#27 Operating like a family – Mark Fazio, Co-Founder, MATE Telecommunications (s02ep3)
DISCUSSED IN THIS EPISODE
- The need for structure and planning when working with family in business
- Taking opportunities to grow and learn in the corporate world to create your career
- Leadership strategy: “to treat people one step above what the already are and they can grown into it”
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Transcript from the interview
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Graeme Cowan, Mark Fazio
Graeme Cowan 0:02
Hi everyone, this is Graeme Cowan, and welcome to the Caring CEO podcast. We create this podcast because we believe that every leader’s number one priority is to build a more caring and resilient team who enjoys growing together. It is my job to interview CEOs and other senior leaders who value building both a culture of care and a culture of high performance. I’m very keen to understand how they do this, and I’m sure they’ll be lots of insights and tips for anyone who wants to build a high performing team. Mark Fazio is the Co-Founder of Mate Telecommunications. With his identical twin brother David, the desks are side by side, they have a lot of fun swapping desk to confuse their teammates. Mate is the exact opposite of a giant faceless telecommunications company. In fact, for Mate family is everything. This front focus on family history, Mate’s consistently local Australian focus customer service centered business. They now employ 70 plus people, not all of whom are actually family, and they have a erotic covenant status to prepare a home cooked meal. Impressively, in 2021, they have won 10 stars most satisfied NBN customers award and customer service team of the year. They in every service rating of 4.5 out of 5 coming from over 2000 customer reviews. There truly is customer success to every employee being able to solve a customer’s query or problem and they don’t have to transfer them to someone else. Doesn’t that sound great? Priority his role, Mark worked for 7 years with Microsoft in Australia and Singapore and learn a lot about the importance of a purpose led company through this experience. Mate hire for attitude and a way to train the right candidates and have made many great recruitment decisions following this formula. Mark explains how having a caring culture has helped them to achieve great results. He also explains how every single employee is given sole responsibility for one element of their operation. It’s really quite interest in that. In these days of so-called Corporate Efficiencies with overseas call centers, this is a really refreshing approach. Enjoy. It’s my pleasure to welcome Mark Fazio, the general manager of Mate Telecommunications. Welcome, Mark.
Mark Fazio 2:38
Thank you, Graeme, thanks for having me. It’s a absolute pleasure to be here.
Graeme Cowan 2:41
What does care in the workplace mean to you, Mark?
Mark Fazio 2:45
Yeah, it’s a, it’s a good question. Right? I think, you know, the usual answers you get is making sure that you have the right balance, the right support, and being empowering as a leader, but I mean, we, we simply put it down to the ability to make a living that puts, it’s the flexibility to be able to make a living in our business, that puts less pressure on your personal life. And that’s, that’s, that’s what we put it down to. So, because our view is that making a living is all about creating opportunities for, for your personal life, you know, whether you want to buy a house, buy a new car, you know, send your kids to school, etc. And, and work should be flexible enough to support that because you’re there to make that money, to make those, those goals a reality, right?
Graeme Cowan 3:31
Yeah, absolutely. And at Mate, you’ve done a lot of work to create the right culture haven’t you? Can you just explain a bit, a bit about that?
Mark Fazio 3:39
Yeah, I mean, our culture has come from, from day one. So, I mean, it comes back to the reason why we started the business and where it started. And you know, that my, the CEO is my identical twin brother, David, which is pretty unique, right? You know, we decided to make a credit business probably back in the beginning of 2016. And the whole purpose of it was to take the– Or my twin brother was working for a corporate role back then selling networks to people like us at Mate, and he probably suffered heavily from anxiety, from, from a corporate world, had a young family and it was really getting to him. And, but we had, we had a concept of an, of an idea of to create a business that would hopefully give us some financial freedom, take the traditional stress away from the corporate world and, and that’s where we went, right? And the culture built from there because we literally started the businesses at my auntie’s backyard with, with a PC on top of a filing cabinet. And every day my auntie would come in and obviously bring lunch to my brother David. In that backyard, the business grew to 30 people and 30,000 customers to the point we had swipe cards, going from my auntie’s yard to go to the backyard where we had the business. And, but what stayed core to that, that part of that business was my auntie cooking lunch every day for the guys and the girls in the office. And then since then obviously 2019, we, we, only 2019 we move to obviously a proper business, proper office, we’ve got over 70 staff now. But again, if I talk about culture, we took our auntie with us. So, we’ve got the, all the business upstairs, downstairs, we’ve got the lunch room and a gym, etc. But my auntie is still there cooking home, home-cooked meal, Italian meals for all our last staff and which is something that builds, a something that, that I guess pinpoints the culture of our business, which is family. And if I look at the staff in our business, the first 19 staff were cousins, or brothers or siblings, right? So, we ran out of family to hire. Now, our family is very involved with our business and, and if you, and if you become a member of the Mate team, you become a member of our family. And I think that’s where it all came from. And, and that just goes right through the business, which I think in other facts makes it just mean more, right?
