from some of them, you know, some of the bad examples of leadership that we are taught probably in business schools in the Western world.
Michael Tingsager: 7:25
What about your wholesale business has been around for some time. And the interesting thing is that you didn't start in business. You started, when I read the book, you started in charity, and you would think about doing good. You're already starting out in the right place.
Paul Hargreaves: 7:42
Yes. So it really was a business that was probably I was a reluctant entrepreneur if you like. Because I was I've always been passionate about reversing injustice. And that's something that as a business we've come back so strongly in the last few years. So yeah, you're right. It was probably I think, about 13 years the, in the charitable sector, working in the inner city in London, a poor part of the country with lots of deprivation, and need. And, yeah, worked in a team, they're dealing with people in prison. People on drugs, a lot of poverty and, you know, horrendous social situations, ran out of money. So started selling food and drink to delis in London. They were on my doorstep. And just happened in some ways to be in the right place at the right time. Was just at the time 1999 when we started was just when the specialty food was becoming a thing and in effect, the charity stuff got smaller, and the business got bigger.
Over the next few years, and yeah, obviously, that's what I'm doing 100% of the time now. Now, the interesting thing was for the first probably for the first, almost the first half of the business, I was still a bit of a reluctant business person, I probably in some ways, my heart was in Africa or Asia, you know, running an orphanage for kids. And I hadn't really grasped the sense that business could really be an agent to change the world. Even though we had actually started with we employed about first five employees, we had an ex-drug addict to recovering alcoholic and so on just out of prisons. So it was right at the start of the business. We were the same way because there was another guy doing it with me initially. So we had something right but hadn't really grasped See the potential of good businesses to make a massive, transformational difference in the world that probably came about 10 years after I started.
So I, my heart was half in it probably for the first half of the business. And now obviously, it's I'm absolutely convinced that good businesses can actually make the biggest difference in the world. In fact, the charity stuff is really mopping up the mess that governments and businesses have left behind by not doing things well. So if we can do things well as businesses where, you know, when reducing the need for, for charities to come in and bail the situation out.
Michael Tingsager: 10:45
And it's very interesting because your whole business philosophy has built on that. And you also got the results, like you will build one or the, you know, the most impactful businesses in fine food, but also you are one of the probably top wholesalers so actually, you have proven that you know, doing good, actually is connected with business results.
Paul Hargreaves: 11:05
And obviously, with every, there are always other reasons for success. But yeah, for sure, I mean, we are in a lucky position as a wholesaler, because we can have a big influence on lots of other businesses. We've got 450 suppliers, and as I said, you know, 1500 odds customers, so we can, you know, if we say stuff, people listen, and we're, you know, we're very pleased that we've been able to influence a lot of other food and drink businesses through our work. And that's one of the reasons why there are actually more B-Corp businesses within the food and drink sector than in any other sector in the UK. Not it's not all down to us by any means. There are companies like Cook and Ellas Kitchen that have also been very loud voices, but we've added our voice to theirs.
Michael Tingsager: 12:00
And you talk about you know, and you mentioned to me at the beginning that we have a critical, you know, we have maybe had that for decades. But right now, we are at such a critical point around the challenges of the world the UN has the 17 goals and so on. And you're really an advocate for the business to get involved? Are you seeing that movement? And you're talking about in your books? Are you really seeing it happen? Or is it something we really passionate about getting a bit blinded about?
Paul Hargreaves: 12:31
Yeah, I think there have been massive steps forward, particularly during COVID. So the last couple of years. Maybe not so much before that. I think there's a greater awareness now from businesses that actually if they're going to be successful, they need to be acting on social, and environmental issues, because customers, consumers, business customers, more and more are making decisions to buy from companies that are doing good. And I think that's changed a lot during COVID. It's obviously being influenced by the Gen Y and Gen Z, in particular, who are making those sustainable choices, a lot more than the older generation. So yes, there is a big move movement in the right direction. But also, there's still a hell of a long way to go. And, you know, not many corporate businesses are acting for any other reason. They're making their shareholders more wealthy than they already are. So if we're really going to see change, we probably will need legislation at some point and force businesses to do the right thing. But that might not be for a few years yet.
