Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Stephen and Donna Fry (@stephenfry) Stephen and Donna went to School together in country South Australia in the late ‘70s/early 80s, but never spoke a word to each other at School. After School, they each went their own way, Stephen moving to Adelaide for University and Donna starting a career in Administration.
They both got married in their early 20s, had four children each and carried on with their lives. In 2012, they started conversing via Facebook Messenger and discovered that they had a similar story of failed marriage. Through conversation they found that they had the same mindset and thinking about a lot of things. They decided to meet and became good friends.
Then in 2015 they got married. At the time of getting married, Stephen and Donna realised that what they were doing in their lives was not going to get them to where they wanted to go, so a change was necessary.
They sought quality mentorship and were introduced to a couple who were successful in all areas of life. In fact, they were living the kind of lifestyle that Stephen and Donna knew they wanted.
They drove 9 hours to meet this couple and after many conversations, they agreed to take Stephen and Donna under their wings and coach and mentor them. This started the desire to change which has led to the 366 day journey of meeting someone new every day.
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Miko Santos (03:46):
Welcome to the Auspod syndicate bootstrap podcast and Auspod syndicate. How are you today?
Miko Santos (03:58):
The first question is, want to know is your story’s a little bit long. So it’s been a while since in the early seventies and eighties, and then separate ways, but come back again together. So the first question is that is why did you started this 366 day journey of meeting someone every day, even once a week, it’s hard for me, but how did you do it? And what is the mission while you’re doing it?
Stephen and Donna Fry (04:41):
They’re not very good question because it all started when Donna and I got married to give you the bit of the backstory, because there is a motivation for it. So we’re not her. And I got married. We are realized that climbing the corporate ladder, isn’t going to get me where I want to become quite obvious what happened, where we were retiring from.
Stephen and Donna Fry (05:04):
But at 50 years of age, you look at each other, well, what, what can we do? What are we going to do? So we spent 12 months looking at franchises. We looked at every franchise we could possibly think of in Adelaide, we had a franchise broker and that ended up being a very, I guess, scary disappointing process of thinking that this might have been an option, but everything happens for a reason. And during that process, we were recommended to, you know, look, if we met someone that we knew and he said, look, if you really want to do something different, you really want to learn. What’s addition, guys, speak to this guy that’d be cool. And I said, I’ll follow the way he lives in Melbourne. And that didn’t really phase us too much because we’d already spent 12 months looking that driving to Melbourne to meet someone was really nothing.
Stephen and Donna Fry (05:55):
So we rang up this guy, drove to sat down with him and had a chance to talk to someone that was very successful. And we asked him a number of questions. And one of the questions I asked him was what do, what do we need to do to change on 50 years of age of being an engineer or more life or no nothing else? What do you what’s one thing that you recommend that Donna and I can do starting tomorrow, that we can, we can make a change to move forward. And without literally taking a breath, he just looked at me and he said, you need to read this happened very quickly. But in my mind, this is the thoughts that I had was I thought really read like, surely there’s got to be something I can do other than reading, like a list.
Stephen and Donna Fry (06:41):
When I left university in 1996 or a member on vowed and declared, I’d never read again while I can’t really have done with it after all the years of school. And then he must’ve seen all this going on in my head and he’s just smaller at me. And he said, well, you don’t have to like it. You just have to do it. And he said, here’s some recommended books, go away and read for 15 minutes today. So, and when we took his advice and went away and started reading for 15 minutes a day. And during that we’re working say now, without a doubt, four and a half years later, we’ve learned more in the last five years from not just what we read, but what we’ve applied. Then we’ve learnt the whole 50 years of our life before them. And one of the things that became clear out of that learning was we have to learn how to better communicate with people.
