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Product Innovation in the Carbon Market!

Troubleshooters Podcast
Troubleshooters Podcast
Product Innovation in the Carbon Market!

In this episode we speak to Stuart Edgley the Managing Director and founder of Emerald Planet. Stuart optimizes the entrepreneurial necessity to hustle and then combines that with the smarts to anticipate and pick opportunities at the right time like nobody else I know, and if that isn’t enough, he works tirelessly to improve our carbon footprint. Learn how good old fashioned hard work and smarts are winning the day yet again!

About Stuart

Stuart is the Managing Director and founder of Emerald Planet. With over thirteen years of experience in the development, manufacturing and delivery of energy-saving solutions, Stuart brings a unique perspective to the smart-technology industry via his comprehensive understanding of Australia’s energy-efficiency market and high level of commercial acumen.

For more information, please check out Emerald Planets website.

Transcript below!

Note: This has been automatically transcribed so is likely to have errors! It may however help you navigate the points of interests for you.

Mike: Welcome to the troubleshooter podcast with me Your host Mike McGrath. My guest today is a remarkable entrepreneur. I’ve worked with him for about three years and I can tell you he is the real deal. For me, he epitomises the entrepreneurial necessity to hustle. And then combines that with the smarts to anticipate and pick opportunities at the right time, but nobody else I know. If that isn’t enough, he works tirelessly to improve our carbon footprint. His company has helped reduce co2 emissions by over 16 million carbon tonnes and counting. And he’s not done yet. So sit back and enjoy our conversation. Stuart, welcome to the troubleshooters podcast.

Stuart: That’s a hell of an intro. Mike. Thanks very much for that.

Mike: It’s a pleasure. And it’s true as well. So you’ve been in business now for over 15 years. Right? So you must have done your fair share of troubleshooting throughout that time.

Stuart: Might we have? Yeah, the business was incorporated back in 2007. And from a troubleshooting perspective, we’re certainly right in the middle of it, these energy efficiency programmes and energy efficiency around the country is an absolute moving feast. Yeah, you know, staying close and nimble to this games and to the to the markets been absolutely critical.

Mike: Yeah. So look, before I get you to tell us a bit about Emerald planet, which is a fascinating story. So how are you managing with locked down at the moment, I mean, there’s a troubleshooting task, if ever, there was one,

Stuart: I might at the moment, we’ve been pretty fortunate to be honest. there’s been plenty of opportunities that have come out of COVID and locked down. And I think the fortunate part for us is the fact that we’re a national company. And we’ve been very lucky that lock downs, where we thought that we’re going to impact our ability to service our customers actually went the other way and has supported our opportunities. And we’ve been fortunate the fact that the state based lockdowns have not run in parallel. So we’re one state has shut down, the other one has been thriving. So we’ve been fortunate.

Mike: There’s definitely been winners and losers in this in this pandemic, in terms of businesses, you know, call it dumb luck, call it whatever you want, but anyone in hospitality or leisure or travel, I mean, look at the airlines. I mean, they’ve just been in a world of pain. And then I look at the other side of the coin, you look at mining, you look at parts of manufacturing, you look at food, it’s kind of flying, and, uh, you fall into that baskets, too. And roleplay do, you have done really well through this, you’ve, you’ve been able to go online, you’ve been nimble, you guys have gone to work from home.

Stuart: But I think the fact that we’ve been nimble has been critical, Mike, and our business has been set up that way. You know, for our organisation, it’s as simple as picking up your laptop, grabbing a couple of screens from work and heading home. And, and that’s certainly been challenging and mentally challenging for our team, you know, working from home, as most people would now it’s not easy, over the long term, but the business was set up to be able to do that we, you know, in COVID hit. What was it the best part about 18 months ago, we made sure that our business was nimble enough to be able to Yeah, we moved everything into the cloud. We reviewed all our operations and made sure that, you know, the facade of our business would be business as usual to our customers, whether we’re in the office or at home.

Mike: Stuart:, tell us a bit about Emerald planet, you know, what are you doing that

Stuart: Emerald planet is a manufacturer of energy efficient products, we came out of the energy efficiency markets nationally, the New South Wales energy efficiency scheme, started up under what was called the GE gas game back in 2006. And we identified an opportunity then to supply services into the energy efficiency and carbon abatement markets.

