Business Couples Secret Sauce

Gail & Michael Cook - Spoke Building and Interiors

December 06, 2020 Marcus Nicholls and Ariel Endean
Business Couples Secret Sauce
Gail & Michael Cook - Spoke Building and Interiors
Show Notes Transcript

Tune in to discover how Michael & Gail built a thriving building and interiors business whilst sticking to their core values of Integrity, service, quality, communication, sustainability, team and Innovation. There are some great learnings here of how to play to your strengths as a business couple and keep an eye on the big picture. Grab a cuppa and enjoy!

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Some Secret Sauce highlights from this episode:


When going into a business as a couple make sure you have the skills in what you're doing. Make sure that at least one person has the specific skills needed and is really passionate about what they're doing? Because everything else will kind of fall into place


When it gets overwhelming remember to take a breather, take a breath and remember your goals and what you're doing it all for. And don't expect to get it right all the time.


You can’t make all your decisions together as a business couple. You have to figure out who’s going to take the responsibility for a particular project. You can’t have 100% joint decisions on everything. The person with the better insight into the situation is the decision-maker to go with.  You have to trust each other when one or the other gets a good feeling or a bad feeling about something. 


Marcus Nicholls  0:05  
Hi, we're your hosts Marcus and Ariel and you’re listening to Business Couples Secret Sauce, 

Ariel Endean  0:10  
where we interview business couples and share their tips and tricks on building a successful business without it destroying their relationship.

Marcus Nicholls  0:25  
Hello, today we are in Tuggerah, New South Wales chatting to Michael and Gail from spoke building and interiors. Welcome to the show.

Ariel Endean  0:36  
Welcome. So Michael, it says that you've had over 30 years experience in the building industry. What was the tipping point that took you from being an employee to an entrepreneur running your own business,

Michael  0:50  
A lot of it was I just really wasn't happy where it was. And I felt I was getting burnt out. Gail was telling me I was getting burnt out. And it was really just time for a change. So that was six years ago. And as well as that, it was really a lot of the things that you suggested as an employee, didn't get done. So the things that I'd seen that I wanted to change I couldn't change. It was a good job. I like the people, I'm still in contact with the people who run the business. And it was five minutes away from where we lived. It was a good job, but we're not here forever. And it was really just time for a change. So we took the punt, and it's been good.

Marcus Nicholls  1:42  
When you say took the punt, was it always an intention to be your own boss. Because it's a different path than just going and getting another job. Versus jumping in and running your own business.

Gail  1:57  
I think it was more we're gonna run our own business because we wanted to set our own time and work with people who we wanted to work with. And not having to work with I guess, and being able to put in those systems that Michael was talking about to actually grow and see what happens really see if there's a market out there.

Michael  2:17  
I knew what I wanted to do, I knew what type of business I wanted. And I knew what type of work I wanted to do. And it was really just well, let's see if this works, yeah.

Ariel Endean  2:29  
Did you jump in at the same time with Spoke or did you go first Michael and then Gail join.

Gail  2:53  
We started with a different name. And then we found because of the name with Apple Mac, it was Mac projects. We weren't getting the search on Google. So that's when Michael come up with Spoke.

Ariel Endean  3:07  
But you're already there. You weere already you're an entrepreneur/solopreneur with your Fire Business.

Gail  3:18  
I've been going six years and spokes been going five years in February. Yeah, so I wasn't full time in the six years. 

Michael  3:28  
The main reason Gail left is that she wasn't happy. Like I was still pretty happy at work. Yeah. 

Unknown Speaker  3:35  
Situation's changed.

Ariel Endean  3:36  
I love hearing you say "your suggestions were being ignored", because that's one of the things I love about running a business is when something's not working, right. And you know how to make that run better, quite easily with a simple fix, and it just keeps being wrong year after year. And it's frustrating because you think it's not that hard. And as an employer, you can't make other people do it. They say "you're not boss", whereas though when it's your own business, you can actually make your solutions as quickly as you want to. So it's fantastic.

Unknown Speaker  4:05  
And you can make changes too. Thats the biggest thing is, since we've grown, we started with some systems, change them. And then as systems develops, we've actually found just recently we've come back to a system that we've previously started that's now more suitable. Because we're larger.

Marcus Nicholls  4:21  
yes. Okay.

Ariel Endean  4:22  
I'm hearing flexibility. 

Marcus Nicholls  4:25  
So the name spoke.

Unknown Speaker  4:28  
Look it was, you know, when you agonise over something. It just seemed to be consuming for like two or three days. What are we going to call the business? And I'm still not 100% sure as to what it was, it was something to do with the wheel and this and that. And I thought, I'm just sick of thinking about this. Choose one and move on! And it was good enough. And there's always a reason to do something else. And some of it was, no one else has done it yet. So there was a lot of similar names in the building game and I thought look that will do. Okay.

Ariel Endean  5:14  
Yeah, and I think at the end of the day a name is important, but it's probably 98%, what you're doing behind that name, the brand you're building.  You think about great brands like Volvo or whatever and I think Volvo doesn't mean anything. If I gave you a time machine to go back to the 1920's, whatever, whenever Volvo wasn't around yet. Volvo has built that association, dependability, assurance, all that so you can make your own story.

Unknown Speaker  5:41  
That's, that's what we thought. It's just, it's not out there. It'll, and it allowed us to just move on, because it was just, it's like agonising over your logo. Yeah, you just got is it really that important?

Unknown Speaker  5:56  
We've had a couple of logo changes.

Marcus Nicholls  6:03  
And although within the building name, it doesn't recognise the niche that you've chosen to go into, which is the office and shop fit out space, is that because the shop and office fit out space came after you went there? Or was it always the intention. Or was in added later. It wasn't part of the spoke office interiors. Do you know what I mean? 

