Surf Simply’s Founder Ru Hill | Why Small Businesses Can Be More Rewarding Than Big Ones

Surf Simply’s Founder Ru Hill | Why Small Businesses Can Be More Rewarding Than Big Ones


No one knows what is like to live
bravely as well as Ru. He is creating something really
special down in Costa Rica he is here to share a little bit more
about what he’s learned along the way. So, I now give the floor to Ru.
Thank you! So, I’d like to say first
thank you to Antonio, Rebeca, Elena and Sam for inviting
me down here and for putting on
this amazing event. I haven’t been to Mexico before, I haven’t been to Valle De Bravo before and this place is amazing.
The mountains, the cobbled streets, the lake. I’ve never been in a venue
like this, where you can actually look at the mountains for inspiration
while you are talking. It’s incredible! Mostly, what has really impressed
me about being here is how nice everybody is. Everyone I’ve met
at the conference, in town, in the restaurants, everyone is really nice.
So, whatever you guys are doing, keep it up. Um, so… what I’m here to talk
to you guys about today is two things; the first thing I’d like to
make the case for building a really successful business that can be
personally, professionally, financially rewarding without necessarily having
to make it really big and I would even argue that in some cases, more
sustainable environmentally and in terms of local economy. The other thing that
I’d like to do is to share with you some of the easy wins, some of the
lessons I’ve learned while in Surf Simply in the hope that you guys as
small business owners could put into practice tomorrow, rather than necessarily
big high concepts, things that are actually useful for you tomorrow
morning when you wake up and get back to work. What I’m going to do is to
talk a little bit just about Surf Simply, and I’m not going to try to
be too self-indulgent, but just paint you a picture of what I’ve
done, what we do, and then I’m going to talk a little bit about what are
some of these lessons are I think. And then at the end we’ll have some slides
up here to showing what Surf Simply is all about. I’ll be around having
some coffee if any of you guys want to come and chat with me, please do.
The problem usually we have on entrepreneurs come up on stage and
talk about how to have a successful business is that having a successful
business is often is a little bit like having a successful friendship,
you don’t really know why it’s successful, you just really like hanging
out with this person who you’ve been friends with for years, most successful entrepreneurs really
just did whatever job was in front of them that day as well as they possibly
can, which is a great attitude to take, but is not necessarily very
helpful when you are trying to give advice to other people. You only
really know why your friendship is successful when you look at someone
else’s relationship that didn’t work and you notice what they didn’t do,
that you did do. So, I would encourage you to take any TED talk or anything I say or any entrepreneur trying to
hand out advice with a pinch of salt. But what I’ve tried to do
is look at the things we did at Surf Simply that I saw other businesses not
do and that was the one difference and those are the things that I think
are important to take aways. So, first of all, I began teaching surfing
about 25 years ago back in England, and a lot of people don’t know this,
but surfing is actually very popular in England. I started at the Surf
School where at the beginning there were 3 or 4 of us teaching and
on a busy day we will have 30 people and by the time I left, 10 years later,
there was 30 instructors and on a busy day we will have 600 or 700 people
come to the Surf School. I started teaching just because I wanted to
pay for surf trips to go away to Indonesia and Hawaii in the winters.
But I got really interested in it because two things really leapt
out at me. The first one was that entry level surfing where you’re just
teaching beginning surfers how to stand up and ride on a wave like
I’m sure some of you guys have tried before, it’s very common you find that
everywhere. Actually, although you may not know this, competitive level
coaching it’s really common too. That is when there’s a video camera on the
beach, you’re working with that top 1% of elite surfers. But what you don’t
find anywhere is something for the 98% of surfers in between. That’s
really what the idea behind Surf Simply was. The other thing I noticed is
that the way people teach you surfing wasn’t necessarily very logical. And
working as I was in the surf school, where we had huge numbers of people
come through, I thought I would try to get a little bit scientific about it.
