Podcast Transcripts

Episode 2 – Leadership and Teamwork with Mike Cochrane transcript

admin / October 18, 2019

[00:00:01] Hi and welcome to this week’s episode on Business With The Fun Guys. [00:00:05][3.7]

Ed Surman: [00:00:06] Today I’m with Mike Cochrane who is now a sales and leadership consultant specializing in helping SME’s get significant growth in their sales and problem solve for leaders and directors. Mike has spent over 30 years in the automotive industry, 20 of which include building his own multi-million pound business. Mike’s primary aims and skills are in sales and marketing leadership. As a successful businessman and one of the first in the automotive industry to achieve Investors In People it came as little surprise when Scottish Enterprise approached Mike and asked him to become one of the first business mentors in Scotland to help SME market grow and prosper. By agreeing to accept the position, Mike broadened his experience in a wide range of business sectors which over the years has proven to be invaluable. And as I can say I’ve met him on the networking circuit many times and I have to say that every time I come away I always learn something new. So hi Mike. [00:01:09][63.4]

Michael Cochrane: [00:01:11] Ed good to see you. [00:01:11][0.9]

Ed Surman: [00:01:12] How you doing?. [00:01:12][0.1]

Michael Cochrane: [00:01:13] I’m all right. Things are OK. [00:01:15][2.0]

Ed Surman: [00:01:16] I think the talk today is quite broad because obviously when we talk about sales marketing and leadership it’s sometimes quite easy to go off and try to talk about broad topics but actually what I like about talking to you is you condense that down to you know the leader the person that is taken that risk to start the businesses is willing to go that extra mile beyond you know starting a job and actually build something that’s meaningful and gets results. I think we should really start with your story because I think you you use sport as a big analogy into leadership and I’m a big fan of Van. We’ll mention a few examples later but it would be good just to start from when you were a kid because you were really quite into sport right? [00:02:08][52.6]

Michael Cochrane: [00:02:10] Yeah I was one of the fastest sprinters in Scotland at the time. And that taught me to be very focussed and driven on winning. There was absolutely no point in me going down onto the blocks and wondering about who I was up against because that would mean that I wasn’t focussed. So all I was focussed on was breaking the tape. If I didn’t break the tape I didn’t win. So what was the point of being in the race? I then became the anchor leg in the relay team and that was a little bit about teamwork. But as I said earlier it’d be fair to say it was still about me because I broke the tape. But no it was very much, it was all about me initially and then it was all about us as a team. When I became captain of rugby that was awesome. That was 15 people all with completely different skill sets. And it was to try and bring all these skill sets together and focus on one end goal. And we worked as a team. At the end of the day we won as a team and we lost as a team. And that taught me an awful lot. [00:03:47][96.4]

Ed Surman: [00:03:48] And I think one thing that should be an obvious statement right now is that sport often has a simple aim right? You win or lose, or you win or don’t win. Business is obviously more complicated than that because you have so many different facets to it. [00:04:03][15.5]

Michael Cochrane: [00:04:04] I’m going to stop you. I’m definitely going to stop you. [00:04:08][4.3]

Michael Cochrane: [00:04:39] There’s a lot of people who are making things more complicated than what it is. If you keep it simple and I know that people say to me KISS is old hat. Well guess what. It’s not. At the end of the day if you keep it simple stupid, the chances are, the people that you’re actually speaking to internally and externally will understand what you’re talking about. I get fed up these days listening to the so-called gurus who stand up and tell you that they’re experts, and they talk in a different language to the audience that they serve. Whether that’s speaking or whether that’s to prospects and clients in the business and at the end of the day keep it simple, speak my language because I’m pretty simple really. So keep it simple and I think you’ll do very well. Make sure that if you’ve got something to say say it well. Say it often. And you’ll succeed. [00:05:57][77.6]

Ed Surman: [00:06:00] I like that. I like that line. So excuse my ignorance. [00:06:06][6.3]

Michael Cochrane: [00:06:08] Nobody would ever say that you’re ignorant. [00:06:09][0.9]

Ed Surman: [00:06:11] When we go from school to car sales. That wasn’t the direct route was it? So you started from very very humble beginnings in the working world. Is that correct? [00:06:26][15.2]