Unknown Speaker  6:29  
That was always the intention. So it was like spoke building and interiors, it was reasonably comprehensive. And what we're going to do and the tagline define design construct, as well, that was close enough to what we wanted, I like the idea of being the principal contractor, working with the client directly. So we don't deal with architects or designers a lot. But we deal with the clients directly. So it's really nice to come up with the idea with the client, and then follow it through. And then we just finished one at Erina and the certifier came in with the original plans that went to him and there was a 3D concept. And he said to one of our guys, "it looks almost exactly the same". 

Gail  7:21  
Michael did the design for that. We do the drawings in house.

Ariel Endean  7:25  
People don't have an idea of what they need, they either don't know what they need, or they're just not, they need someone to help them conceptilise. 

Michael  7:32  
It's a it's a skill. And sometimes you're born with it. But like there are some people that can never read a map, like never read a plan. Look, when you do in the 3d, it allows you to visualise it, whereas if it's a flat plan, it's it's hard. Some people can look at it and you can almost tell that it's not really the relationships between the different parts on the plan. There's just not quite gelling for them. So that's why we went down that 3D path. And some people just need help. 

Marcus Nicholls  8:09  
Yeah. And you mentioned that it's really front and centre within your website and promotion is that 3d space? And that's obviously intentional, because there's not many people in your space doing it I'm assuming.

Michael  8:24  
Designers and architects, but not not us.

Marcus Nicholls  8:28  
And so did you have to build software to do it? Or are you using a program?

Unknown Speaker  8:33  
We use off the shelf, but even before it left my job, I used to just enjoy doing it. So I just do it for a hobby?

Gail  8:41  
So you have to be a builder to be able to do the drawing? You can't be just a carpenter. So there's extra study involved!

Unknown Speaker  8:46  
Yes. So I did all the learning and all that kind of stuff. We did online courses, and I just liked doing it.

Marcus Nicholls  8:53  
Yeah. So fabulous.

Ariel Endean  8:55  
I think it's a huge improvement. I'm one of those people that look at a flat plan and I get it like I get there's a kitchen island there or whatever. But I'm not feeling in it. You know, I don't feel in it. Whereas a virtual tour or 3d rendering, I'm like, Oh, I get it. Like I'm a visual learner. So I rather learn from someone showing me how to bake a cake.

Marcus Nicholls  9:13  
You fit that space but I can understand the plan and can look at the plan and say okay, right we need PowerPoints here, here, here. And the desk is going to be there. And that's going to be there. And can just draw the image in my head exactly what that is going to look like.

Ariel Endean  9:29  
Even for people like you, it's so cool to be able to see the thing, because it just really helps you go wow, that's nice. It gives you that Christmas morning reward before you've got there. It's like a little flash of where you're gonna end up. You know. I love that.

Michael  9:44  
But the software now is good. The last five years it's improved greatly. We can do the design and with the joinery. Once we design it, you can basically without doing anything else, you can process it through the programmes and it'll get made on the CNC machine. It will pull the drawing  into parts, flatten it out and put it on the language that the CNC machine can use to cut it out. Yeah. And it's crazy. You just go, Wow.

Ariel Endean  10:15  
Wow. Because you would have seen a lot of change in your 30 years in the industry? The amount of technological change would have been amazing. 

Michael  10:21  
It's heaps! And it's it's that simple that it's almost fun. 

Marcus Nicholls  10:29  
I can I can understand that. Yeah, I'm in your space? Yeah.

Ariel Endean  10:33  
I'm curious. You've obviously in different roles in the business. How did you work them out? How did you work out who was going to be doing what in Spoke.

Gail  10:41  
Skill base! Mine's more Office admin, HR, WHS sales, marketing, that sort of thing. I can't draw or build to save myself. So it was just really the skill base. So that was just how it's worked out. Now that we have more people. It's just a little bit different. But it's still admin accounts. WHS, the training side. So that's my skill set. So I'm a bit everywhere.

Ariel Endean  11:14  
Yeah, that's a lot. That's a long list.

Gail  11:17  
Yeah, no, it is, it's a long list. So when and then when my other business gets busy it's  hard. So that's why we've just put in an admin person on to take over some of that assistance, because it gets a lot. And then that person can also help our ops manager, our project manager with some of the more admin detail for jobs. So it was a no brainer, really, when we started. Michael was the builder who can draw and knows all the ins and outs. 

Marcus Nicholls  11:48  
That's a skill that not all builders have.

Ariel Endean  11:53  
Especially to be able to go out and talk with the customers and at a commercial level too. We were chatting before the interview and you were saying there's a high level of professionalism expected in a corporate commercial level. That's not in everyone's skill set, as you know.

Michael  12:11  
I enjoyed that. Like, I enjoy the procedural paperwork, admin side. Just building stuff is great. But it's, you know, after so long, it's, you know, rinse and repeat. It is very similar.  It's all done the same way. So at least doing it with, you know, the client interaction and developing the systems and all that kind of stuff keeps it interesting.

Gail  12:47  
Michael's also responsible for the person researching and getting more technical systems in place, like changing things when he thinks that things aren't going right. Michael, you're the one that normally researches what he's looking for, because it's for a particular purpose.

Ariel Endean  13:01  
Okay, like something that enhances how your business operates?

Gail  13:05  
Or completely changes the software.

Michael  13:08  
The project management side, like how you run a job? There's lots of different  programmes. 

Gail  13:16  
And who needs to see what. Do we all need to see all of it access? So we developed our own portal for the boys/site guys to access just their information. So don't need to see everything. 

Ariel Endean  13:27  
Like a need to know only? Which reduces overwhelm I imagined too if you're only seeing the bit you need to know.

Michael  13:34  
Well, that's the difference. Site and office are two completely different mindsets. And that's why, like, for Mick, who's caught halfway in between is the project manager, it can be difficult to do on the tools and office work. So that's why getting bigger has allowed me to get off the tools even though I really liked it. But it means I can do my job better. When you're focused. It's just different.