Graeme Cowan 6:01
I guess there is the potential downside with family, you know, some difficulty in raising prickly issues and you’ve known each other for a long time. How do you ensure that, you know, you’re not too nice and don’t stop talking about the tough stuff?
Mark Fazio 6:18
Yeah. And everybody asks us the same question, right? I think in all the older cousins that that work in the business are on my mm’s side of the family. And we’ve always been very close, and I think it’s, you know, the, the credit guys were our mothers and aunties, uncles, our parents, obviously, that made us so close during that, during the years of growing up, if that made sense. And I think it comes down to that. But there is always, there’s always, we’re not always going to agree, whether we’re family or not. And they always say you can’t pick your family, right? I think in our business, we’re very structured and, and very planned. And I think that’s what allows us to win. So, no one overlaps. If you look at the, the executive team, we’ve got somebody who owns the tech and, and legal side of things, and, and that doesn’t overlap with somebody who also owns operations, commercials, finance, and sales and marketing, which is what I do. And I think we were very structured and very listed of who does what and, and we don’t have a lot, we always got our opinions. But we all we always trust each other with, with the fact that we own the business. And I think the type of trust that you can’t get, at the top of trust that you get with family is second to none, right? And so, I think you have, the trust is built from the day we were born and now we’re in this business together, and we’re trusting each other in different ways. And so, the trust hasn’t gone away. It just we’re just trusting them with new and bigger things, if that makes sense.
Graeme Cowan 7:49
You had a corporate career before, you know the involved in this business. Can just give people a bit of a quick overview about how, what you did, which led you to starting Mate.
Mark Fazio 7:59
Yeah, I mean, I think I can talk about every job but I think the biggest opportunity I had was back in 2004, I worked as a customer service manager for a VoIP company called Engine. And at that time, Engine was the first consumer VoIP offering in the, in the Australian market. So, we literally produced a what they call a voice box that we put on retail shelves for consumers to take home and make calls via the Internet and to get the savings that went along with that. And that was very ahead of its time. The only thing that was around at that time was Skype, which was p2p, right? It wasn’t, it wasn’t pick up the phone and making a call and, and at that time, it was a brand-new business. And as a guy named Matt Farmer who’s now the head of recall at TP Link. He was our sales manager at that time. And he said to me, do you want to be the account manager of Dick Smith? And, and all those people and I said, I’m not going to hell, I’ve got no clue what you’re talking about. But I like talking to people and they may not, but I’m up for doing something else. So, he gave me this crack. He, he knew what I, what I knew in knowledge and, and support, and nurturing relationships. He, I would get the, I would get back in the other side of things that were required. And he gave me the biggest opportunity and I took it and I went for it, right? And, and then lo and behold, you know, it got me to you know, I worked at Blackberry and 20th Century Fox and then landed probably my, my best 8 years of my corporate life in Microsoft where I, you know, I took on products like Xbox and surface tablets. And, you know, I took on an Asia-based role. So, I moved to Singapore and manage product categories across a marketing category across Asia or across different countries. And yeah, I mean, if you talk about one point that got me to where I am, that’s the Matt Farmer and you probably listened to this, give me the opportunity to take on a national cat at probably 23, 23 years old without any experience. And I just thought this is my opportunity to create my career.
Graeme Cowan 10:04
Yeah, I have a similar experience. I work with the Division of Pfizer, and the guy who was managing director that business check Omani, you know, he promoted me to marketing manager and I said, oh, God, can I do this? And, but then I thought, well, if he thinks I can do it, maybe I can.
Mark Fazio 10:25
Graeme Cowan 10:25
And I do love that as a, as a leadership strategy to treat people one step above what they already are. And they grow into it, they really do.
Mark Fazio 10:35
Yeah, and if I, if I talk about that a little bit, so in my team at Mate, so I mean, I, ultimately, we do, everybody does a bit of everything, but the part that I only sales and marketing, and, and the day I decided to move back from Singapore, because everything I did at Mate was on the weekends before I moved back from Singapore. And so obviously, it’s a, you know, it’s a completely different business of today of what it was. But um, I mean, it was a, it was a one-man team to start with, right from a sales and marketing perspective. And, and now we’ve got six people on the team and not one, apart from one person, everybody has been promoted within the business, not because of the experience, but because of the termination and the attitude to win. So, you know, like that the same, the same opportunities that Matt Farmer gave me, I’ve given to like, I think I’ve given to five other people on my team who have just excelled. And I think sometimes you can, you can learn, you can learn things where you can have experience, but people, people just have a different mindset to succeed. And I think they may not have the knowledge. But if they’ve got the mindset to succeed, the rest will come with it in some ways. And optic doesn’t stay true to every situation, but in my experience, this is what’s happened.
Graeme Cowan 11:50
What do you think are the keys to a great team?
