Ep387: Andrew Bryant – Sunk Cost Does Not Account for the Learning

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Quick take

BIO: Andrew Bryant, CSP is a global expert on self leadership, a C-suite advisor, an award-winning coach, and a best-selling author.

STORY: Andrew invested heavily in a gym with the plan to offer service-based health and wellness. Low-cost gyms came up and swallowed his business.

LEARNING: Understand how to get in and out of a business, test your market first and know what your customers want, not what they need.


“Sunk cost does not account for the learning.”

Andrew Bryant


Guest profile

Andrew Bryant, CSP is a global expert on self leadership, a C-suite advisor, an award-winning coach, and a best-selling author. English by birth, Australian by passport, Singapore by PR, and Brazilian by wife, Andrew is adept at moving across cultures.

Andrew is on a mission to ‘wake people up’ to their best possible selves, which he does through his conference keynotes, leadership team facilitation, and coaching.

He is leadership faculty for Singapore Management University, where he also contributes to the women in leadership program and is most proud of the work he has done building self-esteem and confidence for at-risk teenagers.

Worst investment ever

Andrew’s first degree is in physiotherapy. He worked in hospitals for a couple of years and later with sports teams.

Bringing his strengths together to build a business

Andrew decided to bring together his medical and sports experience to create a wellness center. So he bought a gym. Andrew had always been critical of gyms because they were poorly managed, and there were many myths about fitness. He planned to bring science to fitness as a physiotherapist.

Investing too heavily

Andrew overly invested in the gym without realizing that he was paying for things he didn’t need to pay for. Then he hired the best human resource graduates from the local university to be personal trainers and paid them a lot. He believed that would make the difference. Andrew invested in equipment, real estate, and staff.

Too much competition

Andrew focused on offering service-based health and wellness, and it worked for just a little while. Then the fitness craze hit Australia, and low-cost gyms sprouted everywhere. These gyms weren’t selling service; they were selling hope. While Andrew was charging $49 a month for a subscription, the new gyms would charge $49 a year. The low charge obviously attracted people, and this drove his customers away.

A flawed business model

The biggest mistake Andrew made was not realizing that his business model was flawed. Instead, he continued investing more and more money until he ran out.

Lessons learned

Test your market first

Test your market first with a minimum viable product to see if things are going to work out before putting all your money into the product.

Have somebody to argue against your proposition

Look for someone that you trust and spend time arguing against your idea and pick holes. This will help you see if your idea is viable.

Understand how to get in and out of a business

When creating your business plan, remember to include an exit plan should the business fail. If you don’t have an exit plan, you don’t have a business; you’ve just bought yourself a job.

Andrew’s takeaways

Look at the dynamics of an industry and exit when necessary

Before you enter a market, look at the dynamics in that industry. Consider how the competition is. Sometimes you can’t swim against the tide, especially when there is a significant change in that industry. It may make sense to exit when this happens.

What the customer wants versus what they need

Get to understand what the customer wants and deliver that to them. It is not your business to determine what the customer needs; give them what they want.

Actionable advice

If you are in the stuck phase, know that this too shall pass. Just don’t allow the sunk cost fallacy to keep you in a bad investment. It is ok to walk away. You may not have money in the bank, but as long as you have been able to articulate your failed venture as a lesson, and you can share that lesson, then you haven’t lost the value.

No. 1 goal for the next 12 months

Andrew’s number one goal for the next 12 months is to settle in Portugal. He is in the process of moving from Singapore to Portugal and is busy packing right now.

Parting words


“Never seek validation, but it’s always nice to get validation.”

Andrew Bryant


Read full transcript

Andrew Stotz 00:02
Hello fellow risk takers and welcome to my worst investment ever stories of loss to keep you winning in our community we know that the win in investing you must take risk but to win big, you've got to reduce it. If you're not already a member of our community, please go to my worst investment ever.com right now to join MMC, the five the five free benefits. First, you get the risk reduction checklist. Second, you get my weekly investment research email to help you increase return. Third, you get a 25% discount on all a Stotz Academy courses. And fourth, you get instant access to the Facebook community to get to know guests and fellow listeners. And finally, you'll receive my curated list of the Top 10 of nearly 400 podcast episodes fellow risk takers This is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz from Ace Dodds Academy and I'm here with featured guests, Andrew Bryan Andrew, are you ready to rock?

Andrew Bryant 01:03
I certainly am. Thank you, Andrew, what a great name.

