AGP Ep 26: James Tuckerman—Bulletproof mindset. How to deal with uncertainty and risk?

by | May 9, 2017

James Tuckerman is the Founder and CEO of Australian Anthill Magazine and the Not So Freaky University. Hear about how James built these businesses over the past 14 years into the success they are today, and how he managed the personal risk and uncertainty day-by-day.


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“Be the Cure”—James Tuckerman
"When managing risk, most people only see the dark. See the light as well."—James Tuckerman
"It's just money"—James Tuckerman

Show notes



Andrew Ramsden:           G’day James and welcome to the show.

James Tuckerman:           Hey mate, how ya doing?

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah, I’m really well. It’s been fantastic down here in Melbourne, a little chillier than I’m used to.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah. I’ve got a friend from Sydney today and he’s decided to wear his shorts jeans to try to be a Melbourne hipster.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah, nice. Yeah, I can’t pull that look off for a number of reasons.

James Tuckerman:           Neither can I.

Andrew Ramsden:           The cold is the least of them.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah.

Andrew Ramsden:           Cool, well look, here to talk about your journey [00:00:30] and obviously, this is the Alpha Geek podcast and I’m not sure you necessarily relate to that term. But, I see you as a leader in the digital space, certainly in the digital marketing space and the things that you’ve done online certainly put you in that category for me as an entrepreneur and in other ways.

James Tuckerman:           It’s actually pretty funny, I was Googling myself one night.

Andrew Ramsden:           As you do.

James Tuckerman:           I was bored, as you do.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah, it’s big of you to admit that.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, I was Googling myself, this is a couple year back and someone had described [00:01:00] me as a Luddite and yeah. So, you’re looking at me like what is a … Do you know what that word means?

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah, who does this? That’s like throwing mud around. Who thought that?

James Tuckerman:           They said it in a nice way, it was in a blog post and if you’re listening at home and you don’t know what a Luddite is many, many moons ago there were these known as the original Luddites and they rejected technology. They were anti-technology. And, then now I think [00:01:30] it’s used in the technology adoption spectrum and you go, the front end you got visionaries like Steve Jobs and you’ve got early adopters, then you’ve got some other things. And, then at the back end, you’ve got the Luddites and the Luddites. And, yeah I was on Google and somehow had wrote, described me as a reformed Luddite and I thought that that was kind of funny. But, the reason that they had said that is that they remembered when I had a print magazine, so this is way back the print magazine ended in 2009 as a print magazine. [00:02:00] But, they remembered that I had spoken as part of a panel on digital stuff in the year 2005 or four, I think it was 2004.

Andrew Ramsden:           I don’t think we were even calling digital, digital back then.

James Tuckerman:           I know. Well, I don’t know what it was, it was something about the future of media or something.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah.

James Tuckerman:           And, I had said at this conference and it was me and the editor of BIW and all these other media brands in the business space [00:02:30] at the time. And, I said, what did I say? I said they had reminded me in the blog I had forgotten. I said, “No business owner will ever use the internet to gather information.”

Andrew Ramsden:           Wow.

James Tuckerman:           That’s what apparently I said in a public forum in 2004. And, it was mentioned in this blog, and I was like, yeah I did say that. And, the reason was, was because in 2004 [00:03:00] I had this print magazine and if you think about the internet in Australia it was like [inaudible 00:03:04].

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah.

James Tuckerman:           To get this, I remember when I started that business, which was a print magazine the fax would ring, make a noise and then I’d watch a piece of paper come out with someone’s signature on it. And, that was e-commerce.

Andrew Ramsden:           Nice.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah. So someone would download [00:03:30] the PDF on their computer.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           And, then only using their dial up connexion and then they would print it, and they would scribble on it now and fax it. So, yeah in 2004 I said …

Andrew Ramsden:           That was bleeding edge.

James Tuckerman:           That was bleeding edge.

Andrew Ramsden:           And, you knew it because of the paper cuts.

James Tuckerman:           And, every time I still hear a fax I salivate like Pavlov’s dog, because it means there’s a subscription coming in. But, yeah this person said I was a … And, then they described me as a reformed Luddite, because of course I took the print business and then I transformed [00:04:00] it into a digital business. So, it was actually they weren’t being a troll they were actually saying some nice things about me.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           But, describing what was it what you an alpha geek?

Andrew Ramsden:           Yes.

James Tuckerman:           And, that’s the name of the show.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, all right so I’m an alpha geek.

Andrew Ramsden:           There yeah go.

James Tuckerman:           I’m a reformed Luddite slash alpha geek.

Andrew Ramsden:           Now you know.

James Tuckerman:           Cool.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah, well look I just think you’ve been at the forefront of digital marketing and digital business inside of Australia for a number of years. You’ve certainly been recognised for that, but you’ve also been an entrepreneur, [00:04:30] an investor, a business coach, a consultant, a public speaker. How do you see yourself these days?

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, that’s tough isn’t it. When I go overseas and they ask me to write what I do as a profession I write publisher.

Andrew Ramsden:           Okay.

James Tuckerman:           And, I guess because if there’s one thing that they all have in common is that I create content quite prolifically, whether it’s a podcast recording or whether it’s an E-book or a cheat sheet or a webinar [00:05:00] or an infographic, we’re very good at creating lots and lots of content. And, that ties all those things together, because in the early days running a print magazine that was publishing. Digital magazine, that’s publishing. If you’re a coach or a consultant and you want to position as an authority you need to be sharing your wisdom.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           And, if you’re going to a professional speaker that in its own way is getting your voice out there. So, yeah that’s the one [00:05:30] thing that comes across it, and even when I’m getting involved in a new venture.

