Barbara is a CEO & Skier
Barbara Turley, CEO of The Virtual Hub, talks about her passion for skiing and how it plays a role into her career running a company and challenging yourself towards mastering a certain skill!
• Getting into skiing
• How her passion for skiing has impacted her career
• Talking about skiing at work
• Building the culture at The Virtual Hub
• You can’t help everyone
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Welcome to Episode 347 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
If you like the show and what it’s all about, be sure to check out the book on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are on whatsyourand.com. The book goes more in-depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it, writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Barbara Turley. She’s the founder and CEO of The Virtual Hub in Chamonix, France, and now she’s with me here today. Barbara, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Barbara: It’s such a pleasure, John, thanks for having me.
John: This is going to be a blast, my first guest from France. This is exciting.
Barbara: And you got the name right. You got Chamonix right, even with a bit of a French twang.
John: There we go. Anything besides Chardonnay, I don’t know. Now, I know two French words, so we’re good. So, rapid-fire questions, 17, right out of the gate, get to know Barbara on a new level here. I’ll start you out with a pretty easy one, I think. Chocolate or vanilla.
John: Chocolate. Oh, there you go. Sudoku or crossword puzzles.
John: Or neither. Okay.
Barbara: Neither really.
John: Fair enough. Fair enough. How about a favorite color?
Barbara: I’d say orange.
John: Orange. Okay, all right. How about a least favorite color?
Barbara: Blue. Wouldn’t be least, but blue, probably bottom of the pack for me.
John: All right, all right. How about, do you prefer more hot or cold?
Barbara: Oh, tricky. Cold, I’d say. If I’d pick, I’d say cold.
John: All right, all right. How about, do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Barbara: Oh, I don’t. I’m not big into — no, I don’t, really. I think Kevin Spacey is pretty cool, but I don’t know. He’s controversial these days. Anyway, he’s —
John: As an actor.
Barbara: Yeah, as an actor he’s really good.
John: You can separate the person from the art. So, yeah, absolutely, as an actor, yeah. Great. How about, more of an early bird or a night owl?
Barbara: Early bird.
John: Early Bird. Okay, all right. How about, more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Barbara: Star Wars.
John: Star Wars. Yeah, me too. Absolutely. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Barbara: A Mac, all the way Mac.
John: Oh, wow. You are way cooler than I am. I am not that cool. Good for you. Good for you. How about a favorite ice cream flavor? I love ice cream.
Barbara: Oh, salted caramel, got to be salted caramel.
John: Oh, yeah.
Barbara: Here in France, ice cream is the thing, and salted caramel here is just incredible.
John: That’s awesome. I wonder who thought of that? Hey, how about we put some salt in it?
Barbara: I don’t know, but that’s just…
John: It’s genius. It’s genius.
John: It really is. Would you say more heels or flats?
Barbara: I want to say heels, but I’m very tall, so I end up wearing flats a lot. I’m more heels though. If I were shorter, I’d be heels all the time.
John: Good for you, good for you. There you go. How about, oceans or mountains?
Barbara: Oh, tricky. I’ve lived in both, and I — oh, gosh. We’ll get into this later. I have to say both there. I love both.
John: Fair enough, the mountains that go into the ocean. We’ll count that.
Barbara: Yeah, yeah. I need a bit of both.
John: There you go. What’s a typical breakfast besides salted caramel ice cream?
Barbara: Look, I like the traditional porridge, oats with a bit of fruit compound on it really. That’s my… I do love a bit of toast and raspberry jam. That’s always nice too.
John: There you go. Okay, very cool. How about, do you have a favorite number?
Barbara: Eight, I think.
John: Okay. Yeah, that’s a good answer.
Barbara: I don’t know why, but I looked at that question earlier, and eight popped into my head, so there you go.
John: There it is. That works. My book’s out. I’m excited about it. Kindle or real books.
John: Kindle. Okay.