Mike: So as to how did you do that? So we’re back into 2006-7. What are you doing at that point before you start?

Stuart: Yeah, sometimes you pinch yourself off and you wonder how you got to where you got, you know, one thing’s for sure where you start ain’t where you finish? Isn’t that the truth? My back in the day, I was running a hospitality company. I’m a chef by trade that’s providing services into a company called Ramsey healthcare, where we ran right, we ran all their commercial kitchens. So my business was running commercial kitchens in the Ramsey Healthcare’s operations, and the hospitals and clinics and things.

Mike: without your own business. Yeah,

Stuart: yeah. Yeah.

Mike: When did you start that? He I mean, he obviously trained as a chef, right? Yep. And so when did you kick off by yourself?

Stuart: Right, we kicked off back in about 2002 in that business, and we had an intimate relationship with Ramsey healthcare at the time. Yeah, my background was restaurants and cafes and things and then we moved into commercialising that and providing services into these organisations and Ramsey healthcare with the largest. So I used to serve as all of his commercial kitchens. And we’d built up brigades of catering teams really, to serve us and I think that gave me some real business understanding the ability to be able to grow teams, and operations. And then a friend of mine came along in around about 2006 and introduced me to the carbon abatement schemes and You know, he told me the philosophy around providing services and products into commercial and residential markets, you know, example would be lighting, which was the core business, you know, upgrading inefficient lighting into efficient lighting and then reducing energy. And as a byproduct of reducing energy, we can reduce carbon emissions. And a byproduct of reducing carbon emissions is that there is a carbon trading scheme. So as long as it’s measurable, carbon credits can be created, and they can be traded, which offsets the cost of servicing a customer. So we can go into our home and basically take out your old inefficient lighting, replace it with efficient lighting, pray carbon credits, and the cost of those carbon credits can often pay for the whole service. So he identified that opportunity and came to me and said, Listen, I’m looking for somebody who understands how to run teams and how to run servicing. And that gave us this leap out of hospitality and into the energy efficiency markets. And it wasn’t long until we realised that, you know, there’s serious growth in this opportunity.

Mike: But that was a huge jumps you so you had a successful catering business, right? You’re clearly a hustler, you can get things done. And so someone pitches you this idea, that’s a hell of a leap. That was huge. So you just looked at it and thought I like the look of this. This is better. What made you jump?

Stuart: But wasn’t that different? Mike:, it was a different industry.

Mike: Okay. Isn’t that interesting?

Stuart: I think most people in business can relate to this. It wasn’t that different. At the end of the day, it was human resources was understanding the business opportunity, running the numbers, understanding the risks, and then taking the leap. So you know, I’m moving out of hospitality and running services like we did, there’s a lot of risk involved in that. I’m moving across into servicing the energy efficiency industry, it wasn’t that big a leap. And the opportunity there was you know, this energy efficiency scam to legislated for years. The opportunity was real. I think a funny story Mike was, the first step for me was actually, we decided to do a pilot. And we went to the royalties to show and we looked at essentially giving away energy efficient light globes at the Royal is to show that on the back of that we would create carbon credits, which meant that we could actually give these these products away, we kind of run the numbers, and we said, how many of these things we’re going to give away, we looked at it and throw it off, you know, say 5,10-15,000. So we run the numbers. And when Excel spreadsheet crazy, we thought we’d give away the best part of 50,000 packs of blacklights, which are six lightbulbs in our packs when the best part of 300,000 light globes. And we needed to secure 300,000 light bulbs in about four weeks to take to the shop. So we basically right of our market, we write through every manufacturer, we could every major lighting manufacturer and sourced every single product we possibly could, when we did the Royal Easter show, took up two stores and gave the light globes away under the banner of the New South Wales energy efficiency scheme for two weeks, we gave away 49,500 showbags. And we were 500 showbags off. Wow. And that was a, you know, a ball dropping moment. You know, they Yeah, the penny dropped. And I went, Wow, this, this opportunity is very real, like, it’s not hard to give things away. But you know, running the backend operations was still a major project and took a lot of work. But understanding that bringing high quality technology to our market, and complementing it with government supported energy efficiency, carbon credits was a real market opportunity. So we launched and took a big deep dive into it, right, I basically walked away from my catering business to take that off. Great.

