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February 26, 2018

IPOs, ups & downs, and balance

In this episode of the show, Shelley Rogers, CEO of Maxum Corporation, shares her experience of taking a company public in North America, what happened when things didn't go to plan, what she learned and how she picked herself up again to successfully grow and sell a second business. She has a lot of wisdom to share - watch and learn.

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Shelley Rogers, Maximum Corporation

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Interview Transcript

Mark Engelmann: Hello everyone, welcome to this episode of the Go For Growth Show. My name is Mark Engelmann and I will be your host today. On today's show, we've got Shelley Rogers with us. She's the CEO of Maxum Corp. Welcome to the show Shelley.

Shelley Rogers: Thank you so much for having me Mark.

Mark Engelmann: No worries. Shelley, you've had a pretty stellar career, and a very interesting career to date. But before you tell us your story, I'd love you to explain what your current projects are.

Shelley Rogers: Well, I don't know stellar is the correct word. I think I've had a roller coaster whirlwind of a career, but some of the interesting projects that I have going on right now is me and my husband are really big on diversification. We're both entrepreneurs. Both risk takers, so we both find that diversification is really, really important. We have a few things going on. Actually, last month I helped launch a skin care company here in Australia, so that's pretty exciting. Also, I was appointed a trainer for the Entrepreneurs Organisation Accelerator Programme, and I love that programme. I wish I would've had it when I started my career back in ... Gosh, 1994. It's just about helping other entrepreneurs grow their businesses and scale.

Shelley Rogers: Basically the businesses in that programme start around $250,000 and we're getting them up to the $1 million dollar mark. And I got a new start up coming online here soon. I don't want to give out too much details. It's kind of a secret, but it's called People Steps, and it's a platform to help  entrepreneurs manage their people better. That's a few of the things going on.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah. Busy, busy lady. Shelley, it's obviously no secret. You haven't lived in Australia all your life. In fact, most of your career has been based in Canada. Can you tell me about where you started and your journey?

Shelley Rogers: Absolutely. Yes, I grew up in a very small town in Northern Alberta. Very cold. I started my career back in 1994. Actually, an electronic recycling company. Everybody says, "Oh my gosh. How did you get involved in that?" It was interesting. My mother worked for the government telephone company back then, and they were looking for companies to outsource what they called the Investment Recovery Edition, which is anything that they took out of service, all of their telecom products, they wanted a company to help them recycle that. That's kind of how

I got started. Good on the contract. I really had no idea what I was doing. There was no strategy. I think underbid everybody, so I won the contract. It was a long-term ... I think it was a three year contract with a two year renewal. Basically, what we did was we would remove their equipment, we would sort it, and we would then send it in containers to China for recycling.

Shelley Rogers: I had contacts through my mother's husband because he was a scrap dealer at the time for buyers in China. The model was brilliant because I got paid for the equipment before the container left. They would then recycle it back into the basic components in China, and I didn't have to pay for the product from the telephone companies for about 45 days after the fact. Cash flow positive from day one. Not much competition. We expanded across Canada over the next five years, and really enjoyed some fast growth, and blue ocean I guess would be the word for that company.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah, wow. Very interesting. You said you didn't really ... You kind of just bid on this contract, and didn't really have much of a strategy. It sounds all very entrepreneurial, and flying by the seat of your pants kind of thing. How did your strategy develop and grow with that business? I see you started off with no sort of strategy, but that I'm sure must've changed pretty early on in the pace?

Shelley Rogers: I think what I did very well was I never said no. Anytime ... And my customer service to my clients were top-notch. I had a really good pulse on what they required. I did ... I was very good at saving them money, or saving them time.

Mark Engelmann: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Shelley Rogers: I kept developing different programmes for them. For instance, probably about eight months after we started the recycling, I was getting all this product that was still really, really good quality, and some of it was actually brand new still in the packaging. I went back to the telephone company. I said, "If
sending me this stuff that could be reused, can I start a consignment programme for you?" They said, "Absolutely. Just as long as you don't sell to our competitors in Canada." I developed a lot of relationships with the smaller mom-and- pop telephone companies in the US, and they loved the product because the  government products were well maintained, and obviously selling in US, which was another bonus for me, and paying for the equipment in Canadian dollars. The consignment programme, again, was another cash positive incentive in my business that did really well, and made my clients extra millions of dollars versus just recycling for pennies on the pound, or pennies per pound, yeah.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah.

Shelley Rogers: That kind of transposed, and then we grew kind of ... Kind of grew across Canada, and it was probably about the seven year mark where we realised that the markets were changing, competition was coming in, there was ... Started realising that shipping the containers to China wasn't an environmentally friendly option because they weren't handling the products correctly, so there was a 60 minute video that was released for interview on child labour in China, people using acid baths to melt the plastic off the cables to get to the copper wires. We realised that we need to start recycling our products in Canada or North America. That came with purchasing a lot of expensive machinery and equipment to do it in a cost efficient way, otherwise the labour cost would've killed us. We decided to take the company public.