I was doing 4 lessons a day of groups of 10, of 10 years, which is
nearly 16,000 or 17,000 people that I taught. And I thought what if I start
teaching 200 people this way and 200 people that way, and I sort of do
A-B Testing and see which way works better. So, I started doing that, and
I’m going to skim over this part of the story quite quickly. There was
actually nearly a decade of doing that to really understand what a thoughtful
methodology for teaching surfing would need to look like. So, I came
up with this idea of trying to create what then became Surf Simply as a
center of surf coaching and excellence for all surfers not just the beginners
and the pros. And the next big problem that I had, I think maybe
a lot of you guys will relate to in different industries, is that if you
want someone to be really good at their job, it takes a lot time to train
them. And if you look at the data on almost any big successful company,
you’ll see one of the metrics that correlates most strongly with that
success, is how long employees stick around for. If the employees stick
around, they become more efficient and they become better at their job and
that’s good for everybody. The trouble with trying to do a lot of businesses
that operate seasonally is that when you have people who are really
intelligent, capable and motivated individuals, who can go and do anything,
they tend not to stick around for seasonal jobs all that long; and in
a certain point, they want to have kids and pay mortgages and do all
that kind of stuff, and a year-round salary is a lot more attractive. It
takes us at Surf Simply about 2 to 3 years to train someone who is
already a competent surfer and an experienced surf coach, just to be
a Surf Simply coach. So, if we are losing people every 2 or 3 years,
we don’t even get to finish the training, let alone give people
time to go on and become excellent professionals and even mentors
themselves. So, the first thing I needed to do was find somewhere where
we could teach surfing all the way through the year, so that I could
pay people the kind of salaries which would allow them to justify being
career-long professional surf coaches. So, I traveled around Europe, Indonesia,
Australia, and Hawaii, and it was tough! And then I ended up in Nosara,
in Costa Rica. And a lot of people there said “Well, you can’t really do it
here either all the way through the year because we have this dry season,
which is the North American winter that is very popular but then we have
this rainy season.” So, what we did and this is, I think, a really good
key to our success, is that we took the emphasis away from every aspect of
the experience except for one thing that is unique and special to us,
which was this very technical and thoughtful methodology of surf
coaching. And we said it doesn’t matter if it is raining, it doesn’t matter if
the roads are all muddy and most of the restaurants are shut, you are
coming here just for the surf coaching, and that’s what we’re going to do,
and that worked really well. So, just to state over the next 10 years very
quickly again, I set up in my car in a car park in Nosara in 2007,
with a couple of thousand dollars which went on a not very good car and some crappy old surf boards, and I started doing lessons during the day and then I was trying to build
one of these website things in the evening and I was trying to figure
out how to do it. A couple of years later, we got a little of shop space
and then more and more people started finding us online, so I realized we
didn’t need to have any presence in the high street where people were
walking past. I borrowed some money and bought a little bit of land and we
built a sort of fairly basic resort, where people could come and stay.
“Resort” is probably a bit of an oversell. It was some modest cabinas. And then I borrowed some more money a few years later we now just finished building
a really beautiful high-end surf coaching resort on the edge of the
nature reserve, where you can walk through the trees and down to the beach
in Nosara, which I’m really proud of. What we haven’t done intentionally
is gotten really, really big. We changed from doing individual
services to week long surf coaching packages, which is a really good move
but now we still limit our numbers to just 12 people a week. What has
changed is that where we use to charge 30 dollars per lesson, now we charge
over 1,000 dollars a day for people to come and stay with us. And we are
booked about 20 months in advance and of the 12 people can come each week we
have over 500 people on the waiting list for each week. The team has
grown to 35 and we are kind of like a family; I’ll talk more about the
team a little bit in a moment, but we have no intention to getting any
bigger, and that business size works really well. So, one of the reasons why
we decided not to grow was because basically, the ocean is a finite
resource just like every other resource that nature has to offer, and we didn’t
want to take up lots of space in the ocean. That surf school that I
first worked at back in England, that school with 600 people coming down the
beach looked like and how it really took over the whole beach and the
whole town and we didn’t want to do that. So, we made this decision to
make a product better and better and better rather than to make it bigger
and bigger and bigger, and I think it worked really well. And the nice thing
about doing that is that suddenly all the other surf schools and surf
camps in Nosara and in Costa Rica and all around the world started being
our competitors. We only have 444 spaces that we can sell each year and once
they’re gone, they’re gone. So, I’m now able to have the luxury of spending
time helping the other surf schools and surf camps in turn get going.
