"By the time he was ten, he had encountered three battles with cancer."
The great motivator, Zig Ziglar, is famous for claiming you can have anything you want in life, if you’re prepared to help others get what they want. The actual quote, often abbreviated, is; ’You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.’
So while Julian claims to not have a mentor in his life, he’s had one almost by accident, living by the Zig Ziglar formula and achieving phenomenal success, both for himself and others.
In fact, looking closely at his upbringing, it’s obvious he’s learnt many lessons from his parents; lessons which have guided him to success throughout life, and business.
While having a mentor is the craze today – it’s become the ‘buzz-word’ in business – back in the 1970s, a mentor wasn’t something you actively sought. Although, without realising it, there were usually people you admired, respected and, to some extent, imitated.
Julian believes mentors are important in today’s world, and says all young, prospective entrepreneurs need one. In fact it’s the second piece of advice he shares. “Find somebody in the industry sector you’re in to be a mentor for you, because they’ll provide you with invaluable expertise and knowledge.”
The first tip he shares is to be confident enough in your idea to test it in the market place. “Most people don’t want to share their idea. But my recommendation to anybody with a new idea is run it past at least 10 people. You can cover it off with a non-disclosure agreement so you’ve got coverage, but run the idea by at least that number of people and that gives you enough information or feedback from people who have been there and done it.”
In the pre-mentor era, Julian’s desire to help others was being nurtured by just two people; his Mum and Dad. “My mother was a giver back to the community. She served on the local council in Henley-on-Thames, where I was born, for over 25 years, as did her father and grandfather. So three generations served Henley council, collectively for over 100 years, and she was mayor of Henley as well.”
Civic duty was an important part of family life in the Day household, and when his father enrolled a young Julian in the Cubs, it provided him with his first opportunity to help others. He went through the system from cubs to scouts and then to venture scouts, all the while learning the lessons he needed to fulfil his destiny.
“Along with some friends, I pioneered setting up a service team in the county – Oxfordshire Service Crew we called it. The idea was to put back into scouting, because when you’re going through scouting, not everybody wants to be a leader, but they’d be more than happy to give say two or three weekends to help through the year” Julian recalls.
Among other things, they’d run what Australians would refer to as sausage sizzles, to raise money to provide services for the community. “When we started, it very quickly grew to over thirty people putting their hands up saying they’d love to help out in some way.”
One of the last projects Julian undertook before leaving the UK, “was the circumnavigation of the county of Oxfordshire. We designed an amphibious craft to follow, as closely as possible, the county boundary.” The circumnavigation had to be done in 48-hours, on water and along the country lanes, and you had to be sponsored for your leg of the journey. That was the forerunner to the Waterline Challenge which Julian will be running in Australia, in September 2016. (More details on that later).
Life though didn’t start well for Julian. By the time he was ten, he had encountered three battles with cancer. “When I was 18-months old I was diagnosed with bone cancer in my left hip. I don’t remember much about that, my family does obviously, and I was in hospital for nine months. In those days there wasn’t chemotherapy, it was just ‘cut out what they can and radiotherapy’, but I survived that.”
When Julian was six, that cancer recurred “in my left shoulder blade, and then when I was ten, in my right shoulder blade and both of those were treated by radiotherapy.”
It was those battles which inspired Julian’s father to ensure his son was active, which has shaped his life. Joining the scouts gave him a vehicle to help the community, playing rugby taught Julian the importance of teamwork, and getting into rowing sparked a love affair with the water. All those areas have been instrumental in dictating the path Julian has chosen for his life.
That path wasn’t always on the straight and narrow though. While Julian has this image of being the great ‘do-gooder’ – don’t be fooled. There was a time in his life when the larrikin streak got the better of him, landing him and a few of his mates in trouble. Big trouble! The type of trouble that leads to being expelled from one of England’s leading grammar schools.
Prank number one involved the bell which tolls every morning, alerting students they have ten minutes to class registration. It was atop a three storey, 200-year old building. “We thought it’d be a great idea if we actually got up there and muffled the bell. So we took plenty of cotton balls, some tights, some ropes and strings with us.”
