Shaper: Richard Farleigh

Show aired on 30th September 2017

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was Dr John with Such A Night. Good morning, this is Jazz Shapers and I am Elliot Moss. Thank you very much for joining me. Jazz Shapers is the place where you can hear the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul and right alongside them we put someone in who is shaping the world of business and we call them Business Shapers. I am extremely pleased to say that my super huge Business Shaper today is Richard Fairleigh, the very successful founder, investor and also importantly for today’s programme, an Ambassador at the Action For Children Charity. You will be finding out all about why that is so important to today’s programme. Lots coming up from Richard very shortly. In addition to hearing from Richard, you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya some words of advice for your business and on top of all that we’ve got some brilliant music; Avishai Cohen is in there, Eliane Elias is in there, The Blackbirds are too and so is this one from the one and only Etta James.

That was Etta James with the iconic I’d Rather Go Blind. This is Jazz Shapers and Richard Fairleigh is my Business Shaper today as I said and he is an Ambassador at Action For Children, the charity and he is probably better known for being a super duper successful investor over a number of years. You may have even have caught him on Dragons Den way back in the day. Richard, it’s a real pleasure to have you on the programme, thank you for joining.

Richard Fairleigh
Thank you Elliot, lovely to be here.

Elliot Moss
You are known to some people who would have seen your face, would have heard the accent, the bloke from Australia doing rather well over here. Tell me, when you were… I mean some people may know your childhood was a difficult one, you ended up being… obviously you are a super smart guy, a brilliant chess player, you are a great mathematician – when did you first realise you were quite good at the business thing? At what point in your life did you go, hold on a minute I can do something with this brain of mine?

Richard Fairleigh
Well you know business, I have never actually felt that I am good at business, I find business very challenging. You know I have had success in business but you never feel like you’ve got it. I started out in… I was an economist originally and then went into finance and with finance when you are wrong on something, like I was running a proprietary trading desk which was a desk which took risks with the banks’ money right, I made money every year for the bank I worked with for you know but when I was wrong on something, you know if I was wrong about US inflation I’m wrong on that, if I am wrong about you know growth in the UK or wrong about politics, you knew what you were wrong about. In business you are continually hit by things you didn’t expect and that’s very challenging so when you do a business plan all the… you put in all the good things that can happen and obviously there is upside to that but if something will happen you generally know what it will be… okay I’ll win that order you know but the bad things that can happen in business continually amaze me and I have backed something like ninety businesses and I’ve just been astounded by the stuff that can go wrong, you would never guess.

Elliot Moss
Do you think, I mean some of those businesses; Net-A-Porter is in there which many people will know. You were one of the founders at Home House, one of the investors over there as well. More recently a smaller business but the Levi Roots, their lovely food range, all the sauces and stuff like that. You talk about when things go wrong, you know you don’t expect it and that, is there a deep sense of resilience in you or is it just that you… because you seem like quite a bouncy guy, we’ve not met before but when I’ve watched you and things, it’s like you know, life, you kind of take it for what it is. Is that really important in managing those downsides when they come?

Richard Fairleigh
I think so, I think you know I am mates with Jimmy Carr and he told me that people revert to their level of happiness which ever since he told me that, I’ve noticed how true it is. So if you know, you are born a pauper and you win the lottery or something but you are miserable you go back, in a couple of years you are miserable anyway you know and if you, if you are born happy and you lose your money and you lose your foot or something, you know, you go back to where you were before so you kind of revert back to a sort of a fundamental level of happiness and for some reason me and a lot of my brothers and sister are quite happy people so I get knocked around by things that have happened like anyone else but I generally come back to being pretty happy at the end of the day and I love to have a laugh you know, that’s my, you know, I’ve got kids and I am always trying to instil in them a sense of humour, you know, wind them up, get them to have a laugh, laugh at them, laugh at me you know.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for much more from my Business Shaper today, that’s Richard Farleigh, investor, founder and also Ambassador for Action For Children and as I said, we are going to be talking a bit more about that very shortly. Time for some more music right now, this is Avishai Cohen with Seven Seas.