Ariel Endean  14:05  
And you're talking about the research and development because I was thinking that when you were saying you've got help to do, what would be admin work that anyone could do. Like Not anyone can develop the business and create ideas, you know, then you can only do that at your level, you know, especially as the business couple owners, but you can't do that if you're busy doing some data entry, or you're busy installing something like it also allows you to get a bit more of that working on your business time rather than in your business.

Michael  14:34  
You've got to build the capacity. And it's unfortunate, but you've got to do the capacity before you do the work. Otherwise, it's just chaos. So now we're talking about putting extra people on for next year. And we're going well, I mean, we do need them for the work in the first three months. And then you say, well, do we just put them on part time or do we keep them permanent, but you say well, if we don't find the right people and keep them and it limits you to running too hard all the time. So that's and it's I mean, particularly Christmases, it's just overwhelming the amount of work. 

Marcus Nicholls  15:16  
And everyone wants it done by Christmas.

Michael  15:18  
You just go Look I'm sick of this.

Ariel Endean  15:21  
It's really interesting what you're saying, because a lot of businesses it's just all about growth. They want more customers, more money more, you know, more everything where as though you're talking about sort of pulling reins, a little which is like growing at a you know, not not just growing like at an exponential level. 

Marcus Nicholls  15:36  
And making sure that as you grow your're systematised to the right level, of the growth so that it means that you don't just all of a sudden get five jobs in that you just go. This is gonna destroy us.

Michael  15:53  
You don't always make more money. That's the problem.

Gail  15:56  
We can choose the job. And also just having knowing that we have that admin person, like we came up with another good idea this week, and you had one last week, which is going to take us into the new year, which I don't think we would have had the brain space to do.  It just takes that little bit of pressure off. Yeah, fantastic.

Ariel Endean  16:13  
It's such a such a good place to be, you know, you've obviously worked hard to be here. 

Gail  16:13  
It hasn't been easy

Yeah. It's been fun. It's been interesting. It's been challenging. It's been rewarding. But it's definitely not easy. It's not cut out for everybody. 

Ariel Endean  16:32  
I would agree.

Marcus Nicholls  16:33  
So what's the best or worst? Or both? thing about being a business couple?

Gail  16:43  
It's hard to switch off. And have that work life? separation?Or balance, I think is the latest word, isn't it the work life balance? 

Marcus Nicholls  16:54  
There's a few people saying well, there's no such thing as work life balance at the end of the day. Particularly when you run your own business.

Gail  16:59  
And just trying to connect with like minded people in business and finding them. So that you sort of can build and get ideas from other people or just make those other connections. And that's been the hardest part is knowing where to find them. And just having other business people to talk to.

Ariel Endean  17:21  
Yeah, definitely.

Gail  17:24  
Yeah, so I think I think that's been challenging. But we've pushed pretty hard as well, like, our expectations are pretty high. Compared to most I think. 

Ariel Endean  17:33  
Your non business freinds really don't get it. They are really not that interested. Really, which is fine. It's like if you become a parent, you want all your friends to be interested in kids, like Well, no, we're still having fun over. It's like, Yeah, We just found out that they would politely listen, but then their eyes sort of glazed over a bit, which is fine, because it's not their thing. But we were the same. Finding more groups, our tribe, I guess, just other people that are in business. And you're right, you do get ideas just chatting and talking?

Gail  18:06  
Yeah, so I found a pretty good group. And it's just like a sounding board to it's, you know, they say have you thought about this and it's like no, I haven't. It's great.

Ariel Endean  18:14  
How did you do that out of curiosity? Because people in your same situation would think well, how would I find other business owners?

Gail  18:21  
Trial and error? Really? I'd go to one business event, and access whether I liked it or not. 

Ariel Endean  18:28  
Because there's quite a few out there. Isn't there? Really? When you look around.

Gail  18:31  
And it depends on the focus and what you want, as well. So you've just got to try them.

So yeah, so I tried a few local ones. I go to one in Sydney. Michael you've been to some of the local ones with me. 

Michael  18:46  
Yeah - I didn't really enjoy it. Gails social one. I liked having a chat. Yeah, I'm quite okay, with having a chat. But it has, um, if it doesn't interest me, unfortunately, with the chat. I kind of glaze over a bit, and I don't put the time in. Whereas Gail is much better at making people comfortable and talking about what they want to talk about as well. And I'm not as good at that. 

Marcus Nicholls  19:19  
So Gail jumped in a fair bit there around being a business couple. What about you, Michael, what's your thoughts? What do you feel is the best thing or the worst thing about being a business couple?

Michael  19:31  
When you asked I pulled back because I'm going I know what the best and the worst thing is about the business but it was more about the best and the worst as far as being a business couple. Look I don't turn off that much. Because I really like it. Yeah, and it's with me a lot and Gail likes to turn off. So on the weekends, we try to compromise, but it goes more my way than it does Gails way, unfortunately. But, I kind of look at it, there will be a time when it won't be like that. But now while you're pushing hard and you're trying to do the best you can it gets a bit consuming. Yeah. So I wear that. So that's that balance. Not the work. Yeah, it's getting the compromise between each of us.

Gail  20:27  
Yeah, sometimes it's more, sometimes it's less and we've got our son working with us, too. So that throws a different mix in. And you know, considering, I'm going to come back to your question, because considering that we all work together and live together, our actual family unit is really good. It's strong. And, you know, we all have sort of meetings together if there's issues or topics that you want to talk about. And that's something we've structured a long time through the family, and we kind of got on to it, because it just gave me a different platform to talk about things in a different space. But um, so I would say the best thing about the business is being able to all work together and seeing it thrive and grow and build something for David. A legacy. That's the ultimate best thing ever.

Ariel Endean  21:22  
And to be able to do it together. Yeah.

Gail  21:24  

Michael  21:26  
He kinda likes it!  

Gail  21:28  
He does and he has the ability.