Sometimes that’s through lending them equipment or spending mentoring them,
or actually lending them money to help them get going. And then you end up
living in the town, where everyone is really pleased to see each other because
you are not competitive trying to undercut each other. It is more like
a team trying to support each other, and that’s the kind of town that I wanted to grow old in. The other thing that we tried to do is just do our thing. We do this week-long surf coaching packages and then we don’t
have hotel guests come and stay with us, we don’t open up our restaurant
area to outside people so we are not taking any business away from anyone
else in town. And when people see us, we get really great publicity and to
see Surf Simply has been in the New York Times or has been in the Outside
magazine, which was one of the key things that really helped raise our
profile internationally. They’re really happy, because they know that
we’re going to help people coming into town, to discover Nosara. Stick
around after their week with us, go and visit their restaurants, go and perhaps do more surf lessons with them afterwards. So, it creates this really nice community.
We’ve tried to everything else right with the business too. We’ve built a
building which is L.E.E.D. certified, which, I think the Platinum L.E.E.D.
certification is the highest award you can get for sustainable development.
We’ve put a lot of time, money, and resources back into the community
building a local kids club, we do free surf lessons for local kids and we
provide school books for 80 of the local kids this year. We’ve invested
a lot of money in improving the water system in the town. So, we try to do
all of those things that you would expect a responsible business to do.
And I do think that when businesses get going, you are always in the back foot,
just trying to survive but when you cross a certain point and you are
financially comfortable, you do have responsibility to then turn around,
and fall over yourself to give everything you can back to community.
So, that’s kind of the story of Surf Simply but I want to talk now about
some of the lessons that I’ve learned. So, there is no question that the
most important part of a successful business is the team that you have.
And it’s a lot easier to hire good people than it is to train them. You
can move the needle a little bit on how someone is, but you can’t completely
transform someone. Someone gave me some really good advice at one point,
when they said: stop spending all of your time and energy focusing
on your clients, on your customers. Instead, spend all that time and
energy focusing on your team and then have your team focusing on your
clients and your customers. That then works much, much better. So, I wanted
to talk about the most important part of that team-building process,
which is hiring people. Now, the science on hiring people is actually
really counter-intuitive. A famous researcher called Daniel Kahneman, who some of you may have heard of, discovered that the more time we spend
interviewing people, the more our own cognitive biases cause us to make
bad decisions about who to employ. So actually, interviewing people is not
the best way to find out who is the best candidate for the job. Now
that might sound strange, and it’s especially difficult if you work in
the tourism business because one of the most important skills you want
people to have, is the ability to be personable and talk to other people.
It is very difficult to see that written on piece of paper so you have
to interview them to see how good they are at that. So, how do you
square that circle? Well, we need two things. The first thing is …and we are
fortunate enough to get hundreds of applications every year to come and
be coaches at Surf Simply. So, the first thing we do is we make everyone
jump through a few hurdles before they are even allowed to come for an
interview. We make everyone go away and make a video where they have to
talk to us about something that has nothing to do with surfing and they
have to make it entertaining, concise, and informative, and funny, and then
we start interviewing people. But while we’re interviewing them, we are
not really seeing if they’re going to be good at the job; we are
interviewing them to see if they won’t be bad at the job, which is different.
And actually, that’s the best way you can interview someone. You sit them
down in front of you and just let them talk. It doesn’t even really matter
what they are talking about. You just want to see if any red flags pop up.
Do they hold any slightly narcissistic or antisocial character
traits that are going to cause us problems further down the line?
Do they hold any pseudo-scientific believes that going to trip them up
when they are trying to get through the day? So, we try to let people
talk for an hour, two hours, three hours, over a series of interviews;
and the longer that goes past without a red flag popping up, the more
confident we can be that they are not going to suck. And then, of course,
when you hire someone in, you want to give yourself that trial period,
so that you and they have got an exit strategy. But I think that is a really
good way to interviewing people. Another dilemma that you have,
especially when you are in the tourism business is a lot of these tourist
businesses are in very rural places, you’ve got to strike a balance between
bringing in experts and hiring local people to help the economy. Now,
if you are lucky enough to have the best people in the world at whatever
the thing is you do, whatever your special thing is, if they’re already right there then you’ve got no problem. But it’s very rare that that’s
the case. Usually, you are not that lucky. If your thing is fishing tours,
for example, then the guy in the boat next to your guests, needs to know
everything about fishing. He wants to be as good and as knowledgeable as
the best guy in the world. He wants to know every kind of fish, every
kind of line, every kind of rod… I don’t know anything about fishing! So,
you can’t compromise on that, in my opinion. You have to take that one
thing that’s unique to you and not compromise on that. If that means
that you need to bring people in from the outside, then that’s what you
have to do. And for every aspect of the business, you want to hire people
that are local, that are around you and you want to hire people that are
keen to learn and are interested and curious; those are the two-character
traits that I always look for. So, at Surf Simply now, I feel like
most of our team is as good as they can be at photography, cooking, massages,
all of the other things we do, but at the start, it was just those
coaches that I brought in that had to be really good and everything else
we had time for that to catch up. One thing that no one likes to stand
on stage to talk about is firing people. It’s an uncomfortable subject
and every entrepreneur likes to think that they’re a great mentor that can
turn everyone into the perfect employee. In my experience, that isn’t true.
