In this episode, Tyson Ballard speaks to Sam Kidd, CEO and co-founder of LawVu. Sam provides valuable insights into the challenges of building and scaling a company, the importance of maintaining a balance between work and personal life and his journey in the legal tech industry.
LawVu is a legal tech company that specialises in providing software solutions for in-house legal teams and their external legal service providers. The company offers a cloud-based platform designed to streamline legal operations, enhance collaboration, and improve the efficiency of legal departments.
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Tyson Ballard: Sam, welcome to the next episode of Legal Dispatch. I know I’ve been hunting you down for a small period of time now. Really glad to finally get you on the show and on the podcast. For those that don’t know, Sam is the co-founder of LawVu, which is an amazing matter management tool, which we’ll discuss a little bit in the legal tech space. And if you do want to have a chat with Sam, you can find him on LinkedIn, which is Sam Kidd with a double D, at LinkedIn. So, Sam welcome.
Sam Kidd: Thank you. It’s awesome to be here. Sorry, I took so long to track down. I’m terrible at responding to emails at times. My inbox gets inundated. And I was like, okay, just kept putting it on the long finger all the time and trying to put this in with travel.
But yeah, conveniently, being in New York puts me on a better time zone to chat to you.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, yeah, fantastic. Maybe just let’s start with a really simple question. Tell us what you do, who you work for. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about how you started on that journey as well.
Sam Kidd: So LawVu is a legal workspace. So, we look after the entirety of the workload for legal teams. This was the founding story to LawVuers. I was with an online project management company kind of back in the day based out of Ireland when I sold out that back to the other founders, got to experience the utter joy of dealing with lawyers. So, I went to this world of transparency, tasks and communication to just having no idea what I was doing. In some ways it was just kind of a lack of education on my side. But then I thought, lawyers are like these mystical creatures that you’re never quite sure of how to engage them. So, I was back in New Zealand, and I was kind of thrown around an idea. I got introduced to my co-founder, Tim, who was already in the legal industry, but on the law firm side helping law firms to engage better with corporate clients. So, we were introduced, and he’d already started on something. And then as we kind of dug in more and more, we realised that in house legal is where there was a lot of pain. And I think a lot of disruption in any industry is really driven by the client side of transaction and in house legal being probably the largest users of legal. So, we approached a number of small teams in New Zealand and the local government space and met with them. The technology stack was, as you’d imagine, pretty small. It was basically Word, Excel, and Outlook. When you spoke to them, asking do you have any issues? They highlighted what they did, which was about a thousand steps of things to engage and try to get to reporting. And there was no basic system for them to rally around. Like you’ve had sales and salesforce, HR had their system, finance had their system and legal was just nothing. So, we were helping these local teams into the digital age. We built LawVu from ground up for corporate legal. We didn’t really know what we were, we were matter management, contract management, and spend management, we were all of the managements. Then we started trying to look offshore because I think probably one of the most terrifying things when you start a company is if you can’t find anyone that’s doing something that you are because if there’s no competition, it’s just a super shit idea. And you’re sold that no one actually wants, but we saw there were those large incumbents at the top of the chain doing, you know, legal teams of 100, 200 they sat there doing this mid-market really didn’t have anything. At that time, we also through a bit of research discovered this role called legal operations that was being spearheaded out of many companies in the U.S., So boarded a few planes, went to a couple of conferences, and we’re like, I think we’re at the forefront. We’re tackling this from a business perspective, as opposed to legal ops back then was really going after small areas. In the U.S., it was really like, how does the corporation tackle and handle billing for law firms. But no one was looking holistically at how the function actually runs, how you communicate with each other. So, we always had a business lens around the product, and at a number of conferences, we were still a bit weird. We’re like the odd ones in the corner where everyone’s like, you’re doing all of these things. Like each one of these is a separate company. But as we started looking at it, this is all part of the same flow. It’s part of the legal flow and engagement. It’s been segregated into different companies. We ended up entering an RFP with Telstra back in 2018. That was a legal team of 200. So, we beat out all the large players in that space. It was a bit of an oh sit moment because we were dealing with these small legal teams, and suddenly we had this gargantuan organization with 200. So, we had to grow up quickly, become all the fun stuff you don’t want to do when you start up, become ISO certified, get SOC 1, SOC 2, and all that stuff. But it put us on the map. If we could handle a team of 200, then we could handle a team of 10 and 20. You’re just selling to a cohort of people that don’t really like the whole startup MVP approach. That’s hard when you enter the legal world. Everyone wants to know your customer base, your other references, how long you’ve been around, how secure you are, how financially stable, all the things that are hard to provide when you’re starting out. We forged good relationships with some people, and some folks took a chance on us.