Mike: Isn’t that amazing? So it’s a sort of Penny dropping moment for you. And okay, there’s something going on here? And did you like the idea of, you know, the greater good? Did you like the idea that actually look, we’re gonna be doing some good, we’re actually going to be, you know, producing much more efficient product.

Stuart: Man, I love both sides of it. I mean, obviously, the commercial opportunities are great, yeah. But then knowing that you’re doing something good, that you’re reducing carbon emissions, you’re supporting the environment. And being in a really progressive industry really was exciting, it is a feel good. And that’s reflected by our team and our staff and the people that we were creating the business. I think most people in this business have the same philosophy, they come into the business, knowing that we’re in energy efficiency company, manufacturing products that make a difference, you know, and our customers feel the same way. You know, our customers have a similar philosophy, though. Everyone, of course, is out there to make money. And it needs to be commercially viable. Yeah. But what we’re all doing is good. And it’s supported by government, supported by private enterprise. And the outcomes have been very, very positive. Yes,

Mike: I mean, I’ve only known you for about three years, right? And we sort of teamed up a little bit, at least I have in a non exec capacity. But one of the things that I’ve observed is that this has been 15 years in the making the last two or three years have seen phenomenal growth for you and you’ve got further growth. And but this was a long time earning your stripes in this market, wasn’t it? You know, you were 12 years or so just building slowly but surely, progressively year on year, some years better, some years not so good. And I think we can forget that sometimes he look at you now and you’re flying, and you’re gonna win Hold on a minute, this is not an overnight success, is it?

Stuart: No, I’ve never met an overnight success markets been full of risk, to be honest. And I think the nature of myself, and the business has been to take risks, you know, these energy efficiency markets are really governed by some very sensitive government policies. They’re also the risks associated around carbon trading, carbon prices, compliance are really, really challenging. And what we’ve seen over the years in these markets that one or two opportunities fly, and when they really fly, they fly, you know, in the parties on its on hard. And so being able to build, manage that risk has been really, really challenging, but also understanding that along the way, at any particular time, any one of a number of factors can change just subtly and move the whole business significantly. And, you know, the risks associated with that are enormously high. And I think over the years, Mike, we’ve learned how to manage that better. Yes, we’ve recruited Well, we’ve got a very, very strong team that understands the industry better than most. So we can now navigate our risks a lot better, and we’ve opened up to a national market. So we’re de risking our business through national opportunities, and then de risking our business through a much wider range of products and put us into a position now where we’re not so sensitive to one or two markets. Yeah, I think the other thing, Mike is, there’s nothing like time in the chair. Yeah, if you can provide a good quality service, and your customers trust you, I think trust is big. You want to work with people you can trust. And we’ve proven to be a trusted company, you know, we get in the trenches with some of our customers. A lot of our customers have had challenges, we’ve had our own challenges, and our customers have supported us through it. And yes, yeah, Tom in the chair gives you credibility and creates reputation. And we’re fortunate now that we’re in a position that, you know, after whatever there it is the best part of 13-14 years that we’ve become a name that’s recognised in the industry. And we’re not chasing the work like we used to, we were we’re in a position where customers are coming to us as a recognised brand, which is really flattering and satisfying.

Mike: I think that I mean, just putting that risk into context for listeners, right? So we’re talking about one of the risks is the risk of government changing legislation, and you’re having to anticipate, you know, how you’re going to interpret that legislation in product, and then you’ve got a long buying cycle, you’ve got to stock up for that. And that’s where I’ve seen some risk in your business. But I’ve seen you get increasingly sophisticated, thinking about, okay, how you going to manage that, and you talk about time in the chair? There’s an instinctual element to that as well, isn’t that?