Michael  21:29  
We never knew, I always worried that I was pushing him to come into the business.

And Gail would say, don't do it. And I'd say Ok I won't do it.

Gail  21:42  
We just had to let him go and see where it went. And we were just lucky that he had the predisposition for industrial tech and technology.

Michael  21:50  
So yeah, so he did that through school. He was good at it. 

Gail  21:52  
And you could just see it developing.

Michael  21:55  
And if you're good at something, and they can make money out of it, choose that.

Gail  21:59  
Yeah. He was.

Michael  22:01  
It's too hard twisting yourself in and out to make money doing something you don't like.

Gail  22:08  
Yeah. Yeah, sorry. But it's been interesting, because he's doing his apprenticeship through TAFE. Which he changed his mind on by listening to a particular podcast by an architect because he was wishing he went out in the field before he went straight to uni from school because David had gotten into ealy Uni aceptance and he happened to listen to this podcast and completely changed around. Nope I'm gonna earn money trade then Uni. Because that was what the podcast thought and it really resonated with him.

Michael  22:37  
He changed. He was going to uni. Yeah. And then he said, I'm going to change my mind. And I thought you ripper!

Ariel Endean  22:49  
It's nice that you could give him that oportunity. It's nice that he's interesting. And it also speaks a bit to your why. Because as you're saying, running a business is really hard work. So you have to sort of circle back to your why sometimes, like, why am I doing this? You know, because you can earn good money being an employee and a lot of people do and you go home, you check out and That's it? Your weekend is your weekend.

Gail  23:12  
Definitely not like that for us. 

Ariel Endean  23:15  
You need to you need to have a solid, why when you when you're doing some hard yards, and the idea of building a legacy for the next generation, for your family is a great why.

Gail  23:24  
It is and I think sometimes in business that you can get so focused that you kind of have to remember, like backtrack and go, okay. It's alright. That's the goal. We're achieving it and just take a breath sometimes. And I think which I think in business you don't always do that. You don't always say "Yes, we did it". You know, through COVID. We moved early March. COVID. Hit, we just signed a lease for here. Big stress for me. I'm the stressed head of the family.

Ariel Endean  24:03  
Challenging times to do anything really. I mean, you were saying that you've done all right financially out of it. Your Business hasn't been hurt. But nonetheless, there's a lot of upheaval all around you even, you know, even if it's not you directly being affected.

Gail  24:18  
No for those first three months until the government came out with the information, we'd purchased machinery and other one was on its way, put a deposit down. And when COVID hit, a lot of the jobs just disappeared, because no one knew what was going on. So it was interesting, and then you could really see how everybody just jumped on board. Once the government came out with all this stimulus information for businesses. And in the same sense it's also been really good, because it's changed the space that we're so used to working in that if COVID hadn't hit we wouldn't have been looking outside our normal, what we would do normally to get other ideas on what we can target and do so in a way it's had some blessings. Because you have to look and go, Okay, we'll think outside the square a little bit. So that's actually been really interesting. It hasn't all worked. But, you know, it comes up and you try other things. 

Ariel Endean  25:32  
I love to do that. Because at the end of the day, that's what you've got to do in business really, is when things are thrown at you try to sort of make hay out of that. And also see at the other end, that sometimes things that seem about bad news turn out to be okay news or good news or send you somewhere that you wouldn't have gone and bring benefits you wouldn't have ever experienced. But you've got to hold with that vision. And you got to be prepared to try things and be flexible. And think things. Think of ideas and things to implement and workout. Yeah. Pivot was the often used word.

Gail  26:06  
I think, in our mindset, and correct me if I'm wrong here, Michael, it was, it's here to stay. We just have to deal with it. That we couldn't think anything else. There was no other room for anything else to think.

Ariel Endean  26:21  
My feeling was some sort of normal is going to come back because you can't just pause the world, you know, like, so something's gonna sort of all get rolling again, what it looks like will be interesting, but it's, you know, might have a slower growth, but it's not going to sort of look like a shutdown in 12 months time. It just can't. No. That's right. I was confident it would turn into some something new. So what is your current biggest challenge (covid was a little bit of that) But now, I guess where we're at, in that process what would you call your current biggest challenge in running the business? And how are you tackling it?

Michael  26:58  
It's more the people. The team. That's the thing that helps us, as the business grows, is to get the right team. So we spend a fair bit of time. We had a meeting this morning, and we discuss within the team where we want to go, where do we need people so we discuss the skill level of people that need to come in? Do we need a trade? Do we need someone who's just going to be an assembler on the floor. And so the guys get involved in making those decisions. And that's, like the best part of doing the business. So we've got plans for next year, after just putting on the admin person, we say, Well, look, they can help us now. And we can pay some job ads. So gal wasn't at the meeting this morning. But this will get relayed through the system. And you do the best you can. And it's easier for me if I can get some more input from the guys. So they're all pretty good. And we put in the time to get the benefits later. So we've been talking about it for a month. About what we want to do, and it's completely different than what we started off with.

Ariel Endean  28:09  
How you're going to build your team to match where the growth of your businesses is going.

Gail  28:13  
Actually, that was due to Michael finding a podcast as to the reason why we changed the thought actually, yeah.

Michael  28:20  
I listen to a lot of podcasts. Yeah. And he was talking about how, with manufacturing, like as in a joiner, like a joiner builder, they're not really a tradesperson. They're a manufacturing, yes. And that means that you have to make the process simple. Dumb it down, which is what we try to do. So we try to get all the thinking done up here in the drawings and when it goes to the CNC and then after that, it's putting Lego together, because all the thoughts should have happened. And that's kind of unless you're doing detail, veneers, joinery, and you don't need all the skills. So it's taken us a while to get there and go, well we can do that particular person that comes in, they have to have not so much the skills, but the work has to suit them. Right. Yeah. Yeah. And so that's where you need to know the background of what you want them to do. And then find the right person.