Barbara: You know why? I can carry the whole library in my handbag. I’m a big reader.
John: There you go, exactly.
Barbara: I love books, but really, you can only bring one book or two. Whereas, you can carry a library with you with a Kindle.
John: Exactly. The accounting background and you’re CEO, so you probably carry, a balance sheet or income statement.
Barbara: Income Statement.
John: That last one I have, a favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Barbara: I hate saying this. I hate my answer, but I have to be truthful. My iPhone. I couldn’t live without it really. It’s like my savior. Two young children, my iPhone is like the escape.
John: It’s like, slash, your third child.
Barbara: Yeah, it is. It is. It is.
John: If you lose it, it’s equally crucial.
Barbara: Yeah, that’s right.
John: Of course. Good answer. Wait a sec, we’re already in there. So, let’s jump into skiing and just outdoor adventures in the mountains, by the ocean. Did you grow up doing this, or was it something that you got into later in life?
Barbara: No, I didn’t. I was brought up in Ireland, and I didn’t have any skiing in my life until I was in my 20s. I wasn’t brought up near the ocean at all. I did a lot of horse-riding when I was a kid, and I still do a bit of that. It is one of my other passions. I have many different passions. In the last 15 years, I haven’t been doing much of it, but I was brought up doing a lot of horse-riding actually. Neither mountain nor ocean, but I always had a fascination with those two.
John: Right, right. So then how did you get into the skiing side?
Barbara: Look, after years of trying to convince my parents that we should go on a skiing holiday — I mean, in Ireland, when I was that age, many years ago, you had to fly to Central Europe, and only extremely wealthy people went skiing. It was this sort of thing, so we never went. Nobody in Ireland really went at the time.
Eventually, I convinced a boyfriend of mine, when I was in my early 20s, that we should go skiing for a week, and we had a ball. We went skiing. It was one of the best couples holidays I think I’ve ever been on. We had a great time, and I was hooked. I was completely hooked after that.
John: That’s so cool. Is it something that you do regularly? Now that you live in France, you’re right there, pretty much.
Barbara: Yes. I spent, as I was saying to you before we recorded, I spent the last 17, 18 years living in Australia actually, in Sydney, beautiful Sydney, Australia, by the ocean, right by the ocean, so I woke up every day to the ocean. My husband is Hungarian, and he’s from Budapest. Every year or every second year, we would travel back to Europe. Every time we came home to see family, we would always come to Chamonix where my best friend happens to live, and we would always go skiing.
It’s been quite a big part of my life for many, many years. Just, I did a ski season in New Zealand, about 15 years ago as well, for a few months, so it’s always been in there. I’ve been skiing in Australia many times as well, and in New Zealand. So, yeah, it’s been a pretty active part of my life for many years. More so now because I live in the mountains now. I live right on the slopes.
John: Yes, it’s down the street. Or not even, it’s in the backyard. It’s just right there.
Barbara: It’s part of the mountain.
John: Yeah, that’s really cool. That’s really cool that you’re able to, yeah, just move closer to it and make it, well, a bigger part for a longer time, as opposed to just a vacation week or a month or something like that.
Barbara: Well, look, coming back to Europe, both my husband and I are both European, and we always said that if we came back to Europe to live, that we’d like to be closer to family, but that we would like to be also moved to the mountains. Because we’re both skiers, so we were like, that’d be pretty awesome. Now, we planned this for about 10 years, to be honest. We’ve now pulled it off, which has been great.
We did have this dream of — and many people who are skiers out there and snowboarders will be listening to this, going, yeah, my dream would be to work and live in the mountains. You can make it happen, but it took us a long time to figure out how to make this happen. So, yeah, the dream is alive right now, and we’re heading into the ski season. We’re right in that, so it’s great.
John: That’s so cool to hear, so cool to hear. Yeah, you can’t just drop, I’ve skied in Australia. I don’t imagine Australia, where does skiing happen in Australia?