Michael Cochrane: [00:06:28] I didn’t start from humble beginnings. No not at all. I started as a car cleaner. That’s not humble beginnings. It’s learning the ropes. Yeah I started as car cleaner. I was fortunate enough to use my eyes, my ears, and my mouth in the ratio I was born with. So I observed the best. And I listened very carefully to the best. And I used the best of the best and I dumped whatever it was that wasn’t good. And so I was lucky. I became a trainee salesman. I’ll never forget. I’m sure we talked about it. There was some poor chap that turned up in the NSU Prinz. The NSU Prinz, put it this way it’s not something you really want to have. OK. And this person arrived at the dealership one day and all the salesmen scattered, they all ran away. And muggins stayed there and welcomed. [00:07:42][74.7]

Ed Surman: [00:07:43] You stood there as a car cleaner? [00:07:44][1.0]

Michael Cochrane: [00:07:44] No no I was a trainee salesman by then. I had gone up the ladder by that stage. [00:07:50][5.7]

Ed Surman: [00:07:50] How many rungs?. Two? One? [00:07:51][0.7]

Michael Cochrane: [00:07:51] Probably one. So in any case the person came in and then I obviously looked after them and eventually took them out for a run in the car and at the end of the day as we came back I said so, would I be right in saying this is exactly what you’re looking for? And he said yeah. He said I really like it. I said really? So we’ll just get the paperwork sorted then. When would you like to take delivery? And he said as soon as you can. [00:08:29][37.3]

Michael Cochrane: [00:08:30] So I came back. I did all the paperwork. I didn’t have to discount the car at all. Absolutely fantastic. So he went away and all the salesmen suddenly came to the fore. And then they saw that I had an order. And they went, how did you get an order? I said what are you talking about? He had that NSU Prinz. [00:09:00][30.3]

Ed Surman: [00:09:02] I mean how bad were these cars? [00:09:03][0.8]

Michael Cochrane: [00:09:04] They were something you definitely didn’t want. [00:09:06][1.6]

Ed Surman: [00:09:07] How bad? What’s the modern equivalent now? [00:09:07][0.5]

Michael Cochrane: [00:09:07] Very bad. We don’t have anything as bad. So in any case, they said how did you value that? And who helped you to value that? [00:09:26][18.3]

Michael Cochrane: [00:09:27] I said what are you talking about? You obviously traded down. No I didn’t. They said what do you mean, you didn’t? I said, you think he owned that car don’t you? They said yes. No he didn’t. He borrowed it. He didn’t have a car. He came in just to buy a car. So they had scattered because they really thought wow this is not good news. It’s a NSU Prinz and nobody would value it. And just because I was naive, I sat there and just decided that they were going to buy it. I never even thought that he was in an NSU Prinz. [00:10:01][34.2]

Ed Surman: [00:10:06] Let’s talk through that process of going from there to being a director of a pretty pretty big car dealership. [00:10:12][6.0]

Michael Cochrane: [00:10:13] Well basically what happens, or what happened to me was, I just went up the steps, went up the ladder.. So because I’d listen very carefully to people and because I observe people very well, actively listened to them, it meant that I became the best in the dealership. So I was the top salesman. It was not rocket science as to how it got there. It’s just I used my ears and I used my eyes. Simple. Again going back to KISS. So I then became sales manager because they thought, well he’s a top salesman so why don’t we get him to be sales manager. This is where things go wrong in business generally. But I was lucky because I was in sport. I learned so much from sport that they wanted to mini clone me with four or five people that were in there. Yeah. Which was fine. What I didn’t understand was I was earning less as a sales manager as I was just selling. I became sales marketing director and after that it’s fair to say that we had, how can I put it, a difference of opinion? And I was given a year in which to buy one of the dealerships. The only one that I could afford was the one that was losing six figures. So I went around all the banks. And I said I’m your man. Here’s my plan. That was my deep financial plan. Yes. And of course they all told me you know the door is over there, just shut it on the way out. But it is true you know. Life’s not easy. If you really want something you don’t give up. You just keep going. Every time that you hit a closed door. Yeah. And that slams in your face. You’re one step closer to one that’s going to bloody well open for you. All you gotta do is do it. So that’s what I did. [00:12:51][157.8]

Ed Surman: [00:12:52] How many banks did you approach and who helped you? [00:12:52][0.8]

Michael Cochrane: [00:12:53] Clydesdale Bank. Bless their cotton socks. They backed me. God knows why. I mean hell it was losing six figures. In these days that was by me 81. [00:13:02][9.1]

Ed Surman: [00:13:03] That’s a lot of money. [00:13:04][0.4]