But, as they say about the ‘the best laid plans’, as they were attaching their mufflers, the donger – the metal tear-drop shape suspended inside a bell which causes it to ring when tipped – broke free. We thought, ‘Problem solved… but then, what do we do with the donger?’
“We knew there was a set of chimney stacks behind us and the most used one is the headmaster’s office. So I dropped the donger down the chimney and we could hear it go dong, dong, dong, dong, dong, dong and it ended up in his office. It created a huge cloud of dust and soot and, he wasn’t impressed.”
But wait, there’s more.
As Julian tells it, “As we’re going home, there’s a swimming pool and, of course, school’s out for summer and it’s now the headmaster’s swimming pool, with his house right next to it.
“We thought wouldn’t it be a great idea if we let all the water out? So, that’s what we did, and as we did it, we also put all the wooden chairs into the swimming pool. I didn’t actually see it, but it completely emptied with the furniture down at the deep end.”
Yes, laugh! It’s hysterical! Julian’s mother, that great giver to the community, was a governor at the school. We leave the rest to your imagination. Somehow Julian came out the other side of all that, still in one piece, and even managed to get good enough results to study a business degree.
Fate then played her part. “During the last two years I opted for what was in those days called electronic data processing. Computing wasn’t around yet, it was just called EDP, and I learned a lot about computers.” That led to a job for an American computer company, which then led to a job at Oxford University Press as their EDP manager. A job that came with a secretary; a girl from Adelaide.
That’s right; Julian fell in love with, and married his secretary. That led to a honeymoon in Sydney, with all its computer advertising on the buildings around the harbour. “If I hadn’t married my secretary we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”
Australia was on the verge of the dot.com boom, and desperately looking for those with the skills to move the industry forward. A friend, John Underwood, whilst not a mentor, was influential in Julian’s decision to migrate to Australia in 1986. “He said, ‘Australia is calling out for people with your skill set’ and he’d actually lined up three interviews for me in the week of my arrival. I had a job within a week – it was amazing!”
Julian worked for a company called Cortex Pacific as their sales and marketing director and it wasn’t long before he realised there was an opportunity to go out on his own. “That’s what I did, and have done ever since. I’ve learned a lot about project management in the IT space, and have delivered over 200 projects large and small. I’ve been parachuted in a couple of times to very large projects which are off the rails, and have turned those around in very short timeframes as well, to get them back on track.”
There was a void though; a sense his destiny wasn’t being fulfilled. There had to be a way to give back to his industry and at the same time help others succeed. The vehicle to fill that need came along in 1999, a company called Consensus to run Awards programs.
In short, Consensus evaluates new technologies. “We actually identify the most innovative technology designed and developed here in Australia. We cover seven awards programs now, and have over 130 judges – a huge brains trust to identify which are most innovative, and which ones have the best world potential. We evaluate their technology and platform, the way they are designed and developed, their user-interface, and also the way that they’re going to be taken to market as well. We’ve therefore got many avenues for advising start-ups around what they could be doing.”
And there’s one statistic of which Julian is particularly proud. “In late 2013, we had eight MBA students working for us in order to look back at every winner since we started, to see where they are today. “It showed nine out of ten winners (90%) had gone on to do exceptionally well worldwide; and that was then quantified as well. It’s a minimum, across the board, of a twelve- times increase in revenue or size. That is huge.”
It’s not a money making venture for Julian – it’s about giving back. Now it’s also about expanding, and the dream is to go global. “What we’ve created here is a centre of excellence, and in 2016 I’m going to set up the awards in Singapore, Sweden and the UK.”
Future plans are that “We’ll probably have eight countries in five years’ time. The great thing is that they now allow us a collaboration between technology companies around the world, and it’s not just in the IT sector. It’s also in areas like green technology, in terms of alternative energies and recycling. It will also allow us to upsell the technologies around the world. We could actually sell the winning technologies of those other countries into Australia, and vice-versa. It creates a worldwide marketplace, and that’s the business goal.”
