Episode 47: Meet Richard Walton – Wandering Serial Entrepreneur and Adventurous Surfer

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Show Notes

What makes a man happily successful? It’s when he learns to value his time. We want more time but we do not realize that we have all the time we need. We just didn’t learn how to use it well. A man who understands this has come to the gate of success and happiness. 

Richard Walton was heading to the deep pit of the fast-paced world of business. But as soon as he starts to slow down, everything fell into place, both in his career and personal life. Today, Richard serves as the Founder of AVirtual, the leading virtual assistant company in the UK and Chairman of the fastest-growing EO accelerator program globally. His social enterprise, GVI has received multiple awards and is creating a sustainable difference while combining travel and education. Richard believes in delivering quality service and creating a culture that is motivating and fun.

In this episode, Richard tells about his many adventures, both in his business and in surfing. Listen in as he relates his experience while surfing with sharks! Also, Richard gives a bit of advice on how to slow things down and avoid all the deleterious consequences of always being on the hectic. Often, we get caught on our everyday activities and we keep going through them even if we are miserable doing them. In this situation, Richard lets us in on the secret of becoming successful. He teaches how to hire the best people, create a respected culture, win against the tough times, find a mentor and be a responsible a mentee, get help, and work remotely. Richard is big on time. He values his time, the time of his clients, and the time of his employees. And his message is: Find your purpose and dedicate every single fraction of your time to fulfill it- that’s what makes a man happily successful. 

Episode Highlights:

02:33 The Wandering Entrepreneur/Surfer
06:58 GVI- Education and Travel In One
12:03 The Best Move
15:58 How To Slow Things Down
19:37 How To Hire The Best People
27:43 What Makes A Succesful Entrepreneur
36:29 Surfing With Sharks

Today my guest is a successful entrepreneur and surfer from the UK.  His name is Richard Walton. He’s originally from the UK but has worked all over the world, sometimes in the most remote areas. He’s now living the dream in the bonny climate of Cape Town South Africa. Richard’s story is super inspirational for many reasons. First, because he was living a miserable lifestyle in suburban Britain and decided to completely flip his lifestyle around for and because of surfing.  You’ll find out how he managed to build and make his startup thrive from the middle of nowhere.

“When everyone is falling around you… just keep going, but keep going with a positive attitude.”

Second, because he is a pioneer of remote working, corporate social responsibility, and virtual assistance way before Tim Ferriss came out with the 4-hour workweek, Richard was busy building an incredible business and helping entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level.  Richard is the founder of GVI, an e-platform linking volunteer with nonprofits and NGOs around the world and is the current founder and CEO of AVirtual, a successful virtual assistant company based in South Africa. He shares his story about how and why he created these inspiring companies. 

In this episode, we dive into Richard’s exciting life story.  He shares some expert advice about running and growing a business, finding talent, finding balance, and getting mentors to move your business to the next level.  We also have a quick chat about the empty breaks of Cape Town and how he contemplates surfing with sharks on a permanent basis.

I hope you enjoy this episode.

Take care, have fun, and enjoy the waves.




Connect with Richard:

Telephone: 0800 086 8998

Resources Links:

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“I've always wanted to be a surfer. I love the ocean!”

“Culture always starts with the founder. How you behave sets the culture.”

“If you fall in love with surfing, you want to spend as much time in the water as possible. So things like strength, flexibility, and energy become more important to you than partying till two or three o'clock in the morning.”

“When everyone is falling around you… just keep going, but keep going with a positive attitude.”

“Entrepreneurs are the most helpful people. You just have to ask.”


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Imi Barneaud: Hi Everybody, and welcome to the ORP, conversations with creatives, entrepreneurs, thinkers and dreamers who also happen to be surfers. My name is Imi and I am your host.

Today my guest is a successful entrepreneur and surfer from the UK. His name is Richard Walton. He’s originally from the UK but has worked all over the world, sometimes in the most remote areas: he’s now living the dream in the bonny climate of Cape Town South Africa. Richard’s story is super inspirational for many reasons.

First, because he was living a miserable lifestyle in suburban britain, and decided to completely flip his lifestyle around for and because of surfing. You’ll find out how he managed to build and make his startup thrive from the middle of nowhere.

Second, because he is a pioneer of remote working, corporate social responsibility and virtual assistance. Way before Tim Ferriss came out with the 4 hour workweek, Richard was busy building an incredible business and helping entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level. Richard is the founder of GVI, an e-platform linking volunteers with nonprofits and NGOs around the world and is the current founder and CEO of AVirtual, a successful virtual assistant company based in South Africa. He shares his story about how and why he created these inspiring companies.

In this episode, we dive into Richard’s exciting life story. He shares some expert advice about running and growing a business, finding talent, finding balance, and getting mentors to move your business to the next level. We also have a quick chat about the empty breaks of Cape Town and how he contemplates surfing with sharks on a permanent basis.

