Interview – Stuart Carter
Interview with Stuart Carter – The 80/20 Guy. Stuart Carter helps passionate business owners to clear the fog, focus on what’s really important and take themselves and their business to the next level.
Transcript (Click To Open)
Pieter: Hi there. This is Pieter and this is the Barefoot Business podcast. Thank you for joining us today and with me today I have got Stuart Carter, also known as The 80/20 Guy. Stuart is a business coach, speaker and author of The 80/20 Blueprint and Discover your 80/20 Vision.
Stuart, you’re probably best known for getting outstanding results with our one-to-one clients in the service sector and helping them to work less and earn more through smart pricing strategy and marketing. I absolutely love 80/20 principle and all that it entails, so I’m sure we will get into that. Welcome.
Stuart: Thank you very much and thanks very much for inviting me to be on.
Pieter: No problem at all. Quite an interesting thing, I was reading a bit over the weekend and I was really surprised to know – I assume you know who Frank Kern is?
Stuart: I’m well aware of Frank Kern, yes.
Pieter: Yeah, and it transpires he only discovered the 80/20, Richard Koch, in the last six months.
Pieter: It’s quite interesting. In the world we live in we all think that these people know everything that we know, but we’re all in our own bubble, aren’t we.
Stuart: That’s right. There’s probably a good chance he’s been doing a lot of 80/20 by accident from everything else he’s picked up, but he may not have known that’s the source of where this came from. Or the modern source, shall we say.
Pieter: Yeah. As we are specifically focusing the podcast to help people to build better businesses, maybe describe a bit how you help people to do that for their own businesses.
Stuart: Yeah, absolutely. The what of what I do is really a holistic 80/20 approach right across the business. Now as we know, if you ask for anything you get nothing. I’ve kind of honed it down to the real basic which ends up being essentially that you end up working less and earning more. I’ll do a generalist on what I do with people, but the who I work with is quite niche. That’s how I help them. I help people who … I don’t know if you’ve come across Roger Hamilton’s Wealth Dynamics at all or if the listeners have.
Pieter: No. I haven’t, but I’m making a note.
Stuart: Okay. It’s an interesting system. You get the INTJ personality profiles and Roger has a really nice one that is based on a square. The top of the square is the creatives and the bottom of the square is people with their feet on the ground who do sensory and perception. The right of the square is the extroverts who love people and the left of the square is the people who get their nose into the data. I sit very nicely on the bottom left of the square, so I’m a feature on the ground and my nose is in the data and I help people on the opposite side of the square.
Many, many people, their first question they ask whenever they come across problem is, “What?” You know, “What can I create in order to get me out of this problem? What can I create to earn me more money.” And then other people ask, “Who?” You know, “Who can I sell to? Who can I get on board.” Some people, I spoke to those questions and they’re kind of the brand builders so they put a team together to make their creations come to life. I sit on the opposite corner. What I do, I actually help them with the when, where and how of that. Hope that makes sense.
Pieter: I think I’ve got that. You say you niche specifically with who you work with. Do you go further than that? Are there particular sectors that you work more with?
Stuart: I would say all-service sector, just because that’s kind of where I understand. I’m not a manufacturing guy, I’m not a product guy, not a retail guy so much, but service industry I can really get my teeth into. They also kind of have to be passionate people and doing something that matters. There are too many people in the world going through the motions and if you look at the 80/20 curve, maybe 20% of people are really passionate about what they’re doing. They’re growing their business. Only 5% of people are really, really making a difference. And so I try to seek those people out and when we get that magic, when we hit it off …
One of my clients says I’m the yin to her yang, because she’s out there, she’s really creating stuff all the time, running around like mad with her team and she just wants someone to keep her on track, make sure the marketing goes out on time and really simplify her ideas down to the ones that have [legs 00:04:47]. I have another client – he’s past client now actually. He called me his simplificator. Again he was coming up with mad ideas all the time and there’s no such thing as a mad idea and some of the maddest ones are the best. But what we would do is sift through them and work out … You know, because every single one had the same value to him, but when we looked at serving the clients, why he’s doing it. There’s another question. We worked together to grapple why, but when we sifted through that and then looked through the data of his returns, we’d maybe test a few and then pick what he should really put his time, money and energy into. That’s kind of who I help and that’s kind of how-
Pieter: What you say there about the amount of people who actually are not only passionate about what they do, but then the small percentage of those who actually make a difference.