Michael Tingsager: 13:53
You talk about as well that, you know, that journey of building this more, you know, impactful heart-centred business instead, like can you share some What has your learning been doing in that way? Because it doesn't sound like you know, it's never easy to build a business. But there must have been other challenges at the time you did it. You didn't do it. Now you've done it over. A 30-year period.
Paul Hargreaves: 14:17
Yeah. Not quite 30 years. I'm not that old. But um, yeah, so the big. So just to back to that story. So we did, there was some good DNA at the company right at the beginning, then my business partner left after a couple of years. And to be honest with you for about eight years. Yeah, I was immersed in just trying to have a financially stable business, you know, normal startup situation of not having enough money to pay the wages on various occasions and having to borrow I actually borrowed some money from a dad one time so I could pay the wages. So a bit embarrassed.
But yeah, after about 10 years, we were a lot more sustainable on the financial side. And that's the point at which I kind of write. Okay, let's get back to what we originally started to do here and make a positive difference in the world. So I wrote to a number of food charities, actually, as we were a food business, so okay, what can we do to help you in any way happy to give you money and raise money. But we also want to get our hands dirty, right to three or four food charities in the UK, but none of them was interested in having us help them. And I didn't just want to give money to charity, that's a bit boring. But so I then remembered a project in Kenya that some friends of mine were involved in and thought, well, maybe this could be something we could get involved in, went over there with my daughter, and 2011 was absolutely blown away by the poverty there. I don't think I'd ever been to a place where people literally had nothing. I mean, some of them didn't even have shoes on their feet.
So very, very humbling, very transformational for my daughter, as well. Getting emotional thinking about it. Yeah, I came back into the business. And for two weeks, couldn't talk about it without crying, when I've finally pulled myself together, did talk about let's say, look, let's do something to help. I don't know how many were there in the company at that time, maybe 30 ish, I guess, and so on, put their hand up and said, work part-time. So then in the two days, I don't work for you, I will organize a charity ball and raise some money, and then we can, we can do something. So that's what happened. And we had our first ball and raised about 25,000 pounds. And with that money actually started the farm over in Kenya.
But the interesting thing was that some of this is from hindsight, but having something other than normal business activities, some kind of good, that we were doing really energize people in the business, and it brought a new dynamic for people to turn up to work in the morning because they knew great, we're involved in something really good here. So put new spring and people's stipend, and, you know, absolutely, that's, you know, that's been a massive factor in business ever since people, you know, I want people that work for us to come to work at a enjoy it. But be also know that they're doing some good from turning out, even though they may, they may be doing a routine job, they know from them being there, they're actually achieving something big by being part of our company. And I think if you've got that, you obviously get great people to work for you. They tend to stay working for you longer than average. And, you know, it adds a fantastic dynamic to the business and actually makes people personally happier and more fulfilled too.
Michael Tingsager: 18:12
And looking back has this become, you know, by accident, a way of you to build culture and a better experience for your employees as well, doing projects that are outside what you normally would do in a business?
Paul Hargreaves: 18:27
Yeah, so that the B Corps framework has been really, really helpful in that. So for those that don't know, the B Corp is you go through a very long certification process, mainly in five areas, governance, community, environment, workers, and customers. So through the assessment, you see the points that you get, you've got to get over a certain number of points, but you also see what you're not doing. There was a lot that they were not doing they still are. So the best thing I ever did in terms of getting that culture embedded in the business was to set up what we called very unoriginal names, we set up change groups. So we had an internal environmental change group, and we had an external one, which mainly focused on changing our suppliers. We had a workers group. And later on, we had a community group and then we had an innovation group.