When you have someone that is really causing a lot of problems
in the workplace, it is your responsibility to the rest of your
team, to get them out. It is funny that sometimes when you do it, you come
back saying why I didn’t I do that ages ago? It is like when you have
been in a relationship, and you eventually decide to end the relationship,
and you look back and you are like, yeah, I could have done that a
few years earlier. So, when you fire people, I think that you have to make
sure that when they walk out your door they walk out the door with two
things, financial security and with dignity, with their head held high.
Everyone that surrounds you in your team, usually they will know why a
person has been fired, but if they don’t interact with each other on a daily
basis, and it is not obvious to them, make sure that everyone knows.
And everyone who is working there, will see the way you treated the
person that had to go out the door. I’m a really firm believer in not having a
company where it feels like someone is at the top and other people are
at the bottom. So when you are firing people it’s not like you are the boss,
you are in charge, you’re kicking them out; when you are firing them
it’s that your responsibility to everyone esle who works there, is to make
sure that they are working with good people and they are not having to
work with people that are difficult. So, your responsibility to them is to
take that person out of the picture. How am I doing with the translator?
Sometimes I talk too fast. Am I doing ok? All right! So, once you’ve got a team
around you, I think that another really common mistake that I see people
make, and all first-time managers will be familiar with this, you tend
to look over everyone’s shoulder, you sort of micro manage what they are doing.
The old saying is a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. So,
as first-time managers we tend to run around looking for those weakest
links and trying to fix them all the time. I would argue that there is a
terrible way to do it, because what happens in reality is that you end
up constantly pointing out to people what they are doing wrong. And then
someone doesn’t feel like, hey this is my job that I am amazing at. What they
starts feeling is that I’m doing this thing for this other person and I just
want them to be happy and I then I want to go home. So, what I would
advocate instead is that everyone who works for you to try to find the thing
they are good at and that they like doing, and then try to rearrange the
logistics of the day or of the week or of the business so they don’t have
to do the things they are bad at. So they can do just the things they are
good at. It’s a far better way of doing it, and the when people really
feel that they are not being hen pecked and they feel that they are
good at what they do. They start to feel like they take ownership over
their job. And as a business owner, that makes me feel really, really good.
When I see people at Surf Simply, we start talking about Surf Simply as
“we”, we’ve done this, we do this and we’ve started that. And actually, this
is a side note, I saw that in three of the people that work with me a
few years ago, and I just gave them a slice of the company, so now there is
four of us that own it together. And I think that was one of the smarter
moves I’ve made, watching them not just those people I gave the shares
to, but also everyone else, they really feel like it’s their business,
and we are all in this together. So, I see my job as a manager, as the
boss, to allow people to spend their time doing what they are good at and
what they like doing, and then to be the guy who is getting obstacles out
of their way. If they need a better camera, I have to get it for them;
or if their computer doesn’t work, I have to get it for them. If they are
working with someone that is causing them problems, I have to fix that
situation too. So as a manager I feel like you are a servant
to everyone who works with you. You are trying to make their job as easy
as you can so that they can just get up and run. One way that a lot of people like
to try and motivate their staff especially in the tourism business,
that again I would make an argument against, is the idea of bonuses, and
particularly of tipping. So, this is a whole other talk that I can go on about for ages that I won’t get into, but there is a lot of science on tipping
and it shows that the way people tip is racist, sexist, and ageist.