That was Avishai Cohen with Seven Seas. You are listening to Jazz Shapers and my special guest today, I call him a special guest because I think he is one, is Richard Farleigh and Richard has been as he said, an investor in over ninety businesses over the years, was a trader before that which is probably where you made your money to start investing I imagine and since has done a number of things as well. So you said it kind of… you find business difficult in a way and I am sure you are being quite humble though I do imagine that there are twists and turns to every story and you can’t see them coming. The ability to be good at maths is I think a blessing in a way and that’s something that I think you discovered early, people say there is a massive correlation between chess ability and maths. Have you ever, I mean the maths thing, is it just you enjoy numbers? Is it just you can see through them? What is it that you think the gift of maths has given you?

Richard Fairleigh
Well I think like all these things you know, you immediately, you think you are crap at everything so you think I am a bit better at that than… and obviously you meet brilliant mathematicians or brilliant chess players and you are just humble so I never really think I am good at it you know, like it’s just what I am better at than the other stuff that I am really bad at. But I think what I like to do is spot patterns and that happens in maths, it happens a lot in chess and it does happen in business and certainly in finance and I am always trying to, when I went into finance, I was always looking for repeatable patterns and I am always… that’s where I struggle to find things in business, repeatable patterns you know, so if you hire the right people the business works. So if you cut costs at the right time, you know so just looking for simple rules which obviously are going to be wrong sometimes but will sort of guide you through so patterns, you know, patterns in people’s behaviour you know and I actually find that very interesting. So patterns in humour, you know, what sort of shape does a good story have or so you know, that’s what probably interests me.

Elliot Moss
And early on when you started having success with your investments, do you now look back and go, yeah I got that right because there were patterns there, I identified them and I knew what to do with them or was there just a bit of luck?

Richard Fairleigh
There’s always luck and you know, I always find it annoying when you know, when you… a lot of and I don’t know if this is true for everyone who has been on this show but a lot of the time when you interview you know, successful people in inverted commas, they bang on about often how tough their childhood was and how brilliant they were after that and I am like well you know, I don’t always buy into it. Basically for every single business that I have ever seen there has always been an element of what I could put down to luck and I am not saying it’s all luck obviously, let’s say its 50% skills, you’ve got to have the 50% skills and you’ve got to do the right thing there is no doubt about it but also you can do all the right things and if things just don’t work out the business isn’t going to work so there is an element – I am not trying to trivialise it – but you know, I’ve heard people speak about their businesses and never mention the its which I can clearly see are fortunate. You know, Facebook he could have been banned for hacking into the University system. Nowadays you would be locked up for that you know, to get everyone’s details and put them… you know how it all started at Harvard University. It is things like that, even Richard Branson you know, read his book and he admits what he was doing with customs things and you know, like he had tubular bells you know like there’s always an element of luck which people then have to capitalise so you do have to do the hard work but yes, luck is in there.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for much more from Richard Fairleigh my Business Shaper today. Latest travel in a couple of minutes and before that some words of wisdom I hope from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya for your business.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliott Moss. Every Saturday I am very lucky I get to meet someone who is shaping the world of business, doing something inventive and different. If you would like to listen to any of the previous two hundred and fifty or so guests, go into iTunes, put in the words ‘Jazz’ and ‘Shapers’. If you are on a British Airways flight in the near future you can also look us up over there and finally CityAM.com is a destination if you want to go and look up all those brilliant guests. My brilliant guest today is Richard Fairleigh and Richard apart from being an investor and apart from being a very nice man actually Richard, you seem incredibly humble. He is also and I want to talk about this for a moment, he is an Ambassador for Action For Children and the reason I mention that is that next Friday you will be leading the charge and having a number of people, including me by the way and some of my team from Mishcon de Reya, we will be sleeping out for children, for homeless young people. Just tell me a little bit about why you got involved with Action For Children and what Byte Night is all about next week?

Richard Fairleigh
Well you know I went through the foster system in Australia and you know had a hard time like everybody you know, in one way or another goes through that. I am one of eleven children and so a lot of my siblings went through the foster system and some of them had a really hard time and so naturally it is something that’s close to my heard you know, I can empathise with. Also you know, I am a believer that you know, which is obvious in a way but you get people young and you know you set them on the right path it’s much easier than trying to help them later. You know obviously a lot of people when they tell them that saying they don’t but young kids are the ones that bring tears to my eyes, you know they are the ones who often can be real victims, really sad situations, you know so it does mean something fundamentally to me. Whereas some people, you know, I can see they’ve got an unfortunate situation I don’t feel sorry for them at all. But children will really make me emotional you know and it might be children, people up to twenty years old or even you know, people who have had it tough I do feel sorry for.