And the only rule with these groups was no one on the leadership team could be in them. So the idea was they generated right how can we as a business be better in those different areas, and then they came back with generally good ideas and we put them into practice. And I think that changed us from being you know, from the good ideas coming from top-down, if you like to the good ideas being emerging from everyone in the company. And you know, generally, a lot of businesses make the mistake where they don't allow good ideas to come from anything other than the senior leadership team, which is wrong on all sorts of levels. But yeah, that it's not, you know, didn't happen overnight, it probably took two and a half years for that kind of process, to change.
And after that, you know, there was a different dynamic in the business and more people were engaged in, in what we were doing, and the kind of proof of the pudding on that if you like, we do an impact report every year, which says, This is what we've done in the last year, both on a business level, and community and environment and everything else. And now when I get that impact report, and we're just, I'm just about to say the proof of, of this year's win last year's, at looking through those pages, most of the good things we've done, aren't me a lot of the good things we've done, even the leadership team, they're just other people in the business that have taken the initiative and, and done some great stuff was really pleasing and energizing for me as a business leader.
Michael Tingsager: 21:13
Yeah. So in a way you drive the framework? Well, the initiatives are in a way driven by the employees and what they find.
Paul Hargreaves: 21:22
Yeah, yeah. And, you know, the B Corp community is helpful as well, we've very, unashamedly, stolen and borrow ideas from other companies that doing things better than us. And likewise, I'm sure other companies steal our good ideas, too. So yeah, I mean, that's probably one reason I wrote forces for good really was to kind of propagate some of these good ideas more into the business community that maybe some people didn't know about.
Michael Tingsager: 21:57
Yeah, and then your fourth bottom line, if we just go to the other book, as well, and we talk about the culture here, you in a way, say that's, that's, that's where it starts, it starts with the leader, all the leaders in the business really working on themselves to create this kind of force for good.
Paul Hargreaves: 22:15
I think both codes, I think you've got to have the intention to do good. And that's, you know, a mind thing make a decision to be a business as a force for good. That's definitely the way it went. In my case, we decided to be a good business. But it was in the process of trying to do that stuff, I was very, very aware that without some kind of greater depth of compassion and empathy and love and humility within me, then it was going to peter out run out of energy, and it wouldn't go anywhere. So I think the more we do, when the further we go down this journey, the more we as leaders need to embody some of those books, some people might call more spiritual things and changes within us that will make us not only a better person but a much better business leader, as well.
Michael Tingsager: 23:16
What about you know, as you, as you know, CEO and founder of the business as you had to change yourself, and I guess you have to evolve all the time. But what has been one of the biggest challenges for yourself going from, you know, a traditional mindset about how to run a business to be a force for good. What do you feel was the toughest bit to get around?
Paul Hargreaves: 23:40
Well, I hope everyone doesn't go through this, but I had a really traumatic five years of life. In some ways, the business was, you know, there was okay to some degree, but my first marriage split up the business almost ended in 2014. But go into the details, but we put in a new computer system, which almost killed everything we were doing. It's quite a common story. And then soon after that, I actually ended up being in the back of an ambulance with malaria going to a hospital. So, I think for me, and I think this is true for quite a few people. I think there were certain elements of my ego that needed to be stripped away, you know, my identity was probably too much in what I was doing, rather than who I was, and that kind of difficult times I think helps strip all that away.
And you know, a lot of those out you know, there were, it was a horrible time, in many ways, but now looking back on it. All those three things were very good for me and they made me a better, more compassionate leader. And interestingly, you know, I do think failure is actually important. Most people who are successful have been through at least one failure. In fact, you know, the Chairman of footsie 250 companies these days are looking for CEOs who have had a failure, because that makes them more resilient and makes them a better, stronger leader, probably more vulnerable as well for the future. And I think that's definitely what makes good leaders, it's people who are probably doing less and being a bit more.
Michael Tingsager: 25:44
Yeah, that's an interesting vulnerability. Exactly. Okay. Don't have the answer, not have the answer. And in where you use it, that the employees have the answers, let's, let's go and give them the opportunity to come up with these answers.