So, for example, recently I got involved as an investor in a SASS solution, a software as a service solution.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           And, I don’t mind telling you that this business is a CRM, and they’re 1000 and one CRM’s on the planet, customer relationship management systems.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           And, I met the guy. It’s a wonderful CRM, it’s a kick-ass CRM. The moment that I used it I was like, why can’t they all be like this. This is great.

Andrew Ramsden:           Nice.

James Tuckerman:           [00:06:00] But, of course, I said, “Well what do you sell?” And, he’s saying, “I sell CRM.” And, then the more I delved into it, “Why do people want a CRM?” “Oh, so they can manage their clients.” “What do you mean manage their clients?” “Well, they want to transform their prospects into customers and clients.” “So, you’re telling me what they really want is more customers and clients.” And, he goes, “Yeah.” And, then the moment that we had that realisation and epiphany we started to create content around this idea of getting customers and clients. And, we’ve watched sign ups and registrations for that particular [00:06:30] business over the last few months pretty much double every month.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah wow.

James Tuckerman:           Because, we stopped trying to sell CRM solutions, instead what we’ve done is we’re publishing amazing content to help his target audience, which is small consultants with less than 50 people on the hook at any given time. Help them convert more prospects into clients.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah nice.

James Tuckerman:           Using his CRM system, or our CRM system because now I’m a shareholder.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah.

James Tuckerman:           So, you mention investor, an angel investor there, so I ended up getting involved [00:07:00] in the business.

Andrew Ramsden:           There yeah go, that’s a real leadership skillset you’ve brought them on the journey through to a much more effective way of doing digital business.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah. And, basically all business now is, it’s humans dealing with humans.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           Because, we also have these training products people say, “Oh, will this training product work for me?” And, I’ll say, “Do you deal with humans?” They’ll go, “Yeah I deal with humans.” Then it’s probably likely that your humans are gonna have, headaches, obstacles, aspirations, and desires. [00:07:30] So, stop trying to sell whatever it is that you have and instead why don’t you focus on the A-state, the headache that they have, and the B-state, the outcome that they’re seeking when they hire you.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           Because what you’re providing is simply a means to an end. It’s actually the path.

Andrew Ramsden:           We can often stuck focused on the solution that we’re so attached to, this fantastic idea we’ve come up with, or this technology.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, but we call it a solution, but it’s not even a solution. It’s like [00:08:00] you speak to a lawyer and they’re selling hours and expertise and access to a paralegal. But, what does the customer or client want? They just want a good verdict.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           They just want a good outcome. That’s the solution.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah.

James Tuckerman:           And, the lawyer thinks that the solution that they’re selling are billable hours. But, no I either, you know the A-state I hope I don’t go to gaol, B-state I get a good verdict. Or, A-state I’m about to be sued, B-state we’ve settled. Woo hoo.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           Or, A-state I need to [00:08:30] sue someone, B-state I just got a massive pile of cash in my bank account.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           And, it’s the same with technologies as well too. Once again, it’s a CRM system. No one wakes up in the morning and goes, gee I think I’d like to spend the first half an hour of my day playing in a CRM system.

Andrew Ramsden:           What a nightmare.

James Tuckerman:           What a nightmare! What they want is they want customers and clients.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           Yeah.

Andrew Ramsden:           So, A-state would be the problem, yeah?

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, the headache that they usually have before they know they need you.

Andrew Ramsden:           [00:09:00] And, then B-state is the promise land, the outcome, the prize.

James Tuckerman:           The first pumping moment where they go, “Dammit I’m so happy that Andrew came into my life.”

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah awesome.

James Tuckerman:           So, when we’re marketing we lead with the A-state, and then we sell them the B-state.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah.

James Tuckerman:           And, everything else in the middle in terms of what we do is meaningless to most perspective customers and clients. It’s a validation once they’ve been sold on the idea of you being able to take them from the A to the B. Then they say, “How?” And, when they say how …

Andrew Ramsden:           You got them on the hook.

James Tuckerman:           [00:09:30] Then you’re gonna introduce all the different things that you do and how you do it. And, how your product, how you package up what it is that you do and all the rest.

Andrew Ramsden:           But, that to me seems more powerful and fundamental than just marketing, because that’s also then the cornerstone of your product strategy for your business. Because, it doesn’t really matter what you’re trying to sell as long as you’re looking and focusing in on the A and the B, the problem and the outcome. And, it’s how you get stakeholders brought into your programs within large organisations as well.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah.

Andrew Ramsden:           You need to take them on that [00:10:00] journey from their A to their B.

James Tuckerman:           Well, it’s funny. I laughed when you called me an alpha geek and the reason why is because if we’re selling a training product on how to create a digital funnel, or how to get better using Facebook ads, everybody is getting all freaked out about the technology, or whatever’s the tech tools.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           But, all of that stuff once again is, it’s just the technology, where most people fall down is actually their deeper strategy that goes with it.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           So, it was funny [00:10:30] that that person described me as a reformed Luddite because there I was dragged kicking and screaming from this analogue age into the digital age like everybody else out there. But, one of the greatest strengths that came from that digital transition was the fact that I actually did not really understand how a lot of technology worked.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           But, what I did know was I did understand how humans think.

Andrew Ramsden:           Nice.

James Tuckerman:           And, what A-state and B-state, and those fundamental principles [00:11:00] of business and marketing and leadership don’t change.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           And, they haven’t changed in I don’t know since humans started to form tribes.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative). It’s often you hear that advice don’t be attached to the technology, don’t be attached to the solution or your product, be attached to your customers and their problems.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah. Yeah, step to the other side of the counter is what I heard someone once say to me years ago. Make sure that you’re always stepping to the other side of the counter, because if you’re standing, a metaphorical counter, [00:11:30] if you’re standing behind the counter as the proprietor you’re thinking about the business from the perspective of the business owner.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           But, the customer or client walks in, stands up in front, stands in front of the counter and all they’re thinking is what’s in it for me? That’s what they’re thinking from this relationship, what’s in it for me? Even meeting someone new at a networking event, straight off the bat, “Hi, what do you do?” And, the person says, “I’m an engineer.” And, the other person says, “Oh, that must be interesting.” To [00:12:00] which they mean, that’s not interesting at all get me out of here. But, if the person actually just turned around and said, “Well, first tell me what you do.” And, the person says what they do and they say, “Oh, well you know what I do? I help that type of person go from A-state to B-state.” The person would then say, “How?”

