What happens when you work together 24/7, share the same values, and understand the difference between Business time and family time? You get great business couple success. That’s what Bruce and Freya have done for 30 plus years. Tune in for inspiration on how they've done it!
Some Secret Sauce highlights from this episode:
When we're in the business channel, we talk about business. When we’re in the Family Channel, we try very hard not to talk about business. If we're at home and we talk about business, we realise we’re taking time out of family time so we make sure it's focused time to do it. You need to be disciplined about being on the right channel at the right time.
Good communication takes place when you pick the right time. A time when you're both not exhausted, and you are able to sit down and talk about things.
It’s important to know exactly how much money you've got, how much you owe, and how much is coming in. You must have a handle on that if you want to run a successful business.
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 Berkeley Vale New South Wales, chatting to Bruce and Freya from bib and brace, which makes beautiful building products from recycled timbers.
Ariel Endean 0:41
Marcus Nicholls 0:42
Yeah, welcome to the show, guys.
Bruce Cottrill 0:43
Thank you very much.
Ariel Endean 0:44
So Bruce, you created Bib N Brace to match timber waste streams with appropriate products and markets, thereby reducing timber going into landfill and reducing the need to cut down new trees. Have you always been passionate about recycling?
Bruce Cottrill 0:59
Yes we have actually, that's something that I certainly inherited from my father. Because we've always tried to avoid as much waste as possible, just in everything that we did, whether it was waste time, waste materials, so it was always a natural thing for us to do. But so yes, I've always been interested in recycling, but not so much from recycling green perspective, just as a non waste perspective. But you end up at the same place, so now we just put a green label on it. That's basically what we're doing. And we had the clarity now, of using an Australian material, it's locally sourced, it has a higher value than most of its imported alternatives, because it's Australian hardwoods. So is more durable than most other timbers in the world and they're beautiful. The downside, is they're a bastard to work with, which is why people have avoided working with them or have just used them for structural timber.
Ariel Endean 1:57
Challenge accepted! Yeah, that's fantastic. That's an interesting point, actually. Because my mum came from the Depression era, which is that generation before ours? And they recycled as a self serving practise so as not having to spend money on buying something. Where as though now we think of recycling a little bit more as an external thing in terms of saving the planets limited resources. But really, it's both?
Bruce Cottrill 2:22
It is both. Yeah.
Ariel Endean 2:23
And it has always been both.
Yeah. So it's, it's just we're going back to it. I mean, we've been in such a disposable culture for so long, where it's cheap to get rid of things, and a lot of materials are so cheap. I mean, a tree in a forest is probably only worth 100 bucks, as a tree. So the money that, you know, the value in the timber comes from actually cutting it down and processing and turning it to something else. But that tree, you know, even if it's $100 a tree and say there's, you know, three cubic metres or five cubic metres of timber, that that's useful timber in that tree? Well, the value of that timber could be anywhere from, you know, $250 a cubic metre, for the most basic structural, or packaging material, up to, by the time you, you get to sort of our architectural products, you're looking at $15,000 to $25,000 per cubic metre of finished product. And all of that is value add in there. So all those dollars that are created in there are all, you know, they're either exported, when you buy an imported product, or they're all dollars that are created within that community. And that's from an I think that's where a lot of our wealth and our communities come from.
Freya Cottrill 3:39
It does if you do the manufacturing and processing here, then all that wealth and money is generated here and stays here. But when you cut down a tree, send it overseas to get, you know, logged or, you know, to cut to even pieces of timber, or into something else and then sent back. It's cheaper than if you did that in Australia, for sure. But it's all those dollars are now elsewhere.
Ariel Endean 4:06
All that we get to keep, that goes into our communitie is the profit. Where as the rest of all that value is lost to us.
It makes so much more sense to go about it the way you are going about it, which is fantastic.
Marcus Nicholls 4:22
And the idea of that gradual process of getting away from a cheap product. When I say a cheap product I mean a product that is mass produced. That mot built to last? So much of what we buy, lasts whatever the warranty is on it. That's basically how long it lasts. It doesn't last longer than that anymore.
Ariel Endean 4:52
That's right. And you know, it's all part of the design and manufacturing processes to durability and all that sort of thing, and it's more a matter of not so much that, you know, cheap products arr crap, expensive products are good or local made is better than imports. You know, there's a whole gamut of things out there. A lot of the imports are so much better than what's made locally. But it's more a matter of the wealth generated either stays in our community, and provides a basis for, you know, our creative kids, our kids who like using their hands, you know, all the various talents that different people have in a community? Well, if we just make an economic decision to say that we'll actually, as a country, our best resources, stuff we dig out of the ground, or stuff we grow, then everything else we're prepared to sacrifice, to make the most out of those things, then I think we do a disservice to our people by doing that. And the wealth that those people can generate. , Managing it in a modern economy, though, is a job suited to much better paid people than me.
Well, it sounds like you're doing your bit anyway which is perfect.
And that was why we settled for this type of business. Because it was a local resource and it's difficult to manage and process, we thought it's gonna have more legs. We've got more chance of asking a premium for it. Than if we were just trying to compete on our, you know, lowest common denominator basis. So we had to work to our highest common denominator basis. That's got a good story. I mean, you know, you can buy a product from us and in a lot of cases, I'll be able to say, well, this came out of a house here or came out of a school gym that they demolished in Merryweather or, you know, whatever. And, you know, people that come and see and order things from us, they can look at the pile of timber we've got and say I really like this . What's the story behind this? Okay. Well, this was actually out of bridge in Wauchope that got washed away.