PWC, having them as a strategic partner, was almost like having a parent or someone vouch for you. There was a lot of forming relationships. We were basically three years from the time we started in 2014, building a product with almost no customers, but there was always a carrot dangling in front of us, pushing towards something. Then you reach that point where you can start to see a trickle of customers. We raised some seed rounds and an angel round sthrough New Zealand and then we had a Series A with Inside Partners based in New York. It was a big raise, more capital. So, today we’ve raised close to 50 million New Zealand Dollars to get us to where we are now.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, yeah. Nice. We were talking a little bit before we started about the quantum shift between startup, scale-up, and getting to a larger organization, And the different mindsets, challenges, and cultural changes that occur. I’m always quite interested in the very beginning, was it bootstrapped, self-funded, and did you start on your own in that beautiful area of New Zealand called the Bay of Plenty? I spent some time there, and I know it’s a beautiful part. Did you feel a little bit isolated over there, coming from working with that Irish project management business, probably spending time across the other side of the pond? Sometimes, when you’ve got this idea in your head, it feels like you’re onto a hit song, but maybe no one’s listening yet. What were those early days like?
Sam Kidd: I think you’re probably right because I’ve been based overseas for a long time, and my last company was selling online globally, even though we’re at the bottom of the world in New Zealand. We’ve always thought of ourselves as global from day one. A lot of New Zealand startups fall into the trap of building a base in New Zealand and starting small. Once you have that then branch out. But we were always on the mindset of building globally. I don’t think we ever felt it was hard to connect because we were always online through LinkedIn, connecting with people, going to conferences. It was always with the mindset of the bigger, better world outside of New Zealand. If we had just focused purely on the New Zealand market, it would have been harder to figure out how to go offshore, which is a harder animal to attack at that stage.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah. I know you travel a lot. So, what does an average day for Sam Kidd look like? From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed, what does it look like?
Sam Kidd: Yeah, it varies. When I’m at home, I’m up first thing in the morning, running up Pep Hills or it used to be the Mount. So, I am up at 5, 5:30, and then out running, and then some sort of weights done just before seven before the kids start to wake up. Then I take part in the absolute shit show, which is the mornings with children, as everyone’s getting ready for school, arguing at breakfast, and things like that and then out the door and into work. HQ’s only about 20 minutes from where I live, and the day depends on the stage I’m going through. If we’re raising capital, it’s just a series of Zoom calls, talking to folks and constantly engaging with VCs. I think that’s probably the mistake we made in the early days is just build, build, build. And when we were ready, we’re like, okay, now we’re going to the market. And everyone’s like, who the frick are you guys? We just sort of appeared out of nowhere. So, we do a lot more work around keeping those communication lines open and bringing people on the journey, even when we’re not raising capital. So then when we go to do it, they are kind of aware. A lot of my day was doing that.
In the early days, I was demoing the product, which is sales. I came from the sales side and was doing all the selling in the early days. Tim, co-founder, was on the product side, but then we would meet quite often and run through the product initiatives and what’s happening as well. Now I’d be catching up with the exec team about what’s happening with hiring and what people can do on the product side. It becomes quite varied, and then you get into conferences, like we’re in now toward the back end of the year. So, I get more into travel for road shows. I was in Austin last week, meeting with clients, VCs, having dinners, and trying to bring the community together, and then straight into a conference with ACC. I forget how punishing conferences can be, with my back and legs hurting from standing and trying to bring that energy of repeating conversations. The nice thing is that the conversations have changed over the years. Before, people were coming up to us and asking what matter management is and what we do. Now they know and want to speak to us about what we’re offering. That’s super refreshing, and you get a lot of energy from those conferences because you see how excited people are about what we’re doing. It’s also a chance for me to connect with the team because we are fairly distributed, even in New Zealand. We’ve got about 80 there, but about 25, close to 30 in the U.S., and a smaller number in the UK and Australia. With that kind of hybrid remote workforce coming together for events, you can connect with the team, which is always fun as well. Yeah.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, I’m interested that you’re part of the 5 a.m. Club. Do you continue that when you’re on the road as well, or it’s just not possible? I know you you’ve been to the gym this morning and now we’re on a podcast, do you try and keep those morning rituals together?