[00:13:04] It is a lot of money. So if anybody said did I blag it? The answer to that is although I was my authentic self and I don’t believe in blagging, I suppose they might have thought I was blagging it I don’t know. So yeah. So I went into this dealership. And it had 45 people or thereabouts and it was completely dysfunctional. You know the funny thing is. Your business is all about. I’m not sure I’m allowed to say this. But it’s all about where the fuck arbitrary. [00:13:42][38.2]

Ed Surman: [00:13:44] Yeah yeah yeah. And heart failure. [00:13:48][3.7]

Michael Cochrane: [00:13:51] So my team of 45 people were in a mushroom factory. So they came to work because they had to come to work. They came to work because they needed to put food on the table. They all had different agendas. And my job was very simplistic, and that was, I had to explain to them in clear syllables that we were completely dysfunctional, we were losing six figures and if we didn’t turn the place round in twelve months we were all out of a job. We had to get on to the same page. That’s why in sport these managers are successful. The key is to get everybody to come in and come on the same page. The key is not to be aiming bigger than what anybody is. We’re a team and without the smallest piece in that team I can’t function. So I explained to them that we’ve got 45 pieces of the jigsaw. At the end of the day we’re all different shapes and sizes and you probably think the biggest piece is me. But what I’m saying to you is if I’m missing the smallest piece I can’t make it work. [00:15:15][83.9]

Ed Surman: [00:15:17] It’s like you’re thinking the rugby pitch again you know? [00:15:20][2.7]

Michael Cochrane: [00:15:21] Absolutely. So in business I think as I say and I cannot overemphasize this. Just keep things simple. There is no point in standing before 40, 50, 500 people and giving them a whole lot of gobbledygook. You know they might look at you and think my god this guy is really well educated. They might. I prefer to keep it simple. So I always do things in threes. Well not in everything, but in business I do things in threes. So the first thing that I said to them was that we need to ensure that we offer products and services second to none. And in business as far as I’m concerned I don’t care what your business is, you need to be able to go there and your people need to believe this. Your clients need to believe this. Your prospects need to believe this. That you’ve got products and services second to none. Now we actually sell Ford Motor Cars, and you could buy a Ford motor car anywhere. So from a product point of view I wasn’t standing out from the crowd. But what stood me out from the crowd was my team. That’s what stood me out from the crowd. Because my team was on the same page. My team knew that we were there, we had a goal and we had fun. You know we celebrated. My people were so important to me. That’s the key in any business people. People. [00:17:13][112.5]

Michael Cochrane: [00:17:16] So products and services second to none. Never over promise and underdeliver. Always ensure that you over deliver. Always and truly overwhelmed. And always remember I don’t pay the wages. Yeah. It’s the customer. It’s the client that pays the wages. So look after them royally. And guess what? They’ll look after us. Go to it. Let’s go. End of. That was it. Make sense? [00:17:45][29.7]

Ed Surman: [00:17:53] Perfect sense of course. But it’s not though is it? Because so many businesses don’t do that do they? I’ve met the salesman who demands respect because they’re paying people’s living and you know what you’re describing about an employer paying the wages. That’s not the case, you’re right it’s the client. [00:18:09][15.9]

Michael Cochrane: [00:18:10] Leadership, Ed is everything. You and I have talked about this before, but when Alan Forks who was the managing director of Iveco Ford Truck when I was sitting in my boardroom doing some work. And I heard this chopper going over the boardroom and I thought, wow that’s pretty close. So I came out and this chopper decided to land in my car compound that had just been finished. Unfortunately it was fair to say that somebody had gone away with the key to the padlock. This helicopter landed in it and out stepped Alan Forks. He was the managing director of Iveco Truck because we also by that stage, because we wanted another challenge, had an Ivico Ford truck dealership. So Alan, it was quite funny because I was on one side of the fence and he was on the other and you know you could’ve have a good skit on it. But how am I gonna get him out there? He can’t just hop into his helicopter and bring it across again. I needed to get him out of there. So we cut the the wire and we got him out. He taught me a valuable lesson in leadership. Because I said to him Alan, hell l it’s great to see you. I said this is unexpected. I’m thinking why is he coming see me? And I said to him do you want to come into the boardroom and we’ll have a coffee and have a chat. And he said Mike I’ll tell you what I’d like to do first. And I said what’s that? I’d like to go into your truck workshop and I want to shake the hands of every single truck technician and thank them for the job that they do. That is leadership. [00:20:12][122.3]