Elliot Moss
I mean you had it tough and anyone who knows the story will know properly tough and you’ve used words in a programme I’ve watched yesterday about you talk about being deprived, you talk about a lack of belonging, you talk about all sorts of things but what I sense is that these things haven’t stopped you being you and that point about happiness that you say, you are obviously a fundamentally a happy person and so how much help do people, how much help practically can you give people who are in the system that are stuck when you know inside them there is another Richard Fairleigh. What can we practically do to ensure that they end up like you and not on the wrong side of the tracks?

Richard Fairleigh
Well you know, my family you know, we were victims of violence. My father was an alcoholic and schizophrenic and so that’s you know, so obviously we had to be removed form that situation so that’s you know, that’s a necessity. Children can’t be in a dangerous environment and then after that, it’s not, it’s not really material things you know and again what I am saying is obvious but it, for me, it’s and I know Action For Children are going to be getting involved with you know, the theme of loneliness and things like that. It’s loneliness and it’s isolation and it’s not having any adults or anyone who really cares about you. You feel so alone you know and that’s how I felt and that’s how my brothers and sisters felt you know. You feel so alone and there’s a huge difference between having one adult who has time for you and it doesn’t really matter if you’ve got two parents, fifteen uncles, you know, but if you’ve just got one, one person who can say you’re okay and just listen to you or you know, have a little chat to you for five minutes or… it changes your life and that is to me the most fundamental thing. It is just having someone to take an interest in young people.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for much more from Richard Fairleigh, my Business Shaper today, talking there about Action For Children and if you want to support the charity and I urge you to do that in any way you can, five pounds does a lot, ten pounds does more, obviously twenty does too but whatever you can afford it will make a difference, go to Actionforchildren.org.uk and you will be able to make a donation really easily and it would be super appreciated by everybody. Time for some more music this is Eliane Elias with Sambu Sambu.

Eliane Elias that was with Sambu, Sambu. I have been talking to Richard Fairleigh. We’ve gone from what makes luck, the role of luck all the way through to more of a personal thing. I just want to stay on the personal thing for one moment, there is something you said and I’ve watched you say it before about fear and now you are an adult and I am an adult too and we all experience fear in different ways but you talk about it and I think in the context of abandonment and stuff but in adult life still experiencing it. That personal fear you’ve had, have you ever experienced that in business? And if you haven’t is it because it just can never be as deep as that fear that is derived from your own personal traumatic experience?

Richard Fairleigh
I think you know one thing that, you know, creating a sort of normal life or having a bit of success does for you gives you that backbone that you are not you know, that there is not something wrong with you and I think you know, a lot of people who would go through difficult childhoods think there is something wrong with them so you know when you hear about battered women and how they blame themselves and you just think that’s absolutely ridiculous. Obviously you know, it just doesn’t make any sense but I was like that you know and I didn’t realise until later that I blamed myself for my mother, you know for being taken away from my parents and I didn’t… and because I was unloved I blamed myself and I really didn’t realise until I had my first child when I was like in my early thirties that it wouldn’t matter what he did, you are still going to love him so it takes a long time to get over that but gradually it, you know, you get used to life and you move on but you still have vulnerabilities like you know, because I was put in a backward class when I was young for a few years which was a bit, you know and I was backward, and so even now if someone makes me feel stupid, it doesn’t feel very nice and I doubt myself you know, I am like I am a bit stupid you know, it is still there in a way.

Elliot Moss
And that sense of making people feel loved and I mean we don’t want to stretch it too far in terms of business but I am assuming that you think about that and you go, there’s no need to belittle, there’s no need to not encourage and are you trying all the time do you think to ensure that people do feel if they are in your businesses or in the investments that you make that they feel part of something, that they feel valued? Do you think that is somewhere in there and do you think that’s what people would say about you in the way that you treat people?

Richard Fairleigh
Yeah absolutely yes. I mean you know, it’s not Machiavellian but it obviously if you treat people well in business you know they… and also they are more honest with you and I don’t mean you know, honest not stealing from you but you know, they give you your honest opinion and you just want to have a close relationship with them, you know, you want to have a normal, chatty relationship with people who are working for you, you don’t want to be bossing them around telling them you know, it’s five past nine get to work.

