Q & A

One on One with Jonathan

Barbara “Hello Jonathan, and welcome to Hello Darlink TV. Thank you for being my special guest today.”

Jonathan “Thank you very much. It’s good to be here”

Barbara “Jonathan, you were said to be born with a silver stainless steel spoon in your mouth, yet at the age of 19 you dined with the Queen. Can you tell us about the experience?”

Jonathan “I went to the army straight after I left school and I was on exchange with the British academy. At the time I was there I had dinner with the Queen between 6 o’clock  and nine o’clock in Windsor Castle in a private room. It was quite intimate like we’re talking now. And this was 1982 so it was the days of Diana and Princess Fergie, so I was told to keep things very businesslike. We discussed Western Australia and her visits here because she had been here three or four times.”

Barbara “Do you remember the menu?”

Jonathan “Fish, with vegetables and we had some cheesecake for desert and there was no alcohol. The duke wasn’t there, it was just the two of us, and the corgis.”

Barbara “You mentioned you were in the military. Did the military experience influence the direction of your leadership today and your outlook on business?”

Jonathan “Very much, and [it] still does. I think the key thing is to be really mission focussed. I don’t sweat the small stuff that will tend to look after itself. There can be a maze of issues in front of you, [but you need to] identify the key one and focus your attention. The second thing was really learning the power of delegation. A Colonel doesn’t do a Corporal’s job, a Sargent doesn’t do a Captains job. You can micromanage other people, it’s a sure way to stifle any of their inventiveness and innovation, so give people the direction to get on with the job that they had to do and give them the trust to do that.”

Barbara “You still have to do a certain portion of micromanagement to be able to trust and delegate. Micromanagement is seen as very negative and yet I believe in the right portion is unavoidable and recommended.  What do you think?”

Jonathan “I think you need to monitor. I think monitoring is a very natural leadership [value]  to understand what someone is doing. Watching and monitoring what someone is doing so you can intervene when things go wrong. But I also think it’s about personal bearing of fitness, it was something that the army was always strong on. You must present yourself as a leader, you must look like a leader and I think that’s probably the third aspect is your bearing and your grooming and your disposition as a person to win respect of the people who work for you. “

Barbara “You are very passionate about buying and selling businesses, I’m quoting you in saying ‘The key is not running your business, its preparing for your exit from the day you buy It.’ Tell us about the most successful business ventures you’ve had under this direction?

Jonathan “I’ve had four businesses now, Tint-a-car which is by far the biggest, Croissant Express, Parkside Towbars, and now TCE. I think that the first was the most successful because it was the biggest, and ironically it was the one where I knew the least about business because I had just left the army. I think it is true to some extent that a business is there to be sold, and you should not become so involved in that business that the buyer will detract value from it. What I try to do with my businesses is after 2 or 3 years, I try to remove myself from the business so that if someone wants to buy that business it can get its maximum value. You maximise a businesses value by the owner who will no longer be there, being the least of importance to the business.”

Barbara “You were talking about your first business Tint-a-car where you raised 18 million dollars when you were 36. How did you do it?

Jonathan “The short story is that a friend of mine said to me that I should buy this business and I took his advice and read up on management buyout (MBO). I convinced an investment bank that I was the person to back for this. Then I made an offer to the owners with not one red cent to my name, but I had the confidence that we could raise the money. At first, they said no to me, in fact they were very annoyed at me because I had only just started working with them, but then they started to get used to the idea that maybe this was a really good way to sell the business. We did raise 12 million dollars of debt from Bankwest and then equity came in from the South African Investment Bank and that’s how we came up with the other 6 million dollars and we bought the business. That business was then sold for around 60 million dollars 4 years later.”

Barbara “You are now the managing director of TCE; can you explain to our readers what you do and what you’re about?”

Jonathan “TCE is a registered training organisation called an RTO, effectively that means you’re like a private TAFE. What TCE does is it has an approved scope from the government to deliver a range of courses in the mining, logistics, and warehouse sector. For example, elevator work platform, forklift, first aid, white card, basically one- or two-day tickets so this is short term training. Its not two weeks of training, its two days from 7.30am until 4pm every day. It’s quite compressed.”

Barbara “And your currently also working with job seekers?”