I love havinging a bit of provenance.
Of course, it's cost us a lot to get that timber. Because big pieces of timber are more expensive and the market has worked out that the timber that was cut down 60 years ago, was a much better quality timber than what they're cutting down now.
And they used wonderful timber for, essentially crap jobs. Well utilitarian use. Not how it is featured now?
My uncle was telling me he did his carpentry apprenticeship in New Zealand and so they built a lot of the bridges on the west coast of the South Island. So you know, really hard country to be working in, but had some magnificent timbers. And they would use Rimu, which is an amazing, gorgeous cabinet timber now, that's very hard to get. They'd use it for formwork because it was waxy, and the concrete didn't stick to it. And he said, we'd do a job and then throw it out.
Well we know better now.
Marcus Nicholls 8:01
Hopefully, we can move forward successfully. With that in mind.
Ariel Endean 8:05
It was a different era of production.
Marcus Nicholls 8:07
Freya the business has been running for four years now, or thereabouts. And you're just starting to get to a point where the business is starting to find its own feet and legs, and really come together. What do you envision 2021 is going to hold for you? For both of you that is. And for the business?
Freya Cottrill 8:30
Well, hopefully, this particular business will start to become more profitable. We've been spending up until now really, product developing, you know, just spending a lot of time and money and energy on r&d. Seeing what the market wants and all that sort of thing. I think we've got that down now. We've got a few products that we believe are able to be commercialised properly. So therefore, we should be able to roll that out more next year provided everything goes back to pre covid-19 normal. We've been very lucky, obviously, in Australia. We haven't had the problems that they have in the rest of the world but still. Our product, I think, particularly when it comes to doors is something that we could export quite successfully. Not that I think we will even try and do that this year. That may be within a five year plan where we will get to the point where we can export but right now we're just looking to rolling it out around the country. (Australia)
And market wise who are you looking at targeting within the marketing of the product?
Bruce Cottrill 9:56
Builders are the ones who buy doors. So they buy Most the doors. House owners usually specify them to some degree. But for the doors that we do most of our market is still high end architectural. So the architect will certainly have an impact and steer people towards us if they're looking for a sustainable build. The challenge that everyone has with sustainable builds, is it's usually quite a bit more expensive than a non sustainable build, just because the standards have to be so much higher. You've got to have better glazing, better alumium & thermal barriers on your floor. So much more stuff goes into a build. And then if you start going for exotic materials, then you've also got the builders, saying "oh, my God, what's going to happen to this margin that has to get put on top of it?" Because they're responsible? They carry the liability on the building for seven years. So they've got to be careful with that sort of thing.
Freya Cottrill 10:59
But luckily, with our products with say, the doors they can see them and they can just see what we do and they go, "Oh, my God, this is gorgeous" and don't worry about it.
Bruce Cottrill 11:09
So there's no risk margin on the product. It's a no brainer.
Freya Cottrill 11:11
But if you go to them with some other product that's never been seen before. Some sort of external cladding of some sort and they'll say no because they can't be sure. They can't take the risk.
Bruce Cottrill 11:24
Green Building Products and very hard to get broad market acceptance on. So hence, we don't have a green building product we just have a sensible building product. It's durable. It's gorgeous. And it happens to be recycled.
Marcus Nicholls 11:38
But it's not the driver.
Ariel Endean 11:40
That's not the purpose to have it. The reason to have it is that it's beautiful.
Freya Cottrill 11:46
They like the story. They like the fact that it's recycled. They like the character that it shows because it's recycled.
Bruce Cottrill 11:53
And that's one of our marketing challenges for, scaling the business. So you either put sales agents on or you try and sell online, or however it is, as soon as you go from your network outside of you that can tell the story. The challenge is how do you take something that every one's going to be unique, even if they come out of the same factory? Well, because the material sources come from all sorts of different places, and have different grades and different standards, then every door is going to be unique. So you know, I don't really want to get caught with having to stock a bunch of retailers with doors so that people can come in and pick. I'd really much prefer that we somehow manage it that they can virtually see what they're going to get. And then we build enough trust, somehow that they can say, No, no, look, I just love the idea that is absolutely gorgeous so long as we're within this parameters I'll just love whatever you send me. We've got to get to that point, that the builders can be confident that they can make that sale and not have dramas, you know, of ordering something and an unhappy client saying, Oh, God, I can't believe you selected that piece of timber in it. Which can happen!
Ariel Endean 13:05
it sounds so well thought out. And the idea that you've taken your time developing products and working it out.
Bruce Cottrill 13:11
We've worked in the building industry before. It's a slow burn.
Ariel Endean 13:18
So I'm wondering what your roles are in the business and how you worked out who would be doing what and whether or not those roles have changed over time?
Freya Cottrill 13:28
No, they never changed. I've always been in charge of the money. And he's always been in charge of the product, the sales and all of that side of things.
Bruce Cottrill 13:39
The squishy end of it.
Ariel Endean 13:40
Was that just a natural fit? A natural playing to your strengths?
Freya Cottrill 13:42
Yes it's a natural fit? Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, Bruce would die a slow death if he had to do too much paperwork or office work.