Pieter: The last year I’ve been on Daniel Priestley’s KPI program.
Stuart: Yes, marvelous.
Pieter: Spent a bit of time with him and his team and aligned with [inaudible 00:05:50], helped out the team and things like that and it was quite interesting for me – almost relentless focus from them on actually making a real difference. It is a shame that so few people actually start their businesses or create their products with that in mind. Most people, like you say, it is just, “Well, I want to start a business and I don’t really think anywhere beyond well I want to make this amount of money.” Or, “I have this widget and therefore I am going to sell this widget.” The long-
Stuart: Absolutely. Whether anyone wants it or not.
Pieter: Yeah, I will find people to buy my widget. It’s quite interesting how things actually change when you start looking at, “Well is this actually making a difference? Is this making the world better?” To use Daniel Priestley’s terminology, “Are they making a dent?”
Stuart: Yeah. Absolutely.
Pieter: Rather than simply selling something for the sake of selling it.
Stuart: Yeah, I mean my background is I was a trade computer scientist. I was in computer programming for years and the recession came along in 2008 and I was made redundant. I owned a camera so I started taking photos to tidy me over. You know, six years later I was still taking photos, because I was unemployable. Well, I was actually unemployable while I was employed, but I didn’t know that at the time.
The interesting thing there is I implemented 80/20 and I doubled my revenue in half my working hours, but the key thing is it wasn’t my passion and I didn’t feel that I was having the impact that I could have. Reason being that some nice photos will help someone sell a few more widgets and that’s all I felt I was contributing and my need for contribution is much greater than that. With the 50% of time I had free I started sharing what I picked up in 80/20 and learnt about business and suddenly I was helping people to spend the weekend at the beach with their kids or spend more time with their family and stuff that really mattered to me. It wasn’t long after that, the photography went by the wayside and I thought, “This is what I’m meant to do, because it’s valuable.”
Pieter: Yeah, it’s also I find that if you actually focus and if you manage to design your business so that you are focusing on your highest level of contribution and actually make a difference, it makes it much easier to deal with things when business gets a bit more difficult, when things are tough, when you hit a wall somewhere. I always keep this in mind. My wife is an oncologist, so I’m always aware of the fact that she’s the one that’s got a real job. Because she has to do some really, really difficult things and it’s been nearly 20 years in training to become a consultant and everything. But I think she’s only able to deal with all that because what she does actually matters.
Stuart: Sure. No, absolutely. Yeah, it’s very interesting actually. I went to a room recently, went to a property seminar just to see if I could meet some interesting people and I suddenly realized that … I mean, I may be being unfair to that world, but certainly that room. There were a lot of people who said, “We’re going to make a lot of money and we may help a few people along the way.” The world that I make sure I keep in is, “We’re going to help a lot of people and we may make money along the way.” Hopefully a lot of money, but actually the helping people is the important part for me certainly.
Pieter: Yeah, as a point of focus. If we move on then to your business specifically, how do you make sure your business is always getting better?