Paul Hargreaves: 25:55
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And being, you know, being vulnerable, it does get talked about quite a bit these days. But I used to be a leader where I thought my job was to be strong, you know, even when things were going wrong, to pretend everything was okay. And, you know, there's a certain element that, you know, I think, you don't want to get all your dirty washing out in front of you, the people that work for you. But also, you need to be vulnerable, because people are, you know, they need to people need to know that the leaders of the business or organizations are actually human beings. And if they're, you know, they got this mask of pretension on all the time, that's not very human. So, if you are free as a leader to cry in meetings, which has happened to me on several occasions, that's okay. It doesn't mean you're a bad leader, it means people probably then actually trust you more than they did before. So yeah, just men particularly can learn quite a lot in this area, I think.
Michael Tingsager: 27:02
Yeah, it's interesting, you say that, because I was thinking about my, my younger version, as well, where I was, quite, I will say, quite an elite soldier mindset, in my role as a leader just had to look strong, always optimistic finding a way. And probably more into what I was doing, than then being in principle, and my whole identity was wrapped up in that job.
Paul Hargreaves: 27:29
There is you know, a Western disease, this absolute obsession with productivity and activity. And it's it we can learn a huge amount from Asia, particularly on this kind of stuff. And I've spent some time in India and learned a lot from there. But you know, we just don't stop enough. We've headless chickens running around. If only we stopped more, sat back-reflected, we would make better decisions. We would run better businesses, I mean, I'd build into my diary, generally, at least half a day a week just to sit, reflect, maybe read a bit. Go for a walk, possibly. And, you know, people are waiting, he's not doing anything. Well, I actually I am, I'm being a leader. And, you know, I do, I probably achieve a lot more now from doing a lot less than I used to, because it's, it's better activity, having given some time to the more intuitive and reflective side of us.
Michael Tingsager: 28:44
And it comes a bit of back to your book, where you're the fourth bottom line where you in principle, give people a practic challenge over, you probably remember how many days it is I'm just looking it up here, 50 days, 50 days, a new word every day, like compassion, or patience, and so on. What was your thinking about putting those out, you know, the word, build with a quote, and then for you to read your reflections and then go away and reflect self? Is that how you've done it yourself? Is that been your unconscious way of becoming a better leader? A more compassionate leader?
Paul Hargreaves: 29:23
Yes, I think so. I think some of those words have kind of built up in me over the years. So the all the words that they're all characteristics of what I would say a good leader is and there was originally going to only be 31 or one for each day of the month. But they kept coming and ended up being 50. And for me, I have to stop at that point. But I did do. I did put out I've got quite a lot of LinkedIn connections, and I put out a post on LinkedIn as basically, I'm writing this book on 50 characteristics of good leadership, give me one.
And I had a massive response actually. And all the responses I got, which were over 100. Were all covered in the book apart from one. And it was the word magnanimous, which I didn't really know what it meant to look it up. But it was kind of cool. It's kind of forgiving benevolence is the meaning of that word. And I covered those in other chapters anyway. So yes, I think, I think that probably is a general awareness of what good leadership is, it's just that we don't really reflect on it enough, because we're too busy doing stuff. So the idea of the book is to sit down at the start of each day, and just give yourself 10 minutes to think, yes, I can do, I can be kinder today, for example. And give and give, give people some exercises they can do to put kindness into practise on that particular day.
Michael Tingsager: 31:08
The one thing I think I will share with the audience is that I read the book and I follow Paul's recommendation, I maybe read two chapters, some days. But like little some things where I found out, you know, I was I thought I was not busy. But I actually found out I had to stop doing and actually made me really, really think about some things. And again, the thing is, you can keep coming back to do things because you're never done as an ad like, you're not done training this, this is a, you know.
Paul Hargreaves: 31:41
I'm still reading the book myself, of course, doing the exercises.