People call it sales and marketing, but yeah, it’s just the fundamentals of being a human and wanting to help.

Andrew Ramsden:           Adding value.

James Tuckerman:           Adding value and wanting to help people.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah [00:12:30] awesome. You talked about that process of going digital in 2009, so I think for those that don’t know I might fill in the gaps a little bit there. For those that aren’t aware of your backstory, you launched the Anthill magazine in 2003 when you were just 26 from the spare bedroom of your parents’ home is my understanding.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah. My sister’s old bedroom.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah right.

James Tuckerman:           With the WAM poster still on the wall.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah wow. I can’t even imagine what that’s like at that age. But, [00:13:00] you built that up over time and I imagine you were learning more about being in business. But, you started to see some recognition straight away. So, in 2004 and again in 2005 you were named the best small publisher by Publishers Australia or [crosstalk 00:13:14].

James Tuckerman:           Wow, you’ve done your research.

Andrew Ramsden:           I’ve been reading the online, the interweb. And, it sounds like from previous discussions with yourself that it wasn’t really profitable, but you stuck with it anyway. [00:13:30] And, then in 2009 you went digital and after that, you started the Not-So-Freaky University, another digital product.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah.

Andrew Ramsden:           And, that’s where it all started to come together as a successful business.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, it’s interesting this word success. So, the moment that the first edition was out there I was regarded as this young gun success because I had this print magazine and I was in my twenties. And, then we won best magazine launch of the year, and as you said before, best small publisher as well the next two years. But, [00:14:00] yeah as a print magazine we brought on investors and continued to bring on more money every year for the following five years. And, we never really were profitable.

At the same time though, it made a lot of sense from the investors’ perspective. And, the reason was is because in the magazine industry there was some constant rules of thumb that had been honed out by, they’d been nailed out or whatever by previous publishers. [00:14:30] And, we knew that if we got to a certain size we would sell the business according to a certain evolution. And, then we would all get rich. So, the investors were actually putting money, and one principle investor was putting money in on the basis that we would reach a certain stage and we would sell at a certain evaluation. And, therefore the money that this investor was putting in would pay itself off.

So, for all intents and purposes [00:15:00] we’re not making any money, we’re not profitable, there’s an investor backing it up. But, everybody thinks that we’re kicking galls because it looks so good, and we’re winning awards, and the investor’s happy because we’re growing at a certain point. And, we reached that certain point, the big guys are gonna come in and buy us, and in early 2008 we were having the discussions with the big guys.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah wow.

James Tuckerman:           Because we were pretty close to reaching that goal, that was early 2008. And, then by October 2008, yeah [00:15:30] the conversation had shifted. No one was really interested in talking to us. Our advertising partners were all disappearing one by one as the GFC throttled their budgets. And, I remember actually meeting with someone who, and we lost … This was a week and we lost about a quarter of a million bucks in this week in October, and it was a disaster. And, I went and met with someone, and she was there to tell me [00:16:00] that they wouldn’t be sponsoring a bunch of different things that we do. So, we’re talking about a big chunk of change, support, and money to the value of another quarter of a million dollars.

She almost burst into tears and I was like, “Hey, calm down. It’s just money, once in a while we’ll get on.” But, what I didn’t realise was that she’d had to fire something like 11 people that morning.

Andrew Ramsden:           Oh my goodness.

James Tuckerman:           Because, that was the nature of the, that was the world that we were living in October 2008. If you were in [00:16:30] the marketing industry or the publishing industry, it was a nightmare. Yeah, so basically I’ve even forgotten the question I got tied up in my own little story there.

Andrew Ramsden:           That’s amazing.

James Tuckerman:           And, remembering that moment.

Andrew Ramsden:           It really talks to the struggle, and it sounds like the plan, there was an exit strategy.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah.

Andrew Ramsden:           Although it kind of went on and on and on, it wasn’t really profitable, that was okay. But, the GFC really put [crosstalk 00:16:57]

James Tuckerman:           It was perfect storm, because basically suddenly [00:17:00] all the advertising budgets dried up and that’s how magazines still make their money, the ones that have managed to survive for now. But, also Steve Jobs invented the tablet.

Andrew Ramsden:           Right.

James Tuckerman:           That was the perfect storm.

Andrew Ramsden:           [crosstalk 00:17:13]

James Tuckerman:           Because, suddenly as well to even interest in investing in magazines was like, no, no, no, no. We’ve been talking about this idea of convergence they called it since 1999, when media would converge. And, then that [00:17:30] table suddenly made it seem very much within the reach. So, it was about … And, then by early 2009 the writing was on the wall. There’s a saying, a jokey saying in publishing, which is, “if you want to make a small fortune in magazines start with a big one.” And, the reason why is that everyone edition is gonna cost a big chunk of cash, whether you’ve got the advertising supporter or not. You have to get the next edition out, because if you don’t get one edition [00:18:00] out it all falls over. You never get any advertisers ever again.

Basically by early 2009 we had to work out how many more editions that we had in us before it was gonna get really, really ugly, rather than just ugly like really, really ugly. And, then by, I think it was about April 2009 we had decided that the digital was the way that we were gonna go, and I think by June we had pretty much announced it and we were on LA.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah, amazing.