Mark Fazio 11:54
Keys to a great team, it comes down to loyalty and trust to start with, right? The people that you hire, need to be taken, need to understand the journey that you’re on from day one, need to understand the expectations that come with it, but also for thick and thin for bad and, and good, they need to hold their head high. Because they need to stay strong too the course, right? Nothing’s gonna go, nothing’s, not always going to go to plan. And trust me, our plan for Mate has changed about 90,000 times. But what stayed true is that the people involved in the business have been loyal to the cause, no matter where it went, or where it didn’t go. And you can, and they’ve trusted what you’ve said. And even if you’ve made mistakes, so I’ve made a heap of mistakes, but they’re not mistakes, then a personal mistakes or, or against people their mistakes, because we thought something was going to work. But something changed and it didn’t work. But the, the, the outcome is always the same plant, right?
Graeme Cowan 12:54
Yeah. I just like to jump back a second to your time at Microsoft. And they are now I think, the number one most valuable company in the world. What do you think is the core to that success?
Mark Fazio 13:09
Well, you know, I would say, first of all, Microsoft taught me so much about what I do today, and how to treat people from an organization perspective. But if I go back to the first day, I started at Microsoft, it was a very different business. It was back in the day, Steve Ballmer was still the head, and I was there, right, the beginning of the transition or to Satra. Right. And I think you mentioned, Graeme, that you’ve read, such as book right, in the past. But I mean, my opinion is, it starts, every business starts from the top down, right? And you could from, I’ll tell you the truth that the first six months I was in Microsoft, I was always ready to quit. I wasn’t, I wasn’t happy with the way things were, I wasn’t happy with the culture, to certain degree, there were things that I just didn’t agree with. And I reckon within that first year and a half lucky, I stuck it out because Satra came on board. And honestly, it changed the world changed. Like things I had, I had opportunities to be involved in philanthropy campaign. So not only was I, and take and take days off from work to go and do things that matter. I think that, that just made me want to work harder for Microsoft, right? And, I mean, you could talk about so many different things, but the culture and the and sort of the values that Satra delivered to the business changed and to where it is today. And I think that that opened people’s minds, well, what more can we do? Like that’s where new products came from, you know, because people believe in, people believe, people believe in working with each other. And so, and that’s where what that mindset of all these people with all these ideas come up with all these new products and ideas. And I mean, you see them that they’re killing it the moment, right?
Graeme Cowan 14:47
Yeah, they really are and I was fortunate enough to see the initial address that he, that he gave to Microsoft employees when he started and it was all about, you know, purpose using Microsoft to solve problems that are, that are, that are important to you. And in his case, he had some children with some learning difficulties and talk about how technology could help them and then challenged everyone to think about, you know, what problems you want to solve. And it’s, it’s remarkable when you think of an organization that size, how long did it take from when you started, when you started to feel things were different.
Mark Fazio 15:23
So, if I, if I remember correctly, so maybe my 8th or 9th month, I was there that he started to going to, that he took his, took on his role, and the transition happened, I reckon, probably 6 months after that, you really saw, he really felt the, the presence of him, right? Just when he even changed it to the mission statement. And so, I’ll never forget it, you know, empowering every person in the organization on a planet to achieve more, right? That one line just says so much, right? And I reckon 6 months, within the, within 6 months we start and remember how big the organization is, and how many countries involved to land in my little department in Australia, and to fill that is, is phenomenal. Right? And yeah, I mean, to me, in an organization that big 6 months, that’s pretty quick, in my opinion.
Graeme Cowan 16:15
How remarkable, remarkable in organization that size. And how– What, what did you learn from that you want to make part of your DNA? Mates DNA?
Mark Fazio 16:29
Oh, that you have no business without the right people. Or you have no, you have no successful business, unless the people in the business believe in what you’re trying to achieve. And, and believe in the journey that you’re going on. That’s absolutely what I took from that, you know, that is the empowerment of people that, that the business gave us to bear to achieve the goals in our, in our little area was the, all you needed to want to fight and work hard and, and deliver on the right outcomes and fight for every, every aspect of it. Right? That’s, I mean, if I take one thing, that’s what I took out of it. And I feel like I’ve always had that because I’ve come from an Italian family that were my parents migrated from Italy with nothing, without speaking a word of English, learn a tribe, learn English, you know, work their bums off six days a week with four boys and we ate a lot, right? And, you know, that put us through school and all these different things to make sure that we didn’t have to go through the struggles they had to go through. So, you know, we will, we always felt like that. We always felt like we had everything when sometimes we probably had very minimal, right? And I feel like we had that and then go into Microsoft, and the way Satra delivered that to the business. And those values met that, you know, what I feel like I’m working for my family, my parents, it’s that family culture sort of shone through and these values in my opinion.
Graeme Cowan 17:56
Yeah. And you know, when I look through some of the background to your organization, there are a lot of things to reward, you know, reward family involvement, I think, reading the values, you had authenticity, inclusion, simplicity, family. Have you tried to embed those four values?