Stephen and Donna Fry (07:36):
If we don’t learn how to build a community, chat with people, then, then you’re not gonna, we’re just going to not grow any further. Or like, it’s just funny. You go to, I go to university to learn how to be an engineer and no one, there’s no courses on, on communicating with people that I’m aware of at university, there’s no cure and a change in one-on-one. You go work for large corporations and you move up the food chain as an engineer. You know, you become managers of people, but the whole corporate structure does not teach people how to communicate with each other. So, so what do you do? So I sat down at the computer one day and thought, maybe there’s an answer in the summer. It’s not taught being, how do you meet strangers? And up popped a story about one of the links was a story about a guy in Seattle in 2016, who went around Seattle every, um, every day for 366 days.
Stephen and Donna Fry (08:34):
Cause I think it was a leap year then as well. And what he did was he just said, a lot of people got a photograph with them and put it on Instagram. And we looked at that and we saw, and we looked at all these people that he met and we thought, geez, that would be a cool idea to meet someone new every day. But then the brain plays on you because you go, you have this thought that goes, man, that would be so cool to meet someone new every day. And then the other part of the brain goes, yeah, but you don’t even like speaking to people and then the other, then you go. Yeah. But wouldn’t that be amazing? Yeah. But where are you going to meet all these people? And these thoughts went on for about 12 months and you know, every now and again would get, that would be such a cool idea.
Stephen and Donna Fry (09:22):
And then all you, but, but James, you know, you got to have time to do that. And then eventually it got to the point where we just looked at each other and we said, we’re either going to attack the stop talking about this, or we’re just going to have to do it. So we decided let’s just start. Let’s just start this and take it one day at a time. So each day we just got to figure out a way to meet someone we’ve never met before and just take it one day at a time. And that’s what helped us get started because if we looked at the end, it would’ve scared us, but we knew what the end was, but we could take it a day at a time. And that’s how we started.
Miko Santos (10:02):
What have you learned from this journey?
Stephen and Donna Fry (10:03):
So, yeah. Yeah, I’ll start if like we, we’ve learned lots of different things. probably some of the first main things we learned most things about ourselves and because we were out sort of physically meeting people and we got lots of different reactions and, and we sort of soon realized that that I guess from those reactions that we sometimes prejudged people you know, that, that became evident with things like because when we were meeting people, we went sort of all around where we lived and we just would say hello to people and keep saying hello to people until someone would stop and speak to us. And but then often, you know, we say hello to someone and they’d look away and keep walking or, you know, you might get a nod or a grunt or something. And, and we’d be like, oh, you know, geez what’s wrong with these people, you know, are they just grumpy or are they rude?
Stephen and Donna Fry (11:00):
Or, and, and then we sort of started to realize that we were just making judgements on people and, and we sort of had a talk about it and said, you know what, we don’t actually know what any of these people are going through. You know, we don’t know what’s happening in their lives and they could be having a bad day. Maybe they had a fight with their boyfriend or girlfriend, you know, maybe someone in their family sick or worse you know, and we really just don’t know what’s happening in their lives. And so we started to realize, and let, let’s not worry about, um, you know, the reactions we get from people, but let’s just sort of, you know, have some grace and say you know, we hope that everything’s okay with that person because that, that was also about tolerance on our part too, because you know, tolerance was another big thing that we had to learn from that because, and I actually, that, that sort of came more through talking to people didn’t that because sometimes when we’d speak to people, you know, we, we start having a conversation and some of the things that they’d say to us work might’ve been different than, than the things that we thought or believed.
Stephen and Donna Fry (12:07):
And we found that when that happened, that was kind of a, kind of an invisible barrier would come up then in our conversation and the conversation would sometimes get awkward. And so we sort of, when we realized things like that were happening, we hadn’t had another discussion say, do you know what, you know, we, can’t sort of, you know, that we’re judging people on their beliefs and thoughts and reactions and we need to learn to be tolerant about what other people think and believe in that, because we would like other people to be tolerant of our beliefs and things like that as well. So that, that was some pretty key learnings that we got in the early days. yeah, because a lot of the times, you know, when we talk to people the other thing was when people didn’t answer or grunted or something, and we’d say, oh, what’s wrong with us.