James Tuckerman:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah, that’s fantastic and what really jumps out for me is certainly [00:18:30] from a leadership perspective is, having that separation from the emotional journey to be able to step back and say, look it’s okay it’s just money.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah.

Andrew Ramsden:           To suffer a quarter of a million dollar blow, followed by another quarter of a million dollar blow, and then say, “Hey, that’s okay. It’s just for money.”

James Tuckerman:           Well, my first job out of uni was in public relations. And, I was good at PR, I didn’t even know what it was when I got the job, but PR’s one of those professions [00:19:00] where people studied PR at university and college or whatever, but I don’t think, like a lot of degrees I don’t think it helps you much at all. You either step into the job and you’re good at it, or you step into the job and you’re not very good at it.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           And, I came out of a law degree, and for some reason I was good at it. But, the thing is with PR the better that you are at PR, the worse jobs you get.

Andrew Ramsden:           That’s interesting.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, so when you start it’s like marquis on tennis courts, and we’re going to launch a brand new fragrance, whatever it is. And, [00:19:30] then the better at it you get you start to enter areas where it’s a little bit more morally grey.

Andrew Ramsden:           Wow.

James Tuckerman:           And, I got to this point where you’re really good and I got head hunted by one of the tobacco brands, and it was early. I was a young guy, we’re talking about international travel, lots of money, I just got off a project in Telstra where a young boy had [00:20:00] died of an asthma attack.

Andrew Ramsden:           Oh no.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, and heartbreaking. I arrived at a new firm, and they said, “Thank God you’re here son, we’ve got a toxic waste issue in South Australia.”

Andrew Ramsden:           Oh no.

James Tuckerman:           And, there’s these sorts of things around and there I was, I had my mid-life crisis at about age 25. And, there I was sitting in my rooftop spa in my renovated fire station drinking my imported beer [00:20:30] with my view of Melbourne, the Melbourne CBD lights, and feeling sick to my core at the type of work that I was being asked to do. A lot of the jobs I just said no to, and some of the jobs I basically went, oh yeah okay I can stomach that.

Andrew Ramsden:           I can stomach that.

James Tuckerman:           But, then I’d have to go catch up with my parents on the weekend, Sunday roast, and they’d say, “What have you done this week James?” And, didn’t feel necessarily proud. And, then, of course, you [00:21:00] future predict. What am I going to be doing in 10 years, in 20 years? So, there I was. I was rolling in cash at that point for a 25-year-old, and I realised that money is not everything.

Andrew Ramsden:           Wow.

James Tuckerman:           And, so I gave that up, launched the magazine, went without a salary for the first year. Then, I had my penance of 36 grand in the second year, and then I paid myself 60 grand in the third year [00:21:30] and it went up from there. And, just to put this in perspective, the Philip Morris, I said the name of the brand, oops. It’s a long time of past, I said big tobacco, doesn’t matter I’m not going to get in trouble. But, that was well into six figures for 25 year old. It’s a different perspective. It’s a different perspective, money’s not [00:22:00] everything.

Andrew Ramsden:           So, it sounds like part of that was about values alignment and you just weren’t ethically aligned with what you were representing, and the, I want to say, spin. Or, the [crosstalk 00:22:13] you were putting over, the public image.

James Tuckerman:           You hear it, you hear people saying it when you’re young and it’s meaningless, you only get one chance at life or whatever it is, and all the other stuff and people. And, then you go to school and you get forced into a degree or whatever it is it’s gonna be that you do, a trade or a profession.

Andrew Ramsden:           [00:22:30] Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           And, it’s only as you get older that you start to have epiphanies. Fortunately, that epiphany hit me at 25.

Andrew Ramsden:           Amazing.

James Tuckerman:           So, it was a quite a lucky one, which meant that the first editions in the magazine had their own big financial challenges. Because people would say things like entrepreneurs are really good at managing risk.

Andrew Ramsden:           Right.

James Tuckerman:           Right, and I don’t believe that we’re good at managing risk. I believe that we’re just better at analysing situations and making [00:23:00] decisions, whereas most people all they see is the dark.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           Whereas we see the light as well. And, it’s not about being optimistic it’s just being able to see all the factors.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           So, with Anthill the first edition was going to cost 40,000 dollars to produce, and I went, “That’s okay, I’ll get 40,000 dollars worth of advertising into that first edition.” And, I ended up selling 15 grand worth of advertising. So, I was short 25 grand.

Andrew Ramsden:           Wow.

James Tuckerman:           But, [00:23:30] I’d raised I’d saved 28,000 dollars, which was gonna be a deposit for a flat or something like that, and my father-in-law went, “Well you’re 26.” Well, I wasn’t married then, so it was like the father of my girlfriend, and he said, “Well you’re 26 and if all goes pear shaped you can save up that money again.” So, that was 25 to cover the last three grand working capital, and a lot of people would have stopped there.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           But, I went no. I’m only 25, [00:24:00] 25, 26 whatever it’s gonna be. So, I’ll do it. And, the second edition … And, also once I got the first edition then everyone’s gonna say how cool it is. So, then they’ll want to put ads in the second edition that’s going to be easier. The second edition was easier, but I still only sold 28,000 dollars for ads. So, it’s still 12 grand short.

Andrew Ramsden:           Wow.

James Tuckerman:           But, then I got a letter from Visa offering me a 15,000 credit card.

Andrew Ramsden:           Oh no.

James Tuckerman:           So, I went well that’s 12 grand to cover the loss, three grand working capital, and by the [00:24:30] third time if I went from 15 grand in sales to 28 grand in sales, by the next time I’ll do it. And, then third one I broke even, and then the fourth one I doubled it. And, the next thing, of course, is that cash flow in magazines is really difficult. You get paid, it takes ages to get paid in any way even the magazine news agency sales. Takes like 120 days to get that money in.

Andrew Ramsden:           Wow.