Mark Fazio 18:22
We, so, I mean, I wouldn’t say there’s a formal way, but we, as an executive team, we talk about them. You know, we, we, you know, like we do things like, if I look at inclusion, for example, because, I mean, inclusion comes in many different ways, you know, where it comes from all different things in life. But one thing we try and do is make sure that everybody’s included, everybody sees, like, their role in the business matters, as well as, you know, the different things. So, for example, we have everybody in our business owns something, whether it, whether it’s choosing the snacks or going to the vending machine, or the type of coffee that we have, or the you know, like, you know, who runs the table tennis competition downstairs, and so on so forth. Everybody in the business owns something for everybody. And I think our true way of inclusion, right? You know, and, and I think that’s important because, like, I mean, for example, I talk about a guy, Mark, right, Mark or Rocco we call in the business, he owns choosing the coffee for the business, right? And everybody right? Because everybody likes coffee in fact and everybody and he owns that for the whole biz. Such a big like to him it’s a big thing. Oh, you know, I chose that you’re happy with that coffee? I chose that, you know. Not only coffee, but, but he owns something, right?
Graeme Cowan 19:44
Mark Fazio 19:45
And that’s why because it’s, not everybody can own every, every huge decision, but they can own there’s always something that they can own, right? You know, for example, I’ve got Adrian in our business who owns the gym equipment that goes into our gym, right? Even a lot more but one day I will. What I mean like he chooses the, the equipment that goes in the office, in the office. So, what he’s done, he’s doing, he’s now empowered to do, you know, gym sessions, organized boxing classes and things like that. And he owns that for the business. And these guys are the executive team. But they feel like they’re making executive decisions.
Graeme Cowan 20:18
Yeah, yeah. I really, I really like that. You this year can start what are you the most satisfied customers in the NBN category? Now, you’re obviously competing against some very big players there. How did you? How did you do that? How did you, how do you have such great customer service?
Mark Fazio 20:42
First of all, look, I mean, I can always talk about, I feel like, I’m going to give credit to my twin brother here, because he’s the operational guy, right? And I think planning process communication is our big three things that we always talk about, you know, we’re not, we’re not always going to be perfect, we’re not always going to have the best systems, but planning the process and communication allows us to succeed. So that’s the theory side of things. On the practical side of things, we made a very strong, made a very direct decision to keep all our service onshore and offshore. And that’s not to say that offshoring is a problem, the problem of offshoring is that non-use it the time and day that’s required for education, training, you know, you can’t build your team to have the same sort of feeling as you do in in your office. And, and the people when you offshore, it, you’re trying to communicate things that, that the people communicate and don’t actually understand what they’re communicating, because I’ve never experienced it, right? From, from a service point of view, I think keeping an onshore is a big thing, as well. But the other thing is, well, we made sure that everybody’s a one stop shop, right? So, we’ve gone away, we’ve, we’ve gone away, we’ve our is our transfer you to sales, or transfer you to here or wherever it is, right with, everybody should be able to do everything. And, and we’re very, and obviously, that takes time for people to learn when they come into the business. But the one stop shop means that call make one call, that person could connect your NBN. You know, if you have a challenge, we can book a technician to go out, they can sell you a new mobile phone, they can fix your phone, and all those different things. And I think that just gives a lot of confidence to our customer, that every time they ring, every person they speak to, they’re gonna get all the answers they need without being chopped, and changed and sent around. And then, and then also, on top of that, consistency is key. And we’ve put a lot of AI technology into our business that sort of looks at all, it takes all the audio files of our course, and spits them into, you know, like word, word clouds and things like that, to understand what we’re saying when we say them, and why. And then allows our education team to make sure that we’re, we’re making sure we fix things or, or change things based on sentiment scores and things like that. I mean, there’s a lot of detail there. But I mean, I think first and foremost, it’s the, it’s the theory of process planning, our planning, process communication, it’s onshoring. It’s, and it’s in the systems that we have.
Graeme Cowan 23:09
And I can just see how having just speaking to one person would be, you know, a huge win for customers, like we’ve all been on bank things and you get to a certain stage and think we’ve got a negative transfer, you think, oh my God, here we go again. The music and you think, oh, here we go, go stadel ever again. So that is a huge, huge benefit. But it must lead to your services costing more and the need to charge more. And you find that in most situations, cuz customers are very happy to do that.
Mark Fazio 23:47
Yeah. And look, the good thing is that we don’t charge more, we’re always we’re not the cheapest, but we’re not the most expensive as well, right? And so, we’re right in the middle. And I think and if you bundle mobile with internet, we do become the cheapest internet in the market. Right? So and so our business is a scale business, right? Where we get the reward is on number of customers, not individual customers. So short margins are low. Right. But we know that we don’t, we don’t get as many, my opinion is, if I know from the industry, we get half the amount of cause those other businesses would get because we fix things the first time. And that systems allow things not to break in certain ways. So, I mean, our process allows us to keep that sort of margin model with the prices that we have. And with the with the you know, the one stop shop service that we offer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a balance every day. Right? But I mean, I just think you got it. If you do things better the first time, then they will come back at you, right?