Gail  29:29  
We also give our guys the chance to work with them to see if they fit with the team. And then they give us feedback. And we base the decision on on that.

Ariel Endean  29:40  
That's especially important if you have a good team and it's running well. You don't want a new entry to upset what's already working.

Michael  29:49  
Attitude is everything. We employ for attitude.

Marcus Nicholls  29:52  
Yeah, you can always train.

Gail  29:53  
Yes, thats exactly right.

Marcus Nicholls  29:55  
Yeah, you can train skills you can, you can't train attitude.

Michael  29:57  
It's so true.

Gail  29:59  
We're a bit old fashioned in the training, too, so it's all tafe. It's all hands on. It's all supervised not just ticking a box.

Ariel Endean  30:08  
Read this. Do you understand? Tick!

Gail  30:11  
Exactly, exactly. It's interesting.

Ariel Endean  30:15  
I love the fact that you guys are referencing a number of podcasts too, because it talks to the idea of you saying, trying to find your tribe of people, like minded people, because you can't always get to a business group, or you might be isolated wherever your business is. Whereas podcasts allow you to access minds and people's thoughts and experiences, from your living room chair or your car drive or whatever. So we definitely use them as well to get ideas. It's entertaining as well, but to get ideas and thoughts and learn from other people's experiences.

Michael  30:50  
It's easy to share as well. So the one that changed my thinking, I flicked that around, everyone and said, look have a listen to this. 10 minutes is all it will take. 

Marcus Nicholls  31:01  
It's great. Absolutely love it. Has being in business together changed your relationship, and in what ways. From being an employee to being in business together?

Ariel Endean  31:17  
Because we can tell from your son's age that you've been together for a few years before you started your own business? 

Gail  31:23  
Yes I think we've been married 25 years.

Ariel Endean  31:28  
Well done.

Gail  31:36  
So 25 years. Yes. And no, it has its moments. And I think that comes back to making sure that we have the family time and get together. And so we do that really well sometimes, and sometimes not. So it's a real mixture.

Ariel Endean  31:54  
Better or worse or just different. Would you recomend it?

Gail  31:59  
I only if you have great to keep going. Because sometimes it can be quite hard and taxting and long, long hours to get going.

Ariel Endean  32:11  
More so than if you stayed an employee, for instance. Yeah, less overall stress. But less gain too when working for someone else.

Gail  32:19  
Yeah. So I think we've grown closer together. We certainly know each other skills more. That was something that we've learned more off because I have a love hate relationship with QuickBooks. But i'm the best one for it, for example, for that forensic type looking.

That's what Jeff's having a hard day today.

Michael  32:46  
Gails good with a dog with a bone? Like, it's very much that until you figure out what the problem is, I'm more of a not a she'll be right. But I'd like it's, I can look at it and go, that doesn't really matter. This matters. And I'll just move on to something that is more important. Whereas it's that the detail is important. It's just not as important to me. But we need that detail.

Gail  33:19  
Michaels big picture. I really suck at big picture. But if you want me to do detailed, make sure that big picture comes into play, that it's going to happen. That's my goal. 

Ariel Endean  33:32  
I mentioned if something's not adding up in QuickBooks, you're like, I'm not going to bed until I work this out.

Gail  33:36  
Well, not quite, because I just fall asleep wherever I am typeing

Ariel Endean  33:42  
Back into it in the morning,

Gail  33:43  
yes, yes, it will be the first thing that I do. And if not, I can't figure it out. Then it's you know, I go to the certain people and saying suss it out so it's good yeah. It's made us respect each other a bit more. I think too with our skill base and just knowing each other a bit more. Because we never really worked together before I guess either before this did we?

Michael  34:04  
No. Even in Gails business with the training side of it? Is I just go there's no way I would want to do that. You know, I could maybe grit my teeth and do it 50% as good as Gail but Gail does it every day with enthusiasm and a good job for the good intention. And it's just that I just would hate to do that. I'd hate it. But I go you need people like Gail to do that inside of it. And that's why the mix of what you're good at. It's nice when you find it. Because I don't think you will always find what your niche is, what you're good at.

Ariel Endean  34:57  
And then enjoy, because you can be very good at something as you're saying with QuickBooks but not particularly enjoy it. I mean holy grail is doing something you enjoy that you're really good at that pays really well. 

Michael  35:06  
Yeah one hundred percent.

Gail  35:08  
But I think it's also to as a couple, accepting each other's strengths and weaknesses, because I'm a bit like, I can look at a 3d plan and go Yeah, that's great, and then see the end, but I have no idea how they made it in the middle whereas Michael and the guys know exactly what they're doing. But if you gave me the task saying build this, theres no chance. I don't know what you get at the end. But I think it's just accepting that you you're different and to work towards your strengths. And hopefully people you have together with you as part of your team can fit in and pick up your other weaknesses and make you look good.

Ariel Endean  35:51  
I like that. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses and respecting that and appreciating the strengths and being accommodating of the weaknesses in a way. Like even if you call them weaknesses, you know, just not what you are, you know that thing. And sometimes that's frustrating for the other person, because it's so natural to them. How can you see me so understand this is like, well, because it's not my thing. I'm not really good, I'm good at other things.

Gail  36:16  
No, I'm quite happy to say I can't do this. Because if you want a result, you're not going to get that one from me on this particular thing, because it's not my strengths. But also I think, too, it's challenged us as well. It's been challenging to push the boundaries to see where it goes. For me anyway, because there's things that I've done, that I probably would never have done. If we weren't working together, or doing our own business, I don't know about you.

Ariel Endean  36:46  
Oh, 100% because as a worker, you tend to be in a position where they've employed you to do a few things that you do well, or the one thing or two or three things, not the laundry list you mentioned before. You know, 20 things like you're in business development, you're in project management, you're in, you know, like so much stuff as entrepreneur.