Stephen and Donna Fry (12:59):
And then, you know, they don’t start, well, that’s just being selfish because why does it have to be about us? You know, I, so lots of things around initially meeting people that we learned and that, and that was some of them on guests there. And what happened was we started out, as I said, physically meeting people, cause we really wanted to learn, how do you meet? You can go into the center of Adelaide in the mall and there’s people everywhere. How are you engaging with people? How do you do that? And that’s what we wanted to learn. So a hundred days into our journey of meeting people then COVID came along and in Adelaide, we were into the lockdown. So our thinking was wasn’t one of our thinking was one of how do we keep this going? So we, we just, we just fell onto the LinkedIn of all things and just started connecting with people and just asking them to catch up.
Stephen and Donna Fry (13:54):
And so the journey continued. So at the end of the 366 days, we did meet someone new every day that we never met before, got a photograph with them or a screenshot put on Instagram or LinkedIn, if that’s, that’s where we connected with them. But in total, we ended up having 786 conversations and we’ve continued the journey on, and we’ve got four more people to meet. And then in total, we would have met a thousand people, which turns out to be about 30,000 minutes of conversations. So we’ve definitely learned, we’ve learnt a lot, but not the same people as we were a year and a half ago.
Miko Santos (14:32):
So that’s a lot of people to meet. So around 1000 people, that’s a lot. So on your journey, I’m assuming you are, most of your people you’re talking is it’s an entreprenuers and a start up as well. When you meeting them, whoa, what were you?
Stephen and Donna Fry (14:46):
Did we, we, the thing that we wanted to learn, because this applies, this applies to whatever you do in life. In particular business, Stephen Covey’s book seven habits of highly effective people, habit five seek first to understand then to be understood that really applies to that I in business, right? Because you know, it’s all about communication with people. First building trust, getting to know someone gone are the days where you could just go and directly sell to people. Now it comes back to building a building high relationship first, how do you do that? Well, you do that by seeking to understand first, before being understood. And that’s not something you just do, it’s a habit you need to develop. And the author, Stephen Covey said always seven habits of highly effective people. That was the hardest one for him to learn.
Stephen and Donna Fry (15:41):
And even after a thousand conversations, we can not slay. We automatically have that habit yet. It’s still because grinding us to want to talk about ourselves and get our point of view across. So we wanted to talk to anybody because we could learn from anyone. So we had all sorts of crazy conversations with people around the world. Every and people have asked us before, who’s the most interesting person to speak to. And the answer to that is, well, everyone’s interesting. Everyone has a story that you and I can learn from . Right, because that’s what makes the conversations very interesting is because there is something you can learn from someone if you ask them enough questions. But the people that we got the most from, which is the type of people that we have share at events that we run are people that have overcome some significant challenges in their life.
Stephen and Donna Fry (16:43):
And because they’re just, we found them very interesting and a lot we can learn from people that like, as an example you know, on our journey of meeting people, we met a guy called Derek McManus is an Adelaide going, I don’t know if you’ve heard of Derek Mcmanus. Yeah, I think on one of the one of the events, I think. Yep. So, Derek, I think he had his 27th year anniversary. So 27 odd years ago he is . SA policemen got called out to a, um, a disturbance at our house. I think in the Barossa valley goes up to the front door in 14, in nine seconds, got shot boarding times point blank range or high-powered rifle. And then he collapses on the ground and knows that he will be saved by scholar officers when it’s safe, which turned out to be three hours light on.
Miko Santos (17:41):
And just to hear someone overcome that and move on in life or Stacey COPAS and other Australian lives in Sydney amazing story, she’s a keynote speaker. As a 12 year old, she was diving in a backyard pool, seeing how she could make the splashes hire one guy one more time. And then she opens her eyes up, finding herself, stuck on the bottom of the pool, not realizing how she got there at the age of 12, she became a quadriplegic and just hearing her story of how God she got after that. But they’ll how she been, got us up out of that. And is now I, I recognized speaker in Australia and looks back and says she wouldn’t change anything because of the person that she’s become you know, or the young guy that we spoke in the UK young guy. And he’s in his twenties when the in the UK army goes to those places where they go army people steps on mine as both his legs blown off.