James Tuckerman:           So, ended up getting like 100,000 dollar overdraft, but [00:25:00] each of these things every single step of the way didn’t seem like much of a risk. So, by the time the second one was out I was not thinking about saving, I was thinking will I be able to pay off this 15 grand. Well, sure because already by now I know that I could probably get a great job because of what I’ve already achieved.

Andrew Ramsden:           This is true.

James Tuckerman:           And, what I’ve achieved beforehand.

Andrew Ramsden:           This is true.

James Tuckerman:           And, even when it go to the 100,000 dollar overdraft, that was a stretch, but I’m already thinking as well too now I’ve taken, I’ve leveled up.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           To use computer [00:25:30] game technology, I would get another, I could support this. Because that overdraft was also borrowed against my parents’ house.

Andrew Ramsden:           Oh wow.

James Tuckerman:           So, at the back of my brain is what this as well too, if all goes pear shaped I can go get a job and then I will pay my parents interest plus whatever.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           Until we manage [00:26:00] to cover off this overdraft because it was money lent against their house.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah, that sounds like for a lot of people it would be a huge amount of risk and uncertainty living through that day by day waking up and saying, “Okay, I got to make this work, because there’s a lot riding on it.” How do you do that? Did that come naturally to you or was there …

James Tuckerman:           That’s one thing, for me at each time I could see the full picture.

Andrew Ramsden:           You could justify it.

James Tuckerman:           And, it didn’t seem like such a risk.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah.

James Tuckerman:           And, just to really, when it got [00:26:30] to the GFC and we had to close the print magazine down, just for the listener’s at home it did turn around it did go all right and we went digital before you freak out about what I’m about to say next. When I look at the math, the books, when we looked at the balance sheet it actually said that we owed about, it was like 988,000 dollars or something. It was like 12 grand [00:27:00] shy of a million bucks.

Andrew Ramsden:           Jesus.

James Tuckerman:           And, yeah, and we went okay well if we put out another edition of the magazine we’ll never be able to pay off any of this money ever and we’ll have to file for bankruptcy. Or, we can roll the dice and launch a digital business and see how things go. Because, I hate the idea of leaving all those people hanging, well [00:27:30] not even hanging it was just leaving, hanging out to dry.

Andrew Ramsden:           Right.

James Tuckerman:           Printers and other organisations that had given us. We’d bought things from them, and we owed them money. So, we owed people money that there when you’re talking about risk and fear, that there was one of the few times where I was like, now this is terrifying. That was it.

Andrew Ramsden:           Because, [00:28:00] that was the obligation to other [crosstalk 00:28:03]

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, to honour, to be the good guy.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah.

James Tuckerman:           And, do the right thing, and how will I do that?

Andrew Ramsden:           Yes.

James Tuckerman:           And, so I did go into that not quite understanding how it was gonna be possible. But, one of the things that we did was if every subscriber had asked for their money back, we would have owed 300,000 dollars. So, that was something on the balance sheet. And, we did a deal with another publisher, [00:28:30] and they pretty much … So, we went out to the readers and we said, basically you can ask for your money back, or you can get this other magazine. And, all of them basically just went either we’ll have the other magazine or just keep our money and go online and be a success. It was amazing. The only people that wanted their money back were libraries. And, obviously that’s what, they’re obliged to do that [00:29:00] because they probably had the other magazine.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yup.

James Tuckerman:           And, it’s not their money and that worked out to be about 5,000 dollars. So, that was a pretty good thing.

Andrew Ramsden:           Wow. Was there something in the way you communicated that choice to them that helped them understand? Was there, I imagine you let them in on some of the capability, right?

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, we sold them the vision of what we were going to be doing next.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah.

James Tuckerman:           And, we made it clear that we were always an experimental brand and this is the next evolution.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           And, a couple interesting things happened. [00:29:30] One was that the digital transformation worked.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           So, we spent 900 bucks on a web press blog.

Andrew Ramsden:           Nice.

James Tuckerman:           And, within six months we were listed by Nielsen Online Ratings among the top 50 business and finance websites in the country by traffic.

Andrew Ramsden:           That’s amazing.

James Tuckerman:           Which was wild, we were there at 45.

Andrew Ramsden:           Wow.

James Tuckerman:           The ISX was number one, Concept was number two, and then down the bottom, we were there at number 45. The Adelaide advertisers business section was about 48, [00:30:00] and the Western Australian Business section was like 49.

Andrew Ramsden:           Wow.

James Tuckerman:           And, the Courier Mail’s business section was like 44 or something. We were there.

Andrew Ramsden:           That’s phenomenal.

James Tuckerman:           It was pretty wild, but I forgot what you asked.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah, no I [crosstalk 00:30:19]

James Tuckerman:           I’m going on trip down memory lane.

Andrew Ramsden:           No, look I think it’s fantastic and for me, I’m learning so much about the way you think about uncertainty and risk. And, I can see that you’ve projected out to the worst [00:30:30] possible case scenario.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, worst case scenario.

Andrew Ramsden:           And, you’ve said, you know what I can actually handle that.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah.

Andrew Ramsden:           So, let’s go for it.

James Tuckerman:           I think it was when we got to that point where it looked like we owned all this money, and that was a worst case scenario.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah.

James Tuckerman:           I was not comfortable with.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah, it starts to get a little bit deep.

James Tuckerman:           And, then I went how am I going to deal with this? But, yeah that’s where I went down to tell that story. So, what we did is we told everyone what it is that we were planning on doing. We sold the vision. And, what was really interesting was that a bunch of competitors [00:31:00] wrote articles that were really nasty, really nasty. Headlines like “Anthill Magazine Bites The Dust” and “Anthill Magazine Latest Victim Of The Financial Crisis”. And, one of them because I got married around this time, and I went on my honeymoon, and one of them wrote a story that sounded like I was just running away. It was some of the worst journalism you’ve ever seen, real hatchet job journalism. And, interestingly the person who wrote it was not a journalist with [00:31:30] the competition, they were the publishing editor of the competition.

