Whats the worst advice you hear? Flaws and strengths. Purchases and life rules. Miles Hunt interview with Steve - Part 6

Whats the worst advice you hear? Flaws and strengths. Purchases and life rules. Miles Hunt interview with Steve – Part 6

Whats the worst advice you hear? Flaws and strengths. Purchases and life rules. Miles Hunt interview with Steve – Part 6

February 2, 2017 Podcasts 0

miles-steve-interviewOn 18th November 2016 Benula Capital invested into idibu. The man behind Benula is Miles Hunt. He came to our annual get together in Barcelona – a great opportunity for me to interview Miles on different topics.

This final sixth part asks Miles: 1. What’s the worst advice you hear being given to people? 2. What’s one of your major flaws you’ve turned into a strength? 3. Tell me about a purchase that has most positively impacted your life? 4. Do you have any quotes, rules or mantra’s you use to live your life by?

Podcast transcript

Steve: What’s the worst advice you hear being given to people?

Miles: Hm… The worst advice. Well, I haven’t heard it too often, but I think the one area that really frustrates me particularly in large organizations where a bit of group think comes in which is, this is the plan we all agreed to, just get on and make it happen.

And the sense of being forced…. I remember – I haven’t worked for a large corporate where I felt I’m sort of being dictated to for many, many years. But the thing that really, really got me worked up was, we’ve always done it this way before, or this is the plan we’ve all agreed on, we’re just going to implement it regardless of whatever it is you’re foreseeing in the market or whatever your experience is.

And that sense of being forced to go down a route or doing something where you know it’s wrong because something has changed. It could be that the market has changed, you’re looking at evidence coming back just supports that we should be looking at revising that strategy, and people are not listening to you. But that’s a dictatorial approach. This is what we’ve agreed, just get on with.

I always think the role of leaders and managers, as much as to coach is to actually explain how. So, when you set strategies, you’re building a business. The most important question is why we’re doing it – engaging people into some sort of aspirational, this is what we want to try and achieve. But why are we doing it? And it’s really important. But day to day, the most important thing I think is going to help people by showing how to do things. And quite often I think, managers I see tell people to do things without necessarily focusing on giving them the tools or explaining how to do it.

I think if we can remember that as leaders, why is the first question, but then equally we go on to how and that we shall help people the how. That’s so much better than, as I’ve seen, far too many organizations which sent through these dictates of what they want people to do rather than explaining why they’re doing it or how they’re going to do it.


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Steve: Yes. I always love the analogy which is that, withany business plan, you’re at A, you want to get to B. But the path is always a path of mid-course correction. You’ve always got to adjust, make changes.

So, interesting question. What would you describe as one of your major flaws that you have turned into a strength?

Miles: Thanks for the preparation on these questions, Steve. Really kind of you. I think that if I was going back 20 years of my 25 year-old to 30 year-old self,… I think I’ve always been quite empathetic to people and interested in people. I think that in my 20s and early 30s, I was taken advantage of purely because I couldn’t distinguish between being sold to or being fed a line because people appreciate the fact that I wanted to like them or wanted them to do well or… I think that therefore, I have become cynical, but I think the consequence of… I still combine I would hope, a strong interest in helping and being empathetic and people-focused.

.. but I’m now – I suppose with the wisdom of years and the scars on my back from the mistakes I’ve made through over-trusting or giving people too much leeway, I’d like to think there’s a nice happy balance now between being empathy but with a much greater insight into what actually works, doesn’t work and not being sort of done over by the sales pitch from people.

Steve: Interesting because I would say that empathy is a key strength that you have, being very easy to get on with, but at the same time, you know your onions.

Miles: You’d like to think I do.

Steve: Well, I hope you do. A bit more lighthearted… Tell me about a purchase, something you bought which has most positively impacted your life.

Miles: Okay, so that one is an easy one. One of the things from personal perspective I’ve so enjoyed about the career I’ve had is the opportunity to interact with different people and different cultures. I’m a bit of international speaker of the languages, and I enjoy time in different countries, learning different cultures. And therefore, to make acquisitions… the first international acquisition or investment, or startup was in Japan in 2003 or 2004. That was a great experience. I had never spent time in Japan, and now I’ve got some fantastic friends in Tokyo and I love it.