Michael Tingsager: 31:48
I think personally, that this is a great book for many to get started on if they want to do some transformation because it starts with you, as you said, and not the business starts with you and the rest of the follows.
You talk a lot about, you know, also that, you know, though also there was in the book, you know, there's been a transformation in society, there's more focusing on this, but what did the pandemic do? And what kind of learnings did you have as a founder of a business because, you know, everybody was impacted? Somehow, you know, some, some had really good business have a challenging business owner was challenging in private life, you know, everybody had an experience out of this.
Paul Hargreaves: 32:31
Yeah, what did I learn, I think two things that stop us from being the kind of whole people that were, were meant to be. And one is a connection with people. And the other is a connection with nature. And I think this, this happened widely across. Across the world, really, through the pandemic, people realized how important it was to connect with others. Because when they were cut off from other people, they value their friends and family more. And actually, we, you know, we made some really close friends during the pandemic in our village, which those relationships have been a real strength to myself and my wife, and also the connection with nature. Again, you know, a lot of us live in cities, I've lived in cities, most of my life, Manchester, and then London, now live in the countryside.
But, you know, we've lost that connection with nature, which, you know, homo sapiens has been around for hundreds of 1000s of years, and we've only really lived in cities for the most, well, 5000 years, probably a citizen and town. So we've lost that connection that just brings live life to us. And a lot of people rediscovered that during the pandemic didn't know, they didn't really have anything to do but go for walks. And people were saying what, because there were no traffic people noticed the birds singing for the first time. And yeah, I think if we could re-learn, connecting with people in a, you know, in a deep way, not just a superficial way and deeply connecting with nature, I think we would be transformed by those two things.
Michael Tingsager: 34:30
Do you think we kept on to those good things? Of course, everything slides when reality kicks in and the busyness starts…
Paul Hargreaves: 34:40
Yes, probably not in some cases, but I think I think people have to some degree. I was at a trade event last week, which was the first big trade show since the pandemic and there was so much connection going on, people rarely really pleased to see each other. And I think you appreciate the relationships, you have a lot more than only when you haven't had them. It's like fasting if you haven't had food for a while you really enjoy it when you can eat again. So yeah, hopefully, some of it stayed. But the danger is, of course, the massive focus on productivity might squeeze it out again.
Michael Tingsager: 35:23
It's like almost like, the good stuff, the productivity can almost become the enemy. Because we all know when we open our email or whatever does like lots of productivity tips. And that's what we're talking about, how do we squeeze more out of a minute.
Paul Hargreaves: 35:39
I actually more productively turn your email off for most of the day, which is what I do. And I encourage my team to do it. So I think some of this is about we're certainly in the business context is about building habits into your business. So for example, in many of our meetings, we actually have a period of complete quiet. In the beginning, maybe do some breathing exercises, and put some music on sometimes, I did actually bring in a meditation pal for the last board meeting, which a couple of people sound a bit weird. But yeah, and I think that, that putting in those pauses into your day, is actually really, really helpful. I think you generally have better meetings, and then we didn't finish it.
So we have a period of quiet, and then we do a check-in. So we ask people in the room. How are you feeling today? You know, tell us in two or three words. And sometimes, you know, they expand that. But yeah, you're getting more of the whole person in the meeting. Because they're, you know, if they're feeling crap, they'll say, nothing wrong with that. And then you're also helping them to lay aside all the stuff they're thinking about and actually bring their whole selves into the meeting. And I think you have probably shorter, better meetings if you put in habits like that, and it's just good for us to put those pauses into our day, isn't it?
Michael Tingsager: 37:07
I love that you made it like a ritual? Because then everybody, if they forget, gets paused at some point.
Paul Hargreaves: 37:15
Yeah, So I, you know, my meetings, I always do that. And I know, the other leaders in the business do it in theirs too. So it just kind of passes down, doesn't it?