Julian also loves to walk along the beach. The stresses of business, of Consensus, all disappear when his toes touch the sand. They’ve touched the sand so much that, in fact, Julian is the first person to walk the entire coast of New South Wales, by the water’s edge. In doing so he raised over $40,000 for charity.
That physical journey involved “Every single beach and around every headland. I’ve had access through five different private lands, so you obviously have to make sure you get permission beforehand. I stay as close to the water’s edge as possible without having to diverge too far. Each walk I do has to be very well researched, and I have to be accurate on timing as well, because if I’m getting a lift from a surf club, I can’t expect the club to come out unless I tell them specifically what time I’ll be there. They have to come down to the club, open it, put on their wetsuits, get the rubber ducky out, take me across, go back and have a shower and then head back to work. They’re doing it as a favour because I’m doing it all for charity.”
There are many great stories, too many to do them justice here, so Julian has written a book chronicling his adventures. He advises reading while sipping on a Coopers. “I’m a big supporter of Coopers beer, it’s mentioned 28 times in my book, and there’s one story I love telling… you’ll need to get the book though!”
While on one those walks, Julian was asked if he was ever going to circumnavigate Australia. Even for him that’s a big ask, but it did get him thinking. He thought back to that project he was involved in back in the UK, circumnavigating Oxfordshire in 48 hours. ‘Help enough people get what they want and you can have what you want.’
All he had to do was find enough people who wanted to walk just a small part of Australia’s coastline and he could accomplish what he wanted, the circumnavigation of the nation. That was the birth of the Waterline Challenge.
Julian proudly reports “It’s going to be held for the first time in September 2016, challenging the whole of Australia to simultaneously cover their section. I couldn’t be done sequentially, so everyone goes out and does their bit, at the same time, over 48 hours. You can either walk, run, cycle, canoe, row, sail, swim, windsurf – whatever you want to do, as long as it’s not motorised.”
In detail, this means “People will choose their own part of the coast, or river – it’s not limited to just the coast, it’s all the rivers, all the islands and all the lakes as well. Whatever locals want to do; they can go out and do their bit and do it however they’d like to. Each has to raise a minimum of $200 per person and it’s for teams of between 3 and 10 people.
At this stage, “We already know we’ll have well over 100,000 people involved, each raising $200, so that’s $20 million, huge. We’ll be supporting up to 25 different charities and it’s all to do with conquering adversity in mankind, animals and nature.”
In addition, “it’s good that it’s multiple choice, not just one charity. We know from the selection we’re getting that there’s going to be something there to which people will say, ‘that’s the charity I want to support’.”
Julian’s passion for the project has excited over 50 people who are donating their time and energy to make sure this works, and all are aware of the magnitude of the task they’re undertaking. “It was a crazy idea six years ago. I remember well the first photograph we took. I got a big map of Australia blown up and laminated, and we all stood behind it going, ‘here’s the challenge’.”
It will be the biggest charity event Australia has ever seen, and it’s then you realise, again almost by mistake, another ‘mentor’ of Julian’s has been Sir Bob Geldof. “He’s the person I respect most, worldwide. What he managed to achieve those many years ago with Live Aid! He brought the whole world together to effectively solve a problem everybody could relate to – unbelievable. So he’d certainly be number one for me.”
And like Geldof, Julian’s dream for the Waterline Challenge is bigger than Australia. “The vision is within five years we want to do all the longest rivers in as many countries as possible in 48 hours. Now wouldn’t that bring the whole world together?”
- “Be confident enough in your idea to test it in the market place.”
- “Now it’s also about expanding, and the dream is to go global.”
- “You can either walk, run, cycle, canoe, row, sail, swim, windsurf, whatever… as long as it’s not motorised.”
Beating three battles with cancer before he was ten, Julian Day has set himself – and everyone else in Australia – an even bigger challenge. He’s harnessing people power to create a water-based world-record breaking charity event, unlike anything Australians have ever seen.