But then moving across the 20 countries that I’ve made investments. I mean, the pleasure I got from the friendships, the life that I made in south America, or in Chile and Argentina, which were acquisitions made or… in one case not actually made, but was almost made. But still, the owners, the team involved became such close friends. It’s this matching or connecting, this interaction of work and life and home life, so that it almost comes seamless. Some of my colleagues have become my greatest friends. That’s one of the greatest outcomes of some of these acquisitions and investments.


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Steve: What’s the key advice that you would give your 30-year-old self?

Miles: Well, any 30-year-old… I suppose when I was 30, I’d always made that break and doing my own thing. I think to my 30-year-old self to keep on persevering because you look at there in the end, it’ll all be alright.

I think to anyone that’s maybe aspiring to build a business or get on and do something and make a mark, a couple of thoughts will come to mind. First is that don’t always follow the herd. There is something… and I was a lawyer by background. I came from a family of lawyers and doctors. I didn’t know anything about it really, but I knew it was a pretty secure employment and a comfortable lifestyle and I happened to be more sort of artistic than science focussed. So I did law. And yet, six years into university law school, qualifying as solicitor, I just thought to myself, everyone thought it was a great thing for me to do. Friends, family, peers all say I’m going to follow this particular path… and everyone is doing it. But my god, do I really want to be doing that for the next 40 years?

And since then, I’ve just done my own thing. I’ve always gone against the grain. I always found that whilst it’s scary because you actually get less supporters, less sure of where it’s going to take you, it’s always turned out alright. As long as you back yourself, you work hard and you’re true to your values, then I would suggest that swimming against the show, or going against the direction of travel sometimes is no bad idea. I think most millennials have already got this as a concept. So that’s one bit of advice.

The other bit of advice I’d give my 30-year-old self which I think still holds true with me. If you work hard, you will – whoever is listening to this – you will succeed. If you work hard, you will succeed. You will make sufficient money to meet your needs in life. You don’t have to be massively talented. Maybe a bit of luck comes into it. But if you work hard, it’ll happen.

I think the most important thing is to be able to look back at the end of your career and say, how did I go about doing this? Did I go about in doing this the right way? Have I burned people along the way? Is my reputation actually one that’s still intact? Can I look back and actually take pride in the fact that I did things right – the right way? And I’d say the way your treat people, the way you go about interacting with people, and the way if you look back in yourself and think I should’ve done this right, I think it’s going to be probably more important than anything else.


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Steve: Yes, I would agree with that. Absolutely. I’ve got one final question for you, and then you are a free man. And it really relates to what you’ve just said. Do you have any quotes or rules or mantras that you use to live your life by?

Miles: Well, the one about reputation, I think probably is actually goes to that point.

Steve: And you’ve told me about that before, and I know that’s very important to you.

Miles: Absolutely. And I’m not talking about people unwilling to take risks, because they worry about reputation. That’s not my issue. Mine is about the treatment of people, and it’s about integrity, not in a sort of prim and proper. More in terms of that sense of a set of values and code of conduct and the way you treat people in particular which if you live by, I think will stand you in very goodstead. That is really, really important to me. And I would suggest that if people can hold on to that, like all these things, reputation is hard won and easily lost. In our industry, this small industry and actually again going back to the earlier comment about it’s full of heroes and villains. I think that it’s very easy to become a villain pretty quickly. And I think that’s something that’s really very strong.

Second thing I think I would say is, now I’m a great believer in thinking smart rather than working hard. I mean, I don’t necessarily – I’m not lazy. I do work quite hard, a work ethic. But what’s the point of doing it if you can’t find a way of doing it that’s better. Or think laterally. Redefine your problem. I always think that people that read the Edward De Bono’s or Rory Sutherland and they see these lateral thinkers, I think should really go on to benefit from that because quite often, if you can go about sort of doing things in different way, especially in a fast changing industry like recruitment, we’re always reinventing ourselves, and therefore, being nimble of mind is really important. It certainly stood me goodstead.

In terms of being able to just change direction and meet different challenges. So, redefine the problem. If you can’t come to a solution, you feel you’re stuck, you feel that the business model you’ve got in the moment is not getting where you want to get to, stop and think, let’s look at this issue from a different angle. Let’s just look at it, let’s actually redefine that. That’s what I’d most highly recommend to anyone in our industry. If you suddenly find yourself in a bit of a cul de sac with declining margins or declining revenues or problems with people and retention or whatever it might be, is look at what you’re doing and say, can it be done differently?

Steve: Excellent. Completely agree. I greatly appreciate you taking the time out to speak to me.

Miles: Thanks Steve.

Steve: Brilliant. Thanks very much, Miles. Cheers!