Michael  37:14  
It's hard. You have to have a selective memory. You have to be able to move on. You can't fix all the problems straightaway. But you have to be able to, you have to petition things in your mind. And that is really a lot of things that are really important right now, in a week's time just mean nothing. So you can't get too caught up in the nitty gritty of just stuff. Just chill out a bit. And just go back to the big picture. Why are we doing this? Well, if we want to go home at two o'clock on Friday we goo. It doesn't happen often.

Ariel Endean  38:09  
But you know, you can. Do you mean, when you come to a bit of a disagreement, or an impasse on something like you're not on the same page with something, is that what you mean? You need to be able to just put that aside and get more big picture. Like if you are butting heads on a particular theme. Is that what you mean? 

Michael  38:27  
Yeah, well, we can butt heads on things like what kind of person that we put on? What are they gonna do. What, are the guys doing first thing in the morning?

Ariel Endean  38:39  
And how to manage something that's happening with a staff member or something, , because at the end of the day as a business couple you are different people you know, and you have different views even if you are largely on the same page as you're saying you do have your different thoughts on how something should be progressing and you need to be able to work through that as you're saying.

Michael  38:59  
And figure out who well it's not who's the boss. But who is going to take the responsibility for it because you can't you know be 100% joint decisions on everything. So there are some things that I'll just say now look at this. We're just going to do it this way. And then there are other things that I go will Gail really has a better insight into it So when someone comes for a job interview and Gail says she's got a good feeling or a bad feeling about them, well I've learned don't disagree.

Ariel Endean  39:36  
Nice. A spider sense.

Gail  39:37  
It's like a Gut feeling.

Michael  39:41  
Lose lose if I disagree.

Ariel Endean  39:44  
Yeah, your instincts are so important. Like they completely not scientific.

Gail  39:49  
Totally irrational when you go "I think I have a Gut feeling".

Ariel Endean  39:52  
You've got to listen and every time you ignore it, damn it stings you in the tail. I just knew that.

Gail  39:58  
Yeah, and I think it's comes down to knowing whose skills are what. For example I wouldn't make a building decision.

Ariel Endean  40:05  
Yeah, like play to your strengths.

Gail  40:08  
Yeah, because that's all Michael. 

Ariel Endean  40:12  
I'm curious. Is there ever a time you've considered walking away from the business or your relationship? 

Gail  40:28  
No, not for me. It does my head in sometimes.

Ariel Endean  40:36  
That's great. Solid conviction there. 

Michael  40:37  
I thought you would have thought about it more than me.

Gail  40:40  
No. Like for example QuickBooks. It's really good sometimes and other times not so good.

Marcus Nicholls  40:46  
You want to walk away from quickbooks sometimes. What's your choice? zero?

Ariel Endean  40:50  
Even with tough days I imagine that your thinking well there is this or that which is the alternative. 

Gail  40:59  
I actually said it this week, I actually quite like working for ourselves. I find it challenging, interesting and some days it just feel like you're banging your head against the wall. But I think now looking back now, I would be a terrible employee.

Ariel Endean  41:12  
If you had to now go back and work for somebody else.

Gail  41:16  
I'd be a terrible employee. So no, I don't regret working for ourselves or doing any of those things or the relationship or anything. I think it's one of the best things thats actually happened to me because of the growth development. But also, it's been very difficult at times as well, because it hasn't been easy. But no, I haven't thought about throwing in the towel at any point. I get disgruntled with it.

Ariel Endean  41:43  
I love your conviction and you're right the growth you experience in running your own business is exponential, because you simply have to cope with situations you wouldn't have to.

Gail  41:55  
I get disgruntled and go "I bloody hate this". You know, some days, you know, to be honest, sometimes. I'm like, What am I doing here? Why am I doing it and blah, blah, blah, you know, just like any other one person that has a bad day. But generally no.

Marcus Nicholls  42:13  
And what about you, Michael?

Michael  42:15  
No, It's never even crossed my mind that I'd want to change.

Marcus Nicholls  42:23  
That's great.

Ariel Endean  42:24  
I pretty much knew that when I was asking you. Yeah, I just think these guys are just so in this and enjoying it to. It's obvious you're enjoying it. You're enjoying growing it, enjoying learning, enjoying doing what you enjoy doing as well, which is fabulous.

Gail  42:38  
Michael's a really cool builder so he enjoys it. 

Marcus Nicholls  42:42  
Sounds great. That's fabulous. So from the point of view of recommending to other business couples, what do you feel is your secret sauce for being a business couple? What are your tips, tricks, hacks, ideas that you would recommend to another business couple.

Ariel Endean  43:01  
That are either thinking about going into business together or currently in business together that

Marcus Nicholls  43:06  
amy be clashing or butting heads.

Gail  43:08  
Um, take a breather. Take a breath. Remember the goal and what you're doing it for? Don't expect to get it right all the time. Thats my two cents worth.

Ariel Endean  43:20  
And going into business as a business couple. What would you suggest?

Gail  43:29  
Going into business as a couple and you haven't done it before make sure you have the skills that you're doing what you've got your skill base for and that at least one person has the skills and was really passionate about what they're doing? Because everything else will kind of fall into place and it's okay if you keep changing systems and bits and pieces. 

Ariel Endean  43:53  
I think that's good advice.

Marcus Nicholls  43:55  
That's good advice. Definitely.

Gail  43:56  
That's all I've got.

Ariel Endean  43:58  
That's a lot!  Fantastic!

Gail  44:01  
Over to you Michael. 

Ariel Endean  44:03  
Secret sauce. Come on Michael.

Michael  44:06  
They're hard ones. But I find that when you have something that pisses you off you've just got a pick at it. Like I don't. That's what I do. Like, we have issues. 

Ariel Endean  44:23  
As does every business and business couple.

Michael  44:27  
Because sometimes the actual issue isn't what you think it is. You've just got to go "why did you do that"? It's not as simple as leaving it at that when they say a reason. 