Bruce Cottrill 13:42
To me it's not real. And it's after the fact. Whereas though I live in the future. Not yesterday.
Freya Cottrill 14:05
And and he gets energised by talking to people. That's what gives him energy. But if he's in the drudgery of having to fill out the paperwork would just kill him. Whereas I have to have a solid ground to stand on and the only way for me to have that is to know that everything's where it should be.
Ariel Endean 14:30
Every i dotted, every t crossed.
Freya Cottrill 14:33
I'm not that anal but I have to know exactly how much money we've got, how much we owe, how much is coming in, and I've got to have a handle on that.
Bruce Cottrill 14:45
She has responsibility for that.
Ariel Endean 14:48
That's good advice anyway. It's remarkable how many business owners don't know, offhand within a reasonable guess how much money they have available to them.
Freya Cottrill 14:59
A lot of them are like Bruce, and they don't want to be worried about that. That's just cuts into their creative thinking.
Ariel Endean 15:09
I need to focus on the customers needs or the staff needs. The managers role is to ensure that the customer gets everything they're expecting and the staff get everything they need to ensure that the customer gets whatever their expecting. And that's enough of a job for me.
Freya Cottrill 15:24
So he can rely on me to make sure that I will let him know if we've got a problem. Otherwise, he doesn't need to know.
Marcus Nicholls 15:32
That's great. Just fabulous.
Ariel Endean 15:34
And when it works well as a business couple that is usually ideal where you're greater than the sum of your parts, because you're covering different parts of the business. You're bringing different skillsets and you're covering different parts of the business than you would if you're a one man band.
Bruce Cottrill 15:53
Defintiely. And you've got the speed of trust. Being family and being a part of being in a family business is that trust is rearely an issue. And having that means I can have faith that I can just go. Go and talk to clients, engage with staff & suppliers knowing that I can do it and that I don't have to worry. And that Freya will rein me in if I get to carried away. Because we are constantly developing new products and developing new ways of doing things. We're still a bespoke business and we're dealing with all these weird materials. As an example of the sort of weird shit we deal with at my end is that we've started recycling Polystyrene. Because an oportuanty came up for us to get some polystyrene in from refrigeration cool store panels because I can use that to make a door lighter and it's not going to rot. And then I think thats better because I could use 100% recycled polystyrene instead of 50% recycled cardboard in my internal doors which is a better enviromental goal. And then I go down a rabbit hole - how do you process the polystyrene, how do you deal with waste, how do you make sure it's accurate.....which all costs time & money. Once I have this idea we do an initial trial, give it a bit of a go with the equipment we've got and give it a go. And it's a really good story and it works really well. At which point I talk to Freya about it and she'll say - ok maybe in 12 months we might be able to do that or whatever it is but I don't also need to go and work it all out. Freya knows so I don't have to go that job as well. That's because there is high trust and this helps make things move very quickly.
Marcus Nicholls 18:20
Communication, is the key to a successful relationship. How do you communicate with each other?
Freya Cottrill 18:30
We're just always around each other. So yeah, yeah. I mean, we are lucky that we get on so well. Because we live together and we work together. I mean, we are literally together pretty much 24. Seven. And but you bet, I guess. Good communications takes place when you pick a time when you're both not exhausted. It's important to choose a time that you are able to sit down and talk about things. You know, if Bruce has just gotten back from a trip to Sydney, he could be really tired.
Ariel Endean 19:10
That is not the time to ask me anything.
Freya Cottrill 19:11
That's right. It's not the time to say, Well, let's think about the future.
Ariel Endean 19:16
Lets map out 2021.
Freya Cottrill 19:17
Yeah, exactly. You know, so it's more about picking the right time. But as far as communicating, we've always communicated well.
Ariel Endean 19:27
We tend to work in channels. So when you're in the business channel, you talk about business and when in the Family Channel, you try very hard not talk about business.
How do you know which channel you're in?
Bruce Cottrill 19:38
Well, that's depends a bit on the environment. If you're home, then if you want to talk about business, then you've essentially got to take time out of family time to talk about business time, so you take time out to do it, but it's focused time to do it. So you don't waste to much family time.
Ariel Endean 19:38
That's a great way of not letting business bleed too much into your your home life when we rely Because that can happen quite easily. And then it becomes a bit of a dominating monster. Because
Well it does. When we were young with our first business, it was just 24, seven. All we would do was talk about business and that was great. You know, your first business. It was exciting and grew really quick. But this time it is a little bit different. It's a fourth or fifth business now. So we're able to work more professionally on the business, and we have a family now, which we didn't then. And the family needs their emotional tanks filled and their bellies filled and, you know, all those sorts of things. And their lives needs to be validated as much as ours. Hence, being disciplined about being on the right channel at the right time.
Freya Cottrill 20:47
That's a Dr. Fred ism, that one. Dr. Fred Grosse is a business coach. And he's a clinical psychologist and an ordained rabbi and more.
Marcus Nicholls 21:03
Sounds like a very interesting guy.
Freya Cottrill 21:08
And he does seminars, or he'll coach you over the phone or whatever. But being on the right channel, is one of his things. It just gives you that little bit of clarity, as Bruce said, is, you know, considering What am I doing right now, and be completely 100% in that. As opposed to having it being messed up between the two.