I’ll let Richard do the talking. Please welcome Richard Walton…

Hello Richard, and welcome to The Oceanriders Podcast. How are you today?

Richard Walton: I’m very good. Thanks for having me.

Imi Barneaud: Oh, you’re welcome, it’s a thrill to have you on the show. I guess before we start, do you think you could introduce yourself to the listeners?

Richard Walton: Sure. Hi everyone, my name is Richard Walton. I’m originally from the UK, I haven’t lived there for 20 years. I describe myself as a wandering entrepreneur, first, and surf at second. I learned surfing the rather later age of 30, actually for health reasons, which I’ll go into data, but I now live in the beautiful town of Cape Town in South Africa, and a beautiful little place called Noordhoek, which if any of you been to Cape town, they’ll know very, very well. I guess my passion is on how to achieve balance in my life in terms of letting me be healthy and fit, spend time with my children, and my business. I’m starting businesses, I love working with entrepreneurs, and I guess to this point in my life, I’m very lucky. I feel right now that’s where my life is set. I felt like I’ve got quite a good balance between working with entrepreneurs, starting businesses, working on businesses and spending time with my family, and in the water as well.

Imi Barneaud: That’s excellent. So had you always had an adventurous personality because, did you grow up in the UK or did you move around when you were little as well?

Richard Walton: Yeah, I’d like to think so. I mean, I don’t know if naturally I had an adventurous personality, but my parents certainly did. We were always taken off on an adventure, normally to Africa. My mum was from Zimbabwe, so from very young ages, I remember traveling around Zimbabwe, Kenya, Mozambique, places like that. And I guess I’ve always felt very comfortable on the road. And as soon as I hit 18, I was gone. And yeah, I mean, it’s been a wonderful adventure. And my dad was also an entrepreneur, so I think in terms of adventure, in terms of my career, I think having a father who was an entrepreneur was a big help. He didn’t seem this scary odd thing. And I think we do tend to follow our parents, what they do. So yeah, kind of happy, but it’s quite quite odd describing yourself — as the age of 45, my last for adventure I think it’s still that, but it feels quite normal to me now.

Imi Barneaud: So you actually did slug it through university in England though, you went to Kingston University? What did you do after graduation?

Richard Walton: So actually, my last for travel and entrepreneurship started at Kingston. Very odd university career. I actually started at Leeds, and then my second year I went to Chicago, to the business school there, and then I came back and spent a year in Edinburgh, and then I finished off at Kingston University. And during that time, a couple of friends actually bought a beach in Malawi, which we turned into a backpackers and spent all of our, I say bought a beach, it sounds very grand, it costs 400 pounds at that time. And we decided to turn it into a backpackers, and it was actually during the attempt to create a backpackers that I came up with my first business idea, which was one called GVI. And the reason for that is I assume I got pretty bored of looking after backpackers, which is pretty much. And Lake Manyara is a beautiful place, but there’s certainly no waves, there’s nothing to do. So it pretty much involved lying around in the sand, the sky, and not doing a lot else. You can imagine what backpackers in Africa get up to it. So I started spending a lot of time with the local community there pretty much. We’re pretty cut off from the rest of Manyara, which in itself is a very poor country. And I started thinking about the resources that we could bring to the community and actually set up. My first company was a volunteer travel company and we bring volunteers from overseas to work in local communities like this. And we were going to start, and I was going to get rid of the backpack idea and start running the operations from there. But we decided it was just too risky, it took two days to get to by boat. There at Manyara, and it was pretty hard actually living there. And we decided as a business venture, looking after young people probably wasn’t the best idea. So yeah, I was at university at that time, but the idea of the GVI was born there. And then as soon as I finished university, I set off to set that up on an Island called Roatán off the coast of Honduras. So yeah, that’s how it kind of all started, I guess.

Imi Barneaud: Oh, that’s amazing. So what does GVI stand for?

Richard Walton: Global Vision International.

Imi Barneaud: Right.