Andrew Stotz 01:07
We agree we both like each other's name. Well, let me introduce you to the audience. Andrew Bryant is a global expert on self leadership, a C suite advisor and award winning coach and best selling author, English by birth, Australian by passport, Singapore by PR and Brazilian by wife. Andrew is adept at moving across various cultures. Andrew is on a mission to wake people up to their best possible selves, which he does, through his keen conference keynotes, leadership team facilitation, and coaching. He is leadership faculty for Singapore management University where he also contributes to the women in leadership program. And he is most proud of the work he has done building self esteem and confidence for at risk. Teenagers, Andrew, take a minute in Philly for the tidbits about your life.

Andrew Bryant 02:08
You want me to fill you in with tidbits or go straight to my greatest problem?

Andrew Stotz 02:13
I think I think the audience would like to know a little bit more about you, you know, maybe what you learned from that, you know, you talked about the experience of you know, that I mentioned about that at risk teenagers? That would be interesting to know just a little bit about you.

Andrew Bryant 02:29
Okay, well, so with that impressive introduction, and thank you for that. You know, the bit that pays me the money is working with senior leaders and senior leadership teams. And one of my clients a few years ago, reached out and said, We have some work for you, I was excited, because as I said, pays my bills. But they said it's a bit different. And they said we partner with a charity, and that this charity work for that risk teenagers and we thought your lessons would be really great for the teenagers. And I thought well, how hard can it be, I discovered it was a lot harder than I thought it was gonna be. And I had to adapt the self awareness, the self confidence and the self efficacy rules that I would teach to leaders in a way that was approachable, or understandable by the kids and embedding that in games in, in Improv Theater. But seeing the transformation in the kids absolutely inspired me and what was most powerful was how the work I did help the mentors from the bank, connect with the kids and then take that skill set back to the bank and transform them as leaders and it became the bank's most powerful and effective leadership program is getting bankers to work without risk teenagers taught them to be human beings, which sounds like an impossible task. And of course, it transformed me realizing that you know, a lot of what I do is very, you know, very direct . It's very hard core and yet, you know, the humanity in inside of that is so important.

Andrew Stotz 04:07
Yeah. Well, I was in at risk teenager, and I had people, whether they were just strangers along the path, or whether they were, you know, working at drug rehabs in the places that I ended up in. But thank God for the different people that did give it give a crap at the time to spend a little bit of time with me. And it helped me to build myself or let's say, rebuild myself from a hole that I was in related to drug and alcohol addiction. So and I was thinking about that talking with my mother just the other day, how the time that I spent with those people in drug rehabs where I got really great support and help, just had an exponential impact on my life now, you know, 40 years later, I still am in touch with my counselor from that time. And the treatment center still exists. And I, I, you know, talk to him. And I still bring the principles that, that I, you know, learn at that moment into my life all these years later. So trust me, the work that you did, will live on for some of those students are some of those young teenagers that, you know, took those lessons to heart. And I think it's a great lesson also for all of our listeners to say, there's people at risk all around us, and people could use a little bit of just bring a little bit of what you've got to them, and it can change them for a lifetime. And it can change you for a lifetime.

Andrew Bryant 05:41
Oh, absolutely. And I, I think legacy is not, is built on a day to day basis. You know, with each interaction that we're having with human beings, we're creating a legacy. And I've actually already had some of the positive benefits of some of the work I've done, people have come back and said, this is this has changed my life, thank you. And of course, that's incredibly validating, to me as a human being. I think the lesson that I really learned around working with the teenagers is that they had, and I'm sure well, I imagine that you might validate this too, is that if you're an average teenager, you've got the best bs detector ever. And so there's a lot talked in corporate world about being authentic, and there's a lot talked about and goji be your authentic self. And I think, you know, as I, as I looked at what, you know, my early mistakes in working with the kids and how I and the successes that we subsequently got was, I had to peel back everything, any facade that I had, and being truly authentic with these kids. And, and tell them you know, life can be hard life is unfair, and but you know, nobody's necessarily going to ride in on a white horse and rescue, you got to rescue yourself. Yeah. And, you know, yes, you look at me now, and I might seem successful now, but I've been where you are. And for them to actually believe that and connect to that. It's not easy, because so much of the world tells us we have to wear nice clothes and have a smartwatch and, and put on our best put our best foot forwards. But people are most impressed. And I think, you know, speaking to your podcast title, people are most impressed when you can share your biggest failures. And authentically say, Hey, you know, I'm not perfect. I'm working progress to, but I'm a little bit further down the track. So here, take this piece of information. It helped me, maybe it'll help you.