Ariel Endean 21:40
It's about being present and disciplined about how much time and effort you're putting into that being present.
And focused attention always get you an outcome faster, too.
Freya Cottrill 21:49
Ariel Endean 21:50
So then you're actually wasting less time. So instead of faffing around and taking an hour on something, you could probably have a conscious all in decision and get it sorted in 20 minutes.
And if you can't resolve it in 20 minutes, then you decide to keep going or you move on to something else. You apply those project management tools that you learn in business, to the home life, and it works so much better as well.
Freya Cottrill 22:20
Yes, because children will always, you know, be sorted in 20 minutes.
Ariel Endean 22:25
Bit, if not, then you have to recognise it and be disciplined about it. And say well, I've allowed you 20 minutes, and I'm sorry, you might still be unhappy, and miserable and hate the world. But I've got to move on. Because my 20 minutes has passed. I'm very sorry. You do have to change it. But you do that in business all the time twith projects.
There's definitely things you can bring from how you manage your business into how you manage your life and your relationship. Although you tend to think to do it that way. You can. You can have a meeting once a month to discuss how your relationships going. Why not? You can do it over a bottle of wine if you want or a coffee. There's no reason why not yet it's not something you think to do. Yet you do it in your business.
Bruce Cottrill 23:08
So why would you not?
Ariel Endean 23:10
it's insane not to manage your personal life, as much as you do your business life. You work your business life to optimise the outcome, and you've got all the outcomes that you want. Your happiness, your health, your staffs happiness, your staffs health, all those things, your financial wellbeing. All those things you manage in your business? Well, it's kind of mad leaving the household to work randomly.
It's the idea that you've got a toolkit and tehn leave the toolkit at work. in terms of bringing all of that off.
Isn't that part of the reason that when you're looking for employees if you get somebody applying for a job, you know, say you're putting a kid on to do something? If they come from a home, say, a small business background, my experience is that they usually make for much better employees because they've already got a context of discipline. Doing things in a certain period of time. Of having an outcome in mind when you start the project.
Freya Cottrill 24:11
Being customer focused to.
Ariel Endean 24:12
And being customer focus. So for me that that always puts them much higher stead then, you know, even somebody with a better qualification than them.
Marcus Nicholls 24:23
Ariel Endean 24:25
And the other thing we look for is of course, travel. That's also a great indication. Who's been out of their comfort zone? "Oh, I haven't". Right. Okay. It's this for you then.
Gosh, we could do a whole podcast on how to employ people. It seems like staff and finding good staff is a whole world of challenge for both small and big business.
Bruce Cottrill 24:47
I actually love it.
Marcus Nicholls 24:49
Ariel Endean 24:52
So what is your current biggest challenge in running, Bib N Brace and how are you guys tackling this?
My biggest challenge for me is the technical aspect of taking the recycled materials and turning them into a consistent standard product. Because there's so many subjective decisions get made all the way along the production line. It's not like you can buy a new timber, you can specify a grade of the new timber. So there's a guy in the, in the timber mill that goes through and goes, Okay, these sticks are really good. So they're this quality, these sticks are rubbish. So they're that quality. So we'll charge different prices, but you can then order as much timber as you want at a certain grade. Yeah, and set your production line up. So it gets you much closer to the ideal manufacturing environment. Because we don't have that luxury at all, you know, we get what we're given, basically, and then we have to make the best of it, which which means, you know, as I said, we're gonna qualify our clients at the far end, which creates problems with their distribution. So, so for us of what I think our biggest challenge has been, and the challenge is getting a lot smaller, you know, every month, every time we you know, we have to nail something else, you know, we find another smaller distinction and a process for overcoming that issue and then that goes into the process. So we're getting closer to that being sorted, and we're down to much finer distinctions than we had, when we first started. When we first started the timber would just peel off and we'd go your holy shit. Is this gonna work at all? So, okay, you go through another five different types of glue. The first one you thought would be fine. Nope, it doesn't work. So you go through four or five, so you test them, you trial them and you stress them. You do all the things, you've got to do.
Gosh there's a lot of perseverance in that.
Bruce Cottrill 26:48
There is but we're down to the really fine stuff now.
Freya Cottrill 26:52
And we already have a very well, not me so much, but Bruce certainly has a very deep understanding of timber and how to make things out of timber. And even with that depth of understanding, there's still always that tweaking that needs to be done.
Bruce Cottrill 27:09
So many things to be learned.
Ariel Endean 27:10
Your calling it subjective decisions, which is an interesting way to refer to it because you're talking about trying to have something standardised with a non standardised product. Or as standardised as it can be.
Freya Cottrill 27:23
The more standard it is that easy the production can be.
Bruce Cottrill 27:26
For us a client could say I'd like a door out of this timber? Because that's what I'm getting my flooring done with. Right. And you go, Well, I can't guarantee that. Because I might have to sort through, you know, 40 cubic metres or 40 tonnes of timber to find enough timber to do your job out of that species? And then I'm guessing whether it's at species anyway. It's just going to be timber, that looks like it. So sorry, you're gonna have to take a certain amount of "trust us, it'll look good".
Freya Cottrill 27:57
I do think there is an opportunity, though of having standard doors because that's the one thing in Australia that we do have that standard. It's a door size. So we can make, your standard front doors, internal doors and make a whole bunch of them and have them there for people to just say, I like the look of that one, and then got what they want.
