Richard is an entrepreneur who wears a number of different hats as an accountant, a recruiter, a director of multiple businesses and is the de-facto bitcoin advisor for the WorkLife crew. He has also chosen a tree change twice; once when he moved from his native Scotland to Sydney and the second time in 2017 when he and his family shifted to Berry from the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
Richard is often seen in Berry darting between school drop offs for his three children, WorkLife and then il Locale for what he believes is one of the best bacon and egg rolls in Australia. Here he sits down for a chat; giving us the ins and outs of how he’s learned not to sweat the small stuff while living his best tree-change-life.
1. How and when did you choose life? What’s your tree change story?
I’ve rolled the dice twice. The first time was moving from Scotland to the Northern Beaches of Sydney 18 years ago. The second was nearly 12 months ago when my wife, my three kids and I uprooted to Berry. Why? The pace in Sydney was escalating, the travel time between the city and the Northern Beaches was increasing and severely impacting our family time. We had a choice. Keep battling or make a big change and try something fresh and new. We chose something new. We were looking for somewhere that reminded us of the small village life my wife and I both grew up in in the UK. Berry was like a magazine town. We wanted something with character and community that was close to large towns, but still holds its own identity. We wanted country but we also wanted beach. It fitted the bill. Plus there’s the benefit of a railway station that can get you to Sydney in two and a half hours.
2. What was your greatest fear about making the leap?
Snakes! But seriously, I came with low expectations about being able to carve out a social circle here. We thought we were going to be pioneers. Everyone in the northern beaches thought we were crazy, overturning our quintessential Sydney life. They couldn’t understand why we would do it. I didn’t think I would be able to match our social circle in Sydney, but Berry has come up trumps. The people we have met are like minded, fun, a tad crazy…so we have fitted right in. As it turns out we’re far from being pioneers. We are just one of many families here who have made the same decision and the same tree change.
3. What’s been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome?
Selling the idea to our three children, explaining why it’s a good thing they are leaving their friends and their schools and starting again. Our anxiety has been high over whether we were making the right decision for every family member. This move three hours south, in a lot of ways was far harder emotionally than moving to Australia from the other side of the world. The country move only impacted me, this time around there were five very different people to take into account.
4. How does it work for the rest of the family? What’s been the impact on them?
The kids are thriving. They’ve been lucky to make new friends quickly and the community spirit we have seen so far is second to none. They’re now into soccer, swimming, kickboxing, touch footie, surfing at Gerroa, nippers in Gerringong, karate in Nowra and tennis at school for $5 a lesson (unheard of in Sydney). Then there’s the Berry show, the Fairground Music Festival, markets every month. There’s the walking, the bike riding and the space to roam. The have put their ipads down and their welly-boots on and gone out exploring, which harks back to my own experiences of growing up.
5. What’s the biggest cliché of country life that’s turned out to be true?
There are no taxis, but then, there are no traffic lights either. In all seriousness; people have the time to really listen. People have got a lot more to give and a much greater ability, time and inclination to talk and communicate.
6. Is there anything that’s been a surprise to you?
How many other families here are in similar circumstances to us. We thought we were going to be one of the first, but we’re not and we’re certainly not going to be the last.
7. The hundred thousand dollar question. When it comes to money, how do you make it work?
We did a lot of planning before we made the move. We have our own recruitment business in Sydney; Barton Mills. It was a calculated risk but we felt we had a great team who were capable of stepping up. It was a gamble, but they have risen to the challenge well. I travel up to Sydney two days a week, staying overnight and the rest of the time I share a spot at WorkLife and fit work around family life.
8. What’s your passion project/side gig? Is there anything that you’re hustling on?
Beyond Ops management for Barton Mills, I’m also heavily involved with another recruitment agency Talentweb.com.au. I’m the financial guy there as well rolling up my sleeves to recruit in the accounting space as well. My new non recruitment project, is launching a kitchen bin chute company. I discovered the product when we bought our house in Collaroy 10 years ago. It’s an integrated chute directly from your kitchen to your outside bins. Recycling goes straight into the recycling bin, general waste into the red bin. It looks great, it eliminates smells and overflowing rubbish bins in the kitchen. I have not had to take the bins out in 10 years! Parties are fab, everyone puts their bottles directly down the chutes — no clearing up in the morning! The product is a game changer for families, so I knew I had to get involved. When you are passionate about a product, you can sell it!
9. Where do you turn for inspiration and relaxation?
For inspiration; I love TED Talks and often fall down the rabbit hole of youtube as a social media guilty pleasure. For relaxation, a glass of Shiraz, learning a thing or two from the veteran players at the Berry Tennis Club on a Monday night, dinner out in Berry, movie night with the kids. As the kids get older, I’m hoping to explore what I am told are awesome mountain bike tracks around Berry.
10. What piece of furniture in your house makes you the happiest?
My kitchen bin chute! Never having to take a bin out again makes me happy. I am also seldom upset with my bed.
11. If people come to Berry, what’s the one thing they should eat?
I don’t know if I can limit this to one thing. Dinner at the Hungry Duck or South on Albany rivals any Sydney restaurant I have ever been to. However, I can’t go past the bacon and egg roll at Il Locale. It’s world class.
12. What’s your go-to listen for your trips up to Sydney?
When driving it’s ACDC radio on Spotify. If I’m on the train, it will be my latest Netflix series addiction. Six sons of Line of Duty made short work of the commute!
13. What’s your best productivity hack to get the most out of each work day?
I create nominal deadlines for myself. I try to get about five things done each day. But I also think it’s important not to sweat the small stuff. I now say that to my kids all the time. It’s much easier to live that way down here.
14. What’s the best thing about your membership to WorkLife?
Being a member of WorkLife has cemented relationships with people we’ve met down here. There’s a great group of humble, extraordinary people who are working here. It can be lonely running your own business, but here there’s a natural pull for entrepreneurial, likeminded people to come together. Beyond the great company, there are natural referrals which happen, which are a bonus. If your reading this Greg I am still waiting for you to help me build the tree house!
15. Imagine tomorrow is a perfect snapshot of your Best Life. What are you doing?
I’m dropping the kids at school, then I’m back to my house within ten minutes. I’ll then go for a cycle with my wife down Coollangatta road, then stop off for a strong flat white and a bacon and egg roll in town, walk across the street into WorkLife and do a few hours work. I’ll pick up the kids at the end of the day, drive less than 15 minutes to the beach at Gerroa, where we’ll all have a swim, then we’ll all have dinner with friends at the Berry Inn. Perfect.