Barbara: I was shocked when I got to Australia and people were like, “Yeah, we ski here.” There are actually mountains in Australia. Actually parts of Australia are quite cold, and it does snow. Sometimes you can get huge snow. Now it’s not big mountain skiing like what you get in Colorado and places — or Europe, but it’s pretty fun. It’s great for a weekend. Or if you’ve got kids, for a week, it’s amazing. Yeah, we went many times to Thredbo. Down near Melbourne, there’s quite a lot of great ski fields there. You can ski in Australia.
John: That’s awesome. That’s very cool. Who knew?
Barbara: I know.
John: Kangaroos running across — no, I’m just joking.
Barbara: It’s a bit like that actually. It is like that.
John: Australia, you’re so crazy. That’s hilarious. That’s super cool. Do you feel like these individual sports and adventures and things like that have given you a skill that you bring to work at all, through your career?
Barbara: You know what actually, when I was preparing for this podcast, because I did, and I saw your questions around that; and actually was great because it got me thinking about whether it has impacted my work. It was something I hadn’t thought very deeply about before. Because now I’m leading — I mean, The Virtual Hub, we’ve got 150 staff, and I have found myself leading large teams and mentoring our leadership team and doing all these kind of team-based things. I have to think about this and go, gosh, I’ve spent my whole life — I mean, I play tennis. I ski. I love horse-riding. I like swimming, reading. They’re all very individualistic things. They’re not team sports.
So I was thinking about this. How has this helped me to lead this company or to build this? I actually think about it, if you’re on a team, great teams are made up of high-performers. To be a high-performer, in some respects, you actually have to be able to achieve, individualistically, as well as be part of a team. Those who are able to learn how to master something silently on their own by repetition and getting something right and then you bring those people together on a team, you actually can teach others how to be masters of their own skill set and to develop their own skill sets and to — yeah, just mastery.
I think that’s something, I haven’t just done these sports. I have set out to master them. Taking up skiing in my 20s, and these days, I can — I mean, compared to some skiers, I wouldn’t be that great, but I can get to the top of any mountain. I’m a pretty good skier. Same with tennis, I remember learning footwork and getting coaching and really wanting to master the steps of it. I think that’s been pivotal actually, when I think about having to learn so many new things in business.
The Virtual Hub is a company in the Philippines really when I launched it. This is a whole another story, but I’d never been to the Philippines. I had no background in recruiting or HR or outsourcing, for that matter. I came from the investment banking world. I had to learn a lot of stuff, and a lot of stuff I learned by accident. Mastering it quickly was very important.
I do have a sense of going at something until I get it, and I think that those sports definitely helped. Because skiing can be quite frustrating, so is tennis, so is horse-riding. They’re not things that you’re going to step into, and within a week be amazing at. They take time. They take 20 years actually of — surfing is the same. It’s like impossible.
John: Yeah, exactly, and golf and a lot of those individuals sports. There’s so much great nuggets that you just dropped in such a short amount of time. One is, especially that, compared to other skiers, but who cares? You’re in your own lane. I think that that’s something that gets in our way of, you enjoy skiing. That’s it. Are you good at it? Maybe, maybe not. Who cares? I’m sure, in your case, very good.
Barbara: Yeah, I think as well, on that point actually that you just made, which is worth highlighting, when you’re in an individualistic sport, yes, there are competitors, but you’re focused on your own game. You’re competing with yourself. It teaches you, in business, yes, you need to watch the competitors in business, but I’ve always been of the view that if you spend all your time looking at how good everyone else is, well, your business will be rubbish. So I don’t really look at others. I go, you know what, I just watch for the nuances and watch for the mistakes and try to tweak and evolve and practice and all that sort of thing. I honestly think, yeah, those sports have helped me to hone that skill. That’s been very pivotal in my journey.