Stephen and Donna Fry (18:42):
And he has to have them amputated above the knees you know, we spoke to him eight years after that happened and you know, the fact that he’s climbed Mount Kilimanjaro without legs, and it’s a tough mountain to climb. We’ll lead with legs, let alone, without legs and then the most, one of the other interesting guys around was a guy called Jose Flores lives in Florida in the U S he was born and he wasn’t expected to live till he is 20 year. We are speaking to him in his forties. He had, I think it was spinal muscular atrophy. So just one, one civil one gene in his body was different and these muscles were atrophying. So when he left high school, he was confined to a wheelchair and couldn’t lift his arms above his head. And then it gets to a point in his life where he goes, what can I do to make an impact?
Stephen and Donna Fry (19:41):
I’ve only got two things I can speak and I have a mind, what can I do? And he says, well I can become a speaker because why not? Everyone’s. And so, and that’s what he does today here. Isn’t it incredible attitude and amazing brand has created the leading speakers in the U S calling the motivator to the market when it is not, because here they are speaking, this guy is doing the same thing and he’s compliant to a wheelchair. Like it’s quite incredibly just incredible show. The biggest learning we got from all this was when you start speaking to people that you realize that each and every one of us have, like the seeds of greatness inside of us. Like, but the only tend to come out when you, when you go through some sort of significant challenge. So the biggest learning we got was we need to keep outside our comfort zone, right?
Stephen and Donna Fry (20:34):
If we don’t keep outside of our comfort zone, we’re not growing right. Cause there is no, there is no staying still you’re either. You’re either growing or you’re dying. So, so that’s the biggest learning how we put together was we listened to an old rodeo by a guy called Earl Nightingale. Have you heard of all Nightingale at all? not. So you haven’t had was the first guy to record a positive message on an LP back in the 1950s. And when he recorded it, it became the highest selling LP outside of music LPs at the time. And, and you can find it on YouTube. It’s called the strangest secret. And in there he spoke about the strangest secret. But one of the things you mentioned was, and this is what I related to. He said it doesn’t take a lot of brains to make a living. And I thought that’s so true. Like, I can learn a skill to be an engineer. I can go be an engineer, but it doesn’t take a lot of courage to be an engineer one. So every day I might go do a great, great thing on my job, but it doesn’t take a lot of courage. So the seeds of greatness are never going to come out. So that’s why we had to learn the challenges of sales. Okay. How’d that might change.
Miko Santos (22:01):
Thank you for that. So as a, as an interview, like you, what would you advise to people who’s want to starting their own business? And what, what do you think is the quality of a good entrepreneurs based on your experience and based on your journey?
Stephen and Donna Fry (22:26):
Well, a couple of things I’ll mention, but the first one is I’ve got a quote here in front of me from Whitney Wolfe Herd. And she, she just recently, she started, I think it was with Tinder, but then she was the CEO of Bumble and Bumble and Bumble was an IPR. I should become like one of the recent billionaires. And she quite sort of sums it all up, have a dream, chase it down, jump on every single hurdle and run through foreign ice to get there. So I just thought that was because it does come back to that it’s it really is to have a dream when the two things that the guy that the guy that we met that got us to read that changed their life.
Stephen and Donna Fry (23:16):
The other thing that he did that helped us was he realized for us, we were, I guess wandering generality, so to speak. And he said, if you don’t get any clarity around what you want to do and being your life right, then you you’re always going to struggle. I honestly thought once we got to know him, he was going to teach me some how tos, like, how do you, how do you be an entrepreneur? How do you start something? But the second thing that he really got us to focus on was you have to get some clarity around what you want to achieve in your life. And he gave us an exercise to go away, to help us get that clarity. And I, again, did everything that he said, but it doesn’t mean not understood it, or when I wasn’t feeling well, what did I have to do this for?