Richard Walton: Yeah. It’s now one of the leading, it’s much more of an educational travel company now. We work with a lot of universities and schools and run their trips. 60% of our actual travelers come from the US, so if you want to get, say you’re studying Marine Biology and you want to get college credit for that, you can go and work in one of our bases in Fiji or the Seychelles and actually study there. At the same time, you’re helping local NGOs with their work, and you can take that research back and then get college credit for it as well. So yeah, it’s now been running for 20 years. It’s probably around 200 employees in about 20 countries around the world. It’s still my baby. I started at the age of 23, 24, but I left there five years ago. It was my midlife crisis, I guess, better than — to drive a motorbike, compile styles and whatnot. I didn’t want that to be all I’d ever done so I decided to do something else so I left. Actually, I decided to take a sabbatical and I remember saying to my wife: “I’ll take a sabbatical for a year so I can think about what I want to do.” And she said: “Well, why? We’re living in Cape town by now. Why don’t you get a virtual assistant so you can really clear out your mind. You can have that clarity of thinking, you don’t have anything else to do.” But what a fantastic idea, and she didn’t say virtual assistants, she said, why don’t you get an assistant? And I posted an ad on Gumtree and it read something like, see those six part time assistants. But I didn’t want them coming into my home when I was working at the time. And I didn’t want a full time person. I didn’t know how many hours I wanted. So I put this ad out, this was a month before my sabbatical was meant to start. And I had like 50 applicants from amazing handlers, who’ve lived and worked in London and the costs of which were far, far cheaper than the UK. So my latest venture was born. I had like a one day sabbatical. For the last five or six years I’ve been growing a company called AVirtual, which supplies virtual assistants from Cape Town to predominantly small businesses in the UK, but also kind of English speaking all over Europe. And yeah, it’s been a lot of fun. I’m really, really passionate about time. I’m actually obsessed with it, about how much time we have, I think it’s the most valuable asset we all have. And entrepreneurs, they just work so hard and they sometimes, I guess, we’ll talk about this later. You can burn out, you can let go of your health and all these types of things. And I love the thought of giving people more time. I also love the fact that our model is really attracted to our virtual assistants who work for us, because we offer them work from home, flexi hours, and 95% of them are mothers with young children and they want to use their skills. They don’t want to sit at home looking after the kids all the time, but yet they don’t want to go and get necessarily going to get a full time job and miss their kids growing up. So this is a wonderful opportunity for both parties to benefit.

Imi Barneaud: That’s brilliant.

Richard Walton: So that’s what I’ve been doing in all 6 years.

Imi Barneaud: So maybe we could rewind a bit because your story is quite interesting. You were working on your business sort of workaholic kind of setup. Could you describe what your lifestyle was when you were living in the UK and before you decided to take a new career?

Richard Walton: Essentially, I left the UK when I was about 21, I moved to Roatan in Honduras where I met my wife. Business was going well, but I wasn’t necessarily very good, how should we say it? Kind of life habits. I was drinking probably too much, I was a smoker, I didn’t really do a lot of exercise, I was overweight, somehow managed to convince my wife to marry me despite all of those things. So we met in Honduras and then we ended up traveling around the world actually for four to five years setting up GVI, which was really cool. We lived in British Virgin Islands for six months. Then we went to the Amazon for a while. Really cool, really fun. And we married young, so it was nice to spend time together before we had the kids, but then my wife got pregnant. I think we were living in Spain at the time. And as you quite often do with your first child, you kind of panic and think that home and family are the answer to everything. So we moved back to England and we moved into a, this was after five years, living this amazing adventure of a life traveling world. We move back into those tiny terrorists’ houses and kind of join the rat race. And I started going into the office every day and I was like, I’m going to be very sensible and do what everyone else does. And it made me very, very unhappy. I got a lot heavier, drinking more, smoke more. The baby was born and you meant to be ecstatic with the birth of your first child, and I wasn’t, that made me feel even worse.

I remember I went, I had to get life insurance because I was taking out a loan for the expansion of the company. I went to this doctor because they had to sign off to the life insurance company, and this doctor, thank God I met him and he said to me: “If you carry on the way you are, you’ll be dead by the time you are 50.” And that’s not something that a new father wants to hear. So I went back and spoke to my wife, and I felt a very understanding wife, you’re here in bed, we had a two month old child and she said: “Well, what have you always wanted to do? Why don’t you start running or going to the gym?” I was like: “I hate all that stuff.” And she said: “Well, where in Costa Rica, (a couple of years.) Then you seem to really like surfing.” Only did it like five times. I said: “I’ve always wanted to be a surfer. I love the ocean.” And she said: “Well, let’s move to Costa Rica.” So we packed up with a two month old baby and we moved literally to this wooden hut with a tin roof. When we moved, they had dial-up internet, the nearest bank was two hours away so you have to drive and take it past, there was no ATM, nothing like that. When we got to Costa Rica, we found out my wife was pregnant with our second child. We decided to go there just for six months. We ended up staying for eight years and having three more children. And it was an amazing experience. It taught me that I can grow a successful business, but I’m killing myself. I surf everyday, four hours a day in Costa Rica. And back in, it was a place called Santa Teresa, which is becoming quite popular now. But I mean, there were days when I was just the only person in the water. I just couldn’t believe it. It’s just not right. And there were parrots flying down the beach, and then I’d come in and I’d work, and it worked.

“I've always wanted to be a surfer. I love the ocean!”