Stuart: Okay so there’s kind of three things really that I’d say that I do. One of those is constant growth of myself. I’ve had it a couple of times where the success of the business has overtaken my capacity to take that success and it’s a real, constant growth of myself. My mindset and my habits essentially. Second thing is definitely to make sure I’m always hanging around with the right people. There’s the saying if you’re the most successful person in the room then find a different room. If you’re the smartest guy in the room, find smarter people and that’s what I’ve always done. And also, because my profile is that sort of when, where and how about what I do, I’ve made sure that I’m in a mastermind group. And I’ve made sure in that group there’s a kind of mechanic there who is a creative systems guy, there’s a creator in there and the sort of people who will help me to put names on things, put products together. Because I know how they’ll work, but I don’t necessarily have a thing built out of it. So they’re helping me out.
And the third thing I think is a habit I’ve picked up. Probably some of the listeners have been in the Entrepreneurs Circle or have been aware of the Entrepreneurs Circle. It’s a habit I picked up from there, actually, around 2013. The key thing is actually doing the stuff, which again … I had someone say to me a few years ago, “Only 5% of people are successful, so the chances are you’re not going to be successful,” and-
Pieter: That’s not a very good way to look at life though, is it?
Stuart: I strongly believe that we self-select into the 5% and we do that because 20% of people do the learning and do the reading and of those, 20% of them do the stuff. And so I’ve self-selected into that 5% by essentially disappearing into my bat cave at 8 o’clock every morning and not coming out until I’ve done 90 minutes on my business. Whatever that is. Whether it’s writing sales letters, whether it’s getting clients, whether it’s planning. Just something on my business every day. Whatever else is going on in my world, my client’s world, it’s that habitual building of my own business.
Pieter: Yeah and that’s really powerful because you almost take a snapshot of the day that nobody else has access to. Once you’ve done that, it doesn’t really matter what else happens. I mean I do mine quite early in the morning, because it’s before the kids get up, before the house gets noisy. I mean at the moment as I sit here I’m actually in the playroom because we’re having work done on the house. So I’ve been kicked out of my office. I do all of that before they get up and what it means is I’ve achieved something before the rest of the day takes over.
Stuart: Absolutely. So many people fall out of bed and check their email. That’s an absolute killer. You know, fall out of bed and get something done and then allow the rest of the world to mess up your day, because you actually don’t care at that point.
Pieter: Yeah and certainly as soon as you start looking at email and everything then you lose control of the day very quickly.
Stuart: That’s right. I’d say they’re probably the biggest things that I do. So growing myself, making sure I’m always hanging around with the right people and that habitual getting stuff done, I guess.
Pieter: Yeah. I think one of the secrets to the getting stuff done is lots of people make the mistake of focusing on, “Well, I’m going to spend the next two days getting this enormous thing done.”
Stuart: Yes, indeed.
Pieter: Distractions creep in and to be fair, you really have two free days that you can dedicate to it. Whereas, if you just chip away at the block every day by a little bit, you’ll be surprised 30 days down the line how much you’ve actually achieved.
Stuart: Absolutely. In my Mastermind group we actually report in daily and we say what we’ve done in our single chunk of getting stuff done in that day. We may do more chunks throughout the day, but we call it chunks of work. It may be just, “I’ve done 45 or 90 minutes” or whatever, “on this specific product that I’m creating.”
I think some people, they don’t like to start unless they know they can finish and that’s where you just look at your definition of finished. So if I have done a solid 45, 60, 90 minutes, whatever, on something, and call that finished for the day, then that can really help you. As you say, you get the really large tasks done.
Pieter: Yeah and it’s quite interesting you say, because I think as business owners one thing we have to do is we have to make piece with the fact things are never finished.
Stuart: Oh, absolutely.
Pieter: Because the moment you think it’s finished, then you’re standing still and the world around you is moving ahead. Nowadays at an enormous pace. Therefore you can’t say, “Well, we’re finished,” because you can be sure that if there’s just one competitor who accepts the fact that they’re never finished, they’ll overtake you in short order.