John: That’s such a great example. At the very least, it humanizes you. Coworkers have something to talk to you about besides just the work. Hey, how was the last ski trip? Hey, I saw the pictures on social media about you, whatever. Those sort of things make you, especially as a CEO —
Barbara: I think we need it too. Like you were talking about, to lead large teams and especially in the environment of this pandemic, we’ve all come through and everything; it’s really important to be able to get away and reach back to source, of your own source, inner thing that you get when you go skiing and stuff like that, to be able to get away. Because just going down to the kitchen and having a coffee is not stepping away. You need to actually get out, get out of your head and into your body, kind of thing. I do a lot of yoga as well. That’s also been, again, a singular type of mastery sport, if you want to put it that way.
John: It totally is, yeah. No, and I love all of that.
Barbara: It’s hard.
John: Yeah. No, it is hard. That’s for sure.
Barbara: It’s very hard.
John: Yeah, and I love how it’s something you’ve never really thought about until preparing to come on here. It’s one of those things that that’s what’s so cool about the What’s Your “And”? message is that we’re doing it subconsciously. Once you point it out, it’s like, wow, it makes such an impact on so many different areas of my life that I didn’t even realize.
Barbara: Yeah, even talking about this now. I’m like, there are days where I think, oh my God, I have so much work to do. I really — I just need to focus on work. I’ve got a great private yoga teacher, and she might — the reason I get her to come to my house is because I can’t cancel on her. I’m like, dammit, I’ve got this yoga thing. The same with skiing, I’ll go up the mountain and be like, I shouldn’t be going today, too much work. Then I’ll get up the mountain. I’ll ski for two hours. I’ll come down, and I’m on fire. My ideas, the vision, my whole energy system has changed. It’s just vitally important that we give into it actually, give into it and do it.
John: I love that, give into it. Yeah, because work is always going to be there, and those passions are easy to put on the back burner, but they’re always going to be knocking. They’re always in your head. So, yeah, give in and let it rip. I love that.
Barbara: Totally, yeah, give in and let it rip. That’s going to be my new mantra for this year, just give in and let it rip. I love it.
John: Exactly. 2021, give in and let it rip. What else could happen?
Barbara: I know.
John: That’s super cool. So is it something that you do talk about at work, or that’s even back in your investment banking days or things like that? Was talking about outside-of-work interests something you did?
Barbara: Yeah, you always do. I mean, it depends. These days, I probably don’t talk — I talk about yoga a bit. I’m in an interesting environment right now because the company is in the Philippines. I’m the only one actually who’s remote, which is really interesting. It’s like, they’ve all got the party going on in the Philippines, and I’m on my own. I live in a totally different country.
If I do scuba diving, which I used to do when I was in my 20s, don’t anymore, but that’s probably a topic I could talk to a lot of our team about. They’re big into diving over there because the dive sites are amazing, and lots of yoga. Yeah, lots of guys doing sports and stuff. In my old corporate career, yeah, I would have talked about it a lot. Lots people were skiing and doing lots of cool stuff.
John: Yeah. No, that’s awesome. That is a good point that you brought up about that’s what they’re doing, but you can relate. It’s asking them about those dives and things like that, and that will just light them up. Wow, the CEO is asking about something that I truly love, above and beyond the work.
Barbara: You just hit on something that I’ve wanted to do for so long, to get to know each and every single person in the company. What is their “And”? Actually, what’s their “And”? Then COVID hit, and we just, oh, that sort of stuff has gone out the window, but I need to come back to that.
John: Yeah, especially now and, like you said, make sure that they’re doing it. Because, like you said, going downstairs to get coffee or tea is not getting away from the work. What lights them up? What’s going to make them come back on fire? Yeah, because there’s nothing worse than riding up on a chairlift and then riding back down on the chairlift. You have to ski it. You can’t ride back down.
Barbara: Yeah, yeah.
John: Yeah, it’s like the guy that — the person that fell and one ski fell off. Now they have to walk while holding their other ski because the other one just zoomed down the mountain.
Barbara: Just sit down, slide. That’s it.