The business definitely would have grown a lot faster. It would have been bigger if I had been in England, but I would’ve been a lot less happy. And I wouldn’t have spent as much time with my kids, and I wouldn’t have developed all the healthy habits that I have now. I’m not saying I’m a better picture of good health at all, but I didn’t even understand healthy eating. We lived in this community where people are obsessed about eating well, and yoga was a big part of it, as was meditation and all those things in it. It rubbed off on me. And as I think most people find that if you fall in love with surfing, you want to spend as much time in the water as possible. So things like strength, and flexibility, and energy become more important to you than necessarily partying till two or 3:00 o’clock in the morning. So those are things that have stayed with me, and I’m very grateful for that. Towards the end of my time in Costa Rica, I did manage to bring out almost my whole management team actually to come in three — for a year. That was one of the best years of my life because I had that combination of lifestyle and business, but also my whole management team there as well. Yeah, it was a lot of fun. And there are times that when I’m really, really stressed about work, which I still get obviously, like everyone, I do sometimes think I should be so much easier, this kind of play that you can just escape and forget the real world.

“If you fall in love with surfing, you want to spend as much time in the water as possible. So things like strength, flexibility, and energy become more important to you than partying till two or three o'clock in the morning.”

Imi Barneaud: Oh, yeah. And do you think that moved to Costa Rica, sorry, I don’t know how to put this, but for a lot of entrepreneurs who’ve got their lives established in a quote unquote developed country are a bit scared of moving to the other side of the world to the middle of nowhere, or to some remote place partly because it means closing part of the company down, or slowing things down in a company. And I just wondered if that trip to Costa Rica actually made you have to slow things down, or whether that was quite the contrary in it and you actually speed things up for the business. How did you manage the, sorry for this terrible question I’m going to ask, I’m going to rephrase this. It’s actually something that’s really scary for entrepreneurs is finding the opportunity to slow things down and to actually take that time out. And what would your techniques actually achieve that?

Richard Walton: Yeah, I guess moving to Costa Rica forced me to slow things down, right? So when I started my new business, AVirtual, I forgot those lessons and I fell into the trap of scaling, working incredibly hard to scale a business. And it means, again, they made me very unhappy and developed bad habits. But luckily, I was able to put a stock on that quite quickly. It’s really hard, I think all entrepreneurs will know that, particularly at the beginning of the business, it can need a huge amount of attention, and focus, and it does need a lot of work. But I think as we all know, if you’re not looking after yourself, then you’re not coming into the office or sitting down at your computer with the right mindset to make the right decisions. And I certainly am not going to say that I’ve got by the answers, but I’m a lot better now of saying, yes, I know I’ve got 101 things that I need to do, but I’m still going to go for surf, or I’m going to go and watch my son’s cricket match because it’s good for me, and I’ll come into the office happier and make better decisions. My team will see that I’m happier and more positive, and that rubs off on them. But it’s really, really, really hard. I mean, I obviously went to the extreme moving to Costa Rica, and I accepted that the business would not grow as fast.

Imi Barneaud: Right, right.

Richard Walton: And I think obviously there are lots of entrepreneurs who accept that in other ways, they decided not to grow as fast, but as much marketing or whatever it is that they’re comfortable with their business. I have the mindset, I have that addictive personality based on everything in my life that if I see an opportunity, I’m just obsessed and I want to go for it. And I’m not happy with growing a company 10% a year, I want it to be 100% a year. And Costa Rica put me back in check saying that timing is everything. And the business by that time was five years old, six years old. So we’ve been through a lot of the hardships and I had a really, really good team of people that I could trust, and that allowed me to do it. I don’t think I could’ve done it earlier. I don’t know if that answers your question.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, it does. I also have a question about finances basically because, well, in my experience of taking off from leaving for a sabbatical meant there’s no revenue for about six months or the time for your sabbatical, and actually planning that time financially. And I was just wondering whether that was something that was part of the equation, but I guess maybe in your case you had the business that was running and it was already in place, it was ticking while you were in Costa Rica and you can bridge that gap.

Richard Walton: I could. Then actually moving towards Costa Rica could save a lot of money because we lived literally in a wooden house with a tin roof, which costs $600 a month, and we were paying UK rent and all the other costs. I mean, our overheads dropped by 80%, so that was nice. And we say that’s great years, and we had four kids and our costs would have been astronomical, and that’s money I would have taken out of the business, I could spend that money on hiring staff to do jobs that I would have done. So it did free up some cash, but I’m not trying to say it was a good financial decision for the business, it wasn’t. But yeah, I mean, I think it was for me personally.


Imi Barneaud: Yeah, it was really interesting. And I’d love to go a bit further into this topic, but actually attracting the right people to work with you, you say your management team was amazing.

Richard Walton: Yes.

Imi Barneaud: How do you attract really good people to your business?