Shelley Rogers: At this point, we're probably ... Oh gosh, what year was that? That was probably 2002, and we had acquired two companies. One in Canada, one in the Silicon Valley. We had opened up an operation in Mexico City, we had a joint venture in Chile, and we had sales offices all across Canada. We were probably creeping up to 100 staff at that time.

Mark Engelmann: Wow.

Shelley Rogers: Yeah. We did an IPO, raised about $3 million dollars, and we're looking to bring in some venture capital about at the $8 million dollar mark when the wheels on the bus kind of fell off really quickly. We went from winning tonnes of awards to small business of the year, women of vision, to basically cash crunching, not raising the extra $8 million that we needed, the plant ... We ordered a $2 million dollar plant from Germany, and it was on the water on its way over, and we cash crunched. We had a CFO that presented about five or six false letters of intents, he was also starting to pocket money into his personal
bank account funnelled from our accounts, and yeah it was devastating. It was devastating. I learned so much though.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah.

Shelley Rogers: But at that point in time, I lost my business, we ended appointing a receiver, I lost a lot of friends who invested.

Mark Engelmann: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Shelley Rogers: But I think most of the biggest thing was I lost my energy. I went into full depression, I was just completely exhausted at that point in time. It was a big disappointment, but from disappointments come amazing learning and, I think the best thing that I ... The best advice I had was from a friend of mine
that was in my forum, and he said, "Shelley, it's not how hard you fall, it's how fast you get up."

Mark Engelmann: Yeah.

Shelley Rogers: Yeah. It took me about a year to dust off, and then I started again.

Mark Engelmann: Wow. That's an amazing experience to go through. Like you said, you've learned so much from that. How has that sort of changed your approach to growing businesses, and business in general?

Shelley Rogers: That was definitely a business that we scaled for an exit strategy. My next few businesses were a lifestyle business. I started up the next one was called Top Flight, which was more focused just on buying and refurbishing electronic products not so much on recycling. We outsource that, and I focused more on a balanced lifestyle because that's what I was lacking when I had the public company. I focused on my kids. My kids were raised by nannies when I had my first company. I focused on my health. Started with personal trainers, and running, and I made sure that I wasn't working 60 to 80 hours a week. It was all for a more balanced lifestyle. You can have all the money in the world, but if you're not happy really, money doesn't bring happiness.

Shelley Rogers: For me it was about spending quality time with the people and relationships that meant a lot to me, and I did grow that business, and sold it to one of the largest independent leasing companies in the world, and I now moved to Australia. Enjoying the weather here I have to say, and another start up. Another few start ups actually.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah. Often when we speak to entrepreneurs, a lot of them talk about how they love the challenge of business and growing businesses, and they're working sort of 60, 70, 80 hours a week isn't like a negative for them. It's something that they've just ... Just fuels their passion for their business. How did you kind of short circuit that feeling to them be able to create that work/life balance?

Shelley Rogers: Well, the biggest Aha moment for me was when I came home from work, my son was in his pyjamas. I think he was probably seven? Six, seven, somewhere around there. Maybe six. Yeah, anyways he ran to the door, and he's like "Mommy, mommy, mommy, did you get the money today?" I just fell to my knees, dropped my briefcase, and I just thought "Oh my god, here's my child ..."

Mark Engelmann: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Shelley Rogers: "... Worried about if I got the money today." That kind of was the kicker for me, and always plays back in my mind when ... I mean, as an entrepreneur we all struggle with that.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah.

Shelley Rogers: I mean it's not the easiest thing. You want to ... You're just wired to do more.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah.

Shelley Rogers: And better. That's the little voice in the back of my head that keeps me balanced, and today I'm very, very strict with my calendar, so I go over everything in 20 minute increments. My husband and I have shared calendars, we have colour coded ... Our workouts are in red. They're pretty much never moved. Everything is scheduled around what we have planned for the year, our holidays, everything. When it's in the calendar, it's pretty much not being moved, especially if it's family events, and another thing that I've done that has been really helpful for time management is I use an app called Focus Time. Basically,
what I do is a 20 to 35 minute sprint in the morning before the kids are even ... They get back from our morning ritual walk, and I do a 20 to 35 minute sprint, and it's timed with this Focus Time, and I pick the biggest thing of the day that I want to get accomplished, and it's amazing because I'm kind of a perfectionist.

Mark Engelmann: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Shelley Rogers: When you see that time burn, it's counting down how much you can get done in that short little bit of time, and just go "You know what? I need to get this done within this time frame."

That's been something that's also been really helpful for me on time management.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah. I've recently, I guess gone down a similar path, and my new mindset is that "You know what? The work will always get done, so why prioritise it?"

Shelley Rogers: There you go.

Mark Engelmann: There's a whole bunch of stuff in your life that never gets done like fitness, and health, and family time. Shouldn't that be what's prioritised?

Shelley Rogers: Yeah.

Mark Engelmann: It's very similar I think. What's ... How ... You've had some setbacks in your career. What's your advice to our listeners on this show about managing those setbacks in their businesses? How do you get back up and fight the good fight?