Sam Kidd: Yeah, I think when you’re traveling, being fit makes such a huge difference. It’s almost easier when you first land because time zone sometimes works in advantage. So, I’ll wake up at five and be like, “Oh, I’m easy with it today, I was up at six. It was just kind of an hour behind things.” But also, when you’re on the road, food is just heavier. And I think just to remain sharp, it kind of sets you up for the day. And getting fit sucks, getting unfit so much fun and I love food. I love food. And so, I was like okay, if I want to keep eating what I want to keep eating, I just must drag myself through the gym. But for me it’s the kind of the mindfulness of it as well. Like if I’m normally attacking cross trainers in the morning, it gives me room and space to think as well. Because you can’t look at your phone, you’re not doing things and you sort of think about what do I want to get through today? So yeah, it sort of wakes you up. It certainly helps a lot with jet lag as well.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah. I mean, aside from the fitness, are there any other kind of rituals or habits. You talked a bit about mindfulness, even as a CEO when you’re starting, it’s sometimes it’s quite hard to be a bit present, right? Because you’re always thinking about what am I doing today? What’s coming up tomorrow? I’ve got to speak to this guy. I’ve got to nail this meeting this week. Is there any other kind of habits or rituals that you do aside from the fitness game, what is it?
Sam Kidd: No, like if I was to say I’ve got great balance, my wife would lie and say you’re full of shit. And it’s truly hard to have real balance. I think it comes down to the fact that you need to enjoy what you do. That I suppose is the only ritual or the only thing you need to surround yourself with, great people and people that you want to be with all the time. Because I spend a huge amount of time with the LawVu team, more than I do with my family. So, when you think about that, just make sure you wrap good people around you. And then, also the friends, and my wife she probably keeps me grounded, and in shape on something. So, she’s the one that would probably help. Pull me along into stop working or come out of this to have a social life at home. So, you need a good partner in crime because it’s a team sport in building a company. At times it’s hugely fun but it’s freaking difficult and certainly draining at times. It makes a huge difference when you’ve got that help and support at home.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, I know. You guys are coming up to 10 years next year, which is a huge milestone. Congratulations! Two questions. So, obviously you were talking about this before that even if you’re not raising money or going for a portion of sale or anything like that, there are different focuses typically for businesses where the focus on growth and EBITDA at all costs, when you’re getting ready to grow. Fatten up that turkey for sale or for a raise or something like that versus there’s a time for a stop, reflect, build a beautiful system, spend more to invest on quality and functionality. Are you guys quite strategic or are you as a CEO strategic in that way? Or is it not you? You are just good going along with the ride. Where are you on the balance of strategic versus make it up as you go?
Sam Kidd: It’s a good question. And I think that it changes, like I said, super strategic, my VP of product would probably listen to this podcast and be like absolute bollocks because you see something. And so yes, we have the strategy sessions where we sit down, we plan out what the year is going to be. But then if we take this year, for example, AI has suddenly started to really become something, towards the end of last year. We’ve done a lot of our strategic planning. We had our road map baked this token; these are the things going to work on. And I remember sitting down with Dan, discussing we need an answer for AI, and we need it now. We need to jump on this. And so, some of it becomes reactive that way. It’s like, “Hey, we’re going to adjust our plan.” This is what strategy is, the things have we set up for the year, which are non-negotiables and what things are we just going to dig deeper to readjust now. Because you can’t just blindly set up something for 12 months and just work through and think that you’re going to do that. So, yeah. I suppose the answer is, it’s a little bit of both. Do you have the team and the capacity to allow you to kind of make those, let’s say pivots or just those adjustments as you kind of progress through the year? We quite often talk about things in LawVu what we’ve all these years. What we get done in a year feels probably like about two or three at times, because there’s just always something and you’re never ever happy with where you’re at.