Bruce Cottrill 28:22
But we havn't had the capital to build a whole bunch of stock, and then try and sell off the stock. And then that also changes the pricing dynamics as well.
Freya Cottrill 28:32
Yes. Those ones we can then make those ones at a at a cheaper price. But most of what we're doing at the moment is not a standard door. It's rare, actually, for us to be asked to do a standard door. Most of our doors are oversized, and non standard. And that's fine.
Bruce Cottrill 28:50
We're still finding the limits of our technology.
Freya Cottrill 28:53
We'll probably have to do both realistically.
Bruce Cottrill 28:57
But we haven't been in a technical position to be able to do mass production doors, and send them anywhere beyond where we could drive to service them.
Ariel Endean 29:06
So getting to that space is a challenge.
That's the next thing for us to do. So we've been doing it for four years, we've got300 to 400 doors out there in the marketplace now. They're all looking really good. We touch base and stay on top of them. So we can quite confidently put, you know, a five year warranty or probably even a 10 year warranty based on their lived experience. And that's just because in the building industry that's probably more effective than just giving it to a lab and so okay, test it for however many uses.
Definitley. That reputation stands you're in great stead when you take your product to a new customer or a new prospect.
Bruce Cottrill 29:50
Trust is everything.
Marcus Nicholls 29:51
Yes. Trust is fundamentally important.
Ariel Endean 29:53
So finishing that technical stuff, which will never be finished but getting it to a point where we can, know and say okay, look five years in the in the in the wild and these things are performing brilliantly. So then it's something that a retailer or a builder doesn't have to be quite so frightened of. And then we can go into mass production.
I guess you can be confident too, that you're not going to have a competitor, once you nail it just suddenly pop up a shop and do the same because of the amount of learning you've had.
There's a lot of people out there working in recycled timber and we obviously monitor it and see and it's been surprising just in the time that we've been doing it how many have come and gone. Because there are a lot of problems with it. It's not as easy as it looks. It should be a fairly low barrier to entry. I mean, anyone can make a piece of furniture in their garage. But can you make a piece of furniture that's going to last 10 years? And have a client happy with it. And it's more than the glues that mattter. Australian hardwoods are so hard and so strong. I've seen pieces of furniture that people have used bolts to put together and the timbers decided it wants to move and it just snaps the head off the bolt.
We breed them tough in Australia!
Bruce Cottrill 31:05
And that's the export opportunity. Ironbark wood is used on the prowl of icebreakers. Because it's more durable than the steel that they used to build the prowl.
Marcus Nicholls 31:32
Ariel Endean 31:33
Gosh, that is a great marketing opportunity. Yeah, I love it.
Marcus Nicholls 31:39
Fantastic. Has being in business together changed your relationship? And in what ways if it has?
Ariel Endean 31:49
I think it's given us a much deeper relationship? I mean, we're almost telepathic.
What's he gonna say next Freya?
Bruce Cottrill 32:02
She knows exactly what I'm thinking before I'm thinking it.
Freya Cottrill 32:06
Well, yeah. As I said, we've been together 24/7 for a while so you get to know how people are?
Ariel Endean 32:18
Does that sound like a good thing. It does sound like a good thing!
Freya Cottrill 32:24
We're probably also very lucky that we get on so well. It's not a problem.
Ariel Endean 32:30
Our strengths and weaknesses are very complementary.
Freya Cottrill 32:35
And we trust each other with the other is doing.
Bruce Cottrill 32:42
With with each other strength.
Freya Cottrill 32:43
And that's makes all of that easy.
Ariel Endean 32:49
I think being in business has strengthened our relationship. I mean, we've had a time where, when we first were dating, Freya was doing something else. and I managed to sucker her into coming and joining me in the business. And then she worked in the business for 10 to 15 years or something and that was fantastic. That was our best time. And then we had kids and took charge of the household and investing in things and I missed her. I was a bit lost without her in the business.
Awwww. Not having your wing woman. Your right hand person.
Bruce Cottrill 33:28
That's right. The follow through. And then after kids, she got her own business and I missed her terrribly. I was incredibly jealous of that business. I just thought it was incredibly wasteful of her talents. But that was all about me.
Ariel Endean 33:45
Come back I need you!
But that impacted our relationship as well, because we weren't just in sync. You know, we weren't just working on the same project, working on the same legacy. We're working on different legacies. And there was competing time and stuff that and there wasn't the appreciation for what the other person was doing, either. Because you don't see it. So, you know, there were there were different expectations on the household. And that was hard. We didn't conflict, because, we had sort of matured enough to not worry about that sort of thing but it was not nearly as easy as it is when you're working together.
Bruce Cottrill 34:33
No, I agree.
Ariel Endean 34:35
Because you know, you focus on the challenges of businesses obviously. But one of the things I've loved about being with you (Marcus) for years, is that I get to hang out with the person I like most in the world everyday.
Freya Cottrill 34:45
Yeah, that's exactly right.
Ariel Endean 34:47
And laugh a lot and have fun developing things.
And your goals are in complete alignment. You know, yes, I want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, then, okay, well, we can climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but how about we get this this and this sorted in the business so that we can go and do it. Whereas if you're working on two different legacies at work, two separate workplaces, how do you coordinate those two goals? Because I mean, I don't know. It's just easy for us, because we just work together towards shared goals in life and business.