And it also relies on someone walking into the business for a short amount
of time and making a guess about how money should be distributed between
everyone that is working there, which, anyone who owns a business will know
is difficult enough to do even when you understand the business
in every minute detail. But anecdotally, in my experiences,
bonuses don´t really work and tipping doesn’t really work either. People
are either really motivated to do a good job or they are not. And if you
say to someone, alright, I’ll give you a pay increase, but I expect you
to really step up and do a better job, in my experience they don’t. People
will just do a really good job if that is the kind of person they are.
If you don’t pay them enough, they’ll go away and do a really good job somewhere
else with someone that is going to pay them more. So, I would advocate,
falling over yourself, to pay everyone as much as you possibly can.
But make it a salary, make something through the year. Try not to do tips
and bonuses. That allows people to know how much money they’ve got coming
in as well which allows them to plan for their own lives too. Another
thing that we do at Surf Simply is that we take 17 weeks a year of vacation.
So, we are open for 6 weeks or 7 weeks, and then we shut for 2 weeks,
and then we are open for 6 or 7 weeks and then we shut for 2 weeks. We would
make more money if we were open all through the year but you know, life
is for living. Once someone has been working steadily for a few years,
it is really difficult for them to leave. They go somewhere else say and
say, oh, we get two weeks’ holiday here? That’s a pretty difficult gear shift
to make. We’ve talked about it a lot but we all have an income
level that we are happy with, and we get all that time off to go live and
explore the world, and again, that’s something that I think is the right
balance and I wouldn’t change that for anything. One of the things I think
you need to be aware of with employees, especially the adventure
tourism industry, is that if you have someone really good working for you,
it’s quite likely that at some point they are going to want more. So, I think
you have a responsibility to take away the glass ceiling for people. So
what we do it; and I’m not saying that this mechanism works for other businesses
but the way we have solved that problem at Surf Simply, is we have
what we call satellite projects, where although we are based in Nosara, Costa
Rica, we do a few weeks every year at different locations around the
world. This year we did one at Surf Ranch, Kelly Slater’s pool in California, we
did one in Mexico, we’ve done Peru, Indonesia, France, different places.
But the way it works is that, usually one of the coaches, actually anyone
in the team, can take the Surf Simply team and fill the spot using Surf
Simply brand and then basically run their own mini business where they
assume the risks and they keep all the profits and they get to be an entrepreneur
for that one week. And then, if they want to take that model and they
want to run with it, then they can go and do that, and the business expands
and that works really well for us But usually what happens is people
come back after they do 1 or 2 and they go: Wow, that was actually a
lot of work and I really like being here, having my 17 weeks off, so I
think I’ll just knock that on the head and stay here. But taking that glass ceiling away means that
they come back really happy, not feeling like they’re constrained in
any way and actually, it means that they have much better peripheral
awareness about what the best experience is like because they have
think about everything. The best way to get people to
do what you want them to do, is have everyone
else to do it too. So, there’s been a lot of research, and
a lot of environmental things like water use. They did a study about watering
laws in Texas , or towel use, how often people want to change their
towels when they are in a hotel room. And there wanted people to
use less water and have their towels washed less often, just because it’s better for the environment. And they tried lots of different ways of convincing
people to do it. They would try telling people that it is much better
for the environment to do this. They would try saying to people that you
can save money if you do this. Then they tried the emotional tie on
children and say: think about the world you are going to leave to your kids.