Andrew Stotz 07:32
And what a setup for the next question. Now it's time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one ever goes into their worst investment thinking it will be. Tell us a bit about the circumstances leading up to and then tell us your story.


Andrew Bryant 07:48
so you know, one thing about me is I've always been looking for the difference that makes the difference. And my first degree is in physiotherapy and I worked in hospitals for a couple of years. And then I worked with sports teams. And that speaks to the work I do now. Because in sports teams, you're looking at goal setting, you're looking at winning, you're looking at you know training for perfection. And as a physiotherapist, initially, I was looking at rehabilitating people but then I started looking at what sets up for peak performance and that was in the 1980s, before sports psychology had been invented before positive psychology had been articulated. And I took that from the UK to or that mindset from the UK to Australia and I, I set up a chain of physiotherapy clinics and also I had a postgraduate in acupuncture By this time, I was doing the rehab and I was also doing some sports work. And I decided that my best idea was to create this holistic view between sort of the medical approach the sports approach, and create a sort of a wellness center way before my time. And so I bought a gym and I was critical of gyms because you know, gyms were badly managed. You know, they there was a lot of myths, you know, this is how you get big or they say you get fit, and I was gonna bring science to it. And so I you know, as a physiotherapist I knew better and of course this is you can see how I'm setting up the mistake it right up. Because it's that classic, you know, how hard can it be or I know more than the others, right? And so I bought a gym and I overly invested in the gym, I didn't realize that I was paying for things that I didn't need to pay for. And I hired the best human resource graduates from the local university to be the personal trainers and I paid them a lot because I believed that that would make the difference. So I had investment in equipment, I had investment in real estate, I have investment in staff and I was doing a service based health and wellness approach. And at that time, it worked for just a little while. But then the fitness craze hit Australia The low cost gyms set up and they weren't selling service, they were selling hope. They was aware I was charging $49 a month for a subscription. They were charging $49 a year, because they were selling memberships, they weren't selling service. Right. And so, and people saw the $49 membership, and they were attracted by that, and the young fit people that they had, who didn't have degrees, but had the impression of the home, drew in my customers way. And the biggest mistake I made was not realizing that my business model was flawed. And I started investing more money and more money until my houses, my cars, my savings had all been poured into a black hole, that I ended almost having to pay somebody to take off my hands. And that was my worst investment ever.

Andrew Stotz 10:49
And can you remember, the moment when you kind of realize, holy crap, this is not going to work?

Andrew Bryant 10:57
You know, that's a great question. Because it was a number of years ago, right? I was back in the 90s. You know, it amazes me now to realize how long it took. Because you think, well, if I just throw some more money at this, I just run a promotion, it just


Andrew Bryant 11:17
don't know, I just, you know, my bank, you know, when I went when there was just no more money in the bank. I went, well, you know, this patent cannot continue because I am literally running on fumes now. And I just went I have to get out. And then when I couldn't, you know, I you know, nobody else was stupid enough to have the same belief that I had. Yeah, I think it was, what is amazing to me was it was a slow realization. Right.

Andrew Stotz 11:50
And you seem like a very direct, you know, aware kind of guy nowadays, that that wouldn't happen now. But yeah, when you're younger, it's harder. So tell us what lessons did you learn from this experience?

Andrew Bryant 12:05
Why I think, you know, now, you know, 20 plus years, 25 years later, you know, realizing, you know, working with agile mindsets, minimum viable product, test something first have somebody to argue against your proposition. I didn't take anybody else's advice. I didn't actually float my idea that anybody else because I was just so right. have, you know, one of the things I coach my CEOs on is if you have a brilliant idea, right? spend half an hour arguing against your own idea, like a mini debate, right? Pick holes in your own idea. So having trusted people around you to go, Hey, love your passion. Just tell me how this is going to work again. Right? Tell me what the business model is. Tell me where the scalability is. Tell me whether this would work if you weren't in the mix. Right? Because I think the real understanding, I understood I'd come from a practitioner mindset having been a physiotherapist. And I was always part of the program physiotherapy without a physiotherapist just doesn't exist. But now, we see businesses that are operable and operate and scale without the founder. And interestingly, I often coach founders who need to step down as the CEO, because they no longer can take the business to the next level, because they have put themselves too much in the mix. So yeah, how does it work without you is a good question. Yeah. In 1999, sorry, sorry, go ahead. No 1999 was the crucial year that all went pear shaped. But in 2019, I gave a speech at the Asia professional speakers conference, where I said, you know, speaking will be disrupted. And you need to have a business model where you don't have to walk out on a stage. And that was 12 months before the pandemic wiped out the speaking industry completely. When nobody could travel or stand on a stage and give a speech. I was somewhat prescient this time around. But by this time, I had online programs and scalable products that allowed me to survive the pandemic shutdown on conferences.

