We caught up with Griz and Cam of Front and Centre Training Solutions. This story is one of family, fun, f*cking hard work, passion, overcoming obstacles and grabbing opportunities by the horns with some training thrown in here and there. Enjoy.
Griz and Cam, what's your backstory?
Cam: I was brought up in suburban Perth, with a passion for rock music and sport. I did a Bachelor of Science at UWA and a Post Grad in education and psychology. I wanted to be a sports psychologist. As I often say, I should have done more research because, at the time, there were only two paying jobs in that field across the whole of Australia. So I dipped my toe into the water teaching P.E at a school in regional WA that was aligned to a mission for indigenous kids.
I then started work in sports development with the WACA and the WAFL.
Karlyn got a promotion in Melbourne with her job, so we packed up and left. I worked sweeping floors at the NIKE factory and as a PT. It was then I managed to land a corporate sales role and was fortunate enough to work my way through this business, with great mentors, great development training to what I thought would be a long term career. It was also where I met the Fechner’s!
From there, enter mergers and three acquisitions! In short, I learnt that my passion was developing people. I realised there was a market for those that could think through ideas, and teach in a way that engaged and inspired.
I resigned, and away we went. I set up my “office’ in the garage in my WA house. That’s where it all started.
Griz: Grazina Marita Fechner– say that six times, I dare you. Maybe that’s why I decided to enter the pharmaceutical industry at 27 years old. With a name resembling a penicillin drug, I felt like I belonged.
I grew up in Melbourne and always wanted to be a flight attendant, but I was five-foot-nothing. And back in those days, there were height restrictions. My mum also detested that career ambition– telling me, “How many times can you say chicken or beef”.
So, I became the weather girl on a segment called ‘Out and About In Brissy With Grizzy’.
This is where my passion for media and people transpired.
When Cam and I started Front and Centre, we shared the same dream, to inspire people to be the best they can be.
Cam also had hair when we started. Now, he’s bald– so that’s saying something, right?
Tell us what your company does?
People are at the heart and soul of what we do, so you could say people are *kind* of a big deal to us.
We are a learning and development organisation focusing on development capabilities in and across a diverse range of industries both in Australia and internationally. Our primary focus areas are leadership, sales, marketing, client experience, media training, communication and behaviour.
Communication is something people do every day. But just because we do it every day, doesn’t mean we’re doing it right!
You only have to look at how COVID-19 has been communicated and managed by some of the world’s biggest leaders to see that.
How did you come up with the idea?
Post our initial careers, we both worked in sales and marketing/leadership roles in healthcare. All of us (Dean and Karlyn included!) spent time on the road as reps.
We all had experiences with consulting groups providing development training. Some great, some so drop-dead boring that it made sticking a needle in your eyes sound more appealing.
These facilitators had slide decks that resembled Shakespearean novels and activities that probably came out of that same era.
Cam walked out of a session after an argument with one of the facilitators (back to HR big fella!). We often thought to ourselves, ‘light-bulb moment’… we can do this better. So we did!
How did you go about building and launching the business?
This is funny. We pitched our first significant licensed program in 2007, we won and sold a program that didn't even exist. Literally, we hadn’t even written it –YIKES!
Griz flew from Sydney to the West Coast, and we bunkered down at Karlyn’s parent’s house over a weekend, conjuring up our non-existent program. It is true when they say diamonds are built under pressure!
While we look back and think that was insane wtf-were-we-thinking, it landed us our biggest client, which led us to secure clients that we still work with to this day!
We grew and learnt from that experience selling a service built on our own market research, internal capability, and external support.
We evolve every single minute of every single day.
How have you grown the business?
Organic word of mouth has been our biggest asset! We speak about creating “raving fans” in our programs, and it’s something we live by.
If you can impact or change one person’s world, you never know where that could lead. And it’s undoubtedly led us to some pretty big places!
Probably one of our best decisions was appointing Jayme-Lee (JL is Griz's daughter - which obviously comes with all the joys of joining the family business!) into our marketing and digital role. Her work has made us appeal to a new demographic, broadened our reach and “modernised” much of what we do. .
What’s your biggest selling product?
Every client needs are unique approach which is ‘we don’t have a one-size-fits-all.
Think of us like a good selfie. You can change the lighting, angles, filter and adjust it to score some likes (or matches on Tinder).
Our most common programs are in leadership, sales, communication, presentation skills, and behaviour – just to name a few.
Please email email@example.com for more information on our specifically tailored programs– certainly not dating or selfie advice!
Griz can help with the selfie bit firstname.lastname@example.org
What have been some of your biggest failures along the way?
Cam: A client had pressured me to run and develop an intervention that I knew was set for failure from the get-go. The leadership team were literally ticking it off as a performance criterion on their job list. From this, I’ve always learnt to trust my gut and be true to your value proposition. The changes were never going to be implemented,, no matter how well we did.
Griz: Recognising the value we bring and not charging appropriately. I still struggle with this as I go over and above to ensure my clients are happy, sometimes at the detriment of the earning capacity of the business.
What day to day digital tools do you use?
While the pandemic has brought some challenging times, it has also allowed us to leverage digital tools and reiterated the importance of online presence.
What books have been a great inspiration to you as a founder?
How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
The Art Of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson
Tribe of Mentors by Time Ferriss
Meaning of Life by Alain de Botton (which is a must read for anyone).
We have our own podcast – Mind The Gap! Join Griz and JL as they talk about the generational gap between mother and daughter. As well as a light hearted look at their life experiences!
Oh and of course, our newsletter! You can sign up here.
What quotes do you live by?
"Smile and the world smiles with you!" (Griz)
"Don’t talk to me before I’ve had my coffee!" (Cam)
And also a newer one that I am working on is:
“Learn to sit back and observe...not everything needs a reaction”.
Dynamic duo– can you tell?
What do you do to look after your mental health as a founder?
Cam: This has been something essential through the past 18 months. Meditation and exercise personally, but I also take great joy out of coaching and working with my kids and their friends in footy/boxing etc. It’s a great release and provides me with great pleasure as I have not only seen my kids grow up but a whole neighbourhood of crew that are all now young adults I get to call my friends.
Griz: Retail therapy, of course. But in all honesty, I have a folder in my inbox titled ‘my proudest moments. This is where I keep emails from clients who have thanked me for changing their world. I read them every time I’m feeling overwhelmed or questioning myself. This keeps me grounded and gives me purpose.
In a few words what does it mean to be the founder of a business?
F*cking hard work! But with great rewards.
It’s like having another child. It becomes your family member. You think about it 24/7. You don't know what will happen, and it needs to be handheld at the start, then it hits puberty and becomes a naughty teenager.
While we would love to say it has evolved into an independent adult, every day is different and a work in progress. Let’s just say it still brings home the washing even though it’s moved out...
What are the biggest pieces of advice you’d give to other founders?
"Keep going and persevere. Don't stop. Believe in yourself and your offering. Don’t listen to anyone who says you can't do it!"
Anything you want to add?
We would just like to thank Grazina’s husband Dean and Cameron’s wife Karlyn, who are also a part of the business. They have both sacrificed so much for this dream to become a reality. Dean served in Iraq, and Karlyn looked after the kids growing up and being our accounting guru. You have to be ALL IN.