Michael Tingsager: 37:28
What about yourself because you, you run a business you're doing speaking you're involved in quite a lot of things. You write books, how do you show up pro and you know, talking about productivity or, you know, being balanced with yourself, you have your half a day where you really take time for yourself or some hours out every week? What else did you do?
Paul Hargreaves: 37:51
I don't do much really. I realized a few years ago, that I'm probably not that good at most things. But I'm quite good at finding good people to do things I'm not very good at. So that's really my main focus, to just look after the good people I've got and check they're happy and doing what they're good at. Culture really, that's the main thing I work on is just making sure the culture of the business is maintained.
And that was probably one of the biggest challenges last year was we set up this food hall and restaurant here in Bristol? And could we replicate what we'd already had, without any of the same people? Start again and get that culture right from the beginning. And fortunately, the answer's yes, we got some great people working here. They absolutely get what we're doing. They're thoroughly committed to it. And it's actually a really easy job to help maintain and build that culture.
Michael Tingsager: 39:09
Yeah, and also because it's such a different business model, as well. Of course, the food is a shared element. But again, it's a very different business model.
Paul Hargreaves: 39:18
Yeah, and the interesting thing is actually so in danger of getting emotional again, I found myself I'm not just me actually, as some other people, we found ourselves getting quite emotional when we were here, which doesn't happen in in the wholesale business. And it's almost like because this is a consumer-facing business. It's almost the kind of picture that came to mind when I was thinking about this was you know, the wholesale business is very, you know, a lot of stuff goes on there. We move I think nearly 2 million boxes a year. So a lot happens. It's like the body and the legs and the arms or moving frantically. And it's almost like the consumer-facing side of the business, which is Flourish is almost like that was the face. So you can almost see into the business as a whole, here. And, you know, it's, in some ways, it's a bit obvious because if you're dealing with consumers, you, you are kind of out there a lot more.
But it was interesting. When my kids go to visit one of me, my eldest lives in the States, so he was over last year. And brother and sister came with him. And they, it's almost like they finally got what I've been doing all these years, you know, they've been in the business they've been in, they've helped in the warehouse weekends in the past, and some of them have done work placements in the office. But coming here, and actually seeing how happy the people where that works, almost helped them understand what I've been doing for the last 22 years. They said that now the people here seem really happy. It's amazing. It's not like anywhere else we've been. Yeah, good. Well done.
Michael Tingsager: 41:15
Like, you know, the proof point, you know, of course, your kid says to the truth. Absolutely, yeah. But I like any steps you could share and how you because you started from scratch, you know, under this a lot of leaders. The thing though, the reason business is the business I'm in now we can't change is all embedded in the culture, the ritual is so hard, but like, there's, there are some steps that came really clear for you when you do this culture.
Paul Hargreaves: 41:42
Well, getting the right leadership team is clearly the biggest one. So that was that my main focus was to get six people who could really propagate what we were doing. And actually, when once they started, we then basically put, we didn't let them really do anything for a week, put them in a room together and did some stuff with them with some people that have helped us with the business, Andrew and Eudora and, you know, they basically worked on their inner stuff for a week.
And helping them to, you know, get to know each other, obviously, but also get to know themselves and to work out what you know more about themselves. And, yeah, that was a great thought, I think there's a lot I wasn't in the room, but there were lots of tears and lots of depth going on, which then, you know, was a great foundation for, for doing what we've achieved since so. And then you know, as I said before, most of the team here are under 35, some a lot younger, and they, you know, they get this stuff probably better than old people like me anyway.
Michael Tingsager: 43:03
It's super interesting that it's quite brave as well because if you told most leaders, you need to put a new leadership team, you know, to get in a room and start talking about the inner stuff. It will almost be you know, where I'm coming from now, it'll almost be like that they will almost resign if they had to do that. Because that's just you're going to far. I'm thinking about my, my old past in a very corporate environment. I think I could see that. I will be very excited about that. But I think it's so interesting. And it's actually interesting, as well as the new generation comes into leadership positions, actually, that's why maybe also where we have a chance, really to accelerate. Business for good.