We’re always saying once we get to here, once we get to this, we just need this, what we need is about an extra quarter in the year, that would be super handy and make quite a difference. Because you always feel like you’re chasing your tail and just never quite done what you want to do. I think there’s a nice cadence to that as well, where it keeps your motor and keeps pushing. The downside to that and something that we’re trying to get better at here is it’s like I said, pausing for a second, reflecting, and looking back on what you’ve achieved. We always do that at the end of the year and try to do that at times when we have big releases. To pause for a second and celebrate what we’ve all achieved, because you’re on this track, on this treadmill the whole time, and the folks we have in the company, the high achievers, they always want to be doing something. But you do need to stop and back up and be like, look, what we’ve got out and what we’ve done, and the customers we’ve brought on, we should all be immensely proud, we will stop for a second. That’s cool. Then, let’s go again. It gives you the energy to keep pushing at a relentless pace. Some people enjoy it, and we have others join, and they’re like, okay, this is just too fast for me. Most of the folks we have enjoy the chaos, planned chaos, and this scrappy stage of being accountable for the company’s growth.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah well, what would you say is the most challenging part of your role?
Sam Kidd: I see, people and communicate. I think communication with a global company, is making sure that everyone is on the same page which is much harder than I thought it would have been. I talk a lot. You’re always chatting to people, but you naturally end up in silos. So, how do we have better cross-functional communication across the company? We’ve got countries, time zones, everything, and people in different pockets. I think that’s probably the hardest aspect, making sure that we’re all running around the same thing because we’ve got such epic people in LawVu. I’m not a micromanager. We hire people because they can hit the ground running and do their thing. I’m trying to unblock things for them and let them run a million miles an hour and do what they want to do, but they can go super deep. They’re trying to work out how to communicate that back up. I just think the comms across the company, we’re 130 people at this stage, and every phase, as we set up now, we know when we bring on probably another 50 over a couple of years, you break your own systems and processes. Just as you start to feel, oh cool, we know what we’re doing, it breaks. And then you get that sorted, and it breaks again. I was talking to one of our customers at the last conference, and the scale they’ve gone through the IPO, their scale of growth, and bringing people on, it’s the same thing. Just like breaks, and just as you fix it, it breaks again, just as you fix it, it breaks again. That’s probably the hardest part.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, I empathise. Like we’re similar size. I think we’re 220 now, before the Consilio merger. Now, I think just in consulting, we’re about 500 or something like that. So, it does get increasingly difficult to keep everybody happy, still have that meaningful communication with your team, letting them know that you care and align on that same hymn song. So yeah, good point, communication, and people. What about kind of changing it up a little bit? Let’s say you were going to give a TED talk and it was completely in a different area of expertise to the legal tech space or the work that you do. What would you do a talk on and why? I know you’ve got a bunch of interesting hobbies; we follow some of that on your LinkedIn posts. But what would your TED talk be if it wasn’t about legal tech?
Sam Kidd: So, this is where it comes down to where I start to feel like my life is terrible balance because so much of it goes into realising at what are my hobbies? My only other real hobby is eating. I’ve got a pizza oven, and I love cooking. Cooking is probably my mindfulness escape. I like coming home and preparing dinner, having all our friends over in the weekends, putting the pizza oven on, normally doing steak or some other slow-cooked meat, salads, and things. So, my TED talk would probably be on entertaining, having people over. It’s weird that even though I’m surrounded by people all the time, when I get to the weekend, I like having more people over and spending time entertaining with our friends, cooking, and hanging out. That’d be my TED talk on terrible work-life balance and what to do. But back to my first point, you must enjoy what you do because a huge amount of your life goes into building a company, and it’s hard to have that perfect balance. People put a lot of pressure on themselves through social media, thinking they need mindfulness time and all these other things. That just piles a ton of pressure on people. Are they being the best human? You go online and see others being exponentially better than you. They’re reading more of the journey and doing yoga. I’ve just been working and then went home, had dinner, whiskey, and chilled out. Maybe I should have been reading more. People put an insane amount of pressure on themselves to be superhumans, but you can’t be ridiculously amazing all the time.