Ariel Endean  44:46  
it's this reason but quite often it's a different issue.

Michael  44:48  
It's not. You've gotta just drill down as to why you have the problem. They'll get stressed out with the business sometimes. It gets overwhelming but if you don't discuss getting stressed out about it, you can't move forward. So we will have the talk and say, Well, what is the problem now? And then you kind of you go around around around and then you go, well look, big picture. What else would we want to do? Yeah. And then when you can come around to that, it's not that important.

Gail  44:54  
You also don't grow either. That's how we have found the admin person. 

Michael  45:35  
Just drill down, find what the problem is, and then find something that'll fix it. So when Gail gets overwhelmed, her business is admin people heavy and I like Gail involved in my business. So she was getting squeezed. So then we go, well, look, we've got to give Gail a bit of a break. So that's when we'll get an admin person. And we'll just figure out what we're going to do. But at least then you have a bit of space to think about it. And it's only been a short time that we've had that admin person but even just making that decision was a big improvement.

Ariel Endean  46:13  
But you had to get there. There's a process to get to that decision. And quite often you don't even know that the person that's got an issue with something that you're unhappy about some other thing, that you're not even cognizant of the fact that that's what's happening, but then you're stressing and having a problem over here, but it's actually back here that there's a problem. And that's really problem solving anything really isn't it because there's the top level "Wait on the things on the fire, let's put it out". And then there's the "Wait on how did it catch fire"?. You know what I mean? Any sort of problem solving is often a few layers in and that's where you can really make some real change. To get benefit, you know, to work something.

Gail  46:53  
And actually, I found the new admin person through one of my business networks on the coast. I didn't want to advertise. 

Marcus Nicholls  47:00  
That's great Secret Sauce. There's so much value there. Okay, so for a bit of fun we have some dice and random questions.

Gail  47:22  
Do we both get to roll the dice?

Ariel Endean  47:24  
Yeah. You do.

So 14 -  In a perfect world. What would you be doing in a decade's time?

Michael  47:34  
I'd like to be part time and the business is still successful and we'd be travelling.

Ariel Endean  47:45  

Michael  47:46  
That's enough. Yep,

Marcus Nicholls  47:47  
That's great!

Ariel Endean  47:48  
Part time. Checking in for an hour or two a week from the Bahamas. Doing your management bit sainging "I'm done darling, it's 10 o'clock. I'm done for my work for the day".

Michael  48:00  
That would be awesome.

Gail  48:01  

Michael  48:02  
I'd never want to not be doing anything. And I really do like the business so if David our son keeps on going, or the rest of the guys take it over and look it doesn't really matter that much. But as long as it doesn't die, then we have the luxury of travelling rolling in money.

Ariel Endean  48:25  
That sounds so doable.It's not even pie in the sky. It's a solid plan.

Michael  48:30  
Things are changing

Ariel Endean  48:31  
And I'm giving you a decade.

Gail  48:32  
A bit too long I think. A decades fine actualy. I think we'll need 10.

Marcus Nicholls  48:41  
What about you Gail? What's your thoughts on that?

Gail  48:44  
I'd like to be partially retired. I'd like to probably sell my fire stuff and be holidaying. Cocktail at 10am.

Ariel Endean  48:54  
I think Gail was there for my Bahamas vision.

Gail  48:59  
Yeah, and travelling and seeing a bit. Checking in remotely via zoom or things like because we would never not be able to do that. Just having invested so much. Having it growing, having seen David grow take it over. Some of our other staff if they're interested. 

Marcus Nicholls  49:15  

Ariel Endean  49:16  
That's a solid plan.

Gail  49:17  
Cocktail at 10am. Sounds good!

Michael  49:18  
What do we like?. Mojitos with Thai rum. Oh they were beautiful.

Ariel Endean  49:19  
Here we go.

Gail  49:26  
Do you want to blow on the dice for good luck. 

Ariel Endean  49:32  
Ten - Okay. Have you had any spectacular disasters you can share with us?

Marcus Nicholls  49:41  
Can be business or personal

Ariel Endean  49:44  
Can be funny or heartbreaking?

Gail  49:52  
I thnk some of the hard part is not having the support of family. Not having friends understand or sort of support you. That sort of thing?

Ariel Endean  50:12  
Yeah. It's pretty lonely.

Gail  50:15  
It is! it can be a lonely space. So I think that would be the hardest one. In relation to work, I think there was probably some jobs that we took on that we probably could have said, No. But they were also challenging and interesting at the same time. So we wouldn't never have known either. So it's probably good and bad in that one. I think overall, some of the lows have been when you don't have things lined up, whether you can see, we've got a block of time that's free. And how to juggle that to keep everyone going and employed. And you know, it's going to be okay. But it's just being able to juggle and manoeuvre things around and how it's going to fit. If that makes any sense whatsoever. 

Ariel Endean  51:18  
No, no, it does. In the sense of holding your breath.

Marcus Nicholls  51:21  
Michael - any disasters that you would like to share?

Michael  51:24  
Look, we had one job, which was over Christmas, a big job. And the project manager that we had just had like a mental nervous breakdown. And so we had, like a month before Christmas. And when we looked at the job, it was just not quite right. And we were lucky we had good contractors and good people, local trades, and everyone pulled together to fix the problem. But that was hard.

Gail  51:57  
That was tough. That was one of my gut feelings.

Michael  52:00  
And yes you were right. But that was that's the worst one.

Gail  52:05  
That was the worst one? Yes, I'd completely forgotten about that.

Ariel Endean  52:10  
That's a moment when you've realised that it's all wrong. And it's a daunting task to fix. 

Gail  52:17  
But it made us stronger as a couple in a family because Dave pitched in. I pitched in. Everyone pitched in. You just do it.

Michael  52:24  
This was like 3 o'clock in the morning working on site.

