Getting to Know You: Richard Upshall

What do you currently do?

I am an entrepreneur and so much of my time is taken up looking over all aspects of existing businesses as well as looking over new opportunities and ideas that come in. I tend to work little and often, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That said, of late, I have found myself shutting down email after 18:00, as well as taking full days or a few days, to minimise my interaction as in this day and age work can literally take over everything. Now imagine being active on many social media, plus businesses in literally all time zones, and the constant influx can become very wearing!

What is your inspiration in business?

Initially I was driven to succeed by my own needs; become a millionaire by the age of 30, retire by 40. Flash forward a couple of decades and it’s not about money any more, although this is a decent reward and something that is necessary. I have 500 families that rely directly on my leadership and management of the teams around me, and that is quite a responsibility of course. So, these days the inspiration tends to come from those very people. Either its direct feedback from them to me on ideas, improvements and challenges, from people they know, or from people who find me through my network, social media or other ways.

I talk a lot about karma, people mistakenly think this means I love everybody and help everybody where ever I can. This is not karma; karma is about giving back and not doing anything directly to harm others. It’s a common misconception and one I have pointed out to people who have perhaps tried it on with me as, when poked, I am indeed a lumbering grizzly who can verify quickly and then become an unstoppable force. I am fiercely protective of my business, friends, family and team members, and will do whatever it takes to ensure contractual terms are adhered to and me and mine interests are served accordingly.

Who do you admire?

I admire my father. He has had a full and successful career having started as an articles clerk and eventually retiring from the position of Company Secretary at Eli Lilley UK at a fairly young age. He worked hard and in a difficult environment with many obstacles and sacrifices for his employer. Ironically, my father worked in Nigeria decades ago, and nothing to do with the oil business, and I can only imagine what that was like. To be more current, I admire the achievements of Richard Branson and Alan Sugar, two very different mentors.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

Ha, ha, of course. I would have invested in the Dubai real estate boom of the early 2000s and not Australian sheep farms and tourism! I think everyone would admit to having the benefit of hindsight, things would have been different. That said, though my mantra for many years has been ‘experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want’ and this rings true to this day.

The things I could have done differently are what have brought me to where I am today, and where I am today is a good place. I still have challenges, and have missed opportunities, and there are days when I think really hard about what’s next. That said though, every day is different, and I work with an enthusiastic team…sometimes though I ponder an older way of doing things.

What defines your way of doing business?

As I’ve said, I am a great believer in Karma, and as such I want to make it clear to people to ensure they achieve what they say they are going to do. If they don’t, then I will lose no sleep over shutting them down and moving on. We do seem to live in a world where many believe they are entitled. I have worked from literally nothing to where I am today, and where I am has cost me friends, sleep, health and my younger life.

That said, I’d decided I wanted the opportunity to retire before 40 and be a millionaire before 30. Whilst one was achieved, here I am still working, and I work as closely with young people in my organisations as I do with the executive team in my largest business.  So, to summarise, I do business with a conscience. I believe in giving back, whether that’s on an opportunity which is fraught with doubt and insecurity, through to direct charity contributions and projects.    My way of doing business is to be involved, and let people map their own fate.  Some make it, some struggle and some don’t.  I am here to be asked of course, and they can use me as a resource, as I often say, ‘why listen to me, a self-made millionaire with businesses on five continents and experience in everything from sheep farming in Australia to Oil and Gas in West Africa’!

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Probably a couple of things; have at least one person you can turn to for objective advice, outside of your business.  In your business, as quickly as you can get someone in a position who you can trust, then trust them. This may well end up blowing up in your face, but if you want to be successful, take the learnings and try again. Trust is an important issue, and is needed if you are to flourish in business. I have learned that the only way to have a bouquet of businesses as varied as mine is to work at this, no matter how horrific previously experiences have been.