Jonathan “About 6.7% of the working population of Australia is unemployed, about 700,000 West Australians and they’re on Centrelink, and they could be any age. About 25% of my customers are job seekers. I started thinking is there a way I can help these people, not just train them but [help them] get a job because when I’m not talking to jobseeker agencies I’m talking to Linfox, or the ABN Group and they’ve got a demand for staff. I thought is there a way I can bring these two organisations together. Now I actually take job seekers and help them write a resume or show them how to do a job interview because a lot of the unemployed they’ve been out of work their confidence is down, so they have no chance of getting a job.”

Barbara “What makes TCE different from other companies?”

Jonathan “You can’t just get in front of jobseekers [with] PowerPoint slides and think they’re going to absorb that training. Research shows that kinaesthetic training is much better. For example, we get the job seekers to have a soccer ball and they pass it amongst each other  and the question is what the start-up checks for a forklift are, what’s the process of starting up a forklift. We write that on a soccer ball and they’ll pass it to each other and read it out and the trainer will basically be guiding them and ask them what they think. When they sit down and do the theory test it’s in their brain because they were doing it physically no more than 5 minutes ago as opposed to a slide that they might remember that was an hour ago.”

Barbara “What forms of new training would you like to be involved in?”

Jonathan “You know when you drive around the road and you can see traffic management guys directing traffic, obviously that’s huge now. I remember 3 or 4 years ago that didn’t happen, now wherever you go you’ve got your lollipop signs, witches’ hats on the roads, so that’s a training area id like to get into.

I also think that India represents a massive [opportunity]. You go to India and there’s no training at all. India have 1.2 billion people and slowly and surely [the Government] are introducing a VET sector, and the Australian government have been very good at introducing the Australia VET system to India, meaning like Certificate I and III, diplomas. That means that our VET sector will be completely matching to India so take a city like Pune, 6 million people – not even a major city of India, how many fork lift schools, how many Working Heights schools [can be] there.

Barbara “What is the time frame? When would you see the company expanding to India?”

Jonathan “I would like to see myself owning or operating a training school in Pune within 2 years. And the key ingredient I’m watching is Worksafe. If you saw a building site in Perth and it didn’t have any scaffolding around it, that site would be closed down within 4 hours. In India you need an inspector walking around with the ability to close a site down because it’s not safe.  As soon as the government starts funding these sorts of inspectors, then the game will change. I’d like to see TCE have 2 to 4 sites operating in India in major cities and focussing on courses like forklift, first aid, elevator platform. I would also like 80% of my income now overseas, and that I have 150 staff working for me within the next 5-10 years.”

Barbara “TCE are currently supporting the Juwest Men In Black Ball as a corporate sponsor. The annual Men in Black Ball is in support of men’s mental health and suicide prevention. How does the philosophy of your company relate to men’s mental health particularly?

Jonathan “90% of our students are male, so straight way there was a gender connection. Secondly, almost all our guys come from working blue collar sectors, and the rate of men’s mental health and even suicide amongst men working in these are very high. With many of our courses, safety is critical. One of those aspects of safety is one’s mental approach to their work. Every year people get killed using this equipment and sometimes it’s because their mind is somewhere else, or they make a simple error because of a lack of sleep, or because of fatigue, so we have to help people identify ways to operate their equipment safely, its probably the most important thing we do.”

Barbara “You are also the founder of the Hard Hat Foundation, tell me about the foundation.”

Jonathan “Now that I have this training company, and I was going to Bali all the time and I was seeing all of these workers in Bali without any foot ware, hard hats, no protection at all and climbing around these buildings without any safety equipment. Yet all these fantastic hotels we stay at, and I wondered what the cost of that in terms of human was lives and injuries. I decided 3-4 years ago to help some of the workers up there by simply giving them a hard hat and a Hi-Vis vest. I go to Bali about every 3-6 months now and we go to the building sites and are slowly working with the building companies to give those workers their equipment. I’m hoping that my customers will go to Bali and see the Hard Hat Foundation at work and [say] oh that’s the company I did my forklift training with, and then hopefully they’ll come back and use the business.”

Barbara “Thank you so much for being my guest and having such a wonderful conversation with me. All the best for the future, and I’m looking forward to the updates.”

Jonathan “It was my pleasure, thank you.”

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