Richard Walton: Well, there’s an old saying, which we talked about earlier about, you should always hire people more intelligent than yourself, which is true. Very true. And not too difficult for me in terms of finding people more intelligent than myself, the problem is in my experience, the top, top people are either attracted to top leaders with a track record, which I didn’t have, or they’re attracted to the culture/lifestyle, and also the vision. What are you actually doing? So GVI was a social enterprise and still is, and it was a social enterprise before even the term was really coined. So we were actually able to attract a lot of people who would take 50% cuts in their salary to come and work for us because they believe passionately in what we did. So that was really, really helpful. And we also had a really strong culture. I mean, remote working these days, virtual working is very, very common. Back then it wasn’t so common. And I remember I had a product, it was in the UK and he said: “Do you mind if I’d come out and I’d try surfing for six months.” He ended up sitting for six years. So we had this culture that was very warm, very friendly. We were all motivated by it, by a higher purpose. And we also had a hell of a lot of fun. So I think I definitely felt that my strength was in creating a culture that people enjoyed, and our culture was definitely, it’s fun, it’s friendly and we’re doing good. Back then, and I still think today, that’s quite rare to find. It’s still alive and kicking today in the company even though I’m not there anymore. The culture is there and it’s ingrained, it’s incredibly attractive to people, and I miss it. I miss being part of that culture.

Imi Barneaud: So how did you create a new company culture in AVirtual?

Richard Walton: So with AVirtual it’s quite difficult because all of them, all of our team pretty much work from home. We have 90 people work from home. So we’ve got a team of — assistants and they’ve got a whole variety of skills. And I believe the culture always starts with the founder, the owner, how you behave sets the culture, I passionately believe that. So you need to be very aware of your faults and what they are, and you need to try and limit them, you need to work on your most positive attributes. I know I’m very optimistic, I have high energy, I also know that I’m fairly relaxed. I’m definitely impatient when I get distracted so I always call my team up on that to make sure that they push back on me on those types of things. But it’s about walking the talk, you need to prove that as the leader of the business that you, you all the culture, you can say what you want, it’s how you behave. It’s very much like, I know you have children and it’s very much, I’m not saying one of my employees, the children, but it’s the same type of thing. You can say whatever you want, say this is our culture, it’s rubbish. It’s actually what is done, that is your culture, it’s how you behave. And I’ve just always tried to be quite natural. But in terms of AVirtual itself, we do things because everyone works from home. One of the things I do is, every week I call two members of staff, just for a chat. And it seems like such a small thing, but in a company of nearly 90 to a hundred people, I think they sound like they’re very appreciative that I’ve taken the time to call them and say, how’s it going?

“Culture always starts with the founder. How you behave sets the culture.”

Imi Barneaud: That’s lovely.

Richard Walton: Yeah, we have call pots, we put everyone into pots by the, they’re based and we actually repay them to have a monthly social where they get together and their part in their region and they just sit around and have a coffee. And I always try to attend to them if I can. So there’s things that we can do with it, it is hard, but I’ll tell you, you’ve also got to understand your team and what they do want. For example, for the last year, I think — trying to come up with parties, company parties or activities that would bring the whole company together. Because it’s kinda weird, we’ve got voices dotted all around, but we never meet any of them. So I’d come up with ideas like, okay, let’s all get together and play dodgeball, let’s all get together and play rounders, let’s all go together. I know this sounds quite old, but it’s actually an activity that you can do in Cape Town which is sheep wrestling, where you run around and wrestle sheep and put it on a — eats it afterwards, I don’t know. But anyway, keep pushing over these ideas out and there’s no one wanting to come, no one’s signed up. And then I realized people work for us because they don’t want to work in an office. They don’t want to go with all this stuff that goes with it. Yes, they’re happy to have an occasional coffee meeting once a month, but they don’t want the normal company, most people hate company parties, they hate force fun, right? So I’ve accepted that. I guess my point is it’s really about listening and understanding your team, and I’m not also trying to force culture upon them.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah.

Richard Walton: That’s what I’ve tried to do.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. That’s really interesting. Also in your bio, it says that it’s really important to give them some kind of this more than equity or high salaries, it’s actually the purpose and the responsibilities that they have in their job. Could you elaborate on that?

Richard Walton: So I touched upon it with GVI, with the GVI we make a real impact, we change lives. So for example, the GVI before, every single meeting we sit around and someone talks about a story that has impacted them from the work that we do. And it’s amazing, you’re sitting there, you’re in a marketing meeting or a sales meeting and someone says, I just heard from our water sanitation project in India that we’ve now supplied 300 homes with clean water, this is going to save lives. What you do saves lives. That’s incredibly motivating, and it’s very, very powerful. In fact, I was reading an article the other day and there’s a great quote that says, if you’re building a ship, don’t go out and hire new people, carpenters and things like that. Just teach your team to yearn for the seed. And I guess that’s what you’re saying. That’s what I’m trying to say is it’s about a kind of thing, what is your higher purpose? And what are you trying to achieve? And with GVI it’s very, very simple. With AVirtual, it’s slightly different because our whole purpose is to give our clients back more time, which is very valuable. But our clients are all entrepreneurs. They have successful businesses or businesses that are starting out, it would be difficult for me to sit here and say the purpose of the company is to help all these poor entrepreneurs. I mean, that doesn’t really ring. So actually, what we’ve found is that our purpose is to create a community that allows our team to work well, to work from home, to be supported, to have good jobs that allow them to spend time with their family. And I passionately believe that most visions that entrepreneurs use to get their team motivated are about the use of their products or their service. Our actual vision is about the community that we’re creating for our staff. And if we create that and we do it very, very well, then we’re going to have a bunch of really engaged, happy employees that want to stay in do good work and then the business benefits. So that’s what we’re doing now.