John: There you go. There you go. Yeah, that’s why I snowboard because then they’re stuck. They’re not coming off.
Barbara: Oh, yeah. That’s right. You know what, I was planning to learn snowboarding this year. So, you’re a snowboarder. I’m a skier. I was like, I’m going to learn snowboarding. Then I had one season here, because I arrived a year ago, and I was like, I’m not learning snowboarding because I just don’t have the patience now. I just want to enjoy myself. Because the minute I take up a new thing, I’m going to try and master that. I’m going to spend a week on my ass, basically, with probably broken wrists or something.
John: For sure. I, luckily, skied as a kid, but it was in the Midwest of the US, which is probably similar to Australia where it’s more hills than mountains. Then I had a long period in between where I didn’t at all. I skateboarded some in junior high and stuff. So that’s where the snowboarding was more natural. I was just starting from scratch a couple years ago when I moved to Colorado. That made it easier. Where I could see, if you’re a skier, to go to snowboard, that’s weird. Yeah, it’s totally different.
Barbara: Yeah, I’d like to. My friends are snowboarders, but doesn’t matter, just going to do powder skiing instead.
John: There you go. There you go. No, that’s fantastic. How much do you feel like it’s on the organization, a little bit going back to you finding out people’s “ands”, how much do you think it’s on the organization to create that as the norm? Versus, how much is it on the individual to maybe just start with a small circle of who they work with?
Barbara: You know what, I’ve always had this philosophy kind of buried that I knew, about culture and about building cultures in companies, that it’s got to be like a family. You have to care about the people, not just — there’s profit and all that, but you have to deeply care about your people.
When COVID and this pandemic and everything that we’ve come through in the last year, came along, I sort of realized how much deeper that thought needs to go, in that, I think as companies, we almost have a responsibility to help the whole person develop and not just the career.
We’re big into training, learning and development at The Virtual Hub. We’ve got our own Training Department that we accidentally got known. We started doing really well with training. We were training VAs in digital marketing. That’s what we were doing in the early days. Now we’ve sort of developed this out into a learning and development platform where my vision is to say, well, what about teaching people about managing their own finances or dealing with their own subconscious beliefs or whatever else they may want to discover about themselves
As a company, I just feel, these days, it’s important for people to be to work in a place that honors their wellness, their dreams, what are their dreams, their personal development that has nothing to do with what it is that you do as a company, but actually, it leads to happier people. It leads to a culture that people are aligned with, and they don’t want to leave them. So you get longevity of people as well.
I’m really playing with this idea now, and it’s just come to fruition even more, through COVID. COVID has been a good thing in that way, in that I’ve gone, hmm, that’s interesting. We need to help people. We’re in a people business, actually. So, yeah, I’m going further into that philosophy now.
John: I love that. I love that so much. That’s so great. Really, every business is a people business. Yours is exponentially so, but every company, it’s still human-to-human interaction, whether it’s colleagues or to clients or to customers. Those are humans on the other side. The more that I’ve interviewed and researched and even my own experience, if people have an outside-of-work life that’s chaos, they’re inside-of-work is never going to be good.
Barbara: No, it’s chaos, yeah, total chaos. You can’t help everyone. That’s the other problem is you can’t save everyone. Actually, I heard, if you know Russell Brunson from ClickFunnels.
John: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Barbara: I saw him speak at one of those — I’ve never been to one of the conferences, but I saw this video where he was asked, what about all the people who buy your software and they never make it, kind of thing. He was talking about this speech he had heard, I’m probably totally misrepresenting this, but the concept was, I think it was about rescue helicopters. When they’re going into big seas for this — a boat has gone over and these people have gone over. Only a certain amount of people are going to fit in the helicopter. How do you choose who you’re going to save? The answer was, we can only save those that swim towards us. I thought to myself, bingo.