But do you know what by far the most effective way to get people to do
positive steps was? It was to tell them that everyone else was already doing
it. So, in hotels when they said, most people don’t wash their towels every
day, then people just followed that example. And the same thing was true
when they put up a map of all of the houses in Texas and they put a brown
dot over the house when they were not watering their lawn, which is good, and
a green dot over the house if they were spending a lot of water watering
their lawn to have a green lawn. And sure enough, they found that if a
street had all brown houses and one green dot, very quickly that person
was shamed into not using so much water. But it also went the other way
too. So, we are very social primates and the best way to get people to
behave any way that you want is to have everyone around you behave the
same way. So, when we first start a business as a business owner, it feels
often like you’re kind of… you’ve got this cart, and the cart is full
of your employees and you are the one pulling the cart along, you are the
one who is having to provide all of the momentum, all of the energy, the impetus to start getting better and moving forward. And if you hire well
and you are lucky, at some point someone else will jump out of that
cart and pull the cart with you. And then someone else will, and then
someone else will. And at a certain point, more than half of the people
have got out of the cart and will be pulling it with you, if you can bear
with me with this metaphor. And then suddenly, when that tipping point happens,
I remember very clearly at Surf Simply, it was about 5 years ago, everyone who was
sitting in the cart suddenly goes, “Oh, most people don’t sit in the cart,
most people are getting out and are running under their own steam.” And suddenly,
the whole thing takes on a life of its own. You don’t need to look
over the people’s shoulders because everyone is concentrating on trying
to be the best that they possibly can be at whatever job is. And now at Surf
Simply, I believe that’s true for everyone in the team and no one gets
chastised or told off, if they don’t bring that attitude to work. But
everyone does because just because it would kind of be socially awkward if
they didn’t, so they are not trying to be as good as the best person in
the world at whatever you are doing, whether it is teaching surfing or
teaching yoga or giving a massage or cooking a meal would be socially
awkward at Surf Simply in the way that if you showed up to a party and you were the
only one in a fancy-dress costume, it would just be
kind of awkward. So, I just want to
spend a couple of minutes talking quickly about marketing.
I know that we’ve spoken a lot already about that today and I
think it was very insightful and fascinating. I just wanted to add two
things that I think are useful. So, a lot of the time you hear people
talk about wanting to do storytelling using social media, put pictures out
there, and all that kind of stuff, and it can be overwhelming and intimidating.
I would advocate, instead of doing that, instead of thinking
what I am going to put out there and what pictures should I put out? I would
do it the other way around. I would concentrate on building something really
great; a really great experience. And then all you have to do is just
show it to people. Just let people see it. And a good little litmus test for yourself is to
think: when someone comes and visits my business and they go away, and
they are having a dinner party with their friends, what cool story am
I giving them to say at that dinner party? What could story can they tell
about their experience here? If you spend time actually building something
really cool and I’d like to think what we have built in this unique
technical surf coaching experience, then you want to think of the way that your online marketing is leaving clues around the internet; little bread crumbs
everywhere. People can find those clues and piece together for themselves
what your business is. I would argue that it’s not so good to just
stick up a “10% off come and stay here” kind of advert – that’s not
nearly as compelling. Let people find you for themselves; let them put
the pieces together. So, we have for example, our TripAdvisor reviews that show one side of Surf Simply – photographs on Instagram another.
We make movies every week on YouTube. We have a podcast, where
coaches come on every couple of weeks and talk about how a whole range of
topics, and people can get to know them through that. We’ve been fortunate
enough to have some really good press in Outside Magazine and the New
York Times and other magazines. And people find all these things and they
put them all together. So I think that is a really good way of thinking about
your online strategy; to build a cool thing; everyone sees a different
angle of it, through a different keyhole, through all those different
portals online, and then they put it all together in their head. But if the thing
that you have isn’t real, if it’s all kind of smoke and mirrors, then
they will be able to see that when they look through all those portals.
The other thing that I would advocate is under-promising, so at Surf Simply
on the website it says that there is going to be 8 coaches and actually we
have 9. It says that there’s a chef, actually we have 4. It says you got
a massage each week and actually we get two. Be really careful of overpromising
online and then having people underwhelmed when they arrive. I would
always argue: under-promise and then give yourself room to
over-deliver when people get there. The final thing I want to talk about,
and I’ve nearly finished, thanks for bearing with me, is decision-making and
business goals. I’ve heard someone once describe decision-making, when
you are running business, as just “systematically trying to avoid
catastrophe”. I think that is a good way of thinking about running a
business. As long as it is not catastrophic, you can live to make a
wrong or a right decision another day. What I would argue is that when you are
making decisions, try to make them on data, not on how you feel about it.