Andrew Ramsden:           Wow.

James Tuckerman:           And, that person is no longer with that organisation. And, yeah obviously has moved around a few times.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           But, yeah we caught these really negative headlines. Then six months later we got this Nielsen report and we were like kings of the universe. But, what’s interesting that person who wrote that article [00:32:00] five years later found themselves a senior publisher at BRW, and then BRW five years later made the same decision to go 100 percent digital. And, the letter from the publisher at the front of the magazine, it pretty much could have been word for word for what we produced five years ago.

Andrew Ramsden:           Wow.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah. [00:32:30] It’s interesting, interesting.

Andrew Ramsden:           If that’s not digital leadership, I don’t know what is.

James Tuckerman:           Thank you, thank you. Yeah, yeah.

Andrew Ramsden:           I think that’s amazing to reflect on the struggle around that and how you dealt with that and got through it. But, you know any press is good press, right?

James Tuckerman:           That one made my wife cry, so I don’t know if that was necessarily a good one.

Andrew Ramsden:           Okay, maybe not so good.

James Tuckerman:           I’ll tell you in Australia because we’ve got this tall poppy syndrome and people love to [00:33:00] kick who seem to rise and then they fall they go oh yeah that one, never had it in them whatever. So, it was interesting how people reacted outside of our industry they reacted very poorly. But, from an entrepreneurial perspective, which was business owners that were the readers of the magazine they reacted very well. I was very proud to have cultivated an audience of people that shared that mindset and that attitude [00:33:30] and that optimism.

Andrew Ramsden:           Because, they’re small business owners. They want to see you thrive and survive.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah. And, when I see someone as well too on hard times, they’ve been there. And, they’ve felt it and they know what it’s like.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah.

James Tuckerman:           But, in the early days of Anthill we could not use the word entrepreneur in the magazine. It was just a dirty word in Australia. You just could not use this word entrepreneur. And, the idea of even suggesting to a young person that they go out on their own and do something, or even a baby boomer to go out on their own and do something, [00:34:00] or for someone to even quit their day job and reinvent their life. That was like, pull your head in son. You know? Only [inaudible 00:34:08] and flashy sales people become entrepreneurs.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yes.

James Tuckerman:           Look at Bondi, look at Syska, you don’t want to be like that do you?

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah.

James Tuckerman:           But, that was 15 years ago and thank goodness the world has changed.

Andrew Ramsden:           And, you’ve done a lot to change that through your magazine.

James Tuckerman:           That was the goal, and I like to think that we’ve made a mark. But, when I started it that was [00:34:30] it, to help change the culture in Australia and foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Andrew Ramsden:           Fantastic. Now, look I know we’ve only got limited time with you and we’ve talked about mindset, we’ve talked about your state of mind and how you’re mastering your early game throughout that process. And, I’d really love to tell a bit of a story as to how I met you in the first place if that’s okay with you.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, yeah.

Andrew Ramsden:           Because there’s, I think there’s a fantastic lesson for us around that. [00:35:00] So, I was at the We Are podcast conference last year, this was before I began the podcast and I was doing my research on what I should do. And, one of the presenters I can’t remember, it could have been Nathan.

James Tuckerman:           Nathan Chan.

Andrew Ramsden:           Nathan Chan?

James Tuckerman:           Yeah.

Andrew Ramsden:           I think it could have been Nathan Chan, he was getting up on stage to speak, but there was a technical glitch.

James Tuckerman:           It was his slides, he had the wrong slides.

Andrew Ramsden:           There had been a bit of a technical miscommunication, whatever happened there.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah.

Andrew Ramsden:           And, it was gonna be a 15-minute delay [00:35:30] as they got that sorted. And, as it became clear that this was unfolding, I was toying of the idea of jumping up and grabbing the mic and just trying to facilitate some sort of real time discussion, because I’ve done that in the past when chairing conferences. But, in the moment because I was put on the spot I just felt completely on my ditz. I had nerves, I panicked and I hesitated, and as I was trying to calm myself and marshal my mental resources to get up and do this, I saw a man [00:36:00] stand up grab the mic and throw a question out to the audience. And, I can’t remember what the question was, but it was really clear and it was really relevant and it just made sense based on the tone of the day and the context. And, the audience really ate it up. And, this went on for the next 15 minutes, and it was one of the most enjoyable parts of the day certainly for my perspective.

So, no surprise to anyone listening I’m sure, but that man was James Tuckerman. And, I came up to my introduce [00:36:30] myself afterward because I wanted to congratulate you and I always wanted to meet the man that really thrived and succeed where I had faulted. And, to ask you about how it is that you did that, in the moment to be able to have the confidence, the state of mind to say yup, I’m gonna stand up and just make this work.

James Tuckerman:           Was I wreck?

Andrew Ramsden:           At the end of it.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah.

Andrew Ramsden:           You did seem a little bit flustered at that point, yeah.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, I remember being up there, I was on the fly. I remember afterwards I was a wreck. But, [00:37:00] what you might not know is that I’d spoken at We Are podcast the year before. And, Ronsley had said, “Can you speak at the conference again?” And, I said, “Look, I’m feeling really tired at the moment. I’m feeling a little bit burnt out. I’ll do an event, maybe a panel or something like that. I’ll do something like that if you want me to.” And, I had arrived at the event and Ronsley had treated me like a speaker. So, for example, I was on the materials, he had paid for the flights and the accommodation, [00:37:30] there was I was eating this seafood buffet on the night before the conference with all the speakers. And, I said, “So, what do you want me to do?” And, he’s such a wonderful guy Ronsley. He basically just patted me on the back and said, “Mate you just enjoy yourself.” He said, “I just wanted you to be here because you had such, contributed such a high level the year before.” Because I obviously threw myself into it the year before. And, he said, “I just wanted to have you here.” And, I said “Okay, well mate if anything goes wrong. If someone gets sick or a speaker [00:38:00] whatever, I’ll back you up or be your guy.”