We’ve actually changed our entire recruitment process to say, right, when we’re recruiting people, if they have the skills, that’s great; but we need to figure out, are they aligned with our core values? Our company purpose is to unlock dreams for both our employees and our clients. That’s the purpose that we set out for. We’re like, first of all, do our core values resonate with them? Second of all, do they have a dream that we have the ability to unlock for them? Or are we just on different pages, and therefore they’re going to unlock our company dream of growing and all that sort of thing, and our clients, et cetera.
It’s this whole thing of, if we can recruit people in the first place, that we are going to swim towards us, in that way, then we can do loads with that person. We’re not actually hiring broken people. We’re trying to hire people that genuinely are swimming towards us and have that sense of personal mastery that we can refine. I hope that makes sense. I was formulating that thought as I was talking.
John: It makes total sense. It’s also, the technical skills are important, but they’re not the end-all-be-all because everyone applying for that job has those technical skills.
Barbara: Or they can be coached. A lot of technical skills can be coached actually.
John: There you go, even that. Yeah.
Barbara: You can’t teach enthusiasm.
John: Right. That’s exactly right.
Barbara: You can’t teach certain things, so you have to hire for it. My philosophy has always been, you give me a great person, that’s a glass-half-full person who is smart enough and loves what it is that we do and is enthusiastic about life in general; I can teach them anything. It’s just, you need that fundamental base.
John: I love that. That’s awesome. I love how you’re nurturing the whole person and how can we better serve them, training for life, beyond just the technical skills of the work that happens here. That’s so fantastic. That’s awesome. Just imagine if investment banking companies did that.
Barbara: If every company did that.
John: Yeah, or if every company, then it would be just a great place to be, everywhere. That would be super awesome. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that has a hobby that they’re like, it has nothing to do with my job and no one’s going to care?
Barbara: Look, I’ve fallen into so many times where I haven’t pursued hobbies, and I’ve worked, worked, worked. We’ve all done it. You think, I’m too busy, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I spent years doing that. Don’t do that. Go and, what was it you said, get out there and let it —
John: Let it rip.
Barbara: Whatever it is.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Barbara: Obviously, some people can get addicted and not do any work, but use it to fuel better work. Your energy fields will open up. All your chakras will open up. Everything will be lighter. You’ll come back. You’ll solve problems while you’re on the mountain or while you’re out gardening or whatever it is that is your thing. You have to pursue it. It’s so important for your own success in every part of your life, not just personal life, but business as well.
John: That’s so perfect. I love that. That’s awesome. Well, it’s only fair, before I wrap this up, that I turned the tables because I so rudely peppered you with questions in the beginning. So, this is the first episode of The Barbara Turley podcast. Welcome, everyone. Thanks for having me on as your first guest. I appreciate it, Barbara. You didn’t really have a choice. I just made it my own. Did you have any questions for me?
Barbara: I do.
Barbara: Groomed or powder.
John: Oh, wow. Okay, okay.
Barbara: On-piste or off-piste? I think I know the answer but.
John: I don’t know. Powder’s always fun. You just get to carve your own way. That’s always fun. Yeah, make your own path, which I guess I’ve done accidentally in life. There you go.
John: Oh, books or podcasts. I’m a books guy. Yeah, I really don’t listen to too many podcasts, ironically enough, so, yeah, books, in the paperback or hardcover in my handbooks.
Barbara: Oh, really? Yeah.
John: I do agree with your Kindle. You can carry the whole library with you wherever you are, which is always handy, but I guess if I had my druthers, I guess I would pick holding it in my hand.
Barbara: I have two very young children. I have a four-year-old and one-year-old. If I didn’t have those, I’d probably be with you on that. Since I have those, the podcast, I can only get half-an-hour podcast on double time.
John: Exactly, exactly. Squeeze it all in. Well, this has been so much fun, Barbara, happy to be a part of What’s Your “And”? Thanks so much.
Barbara: Thanks for having me.
John: Yeah, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Barbara in action or connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there, and also buy the book. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing in iTunes or whatever app you use, and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.