Imi Barneaud: That’s wonderful actually changing the whole perspective from a client base perspective to a community based perspective. That’s really, really interesting. That’s excellent. And, in terms of being an entrepreneur, a successful one, what kind of a mindset do you have to have?

Richard Walton: So I’m a member of an entrepreneurs group called EO, which is the world’s largest Entrepreneurs’ Organization. It got 12,000 members and I go to a lot of meetings, I’m heavily involved and we talk about this stuff all the time. We have a lot of meetings and guest speakers, what makes a successful entrepreneur? What is the best mindset to have? I truly, truly believe it’s about not giving up. I honestly believe that it’s just about heat going to the better end. If you really, I mean, obviously, sometimes you’ve got to walk away or otherwise you’re going to bankrupt yourself and your family, but I cannot tell you how many times I’d be hours away from bankruptcy and just stuff happens, just sheer determination. And when everyone is falling around you saying, no, and not just to keep going, but to keep going with a positive attitude. And you come into the office when you are in deep trouble and you don’t know how you’re going to make the next payroll, you have no idea how things are going to go to actually walk in with a big smile on your face, everything’s okay to see your team go out there and motivate you did good work. That I think is the most important mindset to have as an entrepreneur.

“When everyone is falling around you… just keep going, but keep going with a positive attitude.”

Imi Barneaud: That is really, really good advice. That’s amazing. And it’s the first time I’ve heard that kind of mindset, smile even though you don’t know whether you’re gonna get the payroll kind of thing is really, really important and has so much impact. That’s great. Great advice. In terms of mentors, because you were saying that it’s really important to find mentors, how do you go about recruiting or finding them in the first place? What’s the method?

Richard Walton: As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of support structures now available for entrepreneurs, I would highly recommend anyone for that, would be an entrepreneur. The first thing you do is look if you want any one of these organizations. I was very skeptical until about five years ago and I joined five years ago, I wonder if my 21 year old entrepreneur self would have done so I doubt it, but there is so much wisdom out there, and the weird thing is entrepreneurs are the most helpful people. You just have to ask for help. You’ll be astounded by how many people are willing to help. It’s my book, so one just ask, you’ve got to ask the right people, you’ve got to expand your network, that’s what I meant about joining one of these organizations. You’ve got to start expanding your network and then you can start saucing people out and seeing what type of person is right for you. It can be very tempting to go for the most successful person in the room or in your network as your mentor, I don’t think that’s always right, I think it can be very tempting to go for the person within your industry, I also don’t think that’s right. I think what’s more important is going for someone who fits your own personal batteries, who understands the way that you want to live your life, I think that’s key. Otherwise you might be swayed or swayed to go in a direction that goes against how you want to live your life and run your business.

“Entrepreneurs are the most helpful people. You just have to ask.”

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, that’s really good advice. Thank you. Thank you for sharing it. So you go to these events, you find and make contacts and everything, but what kind of mentor made you pay for his time, or is that mostly friendly having coffee chat conversations with them?

Richard Walton: Yeah, so not at all. So the way as far as I understand it, the way that most of these mentorship agreements kind of work is that they’re definitely unpaid. There is a blurred line between mentors, advisors, and business coaches. But if we’re just talking about mentors, then it’s unpaid. What I would recommend to anyone is that if you are the mentee, it is your responsibility to organize it. It is your responsibility to, I would just say you meet once a month, you paid for lunch. The key thing is to come with an agenda, but you can send to your mentor a week in advance, say this is what I’m coming for, this is where I am, this is where I need help on. So it’s a little bit more structured, you’re making it as easy as possible for the mentor. Yeah, and really that’s it. And I also think don’t be afraid to, I was going to say Sacramento, that sounds a bit aggressive, but if it’s not right for you, walk away, find someone else. They don’t mind, they’ve grown ups, we understand that it’s about meeting of minds more than anything else. So be picky, but yeah, you’ll get as much into it from it as you put into it. So just go along and sit there and expect to hear — wisdom.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah.

Richard Walton: Always keep a diary of issues that you’ve had over the last month, challenges that you’ve faced, problems that you’ve done, and big decisions that you’ve made and run those by your mentor, that would probably be a good way of doing it.