Stuart: Yeah, there is I think we work very closely with government, we sit on most of the energy efficiency steering committees, which helps us but it doesn’t take away from the fact that at the end of the day, we’re a manufacturer now, we went from being a servicing customer company to a manufacturer on the back of the fact that when we were servicing, providing lighting upgrades and energy efficiency upgrades, we identified the fact that actually from a product perspective, there was no one servicing that industry. None of the manufacturer is really understood how to service industry, manufacturers would traditionally buy manufacturer product, bring in sell it through a traditional wholesale market, we sell direct to the customers and direct to the largest customers. With these energy efficiency schemes. You know, we’ve now had the best part of 15 years in the industry is built and servicing the energy efficiency markets. Now as a real industry. We identified the fact that there was really nobody servicing this industry well, and not just servicing it with product for the sake of product, servicing it with product that understood legislation understood exactly what the customer required. That’s the customer being the end user. And then I’m understanding exactly how the installation companies and the servicing companies exactly how they wanted the product, how they wanted it packaged, and how they wanted to instal the product. So really taking that deep dive into this industry was critical, and has put us in a now a really strong position. And we’re still now finding that this market is probably a little underdeveloped. Yeah, you know, the traditional markets are still selling through the wholesalers. Yes, direct to market model is relatively new in our space, and we’re enjoying it.

Mike: Yes. And Steve, just you know, by way of context, you’re probably number one here in this niche, are you in this abatement space?

Stuart: We’ve got a lot competitors in this space that will supply one or two or three products, I think would be recognised in the market as the company that has a holistic offering. Yeah, you can come to us for energy efficient products across, you know, lighting, hot water systems, and we’re, you know, energy management systems. And essentially, we look into the energy efficiency markets and understand what products are required. We go and we manufacture those products. And we basically create a best of breed product manufacturer in large volume seller, that very aggressive pricing to support our customers in supplying a product to the lowest possible point to their customer, you extrapolate that out, it turns into high volume, and that little niche market will be recognised in the market as a little bit of a one stop shop, you can pretty much get anything you want from us to be able to service that industry. Yes, most of our competitors might have one or two or three products. And they specialise in that. And I’ve pushed that particular product in the market, where we were a little bit blocked the worst of the calls. Yeah. Look, when we

Mike: met a few years ago, you were talking to me a little bit about the future and how you saw things. And there are a couple of things struck me. One was, you saw an opportunity, perhaps in Queensland to get out of the direct abatement market. And the other one was we were talking through about technology and how important technology was in continuing to invest in technology and how you saw a need to future proof. Tell us a little bit about how those things have. Because it is really exciting what you’re doing in that area. And I think it’s got great lessons for other business owners.

Stuart: Yeah, well, those two opportunities were really different opportunities, Mike, I mean, the core of our business is to supply the highest possible quality product, really focusing on energy efficiency. So they’re a great team in China. Most of our products are manufactured out of China, but they’re all designed in Australia for the Australian market and conditions. And we’ve got we’ve had a track record of producing high volume products. And that core methodology within our business of producing high volume, high quality into those energy efficiency schemes to set us up and set us up for success. Three years ago, we identified an opportunity in Queensland where the Queensland Government has legislated that they are going to move away from old traditional smoke alarms into a more modern style smoke alarm, which is nine isolation smoke alarm, and that retrofitting rollout programme was really part of our core skills. And that is to understand that market understand what the product would be required for that market. We created a board or a steering committee of electricians and engineers, and we designed a brand new product for that market that would complement the market at an aggressive price point.

Mike: Yes,

Stuart: we have a launch. Two years ago that went relatively well, we learned a lot from that we didn’t have quite the right product. We did a redesign and launched that again in last November. And we’ve hit that market now. aggressively, I think we’re currently representing about 70% of the whole market, which is a real success and a real de risk of for us. It’s a product that’s outside of the energy efficiency schemes, but still sits well within our core skills.

Mike: Still, let’s put that in context. Right? you’ve launched a product, I think it was February this year. Yeah. And you’ve probably captured 70% of the market already. Yeah. I mean, that is a phenomenal effort. I mean, I know you’ve been thinking about it for a while you did a soft launch a couple of years ago, I know we had a look at size in the market, when we did some strategy work with you. And we liked the look of it. But actually getting to this point, that’s a phenomenal effort, really. And you’ve done it through a superior product and a better price. That’s the formula, right?

Stuart: Yeah, that just the formula, Mike:, I think going back to knowing your customer, working very, very closely with your customer and having a real intimate relationship with, with your customer and understanding exactly what their needs are. So here at Emerald, we’ve got a very strong logistical term and a very strong sales team that complements a strong product. So we take a deep dive into our customers. And that has been really critical. But the product, at the end of the day, if the product doesn’t work, the product doesn’t work. And customers won’t go with you. So pricing is critical. We’re looking to sell, you know, the BMW and a Toyota price point. Yeah. And a lot of people will raise their eyebrows at that when we hit the market. And they kind of go, Oh, you know,

Mike: this can’t be good. And then you’re too good to be true. Yeah.