Tyson Ballard: I hundred percent agree. And I do think that to be honest, I spent a lot of my time speaking to leaders and businesses. Nearly all are incredibly successful humans. And I think what you’re talking about resonates in terms of that. That striving and not feeling the imposter syndrome and feel the fear that you’re not being the best human. Also, speaking to Electra last week, we talked a little about work-life balance and that feeling that you’ve got a young family as well. That is the most magical time for me as a human, spending time with my kids and being present there. But then to fit in all these other extra meditation sessions, yoga sessions, listening to this podcast, we’re doing one now. I often wonder how real these scenarios are, or if it’s that fake Instagram life that we’re buying into.
Sam Kidd: Yeah. I’ve got three kids, and they range from nine to 14. So, I’m on the road a lot. Getting home and being with them. Like COVID, as horrible as it was, probably hit for me at a good time because I was on the road about three months of the year with a young family, and then I was stuck at home for two years, not traveling. That was a super blessing. I also think we’re different from New Zealand companies. It was a net positive because it shrunk the world and zooming doing teams. As I always joke, we were Zooming before it was cool, but we were different. We were doing remote selling and remote onboarding, and that was just normalized. Even though we’ve got all our frontline staff on a customer base in the US, they’re still not having to roll out to companies and doing everything online. So, you can be more productive that way and get through more with a smaller workforce because you’re not spending hours or days traveling to a client for onboarding.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, I agree. COVID was a big shift in terms of business, and you can gain a lot from face-to-face conversations, there’s a time and place for it. But a lot of the doing and the back-end, implementation work for the businesses we’re in can be done remotely. Even at SYKE, if you give up the notion of having an office in some location, it allows you to attract the best talent in the world no matter where they are. That’s the philosophy we’ve had at SYKE, and we’ve got some great people, as I know you do in your team. What about if you think of the word successful, who is the first person that comes to mind and why?
Sam Kidd: That’s a very good question. I suppose it varies growing up for me because I often think of entrepreneurship. I was only on a flight recently watching the Richard Branson story, and he was the only entrepreneur at one stage. So, I never thought of myself as that because to be an entrepreneur was just so out there. You had to be unbelievably successful, and I was just trying to stay alive, feed myself, and create a business. It’s been kind of strange to see this whole shift to this startup culture, which came in a bit after I started. I’ve always worked for myself in some ways and never worked for another company. I’m not quite sure what “successful” kind of means. It varies depending on what I’m doing at some stage or what I’m listening to or reading. Audiobooks were a big unlock for me, like listening to the Nike story about Phil Knight and stuff. And you look at his whole journey, so good and inspirational. You look at something like that, and it just seems like the ultimate success because of the stage they went through. It’s fascinating to me. He didn’t set out to build a brand; he was just so into running and providing the best product to the customer he could. Nike was created because his supplier cut him out, and he needed his own brand, and it came about so fast, creating this gargantuan company. That, to me, is total success. But I think he’d probably look back and think there are things he could have done better.
From the outside, everyone sees other areas of success. I know we have that when people look at us and say, “Oh, you guys have been successful.” But you always feel like you’re treading water, and if you get there, you’re never quite happy with where you’re at as well. Everything always looks better and brighter on the outside.
Tyson Ballard: I often wonder about the Nike story, like I’d love to hear from the ASICS side regarding that conversation where they completely cut him off, and he was like, “All right, I’m going to do it myself.” It’s a bit similar. I don’t know if you’ve read about it, but Burton, from the snowboarding company, very similar, selling boards from the back of a car in the beginning, like the Nike story where he was creating running spikes and things like that. Really inspirational stories.
I think those are quite inspiring as an entrepreneur, where did that seed come from? Because it’s not obviously a well-trodden path in the Bay of Plenty to be launching a global business. I know there are many successful startups in New Zealand, but if you were to compare it to your mates back home. You tell me, are you an outlier, or is there a startup culture emerging from the Bay of Plenty?
Sam Kidd: I’m an outlier among my friends and the people I hang around with. The Bay of Plenty is gradually becoming more startup focused. When I moved back to New Zealand almost ten years ago, I started mentoring at startup weekends. These events bring people together to pitch their ideas on a Friday, and then everyone collaborates to create a startup throughout the weekend. I mentored at these events for about two to three years, and it was during this time that I noticed the emergence of a startup culture in New Zealand.