Imi Barneaud: Okay. That’s excellent. Thank you. Thanks for this advice. And it really is important that, I know as an entrepreneur that it can get super lonely and you’re in your own thoughts and it goes, your head goes spinning and you just don’t find any issues. And actually to have a person who’s on the outside to actually help you out in certain times and answer questions is really, really helpful. So yeah, definitely.

Richard Walton: No, it gets very lonely, very, very, very, very lonely. And sometimes it’s really on the entrepreneurs who understand what each other goes through which is actually why they’re so helpful. As I said earlier, because we get it, we know and we want to help you. We all need it.

Imi Barneaud: Absolutely. Well, I guess we could move on to your surfing story. So how actually did you learn to surf?

Richard Walton: It was the Costa Rica health scare. So we moved out to Costa Rica, I was 30 years old. I have probably surfed five times before. I think my first ever surf was with Mike, Ronnie and [inaudible] on one of those white kinds of styrofoam, you remember those things?

Imi Barneaud: Yes.

Richard Walton: I mean, thank God they don’t exist anymore, they’re polluting the sea and they were kind of breaking on that, any kind of reasonably heavy way they can snap it into. But I remember doing that, and I remember suddenly loving it, but I was brought up in Cambridge, so it kind of landlocked and pretty much never saw the sea again. But every now and again when I was lucky enough to see waves, I was always, immediately just naturally drawn to it, and I’ve always loved the ocean and do a lot of other activities in the ocean as well. But as I said, I’ve got a very understanding wife and we moved there. So I arrived in Costa Rica, didn’t get any surf lessons, I honestly don’t know what the general rule is, whether you should or you shouldn’t, but it didn’t seem too complicated to me. People probably would laugh at my style, the house and maybe that would’ve helped. And I’ve got myself a good old long board and started paddling out. But to be quite honest with you, for the first six months, it was actually just about fitness. I was so overweight, so unfit, so unhealthy. And I remember I’d go out and surf for half an hour to come back and just lie along the beach like a beach whale. Just lying there, just panting and I’ll go back out again. But I will never forget catching that first blue water, that unbroken wave. And it was hard, it was a hard slog. You often wonder why they help people become surfers because it takes so long. It took me a long time. It took me six, nine months until I probably caught two to three foot. Well, and I remember the exact time, I remember exactly where it was. It was in a place called Nosara in Costa Rica, and it was probably a three foot wave. What happened from there was good surfer and he just said, — and by then, I was down to like a six eight kind of thumb board or something, and I just dropped in. And I just remember I got it, what do I mean? I’m sure you’re the same. If I shut my eyes, I can see it. It’ll be imprinted there for the rest of my life in my mind. And I just flew down a line, it was just that, just by my head. So it was hard luck until that point, I guess something inside me told me that it was going to be worth it. And then after that, you know what I’m saying? And then it was, I was very lucky. As I said, I was in the water three to four hours a day, everyday for eight years. So I managed to become reasonably comfortable in the water. I would start late, I often joke that I’m pleased I started late because otherwise I’m convinced I’d be living in a hut — in Bali or something, and wondering how my surfing’s changed now. I live in Cape Town, we’ve got great waves around here, really, really good. It’s so uncrowded.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. What about the sharks over there? I mean, I know it’s cliche, but are there really a lot of sharks in the water in Cape Town?

Richard Walton: Yeah, there are. Yes. I mean, there are lots, but that just doesn’t happen that often. But I hope I’m not going to regret this. I’m pleased that they’re there because a lot of the time I’m pleading with people to come with me for surfing because I don’t want to be with anybody to surf. I mean, it’s quite weird to be near a city like Cape Town, and anytime during the week, I can go down to [inaudible] beach and there’d be no one in the water, no one. And even when the waves are really good, you’ve got maybe four to six people and everyone’s really happy to see you.

Imi Barneaud: Sorry about that. Yes, so that you would say it’s quite comforting to have four or five people in the water with you.

Richard Walton: Yeah. I mean, it doesn’t affect me. I think I saw one when I was paddleboarding once in — I saw one when I was freediving, and the nature of which was quite scary, but it just didn’t pay me any interest. I mean, the fact you’re surfing there, there are a lot of sharks. And I will guarantee that if you surf every year, a couple of times they would have been around, probably swim under you. They have no interest in us, none. It is far more dangerous to ride your bike on the road, 50 times more dangerous, a hundred times more dangerous. What is the code actually which gets you down here because it’s quiet. It’s quite weird to be like 35 degrees and you have to go into the water and it’s just chilling, that’s quite weird. So I have my annual pilgrimage which I love and kind of keep me running forward. I like doing that because it seems that most people who go there seem to be kind of 40 plus. So the thought of going into it, competing with 20 year old Australians — I’m happy with Cape Town in the Moody.

Imi Barneaud: Oh, that’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. I guess we’re arriving at the end of this interview that’s been so helpful and so inspiring for businessmen and for entrepreneurs. I just have four sentences that I’d like to ask my guests to finish. So the first one is I LOVE.