Stuart: And then they have a third look, and then they go, Oh, hang on a minute. This is quite good. And what we’ve done, I suppose my, on the back of the fact that we’ve got a young nimble team, and we’ve got very strong r&d. We’ve now complemented that with, you know, introducing over the last 12 months, bringing all of our products together under energy energy management system and really introducing IoT to our business. Yes, you know, bringing everything together now. So all of our lighting is coming together through an energy management system and the smoke alarms are coming together under an energy management system. So you can kind of test your smoke alarms, and you can silence your smoke alarms and hash them. And you can do a whole lot of things. Now through technology that we couldn’t Well, certainly our planet couldn’t do a few years ago. And that’s now I think, shaking the market up a little bit that saying to those traditional markets that, you know, innovation is critical and customer experience is critical. And that’s been certainly taken up by our customers.

Mike: Yeah. And then just talk a bit about that energy management system and that technology and how you’re about to launch into homes to really put people in control of the data and their usage on a real time basis.

Stuart: Yeah, that’s right, Mike:, the energy management system essentially sits inside you in your phone through our app. But you know, the one of the leading products and one of the launch products that we’re using to complement the energy management system is an energy monitor called the energy advisor, or electricity advisor, sorry, and that’s is a product that goes into your energy metre that can be installed by a handyman, any person really not a complicated installation at all. And it allows you to just understand from a pile level, what your energy consumption is, it’s there to change behaviours. Essentially, you can look at when you’re using your power, whether it’s in high tariff times, or low tariff times, you can set yourself alerts and notifications, you can set yourself goals and, and targets. And it can just prompt you and your family to make changes. So you know, the electricity advisor can be installed into the home, and it can be shared with the whole family. So everybody has an understanding of where the electricity is being used. And that really is the first step now for us, Mike: into the internet of things into a direct engagement with our customers, and then we’ll launch us into a whole range of products that will allow our customers to basically empower themselves to be able to manage their energy consumption within the home.

Mike: No, I think that’s a phenomenal initiative. And I mean, again, as you did with the alarm, you’re set to significantly capture market share, again, hiranya, because the way you’re approaching the market,

Stuart: well, what we’ve seen, Mike: is, from a competitive perspective, you know, you can instal your solar and you can monitor your solar and you can instal a lighting system, you can add a whole lot of independent technologies to your home, and you can run them independently, what we haven’t seen really is somebody who has launched an energy management system into the home that can control all your electrical devices. And that is your high level electrical devices. You know, ultimately, our ultimate goal, and we’re not there yet, is to be able to, you know, monitor your solar, and then control your hot water systems, control your poor pump, control your lighting, control your air conditioning, bring it all together under one app, and basically be in a position to be able to control your energy consumption through that one app, whether it be through defaults, or whether it be through a possible third party, or whether it be through the individual themselves, being able to just yeah, monitor and check. An example would be Mike:, I have the consumer beta position where if they’ve got a solar PV unit on the roof, and they’re creating power, they can ultimately decide where they want to use that power. If you’re creating energy, you can direct it back into the grid, which isn’t the best, you could direct it into a battery, you could direct it back into a hot water system to heat your water. Or you could direct that power into your pool, ultimately reducing the consumers energy consumption.

Mike: Yeah, that’s phenomenal. Because of that, you know, you’ve really grabbed that Internet of Things that power of the internet, hey, you grabbing it, pulling it together in a way that puts people in control. Right? And I think that’s really the power of this initiative, right? Isn’t it is to put the consumer in control, probably for the first time of how he’s using his energy and how he could perhaps use it more intelligently and cost effectively.

Stuart: It’s a natural step forward. I mean, you’re saying now, everybody sits on their phone, right? Everybody wants to be able to control things, all information is coming through the phone. So to be able to control your energy consumption. Now, through your phone is an obvious next step for us. You know, for us, it’s really complementing what we’re doing already. We’re already creating products to be able to service the residential commercial industry from an energy efficiency perspective through product, but now we’ll be able to bring them together under one umbrella, through an energy management system is a natural step. It’s a really exciting time for us in the next 12 months.