Thats how it is for most of the population who are employed working in different places.
Freya Cottrill 35:22
As employees all they have to do is synchronise their time off.
Marcus Nicholls 35:27
True. That's true.
Freya Cottrill 35:29
But when you're in business, particularly if you've got two different businesses going, then it's very different.
Ariel Endean 35:35
Yeah. It would bring challenges wouldn't it! I much prefer being in business with you I think than apart? So let's stick with that Marcus.
Marcus Nicholls 35:44
We havn't done apart yet.
Ariel Endean 35:46
We just hit our 30th wedding anniversary. So it's been a great run so far. And a lot of that I think is because we've been in business together.
Actually, on that front, Is there ever a time that you've considered walking away from your business or your relationship?
Bruce Cottrill 36:02
We've walked away from businesses. We've killed at least three businesses because they weren't effective, but never considered killing the relationship?
Ariel Endean 36:13
So how do you decide a business's needs to be put out of its misery? What does that look like? Killed I think you called it.
Bruce Cottrill 36:22
It's either not dollar productive. You're either spending a shitload of time and not making any money and can't see a way to change it.
Freya Cottrill 36:28
It's more that you go through a development stage. If something's a good idea you take it a step further, yes. Still a good idea. You take it a step further. It's still a good idea. You take it a step further. Okay, now, now it's not a good idea anymore. Okay. we need to kill it.
If you can't see your way around the problem thats come up that's when you kill it.
And that's just being a bit more methodical and ruthless. And you need to be that. The old adage is right, "if your business is not making money, it's a hobby".
Bruce Cottrill 37:04
We're not interested in doing that. Having a hobby business.
Ariel Endean 37:08
It's interesting, you say, you take one step, and it still looks good. And another step and it still looks good and take another step, because you'd think you would know from the onset, if something's a good idea, but sometimes it does require you go a few steps down the road?
Freya Cottrill 37:20
Well, you look at things as much as you can at the beginning. And I do that a lot more than Bruce might. He gets an idea and within a few thought patterns, he's worked out how to take a global, whereas I'll look at it much more at the nitty gritty of it. Consider how do we do this. How does that actually happen? And I'll think it through a bit more like that.
Bruce Cottrill 37:46
And conceptually taking something global is meaningless. You've just built a fantasy. But you've got to take all those steps in the meantime, till it actually becomes global.
Freya Cottrill 37:55
So if in the initial stages, we both think, Oh, yeah, this could be good, then that's when you do a bit more homework and then if you actually start making progress in it, then it'll start throwing up things that "oh I didn't know that that was going to be an issue." Didn't foresee that happening. Is that enough to kill it? Is that a deal breaker?
Ariel Endean 38:20
And some of it is marketing conditions. We had a property finance business, that Freya identified through our property investing. We did that for four or five years, but market conditions change. And so we could have probably kept doing it. But there was a potential for putting people in financial distress in so doing it. So you know, because we were offering finance, and that's great when the markets rising, but if the market falls, then we'll there's a potential for negative equity. Yeah. And as a private investor, and that sort of thing. I didn't want that responsibility.
Freya Cottrill 38:56
It was more the market was just getting stupid. And it was it was obviously a bubble.
Bruce Cottrill 39:03
And we were right an were lucky enough to time that one.
Ariel Endean 39:07
It does stand out to me that you both have high ethics in what you do, and how you go about being people. And in fact, you've mentioned that you have a criteria for businesses, and I know sustainability is one of them. And I'm assuming not putting people into worse situations is another. You're not interested in gaining at someone else's loss.
Freya Cottrill 39:30
No. Couldn't sleep with that.
Ariel Endean 39:34
We killed our first in inverted commas environmental business. We bought the rights to a technology and we're going to distribute in Australia, but it required installing. And the technology worked fine, exactly as promised in certain circumstances, but there are other circumstances where it didn't work or it can be abused. But it was such a good story. We could have raised a bucketload of capital on this thing, because you could have written a spreadsheet that looked absolutely sensational. But the reality of it was at the installation was that you can make the installations, but you'd have a lot of unhappy customers.
Freya Cottrill 40:14
We even had customers that were still willing to give it a go even after we're saying, we're not sure about this.
Bruce Cottrill 40:22
We're going to drop this.
Ariel Endean 40:27
Because there was that much market demand for we were doing.
Freya Cottrill 40:32
We couldn't guarantee that it could do it for them. What was promised
Bruce Cottrill 40:34
Because it required it required, probably to hire skill operator, for it to work effectively all the time. That's not what we were selling. We were selling a piece of kit that was supposed to do that. Yeah. So we ended up killing that that was one and two great personal cost. But it was a business that we could raise a bucketload of money. Because I mean, for us. I mean, it's the first rule in business is trust. If you want to do business with someone, you got to trust them. Yeah. And you want people to trust you. Because without that, really, it's a lot of hard work.
Freya Cottrill 41:12
Integrity is huge in business. If found to be without integrity, then good luck trying another business.
Ariel Endean 41:21
I like it. And I like the idea to of having a criteria like integrity is obviously one of them. So you know, the business and the business idea and the business model has integrity is obviously one of the first big boxes that needs to be ticked and then you work on out from there, which a lot of people don't do. They just think there's an idea and just go racing after it. And really it's like anything, like buying a house or where to go on holiday. It makes sense to sit down and qualify what it is you're looking for in your purchase or in start up or the business you buy.