Ed Surman: [00:20:14] Who is your business hero in terms of leaders? [00:20:16][1.8]

Michael Cochrane: [00:20:18] No actually to be honest I don’t look up to anyone from that point of view. You know people say to me about Richard Branson. I see Richard Branson is of my era. At the end of the day virtually everything that he said and did as a leader is exactly what I did. The difference is that Richard Branson is a lot more successful that what I ever was. Yeah but I don’t look up to anyone as being the ultimate leader. [00:21:01][42.9]

Ed Surman: [00:21:02] It gives a false premise doesn’t it really because if you’re looking to be like someone, emulation isn’t the way to drive success. To drive success is to do the things you’re talking about right? [00:21:13][11.0]

Michael Cochrane: [00:21:13] From my point of view every day is a learning day. A day without learning is a day without living. I listen to, even now I listen to a whole lot of webinars and things like that. I learn from others. You learn from the best and you leave the rest. The problem that we have as motivational speakers or inspirational speakers whatever you want to call us, is that we’ve got all the energy when we’re on the stage. We have everybody taking notes, everybody taking photographs. You know that you’ve got them completely engaged. So you think that when they go away they’re going to take action but then when you follow that up in a few weeks time they don’t take action. You follow up and say hi Ed, just giving you a quick call just to see what your thoughts were with regard to our presentation two weeks ago. And you go, oh it was awesome. Brilliant. And so what have you done? All these things that we gave you to go away and do. What have you done? And you turn around and go, well actually I haven’t done anything Mike. Why have you not done anything? Well you know what, you know the cat was sick. The dog was sick. Whatever. There’s always something pathetic that comes out. Yeah. I just want these people to tell me why. Why do it? Time management is what everybody goes on about. Why do they waste their time coming to listen to us? They’re coming to listen I think. They’re coming to learn I think. We give them all these things to take away and implement but then they don’t do anything about it. So what’s that about?. It doesn’t make sense. They’ve just wasted a day in their life. So I want these people to actually go there listen, learn, assess and act. At the end of the day there’ll be lots of stuff that we talk about that will be very meaningful to them and will make a big difference to the results if they implement them. There’ll be other stuff that frankly is not of interest to them but was probably interesting to the person that was sitting next to them. That make sense? That’s why I keep on saying in business we can learn so much from sport. When I’m doing the motivational talks, one of them was on, believe it or not my view but what I did was, I have a slide up on that it’s got the various different managers out there. [00:24:21][188.2]

Ed Surman: [00:24:22] Yes I saw we’ve got them, let’s just go through them for fun because we can make a couple of football jokes. [00:24:30][8.3]

Michael Cochrane: [00:24:33] We’ve got Sir Alex Ferguson. We’ve got David Moyes. Now the first time that I heard David Moyes talk I wanted to get a bloody telephone number for him because I thought what are you talking about? He was on the radio saying we will try. When did Man Utd ever try? Man Utd just do. And he was bound to fail. What possessed him to get rid of all the backroom staff and bring his own team in? It was just madness. [00:25:23][50.1]

Ed Surman: [00:25:24] It’s almost like he’s looking for security straightaway, he’s not ready to jump into the deep end to take on a bigger challenge because obviously he was a really good manager at Everton. He did an amazing job with Everton, Everton were consistently in the Top Ten under his tenure. And then obviously he goes to Man Utd and it all blows up in his face. [00:25:40][16.1]

Michael Cochrane: [00:25:41] But when you go into a business or when you go into a club you don’t go in there and just suddenly carve it all up. You know I’ve had various people say to me in the past. What would you do, because I’m going into this business and I’m saying just take your time, just go in there and take your time. Go in there and assess the situation. Have your two ears working and your two eyes working and your mouth in the right ratio right. Ask questions. Actively listen and just observe. And then when the time is right we’ll be able to find out whether we’re gonna make some changes. But you don’t just go into somewhere like Man Utd and say right, these guys are out and these guys are in. Madness. So yeah sorry but he was bound to fail. [00:26:35][54.6]

Ed Surman: [00:28:10] Well Mike I think you inspired some of our listeners so have a great holiday. I know you’re on holiday at the moment. Best of luck. Thank you. [00:28:15][5.3]

Michael Cochrane: [00:28:21] Thank you. [00:28:21][0.0]

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