Andrew Stotz 14:33
Yep. Well, let me share a few things that I take away from your story. First thing I take away I've written down four things. The first thing is industry dynamics. And as a financial analyst looking at investments where you can get in and out of any stock because it's trading in the market. You have the opportunity to look at the dynamics of an industry and when a low cost leader comes into an industry, they can wipe out everybody now Thailand had the exact same thing. We had a company called California fitness later became California. Wow, they cut prices, they sold hope, as you said. And they they basically wiped out, they destroyed the industry as much as they could. And then they went bankrupt. Not fair. Not, you know, everybody kind of loses. And they listed in the stock market also. So, you know, investors lost everybody lost. But the point is, is it sometimes you can't swim against the tide? And when that time comes, if you can see if you can just keep your eyes open, if it's, if it's a big change in that industry, sometimes it makes sense just to exit. The second thing is, you know, what does the customer want, versus need? You know, you were delivering what you thought the customer really needed. But all the customer really wanted was just some hope. Right? And they started selling to that home. And it's just a really tough question. Because, you know, okay, do you run a business just just filling people's wants? You know, that's, that's a challenge. That's a question that I don't have an answer to. The third point is that there was a time with our coffee business in Thailand, coffee works, where we were debating about whether we were going to be able to survive many years ago. And, you know, we were in a position where part of the decision about that was, who would buy our factory, there was no buyers. and the value that we put into it was, you know, not nearly what we thought we would, you know, end up getting from it. So it means that it's hard to go back. And it's hard to go forward. Sometimes, like, we knew we didn't have the cash to hire the salespeople we need, but we knew we couldn't sell the assets. So we were just kind of stuck. So I say, sometimes small business can be a trap. And there was another one, but I can't read my writing now. So I'm just gonna cut Oh, I know what it was. I know what it was, um, I, the management team of the coffee business, we were at a social club that we use for interviewing people. And the management team in the coffee business was in one conference room, and they had two candidates to interview. And they interviewed, they already had gone through a lot of interviews. So this is a final one, they faced the management team. And it was like an hour, maybe two hours. And then I was waiting upstairs as shareholder, director, just kind of a third outside party, because I'm not a manager in the company. So after they were finished, they sent that person upstairs, the two of them came up one at a time after they were finished with being grilled by the management team. And I just said to them, nice to meet you and everything I just, you know, wanted to talk about, you know, this isn't going to work. We don't have the budget, you know, we don't have the brand, we don't have a big team, this is going to be super hard. And I just went out and like every reason why you shouldn't take this job. And it was very odd for them to get this, you know, from who's supposed to be hiring. And I said, I just like to write down some of the reasons why you won't, you know, be successful. And I said, you know, one of them is we just don't have budget to build out a brand, the way you used to work at this company. And then the first guy, you know, he and I started making this list of all the things that could go wrong. And I'd seen a lot of things go wrong in the past. And then the next guy came in, I said the same thing. And he says, Well, my last job didn't have a budget, you know, we didn't have nothing. And he said, none, I said, Well, we don't really have the brand. He said, Well, your brand's pretty good compared to what this was. And, you know, it was just an interesting difference in the way those two people handle it. But it was the idea of challenging your idea. So those are my four things that I take away. There's a lot of lot in what you share. But anything you would add to that? No, I

Andrew Bryant 18:47
think you've analyzed it very well. And I think understanding how to get in and out of a business, I had never considered an exit plan. And if you're if you don't have an exit plan, you don't have a business, you have, you've just bought yourself a job. And a lot of small business owners stuck in that mindset that they bought themselves a job doesn't mean you have to sell it. But if you haven't set it up, that it's saleable. That isn't a business. And that's just hardcore reality that a lot of people cannot even accept.