Stuart: Absolutely. Yeah, interestingly one of the things I’ve picked up recently is I’ve always been interested in Japanese culture and Eastern philosophy and the Japanese have a concept of Wabi Sabi. For me, I would recommend this for anyone who has a perfectionist streak or an OCD streak or a control freak streak. It’s basically the beauty in imperfection. The premise is – and I think this comes from Buddhism as well – that essentially nothing lasts, nothing is finished an nothing is perfect. When you embrace that you can get a lot further than you ever got before.
Pieter: I like that.
Stuart: I used to spend ages parking the car to get it nice and straight and there’s all sorts of things that I used to do and now I just sort of rock into the space, leave it wonky and just mutter, “Wabi Sabi” and just leave the car. It saves so much time and energy and brain power. It’s great.
Pieter: Life’s too short to park perfectly.
Pieter: For you moving forward, growing your business, what would you say is a key thing that you’re focused on at the moment?
Stuart: Interestingly I kind of got a bit off track lately and the fascinating thing here is that I fell for the gurus. You know they’re out there all the time offering the magic pills and even the strongest people sometimes kind of go, “Oh, there’s a magic pill, I’ll take that. Everything will be fine.” What I kind of did was got out of line with my own values and my own principles and it’s actually quite amazing how rapidly things can start to fall apart if you go off your authentic path. Very much recently I’ve hired myself a coach – a couple of months ago. I truly believe in the power of coaching so I’d be very hypocritical if I didn’t hire a coach. We can’t coach ourselves.
What we’ve been working on is me getting everything in line with my values. That authentic self, agan, it’s 80/20, because when you are yourself it takes a lot less energy to do anything. But sometimes finding yourself is the hard part. I truly believe that we’re all doing the right thing, what we believe is the right thing. But we have three influences which is our blueprint, which is the stuff we’ve picked up from growing up. Things we’ve seen and modeled, things we’ve been taught, things that parents, siblings, teachers, people of influence have drummed into us without us knowing. And then there’s the environment around us. If we’re in the wrong rooms or trying to sell snow to Eskimos as it were, then things aren’t going to work. The other thing is the ego, which is essentially your idea of who you are, which may not be in line with who you really are.
I think when you get those three things out of the way and genuinely be who you are without worrying about what others are going to think and allowing yourself to let go of your blueprint, things just become so much easier and you start attracting people who think along the same lines as you, who get what you do and how you do it.
Pieter: Okay, that’s sounds really good. I’ll put you on the spot here then. I’m going to make an assumption about what one of them is – and maybe I’m wrong – but if you could recommend anyone three business books, what would you recommend? I’m slightly selfish in having this question as part of the podcast because I tend to buy books at a much faster rate than I read them. But I then always end up reading the right book at the right time.
Stuart: That is fascinating that you say that because as I’m thinking here I’m thinking there are certain books that you need to be at the right level to accept the book. One example – and this isn’t a recommendation actually – but a great example is The Power of Now, which I’ve made three or four false starts on it. I’ve read it and I thought, “Oh what an idiot. What’s he writing about? He’s talking rubbish.” But I knew there’s value in there and I’ve recently picked it up about three or four weeks ago and I am absolutely lapping it up this time.
Pieter: Your perspective changes and that’s the thing I enjoy about audio books is that you can actually … Because we’re all used to listening to music several times. We might watch movies several times over the few years, but it’s very seldom – because of the time it takes – that you actually read a book more than once. Even the ones that really you should read more than once. But because your perspective and where you are in your business, what business you’re in, what you’re struggling with or what successes you’re having, the books are completely different depending on your frame of mind. That’s what I love audible for because you can actually quite easily re-read a book without it taking up that much time.
Stuart: Absolutely. Apart from my books, which I absolutely recommend everyone reads … I have a small [inaudible 00:19:47] of books that I do constantly keep visiting and the first of my recommendations I think is one of those. That is Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv. Eker. I don’t know if you’ve read that or if the listeners have.
Pieter: I have. I’ve actually got my wife reading it at the moment, because one of my big motivations out of it is towards my children. But it will be very hard for me to do that if she hasn’t read it and we don’t do it together.
Stuart: Yeah. No, that makes perfect sense.
Pieter: It won’t work if I’m the only one harping on about it.
Stuart: Yeah, yeah. You got to have support, haven’t you?
Stuart: But you know certainly on that book, each time I read it … It’s probably, I’d say, once every three months I start that one, because it’s quite a small book. It’s easy to get through. Each time I read through it I take away a couple of actions and I’m reading through next time and I go, “You know what? Actually I’m doing that and I’m doing that and I’m doing that. Oh, there’s the next thing to pick up.” Whatever level you’re at, I think it does keep on giving and that’s very much about growing yourself to take your mindset behind your current position so you can then grow the business.
The second recommendation I would say … You know, I’m the 80/20 Guy. This I would say is by one of the 80/20 Gods, who is Perry Marshall. The book is 80/20 Sales and Marketing and it is a really deep look at the sales and marketing aspect of 80/20. It’s absolutely brilliant for figuring out who your audience is, finding out who is going to respond to what you’re offering and where to put your time, money and energy. At the risk of doing myself out of a bit of a job, I would absolutely recommend that people read that. My clients read that and then we talk about the stuff and get it implemented. That’s definitely one I would say. Have you read that one?
Pieter: I have. Actually I read Richard Koch’s book first and probably two or three years before Perry Marshall’s came out. What I really enjoyed about Perry Marshall’s book is that it was the principle, but very specifically applied to a subject.
Pieter: It then gives it a practical application and you can actually start using it rather than 80/20 just being this really nice idea and this principle that we know exists, but we don’t know where to start.
Stuart: Absolutely. As I say, I do the holistic approach so in my book … It’s a very, very short, concise book, but in there it lists ten business problems and says, “You’re only going to read 20% of the book so pick two of those problems, read the chapters and do the stuff.” Again, it’s only a conversation starter but it gets you into the practical bit of 80/20, as you say. I read Richard Koch’s book and it’s kind of dry and it’s kind of scientific. It is brilliant and it’s got everything in there, but it’s not maybe as accessible as the others. I maybe recommend reading a more accessible 80/20 book first and then go in and get the real depth of 80/20 from the 80/20 Principle. It’s Richard Koch’s book, isn’t it?
Pieter: Yeah, yeah.
Stuart: Maybe read that one later.
Third recommendation is The New Psycho Cybernetics which is doctor Maxwell Maltz and the edition I have is edited by Dan Kennedy. I believe there is a newer edition but I’ve not looked into that. For me, Psycho Cybernetics is essentially how to access the subconscious part of your mind. For instance, they talk about the auto success mechanism. If you want to drink a glass of water you say to your brain, “Pick up glass of water,” and your brain deals with which muscles need to move, which senses need to see if they’re holding the glass without crushing it and all that stuff. You can actually use that part of the brain for doing a lot more than we think we can. It talks about useful habits. It talks about de-hypnosis – so getting over the habits we have that we think we’re stuck with – about getting over those.
I mean I have a really interesting story. One of the things that he talks about is the theater of the mind and mental rehearsal. I took up archery in September. I did a have-a-go session in July and went, “You know what? This is for me.” It’s fabulous. I’ll tell you what, I’ve learned more about myself and business from archery than I’ve learned from a lot of other sources. When you’re shooting at a target you have to not desire to hit too much because otherwise you’ll miss.
Anyway, that’s another story. But what was interesting is my last shoot-up last year was around December – probably the 18th. The club then shut down for Christmas. I then actually put my back out over Christmas and it ended up that my next shoot day was somewhere around mid February. I’d only had maybe three months of learning up to that point – up to the point when the club shut. But what I did, I used psycho-cybernetics and I rehearsed in my mind what is the perfect shot sequence and feel the arrow going onto the string, feel the bow coming up, feel the draw, feel every part of it and then feel the perfect release. So I’d the three months of learning and then maybe two months off. You’d think everything was going to go horribly wrong. I actually shot a personal best on my first shoot back, because essentially mental rehearsal is almost as good as real rehearsal.