Graeme Cowan 24:48
If you believe like we do that leader number one priority is to build a more caring and resilient team who enjoys growing together. You may be interested in these three free resources were provided at our website, factorc.com.au. The first one is the We Care Credo poster. And this contains the mindset and values of teams that prize, self-care, crew care, and redzone care. The second resource is a poster called, ‘How to support a teammate in distress’. And this provides easy to follow instructions on how to identify someone who’s struggling, how to have the ‘Are you okay?’ conversation with empathy, and how to guide them to the help that they need. And the third resource is a building a mentally healthy culture checklist. And this provides items to think about before you launch initiative, how you do a great launch. And then thirdly, how to keep the momentum going following the launch. These three free resources can be found at factorc.com.au.
How do you practice self-care?
Mark Fazio 26:04
For me, I’m a planner, right? I think planning allows me to put blocks of things I need to do in my life, whether it be, I like to call it personal life admin, right? Outside of work, there’s like, that’s, you know, going to the shops or paying the bills or trying to go to the gym or going to see something that you want to see, right. But I’m a planner. So, I mean, my calendar is my life. People go, you know, can’t you be spontaneous, but my view is that from if I plan myself, I know from six till midnight, that I can’t be spontaneous, because I got nothing to worry about, I can sit or watch a TV show or I can either go, go and visit the family or whatever it is. And so, my opinion, the way it works for me is that I plan it and I know that at certain time, I can do whatever the hell I want to do, because I’ve got no business or personal commitments. And so that’s how I do it. Right? And it seems to work for me. And don’t get me wrong, you always, you probably don’t always stay true to what you do. But um, that’s my, in my world, that that’s how it works for me.
Graeme Cowan 27:07
And have you encouraged for your employees to, you know, to value looking after themselves as well.
Mark Fazio 27:15
Yeah, you know, I feel like we do it. Because business is business. And we, we’ve got to do a job and which gives you the power to go and live your life. But I think what we do is that we’re very structured our approach. So, we use, we use a tool called Asana, right, I’m not sure if it’s a project management tool. But basically, we say in our business, if it’s not an Asana, it didn’t happen, right. And the power of that is that you know, what you need to achieve by when, and how you do it is up to you, right, and I think that enables them to have self-care because they can plan their life. Okay, they say that, okay, I’ve got four tasks due this week. I know three of them are due on Thursday, and ones on Tuesday, I’ve got time on Wednesday to, I don’t know, start at 10 and go to the gym later and have a bit of a sleeping because maybe I’ll work late that night, or take my kids to school because I can make it this day, and so on and so forth. And I say, the way we encourage it is that the way we do it is that let’s plan properly know what you need to do by when and however you do. It is up to you. And that’s your life and how you achieve it. And I think what that does is that okay, well, how do you fit in the things that matter to your life outside of work to achieve the goals you need to hit inside of work? And I think that my opinion that works and, and I think and I think the team love it, right?
Graeme Cowan 28:38
Yeah. And I guess it’s underpinned by this loyalty and trust, you talk about, you know, you let people take responsibility to work it, how they can make it happen themselves. And you know, just talking with you, it makes me think of another book I read called ‘Everybody Matters’ by Bob Chapman. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of that book.
Mark Fazio 28:59
I’ve heard it but I haven’t read it. I have heard.
Graeme Cowan 29:01
He’s also got a TED talk. But he is right in your lane, like the subtitle of the book is how to achieve extraordinary results by treating employees like family. And he’s in the manufacturing business in the US, which is, you know, just been hammered. But they just doing so well. And because they really invite people to contribute when they take over a new business. They say we’re not doing any retrenchments, tell us what, what you’ve been saying we should be do for the last six months, and we’ll do it. And they’ve just, it’s got to the stage where, you know, employee got this reputation when they take over a new company, the employees celebrate, because they know that they’re going to be involved in the future of the business. So yeah, there’s just seems to be lots of similarities to the way that you run, Mate.
Mark Fazio 29:53
Yeah, and Graeme, you know, I love how you say that. And, you know, I go back to 2019 when we sort of took a step back to say, hey, shit, this business is actually working. Let’s take it to the next level, I designed the mission statement that we are the everyday people providing products consumers want with the value and service they deserve. And I think the everyday people live really represented the people we had in the business and the people we hire today. And I think that statement is sort of drives a team because they know what about them instead of some funky buzzword that sort of represents something that they don’t understand. Right. And so, so, I think, to your point, the mission statement was based on that as well.
Graeme Cowan 30:35
Yeah, I really liked that mission statement, because it’s aspirational, but it also tells, you know, who you’re serving and how you’re serving them. And that’s a great thing to have in one statement, and how do you keep that top of mind with people?