Gail  52:28  
And oursuppliers were coming in at that time as well, because they all had different stages they needed to complete. That actually made us stronger.

Ariel Endean  52:37  
Into the furnace and out the other side.

Michael  52:41  
Yeah, that was in the first year. I think. First two years at least.

Ariel Endean  52:49  
Yeah, that's a disaster enough for me. Let's leave that one.

Marcus Nicholls  52:53  
That's it.

Gail  52:54  
That was a huge learning curve to. I think you have to go through those to come out the other end better.

Ariel Endean  53:01  
Totaly. You don't learn in the happy times. Not when everything goes well.

Marcus Nicholls  53:05  
And if you don't learn from those, then you probably shouldn't be in business.

Gail  53:08  
Yeah, exactly. That's a good memory that one.

Michael  53:11  
That was horrible.

Ariel Endean  53:14  
PTSD over here.

Marcus Nicholls  53:22  
That's 14 again, so we can't have that.

Ariel Endean  53:24  
Have another roll.

Marcus Nicholls  53:29  
Seven. Okay, who is good cop? And who is bad cop in the business?

Gail  53:35  
Depends on the situation.

Michael  53:37  
Does it?

Gail  53:40  
I was gonna say you. You're the bad cop. It depends on what it is. I think. 

Marcus Nicholls  53:57  
Michaels not saying anything! He's just looking at Gail.

Michael  54:04  
It's a hard word that needs to be said. Gail is much better at it than me.

Gail  54:10  
I'm not that shy.

Ariel Endean  54:11  
I was thinking you were bad cop. If someone had to be.

Gail  54:16  
Like the sanitizer. 

Ariel Endean  54:19  
Yeah, that's right. When we arrived we didn't notice the sanitizer, and we got directed. by Gail as she was multitasking on the phone we got directed by arrows to the sanitizer. Nice. But I imagine if it's someone thats under you're direct managment. As you were saying you manage different staff I imagine if it's someone under you that needs a talking to.

Michael  54:37  
Look I'm, I can't get in your face. Like it's and it's and it's that thing of drilling down. What were you thinking? Like, it's not just, I can't just give someone a slap on the wrist. I'll find out well, why did you do it and if you find out that they really did because they didn't care, then that's it. All right. But you got to ask the questions to find that out. whereas Gail's more the slap on the wrist, just don't do it again. Whereas I kind of get in your face a bit more. And just don't let it go.

Gail  55:20  
It depends what it is but yeah, generally it's like common sense practical things. 

Michael  55:31  
Do you agree?

Yeah. I agree. Yeah, it's depends on the day of the week.

Ariel Endean  55:47  
I found too, sometimes it depends on who was there when something was happening because if something is happening, and it's not your space but you happen to be there. It's like, what? Hang on, you know? It's because you happen to be there. Like you're the the person on the spot. So it falls to you to need to deal with it. 

Gail  56:03  
And if I'm not sure, I'll always come back up and say, Michael, hey, what do you think about this? And then he'll make a call, or say something? And then that depends on whether I say something or don't do anything or he takes over? Or, you know, it's a bit of sharing around as well. 

Ariel Endean  56:21  
I like that.

Gail  56:23  
My turn again, okay.

Ariel Endean  56:29  
One more throw?

Gail  56:35  

Ariel Endean  56:36  
Okay. If you had a time machine, would you go back and make changes to your business? Or would you go forwards and see where your business ended up? Or would you just pass on the offer?

Gail  56:49  
Interesting, I think I would like to probably go back and set it up differently with the knowledge that I have now, if I could take that back with me, and set up the systems and things and have things set up well. Like if we had somebody to help us set things out.

Ariel Endean  57:09  
Imagine if you started like this, then.

Gail  57:12  
Yeah, so I think if I could take the knowledge back with me and re set it up a little bit differently to what it is now.

Ariel Endean  57:19  
It would be such a springboard wouldn't it. It would be like starting now. But then. 

Gail  57:25  
I don't think I'd want to go to the future. Because that would take the fun out of the process. If you knew we're going I think for me, if I knew I'll probably try and change it if I didn't like it. Do you know what I mean. I think I'd like to leave the future as a mystery. Yeah.

Michael  57:51  
I'd go back but I would start the business earlier. I sometimes think that I was stuck in my last job too long. It was good experience. I learned a lot. But I would have probably started five years earlier.

Ariel Endean  58:09  
That's good advice. To someone that's listening, thinking. I know, I want to do it.  Actually, did you always know you were going to want to run your own business? Or was it something that evolved?

Michael  58:19  
No I like my job that I had. The business I was at them was probably five times bigger than what we are here. And so I had the authority and I had an interesting job and I liked it but it just got to much when things just didn't change. But I reckon five years earlier, I would have liked to have started, I would have known enough, then that I could have started. And when I look at the changes that have happened to us in five years, I go, wow it would be nice to be five years in the future now.

Ariel Endean  58:55  
I'm imagining him arriving back there five years earlier and elbowing himself and saying "Now - Go now"!.

Michael  59:03  
And it would have been easy. It would have been easy. We never borrowed money to start the business we just started and we could have done it easy.

Ariel Endean  59:14  
Well, here's the thing. I don't have a time machine. Just FYI. I'm sorry. We're gonna have to do it all school where we just take each day as it comes and keep solving problems moving forwards.

Marcus Nicholls  59:27  
So thank you, Michael and Gail. It's been lovely to interview you both and I think you've shared some wonderful stuff.

Ariel Endean  59:37  
You've been really open and shared some great bits of information. I love it. I love your story. And I love where you're heading with it all as well. And you're obviously a great business couple.

Marcus Nicholls  59:48  
Great duo. There's no question about that. So if anyone is interested in needing their office or shop fitted out, internally, get in contact with Spoke building and interiors. They are a fabulous business here on the Central Coast. Certainly look them up and they will look after to you in every shape or form.

Michael  1:00:11  
We'd love to help you.

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