So, when that happened and yeah it was the slides, the rolling slides were there. And, Nathan’s there and he turns around and he’s launched into his presentation and then he looks at the slides and he goes, “These are the wrong slides.” And, then someone says, “Can you do it without the slides?” And, he goes “No, it’s a technical presentation, I need the slides.” And, at that moment I saw both Amber and Ronsley just both look at me [00:38:30] and I had this moment where it was basically all right it’s action time. And, I had the time from walking to the back of the room to the front of the room to figure out what the hell I was gonna say in the, to fill the 15 minutes that we had. And, yeah it was a huge adrenaline jolt.

I basically said, who has a podcast, people raised their hands. [00:39:00] And, then I said, who doesn’t have a podcast? And, people raised their hands.

Andrew Ramsden:           That’s right.

James Tuckerman:           And, I said to one of the people who still had their hands raised, what’s holding you back? And, they told me, and then I threw the question to one of the people that had a podcast and that’s what we did for 15 minutes.

Andrew Ramsden:           Amazing, you really workshopped a real problem for [crosstalk 00:39:20]

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, and I think in that time four problems that people had were addressed, and they were all responded too by people who were in the room that knew the answer to that problem.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yes, that’s right.

James Tuckerman:           And, what was amazing [00:39:30] …

Andrew Ramsden:           It was sourcing insight from other people in the audience.

James Tuckerman:           And, what was the coolest thing is that the last person said, what I’m really interested in is how to market my podcast, which was the topic of Nathan Chan’s presentation. And, just as she asked that question, I saw Nathan walk in the back of the room and I said, “That’s brilliant that you asked that question, everybody please welcome to the stage Nathan Chan.” And, you know there’s thunderous applause and everything was back on. But, I walked out of that room and almost fell over, because [00:40:00] the amount of adrenaline that I’d just used up in that space was, it was almost like running a marathon it was pretty full on.

Andrew Ramsden:           That’s incredible, and a testament to your ability to manage your state of mind in challenging circumstances. Do you have any tricks around that?

James Tuckerman:           That’s right, we had a talk didn’t we?

Andrew Ramsden:           We did.

James Tuckerman:           We had a conversation about, yeah a guy called Ben Angel once gave me a …

Andrew Ramsden:           So, before, is this what I think you’re gonna talk about?

James Tuckerman:           Centering yourself before you get up on stage?

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah, so I think what you’d said to me was because it all happened [00:40:30] so quickly you didn’t have time to run this technique, however if you’ve got time before speaking here’s a fantastic way.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah.

Andrew Ramsden:           To prepare and get rid of the nerves and help that calm down and be in the right state of mind to deliver your best.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, and then if you run through this exercise when you come off stage as well too, you’re not the wreck that I was after that 15 minute thing.

Andrew Ramsden:           Right.

James Tuckerman:           Because you’re always gonna have this nervous energy no matter what.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           In fact, once you stop getting the nervous energy, [00:41:00] usually you start to not be a very good speaker.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           Because you need a little bit of that just to, that adrenaline to keep you sharp. But, yeah so getting up in front of a large crowd, even a small crowd like 15 people or whatever is a tough thing. I did this yesterday, just yesterday I had to front a panel on the topic of architecture and I’d been asked as a favour to moderate the panel on a topic that I knew nothing about through speakers that I knew nothing about.

But, it was only a [00:41:30] small group so it was cool. But, the method that a chap called Ben Angel taught me is that he, so he spoke at a conference of mine and we had about 300 people in a room in Brisbane. And, what he said and I remember thinking at the time this sounds so hippy dippy trippy new age bullshit, I remember thinking I’m never gonna do this, right? And, he said, “Imagine for a second.” He says, well one of [00:42:00] the things he said was, “If you can before the event go to where you’re gonna stand, or go to where you’re gonna present from. And, look out so that you can imagine what the room’s gonna look like with all the people in it and imagine them smiling and laughing.” And, that’s really good. That’s a good thing to do, so I do that.

But, he said “Just before you’re about to go on and you’re standing at the back of the room, imagine for a second. Plant your feet on the ground and imagine this big wide beam of light coming down [00:42:30] from the heavens, or the sky or whatever, through your body filling you up with love and energy. It goes through your body into your feet and from your feet creates a big white circle expanding across the floor till it fills in until it includes everyone whose in the room in this one feeling of energy and love and support. And, imagine those people laughing [00:43:00] at your jokes and being happy in whatever it is that you do.” And, I went, “Oh yeah that sounds like bullshit Ben.” And, then I tried it and you have this moment where you see them all smiling and whatever it is. And, not only are you feeling the warmth and the love, but you’re projecting this warmth and energy and love.

So, when you jump up on the stage the moment that you’re up there you’re not looking out at an audience of strangers feeling that they’re judging you. [00:43:30] You’re looking out at a bunch of friends that want to support you and back you.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           And, not only does that help with the nerves and the tension, but you’re projecting that on them. So, it’s not some stranger it’s that funny uncle or the brother-in-law or your best mate or whatever it is, it’s like someone else whose up there that’s just coming up for a chat to say hello and say good day.

Andrew Ramsden:           And, you assume that before you [00:44:00] get up on stage and it becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy.

James Tuckerman:           Oh absolutely, absolutely yeah. I didn’t even mention that, but yeah that’s exactly what happens.

Andrew Ramsden:           I felt that’s where you were headed, and that’s certainly been my experience of it because since you told me about that I’ve been using that technique and it’s just been really fantastic.