Mike: Just by way of further context, you’re talking about a business here that’s doubled in the last 12 months, even in spite of COVID you took about a business a good double again, if not more, the next job. How are you managing that? You know, we talk about growing pains, right? When a company is expanding like this, what are the lessons that you might want to share with other bonus around growth?

Stuart:  One thing’s for sure I know, I’m not the smartest guy in the room. I like to surround myself with smart people. We’ve got a very, very good team here. So I’ve surrounded myself with really strong expertise that have similar mindsets, I think to myself, yeah, and similar philosophies to myself. So the business is very, very fortunate that we’ve been in a position to be able to surround ourselves with very, very good people. Yes. And also knowing, Mike:, that every day, there’s a new opportunity. So we don’t get too caught up in trying to protect ourselves. And we don’t enter markets conservatively, we enter markets relatively aggressively knowing that you know, what, if we make a mistake today, we can fix it tomorrow? Yeah. If we should have turned left, but we turned right, well, then we can turn around.

Mike: Yes, yes. I mean, I’ve been struck by that. It’s an opportunity mindset. Really, I remember years ago, homies A long time ago, share my HIV. But I remember Bill Gates being interviewed. And the interview said to him, you know, so bill, how did you do I think he just become the richest bloke in the world at the time. And anyway, gates, just case some fluffy answer about, you know, good people, and bla, and the interviewer said, No, no, no, how did you really do it? And then he dropped his head, and he thought for a few seconds. And then he picked his head up again. He said, we took massive action. Yep, that was it. He just said, we just took action. And you remind me of that as approach. You take action, you say you enter markets aggressively, you do the thinking, and then you take huge action. Sure. You think big in terms of volume, you know, but most of the manufacturers in the lighting game who are working through wholesalers and distributors and retailers, they’re thinking in terms of dozens and hundreds, you think in terms of hundreds of 1000s? I mean, to put that in context, I think you’ve, you’ve sold over 40 million energy efficient products. In your history, I mean, 40 million. So you know, you’re in the hundreds of 1000s, and millions, whereas when I talk to others, it’s a different mindset.

Stuart: Yeah, I think there’s a couple of advantages there, Mike:. And one of the thing is, yeah, we’ve been lucky. We found ourselves in a market that is a high volume market. Yes. And we bought the right products to market at the right times. Yes. And we’ve been nimble, might you talk about those risks. I mean, one of the philosophies I’ve had, which is a pretty simple one is when the party is on, drink big, and, you know, the party’s over, sometimes the hangover is worth having. And, you know, as long as you can manage that risk, to a certain extent, but still be eager enough to take the risk. And as long as you still working within the core strengths of your business, which is what we do, yes, I think we really do set ourselves up for success. But like I said, earlier, we’ve been in the chair for a while now. So we’re in a position where when the new opportunities pop up, we can dive into them. aggressively. Yeah. Yeah. You know, we’re always seeking new opportunities. We’re currently modelling and launching the into the UK, yes, into a brand new market, which is another big test for us.

Mike: Yeah. So you’ve obviously got a strong future. You’re clearly born for this year. Do you see a strong opportunity pipeline going forward? yet to carry on doing this for the next 10 years? What are your own plans? I know you’ve got one of your lads in the business.

Stuart: Oh, but you’re in the business now. Yeah, actually. And they’re going they’re going very, very well. Great. To be honest with you. I love it. Yeah. I love getting up every day and I love coming to work. I think in the back of my mind I’d always love to be on the back of a boat fishing, having a drink and doing nothing but I’m not too sure how long I could do that. A few friends that have retired and and they say you’re a long time retired and they get itchy feet. Yeah, look to come back into corporate world. I don’t have any plans on slowing up too much. anytime soon. I really enjoy my work. I enjoyed the challenges and I enjoy the people that are around us.

Mike: Yeah. So it looks to let’s just go back a little bit. So what was it in your upbringing? Was there any early signs? Were you the kid in the playground who could hustle and I do like this saying about hustling things may come to those who wait, but only those things left behind by those who hustle? You’re definitely one of those guys. Tell us about growing up.

Stuart: Ah, Myra, identify we consider myself a hustler.