Andrew Stotz 19:21
Wow, that's fantastic. And, you know, for the listeners out there for your own business. You know, I'll just tell this short story of a business that I advised and we ended up selling the business to Microsoft in this case, it was a software development business. And the owner of the business, the founder of the business, knew from almost day one that he was going to sell to Microsoft. He just said that. And then he every action that he took the healthcare conferences he went to he went to meet the Microsoft folks tell him what he's doing. He just he just everything and it made me realize like for any startup business or business operator listening to this who Are you going to sell your business? And if you go through that exercise, it really helps focus the mind. Because the second piece of advice I always say is, you know, people say then Okay, how do I get a high price for my business? I said, my first advice is double your salary. And the reason being is in most small businesses understate the salary. So if someone wants to clean and buy it, they say, Well, come on, you're not even at market prices. So I can't, you know, I'm not going to make the profit you think you're going to make? So those are some last little things I'd add anything you'd add to that?

Andrew Bryant 20:32
No, I think we've I think we've covered off I mean, it's painful enough to go back to this

Andrew Stotz 20:36
painful. Andrew, you made me go through it. All right, I, we're gonna lift often, for the listeners out there, who are in the same situation, based upon what you learn from this story and what you continue, what one action would you recommend our listeners take to avoid suffering the same fate? Well, I

Andrew Bryant 20:56
think, going through that strategy that we've just done, I mean, if somebody's listening to this, and they're in the stuck phase, what I would say to you is, this too shall pass. I mean, it's the sunk capital problem is they go, Well, I've invested this time, this effort. One of the things that I always believe is that your son capital doesn't evaluate the learning, I make a lot of money these days, from the lessons that I have learned, the wisdom that I have made from my mistakes. So as a coach, I'm bringing out the best in others as a C suite advisor, you know, people, people hire me over and above a coach because I have the life experience. And that I can say, okay, and I'm not going to tell you what to do. But let me give you some things that you need to look at. And let me give you some examples from other people have been the same situation, and some strategies that they took. And so everything that you're going through right now, actually, is a learning is commercial. And, you know, how do you commercialize ideas? How do you commercialize experience, right? You know, what do they say, you know, you're not completely useless, you can stand as an example to others. So, your failure, I've made money out of my failure, because it makes a great story I gave in 2016, my story of losing everything became the subject of a TEDx talk. I did. And obviously, you don't get paid for doing a TED, but you, you know, I off the back of that I booked a whole bunch of speaker speeches, where people who said, Well, your story was inspirational. Yeah. So the takeaway is, you may not have it in bricks and mortar, or you may not have it in money in the bank. But as long as you have been able to articulate it as a lesson, and you can share that lesson, then you haven't lost the money, or you haven't lost the value. And I think that's, you know, as kudos to you and your, your podcast. That's what you're doing here is turning mistakes into lessons and lessons into value.

Andrew Stotz 22:59
Fantastic. And I think we're going to keep that on the show sunk cost doesn't account for the learning. That's a great, great quote. Well, last question, what's your number one goal for the next 12 months?

Andrew Bryant 23:14
I'm moving countries. I'm moving from Singapore to Portugal. So I'm busy packing right now people say why Portugal? Well, I say it's double the lifestyle for half the cost. Because So, you know, I love singing, I've been in here in Singapore for 18 years great country has been fabulous to me. But it is very expensive. And I was here because of Changi Airport and my ability to fly around the world from here. Now, that's not as important I'm 90% of my work is in the US. And I'm doing that virtually, from here. So I will continue to do that. But from my base in Portugal, where I can walk to the beach, drink cheap wine and great food at the same time as adding value to my clients. So it's a win win, or, you know, I think me living the dream can be just as inspirational.

Andrew Stotz 24:04
Yes, we like hearing that. Well, listeners, there you have it another story of loss to keep you winning. My number one goal for the next 12 months is to help you my listeners, reduce risk and increase return in your life. To achieve this, I've created our community where you gain the five free benefits I mentioned earlier, just go to my worst investment ever.com right now to join us. As we conclude, Andrew, I want to thank you again for coming on the show. And on behalf of a Stotz Academy, I hereby award you alumni status for turning your worst investment ever into your best teaching moment. Do you have any parting words for the audience? Oh,


Andrew Bryant 24:47
Well, thank you for the alumni. I didn't need the validation. And I think one should never seek validation, but it's always nice to get validation. So thanks very much for that.

Andrew Stotz 25:00
Well, that's a wrap on another great story to help us create, grow and protect our well fellow risk takers. This is your worst podcast hose Andrew Stotz saying I'll see you on the upside.


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About the show & host, Andrew Stotz

Welcome to My Worst Investment Ever podcast hosted by Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, where you will hear stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community, we know that to win in investing you must take the risk, but to win big, you’ve got to reduce it.

Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, Ph.D., CFA, is also the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research and A. Stotz Academy, which helps people create, grow, measure, and protect their wealth.

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