James Tuckerman:           And, you watch people from the moment you get up you’re smiling at the audience, they all smile at you back.

Andrew Ramsden:           Exactly.

James Tuckerman:           And, then you smile a little bit more and then they smile a little bit more, and that whole thing that goes on. But, Ben had told me that he does so often that all he does now is [00:44:30] click his fingers and that whole exercise can happen in the time that it takes him to click his fingers. And, I tap my pocket. I do the same thing where I tap my pocket, so in that instance, I was walking up to the stage, I was tapping my pocket to bring that thing on. But the other element with that is that most of the time when you’re speaking, you pretty much know what’s about to come out of your mouth. And, as I walked up on that day I had three [00:45:00] possible options. I was like, I could teach them there was a pitching technique that I thought that I could teach them.

Andrew Ramsden:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Tuckerman:           There was an introduction thing, there was like I can’t remember what they were, but those three things went whoop now that won’t work, whoop that won’t work, whoop yup. And, I was at the stage. Yeah.

Andrew Ramsden:           Awesome. That’s awesome, and that’s now given me the next level technique, which I think is really nice clarification around how you were able to do that in the moment [00:45:30] is because you’ve done it enough times and anchored it in something really physical.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah.

Andrew Ramsden:           Almost like an NLP technique.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, which I’ve never done and I don’t really understand.

Andrew Ramsden:           Why?

James Tuckerman:           But, yeah, but I understand that there are triggers that we can use to conjure things up.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah.

James Tuckerman:           And, rig things back. I used to work in a cinema in the 1990’s, and Village Roadshow was supporting Savage Garden. And, the Savage Garden songs were playing all the time, when I hear a Savage Garden song I smell [00:46:00] popcorn. Yeah, sounds and physical movements can be used to conjure up all sorts of emotions and feelings and in the case even smell.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah.

Andrew Ramsden:           That’s a great example, and that must be exactly what that is. No, that’s fantastic. Thank you very much for sharing that and thank you, Ben Angel.

James Tuckerman:           Go Ben.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah, I think we’ve probably run out of time for today. But, look that’s been amazing to hear about your journey and the struggles and how you overcame them. And, your insights and just the way you think [00:46:30] about uncertainty and risk and manage your mindset and your state of mind. Yeah, lots to learn from that so thank you very much.

James Tuckerman:           You’re welcome. One thing I would say is I mention that I describe myself as a publisher, you heard me talking about speaking, you heard me go through all sorts of challenges in the nature of that business, all the conversation that I had with that marketing director, because I saw you wrote down something on a piece of paper when I mentioned that story.

When it comes to business and life [00:47:00] an overriding philosophy is something that I call be the cure. And, that’s when you meet someone and if you can help them in some way, or a client or whatever, and it’s not going to cost you anything you help them. And, what that does is overall it just takes the pressure off you to be a hero all the time, because you’re not thinking what are the big things that I can do, or what are the big challenges. What you’re doing is you’re just helping people in little small ways all the time. [00:47:30] And, all those different things add up, so when someone goes into business for the first time they’re always thinking of about these big over action goals, if people are thinking about, oh I’m going to write a book, or I’m gonna do this, they’re setting themselves these big goals. But, at the same if you can just constantly be framing your business in terms of, and your life in terms of, how can I help people in small ways that are not gonna harm me it’s amazing what happens. One thing leads to the next thing, and that leads to the next thing, leads to good will, more good will. [00:48:00] A door opens, an opportunity opens.

Whereas, I meet people all the time and their modus operandi is the margin is in the mystery. If I don’t tell you how I do what I do, I’ll be able to charge you more to service you as a client or a business or whatever.

Andrew Ramsden:           Wow.

James Tuckerman:           All those people holding their information close to their chest, whereas be the cure could be you meet a bartender, or an Uber [00:48:30] driver and they say what it is that they’re doing. You help them, and you give them some piece of information that helps them in that time and it passes on with the journey and that momentum leads to other momentum, which leads to more momentum. And, then when you are in those terrible hard times, which are inevitable for everyone there’s always gonna be light and dark in our lives, yeah people will rally to support you. But, also as well to even in those dark times if you’re following a philosophy like [00:49:00] be the cure suddenly often your hardship doesn’t seem so difficult as well, because you get to see that other people around you also suffer from those challenges. And, life is not something all about you and your issues.

Andrew Ramsden:           Awesome, you’re very wise.

James Tuckerman:           Sorry, to get a little bit deep.

Andrew Ramsden:           No, no, no that’s what we love. Thank you for that.

James Tuckerman:           Deep and philosophical, thank you, Andrew.

Andrew Ramsden:           Is there, where can we find you online? Is there any way you’d like to point our listeners?

James Tuckerman:           Just type in James Tuckerman.

Andrew Ramsden:           James Tuckerman.

James Tuckerman:           And, something will come up somewhere.

Andrew Ramsden:           Yeah.

James Tuckerman:           I’ll tell you, here’s [00:49:30] a little hot tip if you ever go to any of my URLs, so I got a bunch of different businesses like the, or often not always if you type in say forward slash I know James. I-K-N-O-W-J-A-M-E-S, and that’s something that I save for Uber driver and bartenders. And, I often squirrel something away behind I know [00:50:00] James, behind some of my URLs. Not always there, not always there, but sometimes there’s often a little Easter egg, a little trade for the people who know James.

Andrew Ramsden:           Well, we won’t leak to that, you’ll have to be someone who has listened through to the end of the podcast and heard that little tid tap.

James Tuckerman:           Excellent.

Andrew Ramsden:           Because, now you know James.

James Tuckerman:           Yeah, you know me.

Andrew Ramsden:           There yeah go.

James Tuckerman:           We’re probably best mates now, we’re besties.

Andrew Ramsden:           Awesome. Thank you James.

James Tuckerman:           Thank you, Andrew.

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