Mark Fazio 30:49
I mean, apart from visual elements, I think, I think from a personality point of view, we’re, we’re probably not your traditional corporate environment, not to the point that that like, you know, oh, go in and have a laugh with people. You know, no matter who you are, what you’re doing our business, the doors are open, you know, we try and keep it a like a, what’s hot, this hot, desking type of environment where people sit wherever they want to do. One day, you could be sitting next to the CEO, my brother David, the other time you could be sitting next to, to myself or somebody else. But from my, from my brother, David, and my point of view, we always try and play tricks on everybody, because which gives us a bit of laugh, right? So well, we’ll play table tennis, and we’ll do something else. And sometimes the guys won’t even have a clue who they’re talking to if it’s David or Mark and, and we have a little bit of a leaderboard. So how many times, how many times you get David and Mark wrong, right? We put it against the leaderboard and the most gets a prize. Something that is sort of like, it’s a very sometimes it can be a very high tense environment, cuz there’s so much going on. But I think there’s little things like that David and Mark who got it wrong board and, and all those different things just balance it all out. Right. And so, to take away, hey, yes, sure. They might own the business; they might run the business. They may be the executive team, but they’re just like everybody else. And which is true to us. Our mission statement the everyday people, right.
Graeme Cowan 32:13
Yeah. When you think about your career, and of course for Mate as well. Can you think of a time where you had a real career crisis?
Mark Fazio 32:23
Yeah, I can actually. I, between, before I went to Microsoft, so it was Engine, which I work for, right, which was really great. And that sort of came to an end. Because CHANNEL SEVEN and unwired, back then they all bought the business and emergent whatever it was wrong. And I was on my next, where I was going next. And, you know, I took a role at Blackberry, which is via an agency and that was a time where BlackBerry was big and it died. The dive because the iPhone and all these different things happen. And then I moved into 20th Century Fox, which I absolutely hated to go on us with it because I found it was boring and just wasn’t hitting the elements that I loved in myself and what I was doing no disrespect to the company, obviously there’s just what it was. And, and then I sort of that was the first time I had two jobs in the space of what, two years or two and a half years. And I thought, shit, what the hell am I doing? Like, where am I going? What I’m trying to achieve? Right? So, this is not like me, I’m a planner. And I like I plan things, I save, I do what I need to do, and I know what’s going on. And these, these two and a half, three years, I felt like I was always in limbo doing jobs that probably I didn’t even like or I didn’t know what the purpose was. And, and that was really it right? And then I am, okay, I didn’t– And that was, that was my, that was my big time where I thought I don’t know what the hell was going on, and what I should be doing and, and then like I came across this role at Microsoft. And again, I just apply for it because I thought, well, Microsoft’s Tech to be company. Let’s see what I can do. I probably think that again, I thought it was just another, another, another job to have because I wasn’t happy where I was. But I came across a lady named Nicole Robinson, who’s still there now. And she gave me purpose in the interview. Right? She said, she said, Microsoft is this is your job. But this is what you can do. Right. And she spoke about a few you could do this; you could do that. You could get into product management, you can get in here you can move overseas, and she, she gave me a career path in the first 30 minutes of an, of an interview, let alone being the job and it just honestly from the first 30 seconds again, your purpose and that fix all my challenges, right that half an hour conversation fix all the challenges I had in the three years before.
Graeme Cowan 34:37
Yeah, it is amazing, isn’t it? The role the purpose can have in providing real fulfillment in work. There was a report came out just a couple of months ago by Atlassian and PwC. And it identified that the number one societal issue that those employees were concerned about was mental health. It even became a hit of access to healthcare and to, and cost of living. So, and what they also found that on average, the 54% of employees were engaged in their work, but if their company was addressing some of the societal issues, that engagement, an 89%. You know, knowing the company isn’t just about making $1, it’s about helping to change the world and make the world with better as well. And, and that is why, you know, also think is this, this purpose isn’t just nice to have, I think it’s really critically to negotiate tough times.
Mark Fazio 35:43
Yeah, absolutely, Graeme. Let me give you an example and of our business, right, and I do it because I’m very I want to talk about cuz I’m very proud of it. But I mean, if I look at Mark or Rocco, we call him in our business he, he was a foreman in our trademark, tradesmen worker, and he, you know, he busted his back his knees, he was, you know, in his book, early 30s, young family, and couldn’t go back to the trade that he was in, right, because he couldn’t physically do it. And he came into our business, you know, looking for a job and million T sales, I’ve got no experience. And I’ve come from, from a trading background, but I know like I like tech, I can talk to people, if you give me a chance, you know how make a difference. And now he heads up our customer service, technical team, he’s there. And he may have tats in all these different things. But he’s one of the most important people we have now business today. And he wouldn’t be the traditional corporate person, but he’s one of the best people at the job that he does. And everybody loves him. He, he delivers family first values, he’s the most helpful guide, his hands on, all these different things that really say a lot about his personality. And all we did was give him a chance. And now he’s, he’s one of the biggest differences. Why our business successful. And yeah.
Graeme Cowan 37:07
And I love that approach, which I’ve also read about some of the, in some of your articles about, you know, your hire for attitude and values and can then train people. I was a recruiter for 15 years, and it always used to frustrate me so much that people looking for exact backgrounds, exact skills that would be right for that. Because as you’ve already highlighted, you can train people, but you can’t change attitudes, you can’t change values. And if, if they’re driven, if they want to make a difference. You know, that’s the key element. It really is.