Paul Hargreaves: 43:47
I mean, none of those people were from a corporate background, actually. But there are two or three people who are in the wholesale business. So when we started introducing this stuff, they were fairly scared to absolutely admit it. They were pretty skeptical about it. In fact, one of them was very skeptical about it. Because I know some conversations he had with other people but having been in it for a while he's now actually one of the strongest advocates for all this stuff. In fact, we've got which is we've got we worked with a logistics company.
So we outsourced logistics about five or six years ago and the company we work with now that does all warehousing and deliveries, they're actually going through this program at the moment now. There's they will be the only logistics company in the UK certainly very kind of masculine macho- world and yet they're doing this stuff in their leadership team currently. And that's as a result of Dave who was skeptical about it with to start with but he's now one of the biggest advocates of it because he's seen the difference it makes.
Michael Tingsager: 45:05
And it's so interesting, you actually now in impacting, you know, not just your customers, but your suppliers and they are taking some of these practices, that must be a massive satisfaction because you're talking about building better businesses.
Paul Hargreaves: 45:19
Yeah. And you know, we've Dave seen our success, I guess, you know, we've more than doubled the business in the last two years. So when you know, when you can see that actually, this stuff works, it adds a bit more weight to your voice anyway, doesn't it?
Michael Tingsager: 45:39
It seems like you're, you're quite on top of what you're doing, Paul, but I have to ask you this question the universe always keeps on putting a challenge in front of us, no matter what we never learned. It knocks us over one time after the other. What is it? What is yours?
Paul Hargreaves: 45:54
Well, currently as you know, the economic climate the, in the UK currently is not a great one. So we've had some fabulous two years growing at 50%, both of those years. I don't think that'll happen this year is going to be more challenging. And yeah, but I think, you know, I think if you hold lightly, the good times enable you to be more resilient in the less good time. So even if we do have fewer good times this year, then, you know, I don't think we'll be we're not going to lose faith in what we're doing at all. So yeah, that's probably the first thing that comes to mind with that question right now.
Michael Tingsager: 46:42
And then that leads directly to the next thing I wanted to ask you so what you know, what do you think the future holds then for you guys, you launched your food business or your restaurant and food business last year, the food hall, wholesale, at the wholesale business that any other businesses you want to explore? And what are the next five years? What is the vision? In principle? That's the question probably.
Paul Hargreaves: 47:06
So in the wholesale business, our vision would be, to be better in tech, because I think that's the way things are gonna go. We need to, you know, we need to let our tech catch up with the rest of us. And I think if we lead in tech, we will continue, to lead the sector. So that's, that's a big one, you know, growth as a wholesaler is actually okay, I'm gonna, I don't believe, in GDP growth. Actually, I think we probably need to shrink but as a wholesaler, because we're consolidating. And because we're providing food and drink, which people need to live growth for us is actually okay, because it's reducing the number of vehicles on the road and therefore reducing carbon and we're planning on being fully electric on all delivery by 2030. Anyway, in terms of flourish, I'm currently looking at a window there, which is our next phase, which is a gift shop and the Wellness Center, we've got lots more room behind, where there are some disused buildings which we will refurbish and repurpose. We're also looking at a potential second flourish site as well, somewhere else. That's probably enough to be going on with.
Michael Tingsager: 48:33
That's like maintaining what do you have? That's super, super interesting Paul, what is it that you ask these questions to people yourself, but what leader or business leader do you admire? Because you must have got your inspiration from somewhere?
Paul Hargreaves: 48:53
Yeah, so. Okay, so that's the reason I actually wrote the fourth bottom line is that it's an interview question I always ask. And I very rarely get a good answer as to who has most inspired you in your life? And I'd say, excluding family members to stop them saying that mum and dad, nothing wrong with that. But who else is inspired? And that's very rarely a good answer to that question. So simple thing here is we need more inspiring leaders for sure. Because it's sad that not enough people can give a good answer to that question. I mean, the person I most admire as a leader and probably can teach more to business leaders than any other business, any business book would be Nelson Mandela. I found his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.