Bruce Cottrill 41:52
Actually a lot of people just put it as a word and their business plan. You know, it's the first thing they do is sit down and they write a business plan. Well, actually, that's not necessarily the best way to go about it. You really need to develop your proof of concept before you write a business plan, because you don't know anywhere near enough to write a business plan. I mean, it should take I would have thought 6 to 12 months, or even 18 months to write a business plan. Because you don't know. Once the first shots fired every battle plan just goes to hell so why would business be any different?
Ariel Endean 41:57
And especially if you're looking long term, in terms of longevity?
In anything we do it's got to have legacy. And that's the other reason we've killed businesses, because we just didn't see there was going to be a legacy in it. You could make a few sales now and it would probably go for a bit. But really, it's not going to have legs. You know, it's a flash in the pan. We're not interested in tha. I want something that generates money, ideally, multi generational.
Marcus Nicholls 42:57
Ariel Endean 42:58
Otherwise, what are we wasting our lives on it for?
Marcus Nicholls 43:04
What do you feel is your secret sauce for being a business capital? What's your tips, tricks, ideas, that you would recommend to another business couple?
Ariel Endean 43:15
Either existing already in business or thinking about going into business with their other half.
Doing your best to set the rules up front, I think 's probably fairly important and identifying strengths and weaknesses up front. And working to those. Being disciplined about doing it. You know, if, if you're going to marry someone, they're a very important part of your board. So it's vital, you get the right skills on the board to develop, whether it's a company or a family or whatever.
Freya Cottrill 43:47
I think for any relationship, regardless of whether you're married or or just going into business with somebody else, you really do need to have a good understanding of their values. And making sure that your values align. Because if they don't, it's just not going to work. You'll be aiming for different things. You'll be always pulling apart. And that was important to us. We were lucky that our values have always aligned,
Bruce Cottrill 44:19
We discussed that before we got married. Okay, well, where do you want to be in 50 years? Oh, I want to be here. Where do I want to be 50 years. I want to be here. Well, that's great. We want to be in the same place. So we're both prepared to get behind the tractor.
Freya Cottrill 44:31
But it's more about the way you're going to get there.
Bruce Cottrill 44:35
Then everything else falls out of that.
Freya Cottrill 44:37
Yeah. For some people it's all about family. Some people it might all be about money. You've really got to discuss and get down to what what are their core values and make sure that your values align with theirs. Then you don't have somethign pulling you apart.
Bruce Cottrill 44:52
And they don't have to be the same. For example I am all about the customer. It's all about customer experience for me, whether that's the end user or our staff because our staff are our customers to. Whereas Freya is not focused on that. Her focus is on the family. And so I've got to protect the family wealth, and be the due diligence one, oversee things and do the responsible stuff in the business to make sure that we're going to be there tomorrow. So there's a point to doing it. And so the two values at that level have worked really, really well. Having two different values, but respect for each other's values.
Marcus Nicholls 45:43
Yeah. Yeah Yeah
Ariel Endean 45:44
Oh, gosh, respect really is another essential ingredient for business couple success.
Marcus Nicholls 45:50
Yes there's some great stuff in amongst all that.
Ariel Endean 45:52
There certanily is. Fabulous secret sauce.
Marcus Nicholls 45:56
Okay, now for some bonus questions. We'll have Bruce go first.
Bruce Cottrill 46:04
Okay. And we've lost a dice.
Marcus Nicholls 46:10
That did role a fair way away. I'll have to go and find it now because it rolled off the table. Where did we end up?
Bruce Cottrill 46:16
Just make up a number.
Ariel Endean 46:18
Yeah, let's do that.
Marcus Nicholls 46:20
Found it. Okay it's 11.
Ariel Endean 46:22
So 11. Okay, if you won lotto tomorrow, would you still run your business?
Bruce Cottrill 46:28
Yep! And I'd have a tonne more capital, which means would grow it faster.
Wow - He didn't even take 1 second to think about that.
Freya Cottrill 46:36
It very much depends. He's had four days of rest.
Bruce Cottrill 46:40
If you had asked me the week before Christmas, it would have been no because we discussed this
Freya Cottrill 46:46
I did actually say to him before Christmas, if money wasn't an object, we've got a whole stack of money would you still want to do the business and he went, No. And that's the first time he's ever said that actually and I thought alright he's really tired.
Ariel Endean 47:01
Some good advice with that is actually make sure you do rest and take those couple of days out because it does change your perspective.
Bruce Cottrill 47:10
Marcus Nicholls 47:13
Freya it's your turn. five. Okay. Who worries stresses the most and how do you deal with that?
Who's the stress head?
Freya Cottrill 47:32
Marcus Nicholls 47:32
Bruce is the stress head! Yep.
Freya Cottrill 47:34
Because his motto is to give heroic service to customers. So if he's at all worried that the customer is not going to get what they want then he just hates that. That's his major pain point. He wants everybody to love what we do. And they do, but it's because he cares so much that they get this ultimate
Ariel Endean 47:35
And there is stress involved in making that happen.
Bruce Cottrill 48:03
Yes. It's like a chef having to produce, gorgeous meal after meal after meal. It is stressful.