One thing that concerns me at times is that some people have a somewhat idealized view of startups. They see the highlights and excitement but don’t realize how utterly grinding and painfully boring my day is. Building a company requires tackling a lot of mind-numbing work, and 90 % of your life and you get it’s the occasional 10% highlights that keep you going. Everyone wants excitement the whole time. Many people start with enthusiasm, but when the initial excitement fades and the hard work sets in, they tend to drop off. However, we are starting to see a stronger group of individuals who are committed to understanding what it takes to build a company.
There are some pretty good companies starting to come out of the Bay of Plenty, out of New Zealand. Looking at Rocket Lab, Aurora, and Halter which are strong global tech companies being built globally that are suddenly being built and like that creates an ecosystem, where people start to learn from each other. Looking at companies like Xero and Vend are now contributing to other startups. And we’ve got several folks that were at Xero. Like you’ve got people that have been there and done that and they bring that culture, knowledge, and expertise than what we’re building a LawVu. We’ve had a few people that leave and gone off into other startups, they start to grow that ecosystem and I think that really helps raise the tide a little bit.
Overall, the Bay of Plenty is a great place to live and grow a global company. It’s important for people to understand that building a global company is feasible from New Zealand.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah. Xero probably paved the way in terms of that. One thing that has always fascinated me is having spent time working in Wellington and similar places. I know New Zealand well. It’s a beautiful area where you can experiment because it’s a small country. Australia, in many respects, is quite similar in terms of having multiple industries that allow for cross-collaboration. This kind of collaboration might not be as common in places like America or Europe, where everyone doesn’t necessarily have a vested interest in helping each other grow across industries. This dynamic even applies within the same industry. I see this in Europe, especially in Eastern European countries like Estonia, Lithuania, and Finland, which have amazing technology hubs that foster growth through collaboration. This collaborative culture differs from what you find in larger startup hubs like London and Berlin.
I’m really interested to know the conversation that you either had in your head or with your wife the night before you decided that I’m going to go and do this. And this is when I’m jumping off the cliff. Can you remember that conversation that you had either with Tim or was it like let’s go do it. How did that conversation go?
Sam Kidd: Yeah, I don’t think we ever had the conversation. Like I, as I said, I’ve just always been doing it. My wife is well aware of how I am. If you really thought about what you’re going to do, you’d be like, ‘No, not a fucking hope. There’s no way I’m going to put myself through this.’ Because it was the start, I’d obviously moved to New Zealand, set up a coworking space. Because I saw a niche there and it was a great way of having colleagues when I was with the working last company. And then when I started to go into something, I just stepped into it to see what’s sort of there. I think we actually sat down and thought, okay, I’m going to commit 10 years of my life or more to building this. And this be hard. So, I think part of building company is you have those moments where you think this could be something amazing. But if I deeply thought about how long, like five years I had no pay, building it and if I started out to be like, “Right, I got five years, no pay. I’m going to invest all this money in. I’ll be like on paper this doesn’t make any freaking sense.” And you know, I wouldn’t do it. So, like I’ve never sat down and thought this. This is what I’m going to do. People quite often ask, what are you going to do afterwards? And when you’re in the middle of it. It’s like I’d never fucking do this again. This is mental, this is so freaking hard, building a company. I also know that I can’t sit still for two minutes anyway. So, if I was sitting on the beach doing nothing after about 10 minutes I would be like, “Right, I bet you could do something”, I just know that’s the way I’m kind of wired to get out and do stuff. I’ve always been like that. I think building up part of me in some ways is the ability to look ahead. Because most of your day to day is so grinding that you just need to focus on the stuff in front of you. If you get so far looking to the future, you almost get blinded because there’s so much to do. And it’s like, what do I tackle next? I’ve got all these things. And so, you just tackle one thing at a time. And then you look back and be like I’ve done quite a bit here. So, that for me is probably how I compartmentalize to do this, is to not overthink it too much. I think about what’s in front of me and just tackle with the day to day.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, I mean, just building on that, what advice would you give to your younger self, to Sam who is just leaving university at 22, 23. What advice would you give yourself?