Mark Fazio 37:40
Yeah, absolutely. And in my opinion, and you can tell a lot about people’s attitude and motivation within the first 15 minutes of talking to them, right? You know, the question I asked, you know, in interviews that told me about you, what do you like to do? And it’s like can’t talk passionately about the things that I like to do. And then, you know, there’s not a lot of motivation there, right? To do the things that maybe you don’t want to do, which is work, right. And so, yeah, so true. And, yeah, and then having, having multiples of those people just inspires people around you as well, right?
Graeme Cowan 38:15
Yeah. Yeah, it does. And while you’re on that mission, and people are encouraged to try new things, you know, one of the things that I’ve seen in the last few years in particular is the increase in the concept of teen psychological safety. And what that means is that people can be themselves, they can be authentic, but they can take moderate risks, they’re encouraged to take moderate risk to try new things. And if it doesn’t work out, you learn from it. Someone has nick crucified, and it sounds like that’s, you know, an important element in terms of how you run the business as well.
Mark Fazio 38:51
Yeah, we do. And so, one thing, we really encourage you that is everything, every time we hire for a job, it’s internal, first, no matter what it is, right? Because you want to make sure that everybody has, everybody has done the hard yards, have the opportunity to do something first. And to your point, we give everybody sort of a buddy system. So, what is one role that you want to learn the business that you have no clue about today, but you’re interested in, right, you know, whether it be finance, whether it be sales or marketing, whether it be Channel Sales, or whatever it is, and, and every week, everybody has the opportunity, spend one hour in that division to understand what they do, and how they do it to see if they ever want to, want to do it, right? You know, one thing that we’ve probably haven’t done properly from the start, but that we’re doing properly now is doing that formal structure around the Cree progression, right? And that comes down to one because 19 of the family started so it was your cousin’s that you’re dealing with, right? You’re on my auntie’s backyard, and then you’re just as a small business, you put band aids in place and then you realize shit, this thing does actually work and we didn’t realize. Now, now we’ve, now we’ve got 70 something people and we need the, we need to slow it out make sure that they’ve got a query plan, because we’re only, we’re only planning to grow again, and we need to work out. Okay, what succession plan? Who’s going to come in here? And when we’re going to do that? Do we know enough about them? All these different things, right?
Graeme Cowan 40:11
Yeah, very much. What do you think your team would know what is your number one strength?
Mark Fazio 40:20
I think that would nominate my strength as communication. I think I’m an open book, obviously, communication. And I’m well planned those– And I think that’s what they will say about me. I mean, that’s from, from a, from a work perspective, I think from a personal perspective, and that would call me very empathetic, right? I always want to find out about somebody before I find out what they can do. I want to know about them before, before what they deliver that makes sense. And so, I hope to think that’s what they say about me. Yeah, like, I think I think, I think that will tell I’m a good communicator and a good planner, so they know what’s going to happen and when to expect it. And I think if they’ve got a challenge in life, or work, that they can come to me without being scared to tell me what it is. And, and for me not to judge them about whatever the, whatever they’re struggling with.
Graeme Cowan 41:19
You mentioned previously about Microsoft, that that you were involved in philanthropy there. What was that? What were you passionate about that?
Mark Fazio 41:29
Yeah, I mean, like, it’ll, it’ll took place when I when I moved to Singapore, I was working for Microsoft in Singapore, I had the opportunity to, to go in, you know, fix up orphanages in– So I spent a lot of time in, in Vietnam, in, in orphanages, where, in, you know, dealing with kids that obviously were abandoned, and we spent time, you know, playing with the kids, painting their rooms, buying the new, you know, beds and toys, and things like that. And it was just, that’s, and, you know, creating, buying them food, supporting them with technology to learn and educate and stuff like that. And that’s what I, that’s what I did there. So, you know, I’m a very family person. I’ve got, I haven’t got kids myself, but I’ve got a lot of niece and nephews, and I’ve been an uncle at a very young age. And so, I and my eldest niece and nephew work at night, so we keep it close about, um, I think, you know, kids in what their future, or what future they deserve is very important, right? And I look at on my family, how my parents struggled. How my grandparents struggled to give us a life. And I think everybody deserves a life of some sort to be able to achieve their goals. And, you know, when I was at Microsoft had the opportunity to go to orphanages to support those kids. I think it was a no brainer, it just gives you so much more purpose in life.
Graeme Cowan 41:29
Mark Fazio 41:41
Especially in technology. Like, you know, you look at Sachin Adela. His goal is to empower people with technology and just going there and allow them to communicate with the family allowed them to, to educate when they had no opportunity of an education that made sense. You know, online courses, you name it, they were able to have an education from a simple PC without having the money or the ability to go out and go to school. Right.
Graeme Cowan 43:17
Mark Fazio 43:17
And so that’s, that’s the power of it.
Graeme Cowan 43:20
Can you think of a time in the last year or two? We’ve been concerned about someone and you have asked someone are you okay.