Elliot Moss
You mentioned something before about a childhood and difficult childhood and stuff and then some people say, I had this terrible childhood and look what I’ve done. If you had had a good childhood do you think we would be sitting here now having this conversation?

Richard Fairleigh
I wonder about that you know, sometimes I feel sorry for people who are born to very wealthy parents because you know…

Elliot Moss
Terrible.

Richard Fairleigh
…maybe I would just be lazy so…

Elliot Moss
But if it was like a normal family what do you reckon? I mean because my sense is it’s you, you are you. You happen to have gone through something but I think you are still the guy who would have been good at chess, the guy who is obviously a talented mathematician, all that stuff.

Richard Fairleigh
Maybe I mean we will never know. I mean, you know, I mean maybe. I know I am very driven and presumably I got that from you know, having a tough start. My brothers and sisters are driven so but yeah, I’d have to ask a geneticist I suppose.

Elliot Moss
We’ll get one on for next time. Stay with me for much more in my final chat with Richard plus we will be playing a track from The Blackbirds, that’s after the latest traffic and travel here on Jazz FM.

That was The Blackbirds with Walking In Rhythm. I am with Richard Fairleigh just for a few more minutes here on Jazz Shapers and Richard we have been talking about a whole bunch of stuff. You obviously still enjoy what you do. What are the bits that you enjoy the most about investing in companies?

Richard Fairleigh
I like changing people’s lives, hopefully for the better. You know when we did Home House you know, and then you see Paul McCartney there or Prince Charles or you know, Brad Pitt and you just think you know, Bill Clinton, they would, you know, at least five minutes of their life I’ve changed you know by doing that or Net-A-Porter you know, just seeing how that just is better for the world and I am vaguely involved in a pharmaceutical company now which is using artificial intelligence to develop pharmaceutical drugs and you know, you do it for nothing like you know, it is not and you know, sometimes when people say how evil pharmaceutical companies are, I am like, you are so wrong. You know they are full of people who want to change people’s lives and if they have a cure for something they don’t sit on that, they will do their best to get it out there and that’s what it is for me as well. I am not a, I am not a saint but you just think if you can, you know, if you invented the iPhone or something, imagine walking around, that feeling and that’s what I get. That feeling of changing people’s lives for the better – trying to.

Elliot Moss
And how do you spend your time mainly because obviously the role of an investor is slightly different to being hands-on running a business day-to-day. Are you, again we talked about happiness and I think you, you know, you generally have a positive view of the world. Do you get bored? I mean do you find plenty of things to do with your time?

Richard Fairleigh
I have never been bored. I can’t really understand that concept. You know, I’ve got three children, Jasmine, Lucas and Thomas so I am busy with them but business is always, and I view myself now as more like an Alex Ferguson, more like being the coach you know, like from a broad point of view than the David Beckham. I am not trying to you know, be the one to win that contract with X, Y, Z, I am actually looking at the strategy and involved not so much on a day-to-day basis which is why I can have more than one business because it’s a strategy thing which I find more interesting because you know, I can’t, I don’t have the time or you know, to get in the detail.

Elliot Moss
And academically as well, you are Chancellor of the South Bank University is that right?

Richard Fairleigh
Yeah which sort of matches up with Action For Children because they have a lot of disadvantaged students you know, who have come from all sorts of backgrounds and they change, they have the biggest rate I think in the UK of changing expectations from a student that goes in and what salary levels and employment when they come out.

Elliot Moss
And obviously next Friday you and me, Richard, we are going to be there along with around just over a thousand people across the country doing this thing called Byte Night. On that night are you going to be rallying the troops, are you going to be walking around giving motivation? What is the role you are going to be playing on the evening or are you going to be quietly going, Jesus it’s cold and wet?

Richard Fairleigh
Well actually I think, I think part of the sleep out is actually you experience what it’s like and you know, it does remind you of the hardship and you know, not all of Action For Children’s people are homeless obviously but it’s a hardship and actually you want to feel a bit of the pain, you want everyone else to feel a bit of the pain but I will tell you when you wake up in the morning and you feel like you’ve done something, then you think, okay I get to go home and have a shower now, you know a lot of people obviously wouldn’t even have that. You know what I mean, that’s the second night would be tough. Luckily it’s only one night but you know it raises a lot of money and the charity does a huge amount across the UK for disadvantaged youths particularly.

Elliot Moss
Just before I ask you about your song choice and before we have to finish. Next five years or so for Richard – what’s Richard Fairleigh going to be up to? More the same? What have you got in store for us?