Stephen and Donna Fry (24:05):
I know what I wan there was an exercise that took a few hours without any interruption, just to help think about what do we want to do and achieve in our long and the example he gave to me to help me understand why that’s important. He said, just imagine if your goal in life is as an example, a trip to Hawaii, right? So that’s what represents your goal of the thing you really want in life and the vehicle that you choose to get. There is a Mercedes-Benz, but no matter how light Mercedes Benz is a good car, right? This is one of the safest cars. You know, I don’t know what they do now, but it used to, they used to be a compartment of the engine and just to go it’s one of the safest cars. It’s very comfortable cars, but no matter how good the Mercedes Benz’s, it’s never going to get you to Hawaii.
Stephen and Donna Fry (24:57):
And that’s how most people go through life is they, they look at the hell to first, but never asked himself the question before continually do this. Is this going to ever get me where I want to go? So he, he helped us focus on figure out where you want to get, right? And then find a way that will help you get there. Or most people dive into the house and never, never go, where am I going? So it’s like jumping in a car and saying take me somewhere you never going to get there. If you don’t know where you want to jug. And the second thing he helped us understand was you got to have that foreign ice, do whatever it takes. And the example he used there was, I don’t know this for sure, but I would imagine you know, there was a movie might’ve been a guy that was in this type of business, but I would imagine one of the significant businesses that generate some good cash, why would be portaloos?
Stephen and Donna Fry (25:51):
Well, maybe not during COVID, but before COVID, every time you’re at an event, it’d be portaloos everywhere and everyone uses them and they’ll come in. I think it was called Kenny. There’s a movie made about a guy in the portal business now, and that I couldn’t imagine. And even waste. Why should the business that makes a lot of money? Do you think people, when they were younger growing up thinking I can’t wait to be in the pool business or I can’t wait to be in the waste business. What they would have done is I would have figured out the lifestyle that I wanted and I just found a business that helped them get it. And again, what most people do is, is they look at an opportunity from the point of view of, do I lock it or will I feel comfortable doing it?
Stephen and Donna Fry (26:32):
And they’re they completely the wrong questions, right? Because you will miss so many opportunities. Yeah. If you look at opportunity from the point of view of where you sit now with your skillset and go, will I be comfortable doing that? I do. I like it. There are the wrong questions. The only question you need to ask is will this get me where I want to go? If the answer is yes, then learn the skills that you need to learn to make that particular idea, work, whatever that might be. That’s the biggest thing that we’ve learned.
Miko Santos (27:05):
Next question I have for you before we wrapping up the podcast is do they really need a mentor if you’re starting up as an entrepreneur?
Stephen and Donna Fry (27:16):
Yep. Okay. So the wild described these. Would you like to cross a minefield first or would you like the cross? The mine through second? So if you’re, if you’re got across a minefield and somebody’s already gone before you, and hasn’t had an explosion, then all you need to do is to walk in their footsteps and you’ll get across safely without a mentor. It’s like walking across a minefield without any footsteps. At any time you could end up, it could end up in our rings. So what a mentor does is someone who’s already told them the path. And that’s the key bit with mentorship is to find someone who’s already done what you want to do. Not someone who’s gonna, hasn’t done it, but will coach you, someone that’s already done. Cause I’ve already walked through the minefield and can tell you where to tread. And our experience with mentorship is it’s really given, but heavily earned. Right? So if you’re paying someone to coach you, I suspect that they haven’t, they haven’t gone through the minefield.
Stephen and Donna Fry (28:25):
And what I mean by that was cause when, when, when Craig started taking us under our wing, when I got to know him a few years later, I asked him like why did you, what did you want to help us when he said, well, it’s real easy. I just want to start with the drive all the way to Melbourne to have a coffee with me. That’s a good sign that someone wants to do something, but he says he just looks for three things and mentorship is someone hungry. Is there something that I want I’ll buy? I’ll like prepare the change, right? Because if you’re not prepared to change, you’re not going to go forward and change is hard. And are they coachable? In other words, if I give them suggestions, do they go and do it? Because if I don’t, then what’s the point of giving out my time.