Sam Kidd: Yeah, I’m not sure. I did film and television at university. And here I am, you know, trying to tell lawyers how to be lawyers and run things. So, it’s quite a segue into this. And I think of all the companies and stuff that were set up along the way, it sort of prepares you for it. I probably quite often think more about what I tell my kids when they go to do something in their twenties because my first business was a video production company. My second was at 24, our online gaming cafe, when sort of into it. So, it was an actual retail shop that we had for five years. But I wonder if my son or daughter set up a shop like that. What I’d be like, where is this going? Like, what’s the future of this? Because I now know all the things that I do and what can have the most impact and success, but I learned a huge amount from that. That was my first-time employing people. It was my first-time having payroll, first time budgeting and setting up a company and doing work with accountants. So, was it a waste of my time because it wasn’t a company I could scale? But I learned a huge amount from that. So, like, I don’t know that I think quite often, am I going to be terrible giving advice to my kids around what to do because I’m going to want them to skip all the steps that I did just to get to the moving and growing and scaling faster part. So, I’m not quite sure if I’m good at giving advice to them. So, I’m not quite sure if I would have been any good giving advice to my younger self, other than just keep working hard.
Tyson Ballard: I think, yeah, I agree with you a little bit. I probably had a very similar journey, and my very first job was as a Japanese tour guide for Penguins on a little island in Australia. And here I am in the legal tech business as well for the last 15 years. So that spectrum from, I’ve been a bicycle courier, call centre, 35 jobs or something like that when I looked, when I counted it up a couple of months ago. But each of those one’s kind of gives you just a little bit of learning, one tells you maybe how to deal with people in stressful situations, how to operate even when you’re tired, how to conserve energy, how to communicate physically and verbally when you don’t speak the language or how to present things to people from different cultures and stuff like that. And I think, you’re right, there’s almost like no wrong path to wherever you end up in life. I’d be interested to kind of hear from you what you think in like phases of life. But lately I’ve been reading about this thing where 25 years as adolescents still finding your way, 25 to 50 years about creating your family, your house, your career, the next stage, is more about giving back. And then finally, that enlightenment kind of stage, we’re talking about Hinduism and stuff like that. Where do you think you are in your life and your phases of life? And have you ever thought about that?
Sam Kidd: Yeah, sort of, some of it’s terrifying. And I think you’re right the way you talk about the different stages, and that’s also I think people pile a mass amount of pressure on themselves, running out of time. But if I look at how long I’ve been working. Really, all my life. I’ve got the time to do this all again, the whole thing again, and then some. Like even looking at my dad, who’s just about to turn 70 and I run with him every morning, he’s been 15 years and his last job, the job he’s in now. It’s the longest he’s been in one company at 15 years. And he started that when he was in his fifties, and you still think he’s towards the end of his career. And he’s done almost more in that company than I’ve done through my entire working career. And so, it starts to give you a little bit of perspective as to how long you have to work somewhere and, you know, and some of that can take some of the pressure off. Like younger people in their mid-twenties starting to panic. Like 25, I remember 25 being a terrifying age because when you’re younger, you go through school and then you’re either kind of sold the story that when you’re in your mid-twenties, you’ve got your life together, got a house, and a car, and you’re probably married. And there’s this thing about how do I slow down now? And then you get to 25 and you still feel like you’re 18, and it’s a little bit of a shock. I don’t have anything together, and you see people hit that age, and the same when they hit 30 as well. When I look back to where I was when I was 30, it was nowhere really because you’re still kind of learning. People finish education later, and then everyone’s like, Oh God, I need to have kids and get married, and I don’t own a house. There are all these things that build up in their mind as to where they should be at each age and stage, and things happen quite fast as well. So, you don’t slowly build into things. Quite often, it’s from naught to a hundred quite quickly. Like, if you’re not working, or you’re working. So, people panic when they don’t have the job of their dreams. Oh no, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. And then they go back so it’s like you’ve never been away. Like you’re just instantly back into it at a hundred percent. You don’t slowly ease your way back into something. So how much you can achieve in a year is huge. And you can shift the dial massively. But again, we pile masses amounts of pressure on ourselves.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, yeah, I agree. There’s a lot of pressure. You touched on it before of how audio books changed the game for you, and it has done for me too. What are the top two books you would gift on or recommend that you’ve either read recently or the most gifted books that you think everyone should read? Or even top three.