One of the most transformational books I've ever read and you know a lot of the material in the fourth boss of mine is from his example. And if more business leaders learned more from someone like him, I think we'd have a lot better businesses around. In terms of business as a force for good, a friend of mine called Ed Perry was a co-founder of a business called Cook, which supplies remarkable food for your freezer. And he was the one that first introduced me to be called. So I would have to thank him enormously for that as well.
Michael Tingsager: 50:33
So very interesting. Yeah. Because normally people would you say that I think I read that in one of your books, or maybe one of your podcasts or listened to you talk about most people will say Richard Branson, or some kind of, you know, really, really, you know, top, top corporate entrepreneur. And often people actually forget the leaders they're working with at the day-to-day level. And I can still remember my think it was my second business manager as I work for McDonald's Hans Erik, he is the one that has had like, the most impact for me to become a better version of myself and leader, because I was probably a bit too relaxed, a bit too arrogant. In a way, I was thinking I was faster and better than everyone. Instead, if you want to be a real leader, and you want to be a leader in my restaurant, you need to start working on yourself and just be a little bit less loud, and a game-changer. And I remember, that's one of the leaders that I had admired me and he said, You're never done learning. It's never a waste of time to learn, no matter what you learn.
Paul Hargreaves: 51:39
If only there were more people in kitchens like him, it's not normally like that. Are they? Yeah, I mean, if you put me on the spot, I would probably say a teacher I had at primary school, actually, who invested a huge amount of time in me and another guy in the same class. And, you know, he probably helped my love of nature, who used to go out you know, birdwatching and deer stalking and things like that. So yeah, and that, you know, teachers are remarkably influential and can be massively inspiring. I was actually talking at a head teachers conference this week, which was an absolute privilege, because you just know, in that room, how many people can they influence this? It's 1000s, isn't it? So? Yeah, I mean, I, my daughter is a teacher. So I'm slightly biased. But I think teachers are probably massively undervalued and should be looked up to as inspirational leaders, too.
Michael Tingsager: 52:41
So Paul to wrap up things here. In the end, I just want to ask you a couple more questions. And the first one is that, what is the one question you wish to have? asked you, and what would you have answered?
Paul Hargreaves: 52:56
So it's a question that I have been asked before, it's what is the biggest lesson you've learned in your business career? My answer was probably two answers to this. One is, as soon as you can get the best people you can because good people will, or if you have to pay them more, they will always save you, the extra that you, you might pay them in the early days of a business, it's easy to work can't really afford that, that good person because things are tight. Now, take them on anyway, and they will always pay for themselves. The second answer to that question is, and the times I've made my biggest mistakes, actually, three occasions that come to mind are when I haven't gone with my gut or instinct. I've let other people persuade me that a certain course of action was the right one when it wasn't deep down. I knew it was the wrong thing to do. But I let myself be persuaded by other people. So they're probably the to get great people and go with your gut.
Michael Tingsager: 54:15
Love that Paul. And I especially love that one because that's also one I've experienced myself. I think, I read it, but I think it's good to great it says, it's not what you pay, it's who you pay. And it says it's very well in a way. And I think often, especially in smaller businesses and startup businesses, we often forget that because we sometimes focus on survival, but sometimes you need these people to really lift you out of survival mode. Where can people find out more about you, the businesses you're involved in and how can they connect with them?
Paul Hargreaves: 54:51
So my personal website is Paulhargraves.co.uk. which is my kind of speaking and writing side. The wholesale business is cotswold-fayre.co.uk. And the retail/food business Flourish is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Tingsager: 55:17
Thank you so much, Paul, for joining us in talking about business as a force for good. And also talk about how we change to a more compassionate leadership style to make a better future.
Paul Hargreaves: 55:32
Thanks for having me. Enjoyed it.