Stephen and Donna Fry (29:14):
And he said, the interesting thing is there’s not many people that fit into those three categories. So it’s not like this is an abundance of people reaching out to someone. So, so we learned through that, that mentorship tends to be really given, but you have to earned it .
Miko Santos (29:35):
So you’re one of the founder of Adelaide entrepreneur club. Can you elaborate as what, what is this about?
Stephen and Donna Fry (29:44):
So we learnt through from our journey that the way that we think is the most important thing. If we didn’t change that at the age of 50, if we didn’t change the way that we thought, then applying that to any framework of business would just never work. So we wanted to share that we didn’t know how to do that. We’d been to an hour now, process of learning, how to better communicate with people where you went to how many events lots of events.
Stephen and Donna Fry (30:13):
And we thought, okay, well, let’s, let’s run an event. So we registered them. I meant like entrepreneur club let’s run an event, bring in someone to share about their experience. And so you turns up that wants to listen. And we’ll quite surprised that people turned up and wanted to listen. So then we thought we’ll run another event. And we just invite people that we’ve met on Amgen to come and share. Like at our last event we had Eric karaoke, fascinating story lived in Kenya come to Australia, started, studied work then ended up starting his own company, very unique with what he does, um, and replaced his income because one of the things he really wanted to do, like the thing that he really wanted to do in his life was to foster children and to help children. So his story is quite incredible and he realized he couldn’t do that if you kept working for someone.
Stephen and Donna Fry (31:06):
So that was just a great story of, for people to hear. And then we also had Naya escaped me, but she’s the one of the directors of the founder’s Institute in Adelaide So again, a, a very inspiring young lady who grew up in Bangladesh what she did there with entrepreneurship and then coming to Adelaide. So it’s just about having people share their stories, because stories about what people have done, a very motivating, because you can look and hear them and go, geez, if I can do that thenI can move ahead.
Miko Santos (31:42):
Do you have any final advice? Anything else you want to share with our entrepreneurs?
Stephen and Donna Fry (31:53):
Building relationships is just extremely important in anything but definitely in entrepreneurship because the relationships that we build with people are, you know, where we get encouragement and support ideas you know, like that, that whole mastermind concept, I guess, in the principles of success. So, you know, that’s, and I guess that’s also what started us on the journey of meeting people was just knowing that you know, people are what makes anything happen? what does that saying? If the people we know are going to open a door you know to something they would have already done that. So it’s in the people that we meet throughout our lives that get opened and to things that may be, you know, a value to us. but also if there’s any way we can add value to people then that’s something that we want to do.
Stephen and Donna Fry (32:52):
And which is also, you know, yeah. One of the, one of the reasons for the entrepreneur club. Yeah. So, so relationships, I think is one of the most important thing that, that we found. So, so networking is a great thing and it’s not comfortable in the beginning and it’s not easy, but it’s very, very rewarding. I’ll just finish off on what Donna said as well. And just to say, you know, the last thought I’d have is have conversations without an agenda to have conversations with people, learn the skills to have a conversation because we found that was very hard. If you have an agenda, it seems to be easy to have a conversation cause you’re driving an agenda, but that doesn’t develop a relationship. So part of the journey was all about taking everything off the table and just having conversations without an agenda.
Stephen and Donna Fry (33:44):
Thank you so much for that. How can our listener and watching this right now to connect with you online? So the best ways to do that would be via LinkedIn and that’s Stephen Fry and you see my profile of Donna I’ve got a photo together and also on Instagram and the Instagram handle, or is this Stephen Fry and that Stephen with a pH and again, supportive of me and Donna and also if you typed in Adelaide Entrepreneur Club, you’d be able to find us on the Facebook page we have for the Adelaide entrepreneur club. All right.
Miko Santos (34:21):
Thank you so much, Stephen and Donna for taking your time to be a guest on our Auspod syndicate podcast. And thank you and thank you so much. So see you next week for not an episode of Auspod syndicate. See you next