Freya Cottrill 48:19
Whereas though I just think, well, you can only do what you can do. I'm not going to get, to wound up about it. I mean, yes, obviously, I want them to be happy, too. But he will feel it far more keenly than I will. I will get stressed if we had no money in the bank. But then I'd be thinking okay, how do I get that? You know, where can I get that from? You know, like, I've been trying to plan around that. Whereas it's all about making sure that people are happy.
Ariel Endean 49:00
Not a bad goal! Usually means a good business.
Marcus Nicholls 49:06
So how do you deal with the stress?
Freya Cottrill 49:10
He eat icecream!
Ariel Endean 49:13
Awesome. It's that easy.!
Bruce Cottrill 49:17
Look heroic hours. You just kind of do what you got to do. Otherwise, you nip it in the bud. You ring the client and say, I'm really worried about this. We've got this issue. I think I've got a solution here but you know, if you don't mind, I'd like to go through this exercise and 99 out of 100 times the client goes "Oh, fantastic. Thank you for doing that." But you won't get the one that goes. I really need it. I have to have it now. I should have had it two weeks ago. And what's wrong with you? But that's rare but that's always my expectation that someones going to be that disappointed.
Marcus Nicholls 49:59
Your solution is just work harder.
Bruce Cottrill 50:05
Yeah, yeah, that's true. Well, I mean, I do tend to come home and sleep.
Marcus Nicholls 50:09
Do you have a favourite flavour?
Bruce Cottrill 50:10
I like coffee. I don't drink coffee though.
Freya Cottrill 50:18
I have to change it around. I get the coffee because I don't like coffee so I won't eat it. But otherwise, sometimes I'll get caramel & honey. Those sorts of things. Hokey pokey.
Marcus Nicholls 50:39
Got to keep it interesting.
Bruce Cottrill 50:42
Variety is the spice of life.
Freya Cottrill 50:40
That's exactly right. Keep his palet interested.
Marcus Nicholls 50:45
Okay, so back to Bruce. Six!
Ariel Endean 50:50
Six. If you had a time machine Bruce, would you go back and make changes to your business with the knowledge in your have? What would you go forwards and see where your business ends up? Or would you just pass on the offer?
Bruce Cottrill 51:04
I'd go back? Absolutely.
Freya Cottrill 51:07
I'd want to go forwards.
Ariel Endean 51:08
We need two time machines!
Bruce Cottrill 51:12
We'd pick up three years worth of product development!
Freya Cottrill 51:15
Yeah, well, that's very true.
Bruce Cottrill 51:18
We'd be doing three times the turnover, and be in a financially secure position instead of, you know, just getting there.
Ariel Endean 51:26
Just out of the r&d period.
Freya Cottrill 51:29
Whereas I'd like to go forward and see...
Bruce Cottrill 51:32
is it worth it at all?
Ariel Endean 51:35
Did we get there?
Freya Cottrill 51:38
How are we making them now and take the knowledge back to increse our current growth & productivity.
Bruce Cottrill 51:43
So you can come back again?
Freya Cottrill 51:49
That's right. Yeah. And just say, well was that the idea we ran with? Did it work? Or did we end up going somewhere completely different?
Ariel Endean 51:58
Both answers are about product development and getting to the end bit faster.
Bruce Cottrill 52:04
Both about business development.
Marcus Nicholls 52:08
Wow. Forwards & backwards.
Ariel Endean 52:10
We'll need to order two time machines.
Marcus Nicholls 52:11
10. Have you had any disasters that you can share either in the business or your relationship.
Freya Cottrill 52:30
Not in the relationship
Bruce Cottrill 52:31
To many to list.
Ariel Endean 52:34
Freya Cottrill 52:38
I guess our biggest financial disaster was the business that we killed of. The one we mentioned before.
Bruce Cottrill 52:44
Buying into a technology that we really didn't understand.
Freya Cottrill 52:48
Wasn't really our core competency.
Bruce Cottrill 52:50
And we employed core competency to deal with it, but it took too long to find the problem. The hole in the business. Three years and a lot of money to get down to the the fundamental crux of why this business wouldn't fly long term. Yeah. And so that was probably our biggest lesson. You know, we don't have disasters, we just have lessons.
Ariel Endean 53:17
I like that idea. It's the silver lining, isn't it? You got to walk away with something from those experiences.
Freya Cottrill 53:24
for sure. And the more expensive the more lessons you want to make sure you learning from it because it's an expensive lesson, so get every learning out of it.
Ariel Endean 53:33
I like to think that somewhere in the future, that lesson is going to save you more money than you lost.
Freya Cottrill 53:38
Bruce Cottrill 53:38
Yes. It definitely, has with us. We've been a lot more disciplined with our investing since that one. And that's paid off.
Marcus Nicholls 53:52
So thank you, Bruce, and Freya for chatting with us today. It's been fun and it's been great to learn a lot about Bib N Brace and a lot about you guys as a couple and how you deal with the day to day joys of running a business together.
Ariel Endean 54:07
It has been fun.
Marcus Nicholls 54:08
Yes it has been. Yeah, absolutely. So if you're looking for beautiful and unique building products, ie doors and windows and a whole list of other bit's & pieces that have a backstory attached to it for your new home or your next building project. Give them a call, check out their website or visit their warehouse in Berkeley Vale to see some of the fabulous products that they have created so far.
Bruce Cottrill 54:36
It's been a pleasure.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai