Shane Bradley has a reputation as one of New Zealand’s hardest working young entrepreneurs and is the founder and CEO of GrabOne, New Zealand’s leading group buying site. Growing up in Rotorua, Shane left school after sixth form and started his first business two years later. Prior to starting GrabOne in July 2010, he founded Finda in 2004 and Sella in 2008, both of which were subsequently acquired by media giant APN.
Leadership expert Gilly Chater, hit Shane with 10 questions on entrepreneurship and leadership.
Gilly Chater: How old were you when you started your first business and what was the business? Was it successful?
Shane Bradley: I was 19 when I started. It was an aluminium joinery business. It was successful for about 3.5 years with it getting up to about 45 employees. I got hit with a large number of bad debts and that made the business impossible to continue.
GC: Do you think anyone can learn to be a successful entrepreneur? Why or Why not?
SB: Anyone can be successful, but they have to be prepared to put in the hard yards to be successful. Just like a person doesn’t just turn up and hope to run a 3 hour marathon without the training, a person shouldn’t expect a business to be successful just because they start it.
GC: When it comes to decision making, how much do you rely on gut instinct as opposed to logic, and why?
SB: I tend to reply on gut feel, but also on the fact that for any decision I have to make, I would have thought of every possible angle for it to go good or bad. I think a lot and don’t sleep a hell of a lot so its good thinking time! The biggest thing I do is I don’t stuff around making the decisions. I’d rather fail fast than procrastinate.
GC: You’ve started a wide range of businesses over the years – most recently Finda, Sella and GrabOne – where do you get your business ideas from and how do you know when you’ve got a good one?
SB: I’ve always wanted to be in business, both my parents are self employed and have been for as long as I can remember, so its in the blood you could say! The ideas for online businesses come from looking around the world and seeing what’s happening in other markets then bringing some of that learning and tailoring it to the kiwi culture.
GC: Sooner or later all entrepreneurs are confronted with personal challenges they have never faced before. What has been the biggest personal lesson you’ve had to learn as an entrepreneur?
SB: Going broke at age 23! It tests your mettle, but I made a promise to myself that I would be back in business for myself within one year. A lot of people may have given up, but for me that wasn’t an option.
GC: In your leadership role as Founder and CEO of GrabOne, what is the most important focus for you?
SB: Focusing on the next leaders coming through. We have 130 Grabsters now (staff) and for me a lot of time is focused on working with my senior team to identify and retain great people. People make businesses, lots of businesses forget that.
GC: And what is your strategy for retaining talent in your companies?
SB: In a nutshell, treat them with respect, be honest and truthful in all dealings with them.
GC: How do you develop your people to become leaders?
SB: Empower them to make their own decisions. I give them the freedom to be able to make mistakes and not worry about losing their job over it. Always try new things, if some don’t work, don’t do them again, but if we aren’t failing we aren’t pushing hard enough.
GC: When things get tough and you feel like giving up, what do you do to hang in there?
SB: I never give in, fullstop. Giving up is not even in my vocabulary.
GC: What is your secret to having a successful personal life, as well as being a successful entrepreneur and business person?
SB: I believe everyone can focus on and be successful in two things – anymore and one of the three tends to be left out. For me that’s business and most importantly my family. I don’t focus on much else. I’m lucky that business for me is not work, it’s as much a hobby as anything. I am also lucky that I have an amazingly supportive wife and two beautiful daughters who make any tough day a good day.