Sam Kidd: Audio books are just so game-changing. I’m slightly dyslexic and too impatient to read, and so there are so many things that I wanted to get into when I discovered audio books, it just opened a world for me, like Shoe Do, which we’d already mentioned is probably right up there. I really enjoyed the Bob Iger book as the Disney CEO and his journey. The tipping point from all of Malcolm Gladwell’s books, plus he’s got such a nice voice to listen to. Like I listened to all four. All the books I listened to, I probably listened to at 1.5 to two times speed, so it feels fast as double speed, but once you get into it, your body kind of sinks. The only one I’ve listened to at normal speed was Greenlight.
Tyson Ballard: Oh yeah, with the actor, Matthew McConaughey.
Sam Kidd: Matthew McConaughey, yeah because his voice is so iconic. That’s the only one I’ve shared to slow down and just have it at the right pace. So, everything I read is biographies, so I’m just fascinated with people’s lives and what they’ve done. As I said, I did film television in college, so it’s not super applicable to what I do now. It’s almost like you can get this master’s degree in business by hearing from the people that have been there and done that. Like, I used to do a huge number of podcasts on capital raising startups and went through those for years. So, you end up with all the lingo. You understand how things work, how much you can learn from podcasts and stuff. It’s just unbelievable. All this ability to get this education there and hear from the people that have been there and done that. Then, yeah, I sort of transferred across the books when I had done with podcasts for a while. And then I’ll flip back to podcasts and that.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, I agree. A lot of knowledge you can gain from that. All good books. I’ve read all of them except for the Disney one, so it’s a good one for me. I’m going to go and get that.
Sam Kidd: What about the last one? The hard thing about hard things.
Tyson Ballard: The hard thing about hard things. I have to check that one out too.
Sam Kidd: So good. So, so good.
Tyson Ballard: What is the best thing you’ve purchased in the last six months?
Sam Kidd: Purchased? My life’s so dull. Best thing I purchased was a holiday. Went to Hawaii with the kids. It was quite spur of the moment. We had a brutal summer in New Zealand. It was just raining the whole time. And I think it was one of those things to buy experiences and it was a chance where it was 10 days away. There’s never a good time when you’re building a company to take a holiday. And that was almost spirit of the moment. We were like, let’s just do this, and just banged everything onto a credit card. And we went over there for 10 days and a little bit of a kind of switch off. And that’s the joy I’ve got such a good team that can enable you to dip into emails but try not to get stuck into Slack and things like that. Just get that time away with the family before I head into the travel season. So, I think that was without a doubt the best purchase and just trying to build those memories. Especially when I look at my kids, and someone said it to me a while ago, like I’ve got four summers probably left with my son before he leaves. You start thinking, four summers, when you think about that, it’s terrifying. So, it’s like, how do we kind of create those memories and things? Yeah, that was probably it.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah. A hundred percent. I’ve never thought about it in that respect. My, my eldest is 10 now, so I’ve probably only got eight summers left, max, we’re together as a family. So, it’s good to be reminded of that. Really good one. What about one final one? I’ve really enjoyed the conversation. I probably could talk for two or three hours on about all this stuff. But one final one, Sam, what is your theme song? I know we talked, I had to give you a bit of a heads up before. It’s bloody hard.
Sam Kidd: So, yeah, I was trying to think, I suppose ‘If I can dream’ by Elvis Presley.’ Only because I tried to attempt that for wife at a karaoke during her birthday. Slightly kind of pulled it off. So that’s probably the one that stands, at the moment. I think it probably sums up how I feel. If you have a dream, you can bring people together, achieve what you want to achieve.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, and a really great tune with a great message. I agree. I’m kind of a firm believer in manifestations. And if you start to kind of dream it, think it, talk about it, you can actually make it happen. You know, I’ve seen it. I see a lot with the Alistair, our CEO. So, I think it’s a great tune. Good choice. From my side, Sam great talk. Thank you so much for making the time. Thoroughly enjoyed it and thank you so much.
Sam Kidd: Cheers. Thank you.
Tyson Ballard: Excellent.