Shelley Rogers: For me, the biggest thing that really helped me was I was a member of the Entrepreneurs Organisation. Now I'm a trainer for them, but back then I had ... I think I started with EO right about the time I was scaling up my public company. I remember doing a presentation to them Go Big or Stay Home, so it was like go public or stay as a private company. But after the fact when everything went into shambles, I leaned on them.

Mark Engelmann: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Shelley Rogers: It was ... I had about eight ... There was nine of us in this forum, and they really helped me get through it because it was devastating. I was in full depression, I felt like a failure, I gave these clients that I've been doing business with for years, and years. Trusted clients my word that they were going to get paid, and it was emotionally devastating. I guess my advice is to try and find like-minded people, try and find a group of people that will support you, help you get through it because it is ... There was some dark moments. There was a lot of times where I didn't want to get out of bed.

Mark Engelmann: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Shelley Rogers: It was the help of the forum that really gave me the encouragement to start again. That came harder. It's not how hard you fall, it's how fast you get up.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah.

Shelley Rogers: I think learning, it's ... What's important is to just ... I say every day is a school day.

Mark Engelmann: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Shelley Rogers: I'm learning every day, and we learn from our mistakes. Now I encourage to fail fast. The faster you fail, the quicker you learn.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah.

Shelley Rogers: Just be agile, and implement a change, and go for growth.

Mark Engelmann: Awesome. Let's talk about Maxum Corporation. Can you tell us a little bit about Maxum Corporation and what it's doing for its customers.

Shelley Rogers: Yeah, so when I sold my company in Canada, I moved here. I tried to retire, and I got bored. I wanted to give back and help other  entrepreneurs grow their businesses. It's a company where I do mentoring, coaching, and now facilitating larger groups to help scale their business. With the entrepreneurs accelerator programme we specifically are working with the scaling up Vern Harnish's Tools. We focus four learning days. One around people, hiring the right people, getting them in the right seats in your company. We focus on strategy, execution, and cashflow. These are the four things that we focus on to scale up the businesses. Yeah. Another thing that I'm doing right now that's really fun is I'm helping companies expand from here in Australia to North America. I'm working two product based companies right now to help them grow and expand internationally, so that's pretty cool too.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah, awesome. It sounds like you're sort of like the circle of life from a high growth start up to ...

Shelley Rogers: It's so cool when you can see clearly where you can tweak a strategy to make a huge difference, and I think that would be ... If I was to give advice to entrepreneurs starting out, or startup companies in the younger 25 employees or less, it's just nailing your strategy, and make sure you have the right people whether it's the board of directors, or if it's just a group of people helping you with strategy, and ... Wow, Steve Jobs spent most of his afternoons with his customers, and he had a three hour meeting ... Marketing meeting once a week, basically aligning his strategy with marketing.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah.

Shelley Rogers: You should be spending 10 hours a week on your strategy, tweaking it, improving it, making sure that you got that right so you can scale.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah. Totally. Look, my next question is all about top growth tips for business owners looking to take their business to the next level, and I think you've already answered that with that little gem. Do you have any other kind of tips for people that are kind of ... They might be plateauing in their business, or just looking for the next kind of direction to take it?

Shelley Rogers: I think top tips A) would be strategy.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah.

Shelley Rogers: B) Get your systems. Get them in place, make them sexy. Hire the right people and tie them to your core values. If you don't have people that share your core values, you're not going to have an aligned culture.

Mark Engelmann: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Shelley Rogers: And work on the business. If you have your system set up, you

can work on the business, and not in the business.

Mark Engelmann: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Shelley Rogers: Those will probably be my top four nuggets of how to scale.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah, cool. My last question, are there any sort of innovative tools, or new pieces of technology, or services that you've been using lately that have really made your life easier, or made things smoother in your business? Anything like that?

Shelley Rogers: I'm inundated with tech tips because of my podcast Inspiring Greatness. I ask my guests that question each week what technology tools do you find useful. Oh my gosh, I can go on, and on, and on, but one that I've been using lately that has saved me a tonne of time is Blinkist. B-L- I-N- K-I- S-T. Basically, it is an app that summarises books for you, and you can also get it in audio form so they can actually read you the books, or you can listen to it in audio because I ask that question to my guests as well to name a favourite book.

Mark Engelmann: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Shelley Rogers: Blinkist helps me keep up with some of the books that I love to read, and a couple with cashflow that were recommended that are pretty cool if you're struggling for cash is Captify.

Mark Engelmann: Okay.

Shelley Rogers: Where you can access between $5000 and $1 million in funding for your business really, really quick. It can be in your account for just within a couple of days. That one was a recommendation. I log the focus time, and yeah. There's so many out there. It's just sticking to ones that work for you.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah, totally. All right Shelley. Thank you for your time. Ti's been great chatting.

Shelley Rogers: Thank you Mark. It was awesome to be on your podcast.

Mark Engelmann: Awesome. Thank you.

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