Richard Fairleigh
Well I am fifty seven soon so I am just trying to stay, keep in reasonable shape, play a lot of tennis, still doing business you know because I enjoy it, it’s like having a race horse where you’ve got better chances on the track than most race horses I guess. You know always trying to come out with that eureka product and eureka you know, service or whatever it is but probably more of the same.

Elliot Moss
Good, that’s a good thing I think. Well thank you so much for your time. I look forward to seeing you next Friday but just before that, what’s your song choice today and why have you chosen it?

Richard Fairleigh
I have gone for Golden Years by David Bowie and David Bowie, you know I am a huge fan, you know he was an outsider like I was and you know when he died you had an outpouring of grief from people and a lot of the comment was he had you know, given people confidence when they felt outside and I am not gay, I’m not you know, a singer but I’ve actually related to who he was and actually he had an incredible intellect and so it wasn’t just being stupid, it was actually being very creative and Golden Years, the song I like is you know, it has a little bit of everything, great singing and a sort of different sort of music at the time.

Elliot Moss
Well that’s a really good reason which means you get to hear it – here it is David Bowie and Golden Years.

That was David Bowie with Golden Years, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Richard Fairleigh. He talked about the role of luck and how important acknowledging that has been to him through his career. He talked about finding repeatable patterns, the mathematician in him saying if you find this and you can repeat it then you are on to something and crucially he was totally honest and totally humble which is really why he has chosen to be an Ambassador for Action For Children and as I said earlier if you want to donate and I really hope you do, Actionforchildren.org.uk is your destination for the charity that provides services that both prevent the causes of homelessness as well as treating people that are indeed homeless. Do join me again, same time, same place, next Saturday for another edition of Jazz Shapers meanwhile stay with us, because coming up next it’s Nigel Williams.

Richard Farleigh

Richard Farleigh was born in Kyabram in Australia and was one of 11 children. His father was an itinerant worker, who was variously a shearer, opal miner and seasonal labourer.

At the age of three, Richard was taken into care by the authorities, where all of his siblings were separated. They were never reunited as a family. He was placed into the foster home of Marjorie and Keith Farleigh from Peakhurst, a south-western suburb of Sydney. Richard was unhappy throughout his time at school, until he learnt to play chess at the age of 12. The game soon became a passion for him and he went on to represent Bermuda and Monaco in the Chess Olympics.

Having studies Economics/Econometrics at the University of New South Wales, Richard became a Junior Economist at the Reserve Bank of Australia in 1983. He was Head of Proprietary Trading at Bankers Trust Australia – which is now BT Financial Group – until 1993, when he was head-hunted for an international hedge-fund based in Bermuda. By the age of 34 he had had sufficient financial success to be able to retire.

Richard moved to Monaco with his wife Sharon and their baby son, where he pursued technology investment activity. During this time, he became the major backer involved in the restoration of Home House, a Georgian town house in London, which went on to become a private members club. He and his partners sold out of the club in 2004. He appeared as an investor on Dragons’ Den between 2005 and 2007, where he invested in Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae sauce, which is considered to be one of the programmes biggest success stories.

In 2005, Richard published a book titled Taming the Lion: 100 Secret Strategies for Investing, in which he reveals the “secrets and the thrills and pains” he experienced in finding out how markets work and how to improve his investment performance.

Richard has been Chancellor of the London South Bank University since 2012 and an Ambassador for Action for Children since 2015.

Follow Richard on Twitter @FarleighRichard.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“I have never actually felt that I am good at business.”

“The bad things that can happen in business continually amaze me. I have backed something like ninety businesses and I’ve just been astounded by the stuff that can go wrong…”

“You get people young and you set them on the right path… it’s much easier than trying to help them later.”

“My father was an alcoholic and schizophrenic and so obviously we had to be removed from that situation.”

“Action For Children are going to be getting involved with the theme of loneliness. It’s loneliness and it’s isolation and it’s not having any adults or anyone who really cares about you. You feel so alone, you know. That’s how I felt.”

“If you treat people well in business they are more honest with you – and I don’t mean not stealing from you, but they give you their honest opinion.”

“I know I am very driven and presumably I got that from having a tough start.”

“I have never been bored. I can’t really understand that concept.”

“I view myself now as more like an Alex Ferguson, more like being the coach than the David Beckham.”