Mike: What am I by hustle is someone who takes action? Someone who sees an opportunity. Yeah. And that doesn’t

Stuart: know well, that probably then describes as a kid growing up in school, to be honest with you, my class struggled, didn’t enjoy school. It was a slow pace. You know, some people just aren’t made to be sitting in a classroom and I’m working away in that combat environment. It was always a challenge. I wanted to be on the move. I found myself when I got into business through being a chef and apprentice chef and then moving into catering. I was running my own business as a fourth year apprentice and learnt a lot about business and from an academic perspective, I grew in business. You know, I I struggled at school mathematically. I never enjoyed school, but now I can sit in a boardroom and completely understand everything that’s going on. I feel like I can lead the conversations and really, I only recognised that in myself about five or six years ago that my personal progression academically was not until later in life. Really Until I actually started to have to put into practice, yes, yeah, business and understand what I’m doing. That’s something outside of my voice. You know, I’ve got four boys that are all fantastic, fantastic kids and young men. And I keep saying to them, there’s a new opportunity every day, identifying those opportunities, take risks, you know, and do it on the back of confidence. And, you know, if I can build my boys with a high level of self esteem, and a high level of confidence, then the world is your oyster. And I mean, imparting that kind of wisdom under those guys is the type of philosophies that I like to try to carry through my life.

Mike: It’s a reoccurring theme this, the more owners and entrepreneurs I meet, the more, there’s a big category of people that didn’t like school, it was too constraining, and they learn practically right, you know, as they don’t learn, theoretically. So when you became a chef, right? When would that have been about because when I left school in 1980, I’m a bit older than you. It wasn’t very cool being a chef. But then about 10 years later, when Jeremy Oliver came along, all of a sudden, it was a coolest thing. You could bloody be a chef. Yeah. So where were you on that continuum?

Stuart: I was struggling in school. Yeah, getting into the hospitality and catering was about creativity. Yeah. Isn’t that interesting? Yeah. And I worked on some very good shifts. You know, back in the day, there was a magazine called gourmet traveller, which was a magazine that used to go around the country writing restaurants, and I worked under a chef, they were We were in the top three restaurants for two or three years and arrived. So this was a young chef who was really innovative and was bringing new styles of food to the market and basically explored new things. And that really was exciting for me. Hmm, that guy taught me a lot about taking risks, I suppose. And that was just in food, you know, putting different menus together and different styles of food and bringing it together and throwing it out into the market and saying, who’s interested. And we worked in a restaurant that was hugely successful, which I suppose drove my appetite around exploring new things like, Yeah,

Mike: but it’s interesting, because those skills are so transferable, are they you just mentioned creativity? I mean, what do you do now? You’re nothing if you’re not creative, you innovate these products, you innovate these ideas? you innovate these concepts. I know you’ve got a big team, I’m sure in India that how with software development, I mean, it’s just another version of that, isn’t it?

Stuart: Yeah, it is what it is. And like I said before, it’s about surrounding yourself with the right people. So I do pinch myself and wonder sometimes how we got here. I mean, I know how I got here. But it’s like, how do I go from being a chef into being a supplier of products into the energy efficiency markets as certainly different trajectories of the one that I thought I was going to be taking, when I jumped into my first first year as an apprentice chef, a lot of those skills really are transferable marking, to be honest with you. Most people that I associate with in business are of a similar mindset. Yes. And particularly at the moment under this COVID framework. You know, most people I’m talking to, that have had success and have that mindset of doing pretty well actually. There’s real opportunity, I think around being nimble, and really looking at what is coming down the track and de risking yourself and doing it quickly and proactively and not worrying about not making a decision.

Mike: I think we’re very lucky living in Australia as a free market. That as you said, I completely concur. There are opportunities everywhere. So I could wax lyrically from now till 10 o’clock tonight, and not be done with the things that I’m seeing around that about me. Yeah. But again, I think you’re back to self esteem, I think you’re back to nurturing kids, allowing them to think outside of the square a little bit, allowing them to experiment. And then I guess, given them just like you say, giving them the confidence to think, well, maybe I can’t ever go there. I mean, I had no idea how I got here, I have no idea really, all I know is that I’ve spent the last 35 years I’ve been ago, most days in turning up and trying to be useful, and constructive and creative. So thanks for sharing your story with us, Stuart:, that was really terrific. I’ve enjoyed it immensely. Just want to wrap up with some questions. Yeah, that we normally there. So who sort of who was a big influence on you? shoe it that you would think back on and say yeah, you know, that was a great friendship, who were the biggest influences on you.