Mark Fazio 43:27
Yeah, I have. Yeah, I have somebody my team, you know, when you work. I mean, you spend most your time at work, right? This be honest, right? And hopefully, now you, you might be doing work. But hopefully you got the flexibility of working from home and things like that. So, you get close and understand how the people you manage, act and how they feel. And I think it’s quite easy to tell one day or over a couple days that where they’re just not themselves, right? And yeah, and recently, over the last, not last month, month before maybe, I have one person in the team who you could tell that one day they came in and heads down and disquiet, usually not what they used to. And then probably happened the second day and then the third day you realize okay, this is, it’s not just they’re not feeling great or, or something else something is really challenging happening and, and in lo and behold, they had a family challenge that they probably never that had the environment in their life to talk about it outside, maybe with their siblings or their parents or whatever it is. And I think what I did, I gave them the opportunity to feel comfortable to talk about it when in their personal life, they probably had no one or somebody to talk about it with. Yeah, I mean, I’m not to go into much detail, but that, that happened. I think, as an employer as a manager. I think we as part of our role to acknowledge that as well. Right? You know, not to get into, get into their business but I think if you’re working somebody every day, and you’re talking to them every day, you know if something’s up, right? And your job is not to potentially solve it, but your job is to acknowledge it, and then and show your, show your support. And if and let them take that for or they will, right?
Graeme Cowan 45:16
Yeah. And can you think of a time when someone asked you, are you okay, and it was really helpful.
Mark Fazio 45:26
Yeah, I mean, I mean, the best thing in life, best thing let’s say working with your brothers, and especially your twin brother. He can. I know, they say that twins feel stuff, right? It’s so true. It’s like, we I mean, just a side subject. I remember, I was living in Singapore, and I came back for a wedding. We both went to the wedding; we both bought the same clothes from the same shop. Same shirt, same pants. Shoes, right. So, the twins do feel it. And the good thing for me is that when I work every day, you know whether, obviously, there’s a lot of family that I work with, and obviously friends for Mate, but you know, my brother can look at me and know something’s wrong. Right? And makes it a lot easier. And so, he can ask me without asking me that makes sense. And yeah, so yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s been plenty of times, you know, I, you know, a couple months ago, I was, I was, I was sick for some reason. And it’s all sorted down, it’s fine. And my brother asked me about that. And, you know, and I didn’t talk about it, but he knew shut away. And so, yeah, I think sometimes people, people don’t want to burden people with things about, but when they’re asked, they feel like they can, right? And I think that’s the key ask, right? There’s a lot of these mental health organizations like ‘Are you okay’, and, you know, ‘Ask a mate’ and things like that. Maybe as males we sometimes close in, but I think, I think the biggest thing we can do with our friends, just to ask, because ask somehow opens up your mind to say, well, I can tell, right?
Graeme Cowan 46:58
Yeah, yeah. 100%. And you’re right, many males are in denial or, you know, refuse to admit it. But there’s so many examples where, that has been overcome by someone just, you know, falling up again.
Mark Fazio 47:13
Graeme Cowan 47:14
You know, great and smart might not be ready to talk the first time and the second time, a third time. They could be and as long as it’s done the right way you show you care. It, it does make a big difference, a difference and people sense that.
Mark Fazio 47:29
Yeah. And Graeme, in something else is taken, take them out of the situation as well. So, for example, like this, this situation where I had a team member that had a challenge, right? I mean, asking the work environment where everybody was there, and they potentially could get upset or whatever it is, you know, to them was probably embarrassing, or I don’t want anybody else to see it. So simple things like, hey, let’s go get a coffee down the road. Let’s go to lunch today. What are you doing lunch today? Let’s get, let’s go have lunch together. And then bring it up in is the best thing you can do. You take them into a neutral environment where they can be themselves because they’re just in front of you, and feel comfortable about talking. And so, I think that’s, that’s another big thing that people need to realize as well find a place or a situation that that is comfortable as well.
Graeme Cowan 48:15
Yeah, that’s an excellent point. It’s been an absolute pleasure catching up today, Mark, I really love the wide range of subjects we’ve talked about and just trying to embed the concept of family in a rapidly growing business is a great thing to, to be striving for. If you had to go back to your 18-year-old self, knowing what you know now, having the experience you have now, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
Mark Fazio 48:46
Don’t be shy, be a believer in– Don’t be shy and be confident about what you think. But not arrogant. Right? I think back when I was 18. I was, I was quite shy. And I probably had ideas and concepts in all right, not just business not just work, not just not personal life, that I thought oh, like, is that right? Are people going to tease me about it or? Or whatever it is. I just think, I think you just got to be, don’t be shy. Just be, be confident about what you think. And, and but don’t be arrogant about it.
Graeme Cowan 49:19
Yeah. Fantastic. Thanks so much for being part of the Caring CEO, Mark. We really appreciate it.
Mark Fazio 49:25
Thanks, Graeme, for appreciate you having me on.
Graeme Cowan 49:29
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