If you make decisions based on information and data, don’t ever go
by a hunch, you’ll sleep better, and if it turns out to be a wrong decision,
when you get back you can look yourself in the mirror and say, “Well,
I made the best decision I could with the information I had at the
time.” The other thing I would advocate in decision-making is, you don’t always
know where your business is going to take you and in what way you are
going to have to pivot. But I would advocate making decisions that open
more doors than they close. If you only have two options in front of you,
whichever one is going to give you more options in the future, make
that decision, go down that road. The The final thing I say is that the most
common comment that I get from guests who stay at Surf Simply each week is:
When are you going to open another one? When are you going to expand? Why
don’t you do more of these? And as I said at the start of the talk, we are
not going to. And there’s really a couple of reasons why. The first reason
is that making Surf Simply better is really fun. Like right now we are
surf coaching, they’re bringing in virtual reality and augmented reality,
and there is so much we can do with it. It is really fun making it better
and better. There are incremental changes every week that goes past. The
idea of duplicating, of creating a PDF that this is how you do a
Surf Simply, and then mimicking it across the board; to me it doesn’t
sound like so much fun. But doing the latter might be right for some people.
The two rewards it brings you is attention and a lot more money; and
it feels good as well. It is a lot of prestige in owning a really big brand
that you don’t get when you are a small brand. Now, some people will
tell you that money doesn’t make you happy; that’s not true, money does
make you happy. And, the way it makes you happy is very specific, and it’s
like this: number one, a lack of money can make you really unhappy; and
number two, if you have money, then you can pay people to spend time doing
the things you don’t want to spend time doing; and you can spend time
doing the things that you love. The same is true of that kind of “reputation,”
the “ego,” the “prestige”. I’m so proud of Surf Simply. Being able to
stand on the stage and tell you guys about it means the world to me; it
feels really good. But both of those things reach a point of diminishing
returns. It’s good to build something that you are proud of; feels good
for the ego, but after a while, it is more and more work for less and
less reward. And the same is true of money. There was a famous study a
few years ago that showed that in San Francisco earning 60,000 dollars a
year, you have to adjust that to where you are in the world, there was
a point that when salary went up, happiness didn’t keep going up at
quite the same speed. So, I would advocate drawing a line consciously
for yourself. What is enough? What is enough money? What is enough of an ego boost? I’ve been fortunate because I live quite modestly,
I just like buying lots of surf boards, so I’ve got enough money to
do that, and that’s ok. The other thing
that I would say that should prompt you
to think twice before necessarily wanting to expand and grow
your business. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t expand and grow your
business but only that it shouldn’t be the default, it should be a thoughtful
decision you make. The other big factor is this: the longest-running
scientific study that I think is in existence, certainly that I’m aware of,
is being headed out by a guy called Robert Waldinger at Harvard University.
And actually, it began nearly 75 years ago, and they tracked the lives
of over 700 Harvard graduates and young men from Boston; some of the
poorest guys around with no advantages in life. And they tracked them over
the course of their lives to measure the success of their lives by
every metric they could think of: criminality, health, self-reported
happiness, and how long their relationships were. And they were trying
to see what makes a good life and above all of the noise of the
data, the one thing that rose above everything else, was how good the
quality of the relationships were with the people they spent the most time
with. An interestingly, it didn’t matter if they were married or if they
had kids, it just mattered how well they got on, how supportive, and
how positive their relationships were with the people they spent most of
their time with. And as you guys probably know, that the people you spend the
most time with are mostly the people you work with. So, my next big business
goal for Surf Simply is that I want to everyone to have really good
relationships with each other. We know, science tells us that that’s
the best way to have a happy life and to not do that, I think, seems like
craziness. Ok, so I think we have some pictures up on the screen. Some of
them taken by my partner, Marine, he’s hanging around somewhere, is
our photographer at Surf Simply, and there are some images of the building,
so we are going to scroll through them. And any of you guys would like to
come up and chat with me and talk about any of this stuff,
I’d be really happy to talk to you. Thank you so much for
your time everyone. It’s been a real
privilege to be here.

Antonio Breitenberg

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3 thoughts on “Surf Simply’s Founder Ru Hill | Why Small Businesses Can Be More Rewarding Than Big Ones

  1. Monish Kumar says:

    Marvellous Job, its so cool!, See this New Album 'Monish Jasbird – Death Blow', channel link www.youtube.com/channel/UCv_x5rlxirO-WKjLIyk6okQ?sub_confirmation=1 , you might like 🙂

  2. João Luís says:

    Congratulations!!! You are an inspiration!!
    Aloha from Portugal 🇵🇹🏄‍♂️

  3. Elan Freedberg says:

    Great talk! I love what you and the team have built. Looking forward to seeing you for my first Surf Simply stay in June 2020!

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