Stuart: My father and mother are both very, very positive people. And they helped me build that high level of self esteem and confidence, Mike:, which was really critical. There was one moment that gave me a lot of confidence, which is a really left field moment. When I had my cafe, back in the day, where we’re changing the cafe constantly. And we were trying new cuisines and just moving things around. And we the cafe found its happy place and all of a sudden, the cafe exploded, and this little lady came into me who’d been one of my original customers, and she just came up to me, she grabbed my hands and she said, Stuart:, what you’ve done, he was really, really great and you could do anything you want. If you put your mind to it. Now. That’s a kind of thing and then we But this was a lie that had been coming in for years and there was a little moment there for me was like I just gave me that level of confidence and quite left me I’ve got a great family support and as our business has grown, I’ve been very very fortunate to have some great relationships in business some of my customers have become some of my closest friends you know, we’ve got some very close relationships with people that work for very large energy efficiency companies in Victoria and between us we’ve been able to grow and drive our businesses in a way that’s helped guide us all in this new industry I suppose. Yes,

Mike: what a great story that was almost angelic that old lady coming up to you and telling you that isn’t it’s true I mean, I think we need to remind ourselves of the power of words you know, we can really encourage people can’t wait I mean, we got to be very careful with what we say sometimes because we can set people on fire and then we can put them down I think that’s a great story that that you’ve remembered that how many years ago is that?

Stuart: God 30 years ago, a bit of a grandma thing to say but at that time, it was quite yelling,

Mike: packed with meaning great. What about a favourite book or a favourite film?

Stuart: Don’t read don’t enjoy reading I read all day every day whether it be through current affair newspapers, email reading for me is a chore like, okay, okay films and I love my Interstellar has allowed my Martian. I love my sci fi style movies, the movies that allow you to kind of your mind to explore the possible future opportunities.

Mike: Is that interesting? the

Stuart: what ifs?

Mike: We’re back to creativity may You’re a very creative guy.

Stuart: I think a lot of sci fi nerds can kind of relate to that. It’s like could that actually happen?

Mike: Yeah, yes. Isn’t that interesting? So what about favourite place? What’s your favourite place?

Stuart: I’ve travelled a fair bit, and there’s nothing like home. Were a bit of a skiing family so we really enjoy Whistler. Really love Canada. Okay, it really made honestly, there’s nothing like on Sydney,

Mike: you’d be amazed how many people tell me that what do you like doing outside work?

Stuart: Man I love about 40 I love the city girls live on the Northern Beaches up here at manly and get down to what’s the Eagles every opportunity we can have them a golf. Yes, that might getting out and having to hit a golf.

Mike: But a frustrating game is like once again.

Stuart: It should be such a simple game. You’re hitting a little ball into a little Hall It can’t be that hard but

Mike: I do know Scott pain for the seagulls he’s a chairman and I’d helped him sell a company a few years ago and I always wondered why does that job because you can never get it right as a chairman of a footy club you know everyone’s always on it yeah

Stuart: I don’t know I don’t know Mike many people that are in football clubs that consider them to be a great business

Mike: they’re not a business on a business when I used to ring him on a Monday I’d always chat with my lads had the egos go on the weekend yeah cuz cuz I’d have to get jammed up i’d know what kind of a mood he was gonna get.

Stuart: Yeah, certainly forking out a lot of money for the pleasure but yeah, thanks. But they they because without them we wouldn’t have the clubs that struggle they are so

Mike: let’s do it. Thanks once again for joining us today all be online. It’s really a great pleasure to hear your story. I know you’re going from strength to strength. We wish you all the best there Emerald planet and keep helping to save the planet Stewart might appreciate

Stuart: it. Thanks.

Mike: Take care.

Mike: I’ve enjoyed my conversation today with Stuart. I love the way Stuart went from being a chef and running his own catering business to manufacturing, lighting and importing and all the stuff that goes with that he thought they were very similar both demand and creativity. Now if you like these podcasts, be sure to tell your friends and colleagues and get them to subscribe from their favourite platform, no charge. Finally, big shout out to our sponsors Oasis partners for great business advice, guidance and support call the guys at Oasis WW. Oasis that are you. So until next time, stay safe.