Pieter: Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s in Secrets of the Millionaire mind that he also … It might be in other books as well. But our brains actually can’t distinguish between imagined experience – like self-visualized experience – and actually having the experience.
Pieter: Therefore we build neurological pathways and strengthen those pathways even just through visualization. Now I don’t think I’d take it as far as … My younger brother is a classical pianist. With the best will in the world I can sit in my lounge and imagine myself playing piano for as long as I like. It’s not actually going to get me very far.
Pieter: With the basis of actually doing it, visualization can really support and develop that, because to a certain extent you are just fooling your brain into thinking it is happening.
Stuart: That’s right. I think the key there is the clarity of knowing what to rehearse. If you’ve never done it you can’t make it up, but if you’ve done it and succeeded to some extent, you can then begin to imagine what the perfect sequence would look like. So no, absolutely. And interestingly the auto-success mechanism is also the auto-failure mechanism. If you’re always looking for doom and gloom, you will find it.
A really interesting thing – as a leisure activity you might say – I used to be fascinated by dash cam videos on YouTube. People cutting people up and near-misses and crashes and stuff like that. Just a fun bit of downtime. I suddenly found that whenever I’d been watching a video like that, next time I went driving, more stuff would happen that I didn’t like. I’ve stopped watching them now.
Really, I don’t see how it works, but it does work. What you focus on you will attract.
Pieter: It’s the reticular activator.
Stuart: That’s right.
Pieter: It’s the bit in the brain where you buy yourself a new car and then all of a sudden everyone drives that car. Whereas you hardly noticed them before. Or your wife gets pregnant and all of a sudden everywhere, everyone is pregnant.
Pieter: We pick up on the things we focus on certainly.
Stuart: Yeah. There’s a book – I can’t remember which one it is – where the first chapter is about the Joshua Tree. This person said they’d never heard of a Joshua Tree and never seen one in their life. Then they learn what one was and their next door neighbor had one and they’d been looking at it for 20 years. Could’ve sworn they’d never seen one in their life. It’s crazy, isn’t it?
Pieter: Yeah, then all of a sudden. Well, this has been really good. Thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it.
Stuart: Yeah, no problem.
Pieter: And I’m sure the listeners will get a lot out of this. Just before we go, can you tell people – I’ll put this in the show notes as well – but where can people get hold of you? Where can they find out more about you and learn a bit more?
Stuart: Yeah, sure. The best place to start really is with a free download of my book, the 80/20 Blueprint, which as I say, it’s a conversation starter. It will go into ten problems in business. Pick two and just start thinking about how you can get 80/20 into your daily operations. When you start living it magical things really do start to happen.
To download that, go to my site which is stuartcarter.co.uk. That’s S-T-U-A-R-T Carter .co.uk. And there’s a link at the top of that page which has little stars around it saying “free book.” If they go there, sign up and they will get their free download. Or they can go and buy it on Amazon if they want it or download a free PDF copy of it there. That’s probably the best place to start. They can find out how I show up and get some goodies from me for free.
Pieter: Okay. Well that’s great. Thank you very much for that and with that we’ll come to the end and have a great week.
Stuart: Thanks very much and you … Thank you very much for inviting me on. It’s been a real pleasure chatting with you.
Pieter: No problem. It’s been really good and we shall speak soon.
Stuart: Great stuff. Thank you. Bye-bye.
Pieter: Thanks. Bye-bye.
Author: Pieter K de Villiers
Pieter K de Villiers is slightly obsessed with systems. The systems and process automation he builds for small businesses are transformative, to say the least. Pieter is a Co-Founder of Barefoot Digital and the Amazon best-selling author of “Barefoot Business: 3 key systems to attract more leads, win more sales and delight more customers without your business killing you”.