One of Australia’s most successful media/entertainment reporters and the 2014 Victorian Australian of The Year, John ‘JC’ Caldwell, started from very humble beginnings.
After leaving school at 15 with no qualifications (thanks to relentless bullying) John was determined to make something of himself and by 21 he owned two fast-food franchises.
John’s experience, drive and entrepreneurialism also led him to set up Retailworld, RWR Executive and Hospoworld in Australia.
More recently, JC is well known for his work as a social commentator and interviewing the biggest celebrities in showbiz including Angelina Jolie, Katy Perry and Kim Kardashian West.
MEET John ‘JC’ Caldwell…
After leaving school at 15 with no qualifications (thanks to relentless bullying), determined to make something of yourself and by 21 you owned two fast-food franchises. Some might say HOW? During those 6 years, being so young, how did you get to your end goal?
It’s really simple, hard work and sacrifice. Without having an education or anyone helping me I knew the only way was to work my butt off and make work my priority. I took whatever job I could get in this instance making pizza and did anything that was ever asked of me. Sometimes I would do a 2-hour shift at one store then travel an hour to another store for a 2-hour shift because they were stuck. I NEVER said no and that eventually paid off and I was noticed. Anytime someone would let them down I would step up and be there. Many of my promotions were because I was outshining someone in the role. Some said I stole other people’s jobs but I didn’t care.
Sacrifice is the other answer. To this day work is always my number one priority. I have missed birthdays, weddings and even funerals because of a work opportunity. People crave success but truly don’t understand what a sacrifice they need to make.
You received the 2014 Victorian Australian of The Year, what was it like to receive such recognition for all your hard work in business and community services?
The main focus of the award was for my work in child protection largely anti-bullying and domestic violence campaigning so that made it extra special. To be awarded such an award for just doing something I care so deeply about was amazing. In reality, I do this work just to help the 8-year-old me out there now and hope that I can reach them in some way to know that there is a light at the end of the very, very dark tunnel.
We have known each other for the past 4 years. Blast from the past photo of us! Congrats on all your success so far in the entertainment industry. What has been the key to your success in the entertainment industry?
And what a pleasure it has been, you are a true delight to know.
It’s the same answer as the first, really hard work and sacrifice. I came into this industry at a time when I was already the CEO of multiple companies and chairman of charities and yet in this industry, I was treated like an intern almost.
I did the job as I was directed I did hideous hours and I never complained. I went over and above and was always there. I went to more things that I was asked and got scoops that no one else did just by always showing up.
I also sacrificed a lot! I worked for free virtually for the first 2 years and covered my own expenses. I never said no ever. In media, if you turn something down you’re likely to go to the bottom of the roster. I was never home and sacrificed my relationship and even my health….. I have finally found a slight balance here, for my health at least.
What do you believe are the 3 key elements of a successful business?
People, Purpose, Profit – They are also my companies 3 values.
People – It sounds a little cliché but they really are at the core of everything we do. I put an enormous emphasis on making sure my team are well rewarded both financially and emotionally. Birthday’s off and never ever forget one of their birthdays or their work anniversaries I also make sure I am alerted to milestones, not always top performers but a milestone that is important to someone and I always make time to personally call that out. I do this now that I only have about 60 staff but I also did it in previous companies where I had over 1,000.
People doesn’t stop at just my team it must extend to all of our people. Our customers our suppliers etc. We must understand that every interaction must have a mutual benefit. Always respect your clients not because they are paying you but because you genuinely value them and ever screw a supplier, you will win up front but lose in the long run if you haven’t made the deal favourable enough for them to enjoy the relationship.
Purpose – Understand what you are in business to do, not simply just to make money but what are your outcomes. No matter how small set yourself some business KPI’s to ensure that you are always delivering your outcomes. Money is the outcome of the purpose. If you are clear on what you need to deliver to all stakeholders in all areas of your business and you achieve it then money will come.
Profit – If this isn’t important to you, get out now. For years this was a dirty word in my business. I didn’t want to seem greedy and I didn’t want my staff to know when I made a profit. It was elephant in the room. Guess what? It wasn’t long before I stopped making a profit. I hated being in the business and I have no doubt I wasn’t a pleasure to work for.
I had to refocus on why I was in business and ultimately was to make money. The change in attitude was profound. Not only did I stop hiding the fact I actually made it very transparent. I added it to my values and set it as the number one business deliverable for each unit. Each line manager had a profit budget and gets transparent reporting on how they have done.
One year after the change, profit was through the roof and has been ever since. If we ever miss a profit target then it was added to the next period. The result…. I am happier than I have ever been. The endless hours and hard work seem worth it. My management salaries have increased by a mile and staff incentives are not only much more generous but more people are achieving them.
Understanding that I needed to make money was the key to realising how much more everyone else would make along the way.
Describe yourself in 3 words
You set up Retailworld, RWR Executive and Hospoworld in Australia, now on KIIS FM co-hosting Celeb HQ with Zoe Marshall. What made you want to get into the entertainment industry?
Growing up as I did then dropping out of school and being homeless at 15 didn’t give me the opportunity to make decisions about my future like most people did. I took any job I could and worked my ass off to succeed and then leveraged that into the next opportunity that tied in with what I was doing.
In all honesty being an actor or TV /Radio presenter was a dream when I was a kid but one I quickly suppressed as it seemed total fantasy.
As I found business success I started working with charities and was doing media to promote those causes. Through this, I was requested to come back again but the content wasn’t “daily” topics media, child protection, domestic violence etc. So in order to use the new skill set and work in media, I had to have a more mainstream topic and entertainment was in my blood. I never thought I would have a media job where I am just talking about my passions.
The best part is I still get to talk about my causes and now I have so many more vehicles to do this.
Favourite Celeb interview you have done so far?
Dare I say Kim Kardashian West. She has a way about her that movie stars do not. Movie stars know they are the star and want you in and out as quickly as possible. Kim knows her job is to sell something so she goes out of her way to make you feel comfortable and relaxed. She is also funny and down to earth and a brilliant business woman.
What’s next for John Caldwell?
I LOVE all that I am doing now. Juggling the business and the radio show as well as the charities that I represent and am the chairman of, is enough of a handful for now. I want to focus and make sure they all grow and go from strength to strength. Having said that I don’t seem to know how to say no so who knows what will come along soon…
Coffee or Tea? How do you have it?
Coffee, white no sugar and never after midday – I find even an early afternoon coffee affects my night sleep.
To follow the exciting and inspiring world of John ‘JC’ Caldwell head to his IG