Richard Walton: I love being on the water and the kelp forests, Cape Town.

Imi Barneaud: I MISS.

Richard Walton: I hate to say it, but I really miss Australia. I miss the real water.

Imi Barneaud: Lovely. I WISH.

Richard Walton: I wish I’d taken up yoga five years ago.

Imi Barneaud: And the last one is I WANT.

Richard Walton: I’m not pretending to struggle with this question, but very content. I mean, there’s the, I don’t want for much, okay. I want really, really good waves. My next trip to the Moody.

Imi Barneaud: Brilliant. Excellent. Just before we wrap things up, do you have any books or podcasts that you like to listen to that actually helped you out as well being, an entrepreneur, and successful one?

Richard Walton: So I’m a really big fan of the book Scaling Up by Verne Harnish. So he’s the founder of the EO, the Entrepreneurs’ Organization I was talking about. And they also have some very good podcasts within that network. So that’s really cool, I highly recommend that. I really like Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos. Yeah, it’s just an old book, maybe 15 years ago, he made me realize that what I was doing at GVI was right. It was all about culture, values and things like that. So that’s great. There’s so many podcasts in terms of business, Stanford University has the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Program, and they have some really good ones, amazing guest speakers. They’re kind of heads of titans of industry and all that kind of stuff, which is cool.

Imi Barneaud: Okay, that’s brilliant. That’s really great advice. Well, we’ll put all these links in the show notes of this episode so the listeners can know, can actually see and connect. So I guess we’ve made it, how do you feel?

Richard Walton: It’s quite therapeutic. I think talking about your life journey, particularly if you’re happy.

Imi Barneaud: Oh, fantastic. And I guess the last thing is to share your socials. Where can we get hold of you, or your business, how to get a hold of you and to join or to hire a virtual assistant.

Richard Walton: Yeah. So the easiest thing is just to type in AVirtual to Google and you’ll come up with all of our socials and zero reviews, and our website, and all that type of thing. So we’re on LinkedIn, hashtag avirtual, Twitter, it’s actually, again, hashtag AVirtual. Or if you want to look at me, it’s hashtag rwgvi1. Yeah, those are our main platforms. But yeah, if anyone is interested, come and speak to the team and see how getting AVirtual assistant by helping get in a water ball.

Imi Barneaud: Exactly. Yes. This was the last question I was going to ask, how often do you get to surf now in Cape Town?

Richard Walton: Members of my team aren’t listening to this, I don’t know, three to four, three to four times a week, so I should say I’m very lucky now. I’ve got a nine year old son who is absolutely obsessed with surfing. So on weekends, my wife is more than happy for me. I mean, we literally just go, Saturday and Sunday we’re gone, and we’re in the ocean for three to four hours because I’m going with him, it’s allowed.

Imi Barneaud: Well, thank you. Thank you, Richard, for being such an inspiring guest, and such an awesome guest in sharing your insights on being an entrepreneur. Thank you.

Richard Walton: Thank you very much.

Imi Barneaud: I’ll speak to you soon, thank you. Bye. Bye.

That was a super inspiring conversation. Richard has been in all sorts of podcasts including the Financial Times’, so I feel very privileged he cared to drop in on The Oceanriders Podcast for a chat. I’m really grateful Richard took the time for this chat because I personally found it really thought provoking. Whilst doing my research for the chat, I also was reminded of the extraordinary compound effect a virtual assistant can have on your business so I urge you to find your own virtual assistant by skipping over to Richard’s website avirtual.co.uk. Links to it are also in the show notes of this episode.

If you enjoy this podcast, and that it is livening up your quarantine days please hit the subscribe button. Share it with your friends and family. These are the best things you can do to help me grow the podcast. You can always join us on the Oceanriders facebook group. It’s called The Oceanriders Community. (links to it are in the show notes) as I’m sure your stoke will be contiguous and help us all lift our minds. Share your tips for staying fit, kook slams, favorite photos, job offers, you name it…. You can also support my podcast by skipping over to my website www.theoceanriderspodcast.com where you’ll find the back catalogue of episodes, blog articles, photos and videos of my guests. Don’t hesitate to sign up to the newsletter too : I haven’t had time to make one yet, but when I do, it will be awesome. I would have suggested having a look at my online merch shop theoceanridersshop.com but with the Coronavirus everything is on hold as the postal services are a bit fluky. So head over to Facebook @theoceanriderespodcast, instagram @theoceanriderspodcast, and twitter @imipodcast and follow me instead.

This podcast wouldn’t be possible without the collaboration of my awesome podcast editor, Leng Inque who puts together this podcast and creates the show notes.

Thank you Richard for being my guest today: I have learned so much.

Last but not least, thank YOU for listening until the end. You guys are awesome!

Until next episode, stay safe, stay at home, and only enjoy the waves once you can get out!



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