Episode 36: Why elite sportsman & biz owners need a smilar mindset with Craig Burton

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High performing and humble leader in elite sports, today I proudly interview the CEO of the SANFL North Adelaide Football Club, Craig Burton. We chat all about the mindset of professional sportsman playing in that high level “1% status” and liken that to business owners and the need to develop that similar mindset when it comes to running business. An insightful and solid chat with one of the best, most experienced in the industry.

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Craig Burton Linkedin
Hayley Osborne Instagram
Hayley Osborne Facebook

Transcription

Hello, awesome humans and welcome to another episode of The Hayley Osborne Show, Episode 36 here we are. Today I bring you a guest interview. A very special guest of mine who I have known for a really long time, and his name is Craig Burton: Craig is the CEO of North Adelaide Football Club within the South Australian Football League, also known as the SANFL he has worked with the likes of Adelaide Crows in the AFL and Cooper’s Brewery just to name a few, is an absolute gun marketer, and was once an elite sportsman himself, which still runs in his family today with his children competing at elite levels.

I asked Craig to be on my podcast today to really talk about how keeping fit helps with mindset and achieving your goals, and how this correlates so closely with running a business, and also what he teaches his elite players inside the North Adelaide football club as a CEO. That comes back to mindset because much like business and business owners when you get to a certain level, we’re all operating at that 1% mark, like elite sportsmen. So what helps you keep going and stand out from the rest? I know, personally, when our minds are clear, we perform better in every aspect of our lives. For me in particular fitness plays such a huge part in me being able to show up positively every day. And in turn, I hope that I can pass this energy on to you. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Hayley Osborne:

Hello, Craig Burton and welcome a warm welcome to my podcast. I am very happy that you’ve joined me today. How are you?

Craig Burton:  

Thanks Hayley. Thanks for having me as a guest. I guess we first met a few years ago now working in the state government with Investment Attraction. I’ve sort of followed your career since you left there. And I guess you’re kept an eye on mine as well.

Hayley Osborne:

So, for the listeners, Craig was actually my boss for a while there and taught me a lot. But Craig, in your own words. Can you tell the people that are listening today who you are and what it is that you do?

Craig Burton:  
Yeah, sure I guess from a work perspective, work for me started a long time ago. When I was at school, we’d apply for jobs in banks and insurance companies etc. And I was lucky to land a job in a bank, now known as Westpac started there and then I moved into three careers that lasted about 10 years each, which was fairly normal for that era, worked in a sporting goods business, worked for a brewery Cooper’s Brewery, which was fantastic. moved on to work for the Adelaide Crows, and then bounced around a little bit. I did have a redundancy hit me and I’ve since had two of them so little bit of speed bumps, I suppose. But moved into state government where we first met. So the jobs were starting to mount up and then moved on to a brief stint at City of Alexandrina and then was fortunate enough to win the role at North Adelaide football club as CEO, which is a passion of mine football.

In my sporting career I’ve always had a competitive edge I guess, and high performance has always been part of my lifestyle and still is. So to be back in the football world is fantastic and working with some great people here at North Adelaide. And whilst working you have to try and do everything else, I’ve got a great family and wife, Leanne, with three kids, Tom, Ryan and Grace.

Hayley Osborne:

You missed out a critical part. You were superstar player for North Adelaide Football Club. Back in the day. That was before AFL. You missed that.

Craig Burton:  
Yeah, I guess I do play things down on the way back. I started playing footy as most people do when they’re really young, and went through the junior grades at West Adelaide, and left there after 40 odd games and came to North Adelaide. And in my first year in 1987, we were lucky enough to win a premiership and another one a few years later and had a great time for six years playing for North Adelaide. So yeah, it’s SANFL footy. Back then was pretty high standard. Like you said the AFL was just starting to come in. I think the West Coast Eagles came in in about 1987. And the Crows in 1991. So I guess I would have loved to have been a part of that era, but maybe my age and skill level probably wasn’t up to standard.

Hayley Osborne:

And your elite sporting has travelled through your gene pool. So both your sons play football, and one of them plays for Port Power, which is pretty awesome. As a parent, I would imagine. And now you’re back in the industry. So like, awesome.

Craig Burton:

It’s great. You love watching your kids grow up and playing sport, whether it’s football, our daughter was a ballet dancer, and one too many ballet concerts, watching her and then the two boys playing football and Ryan going on to AFL has been great.

Hayley Osborne:

All right, I’m gonna ask you a couple of questions. Obviously, you spend a lot of time with elite sports men, you’re in that industry, you are a leader. Your background is digital marketing, brand strategy, marketing director level roles. Now you’re at the top of the game in the sports industry. So do you think that as business owners that we should be adopting a similar mindset to professional sportsmen?

Craig Burton:

I really do. And I’ve been like this for a long time that sport and business have so many similarities. The only difference between high level sport and businesses, the people that work in high level sport, if they’re the players, if they do something that’s in the media, it gets noticed. You get noticed whether you play well or not play well. Whereas in business, if the social media manager or the HR manager has a bad day at the office, no one else knows about that. So you’re a real public organisation. And even at SANFL level, we’re not as high profile as AFL guys. But, you know, the mindset like you’re talking about is critical in that, you come to work every day and you want to do the very best you can do. It’s not win at all costs. It’s just perform at your best with the resources at hand, I guess is my mindset.

Hayley Osborne:

So when you get to a certain level in the professional sporting game, everyone’s talented. The primary determinant of success isn’t talent our experience at that level. It’s mindset. They’ve obviously already mastered their craft, but their mindsets also set them apart from their peers. What are the things that they do differently in that space to reach their peak performance?

Craig Burton:

They’re what they call one percenters by the time we get to elite sport. If you don’t do the little things, it’ll end up shortening your career or reducing performance and the little things are your recovery, how you know your leadership improvement your development, it’s all of those things taken together and players that you see playing for a long time have done that really well over their careers and. Obviously the bad luck comes in some players get shot down with injuries that can’t recover, but the ones that stick it out for the longest time and put a lot of time in their own time. And it’s the same in business. If you’re not living your life. Well, you know, eating, sleeping, exercising all those things in affects what you do. from nine to five.

Hayley Osborne:

Yeah, and I mean, you keep really super fit as well. I think that’s probably a testament to just keeping on your game and also setting a good example for the team. And also, obviously, your family.

Craig Burton:

I’m probably an outlier. In the world of other business or people my age, I’m a bit anal about fitness and health, and I’m still competitive, and I haven’t lost that edge hence, probably what I do. And my routine is rising just before five o’clock, and six morning’s a week I’m training for an hour and a half. Don’t do a hell of a lot in the evening. Because, by the time you’re finished work and meetings, etc, it’s too late, but that’s my regime, or now it’s a habit. And that’s just how I roll.

Hayley Osborne:

Yeah, so as a marketing director, and being in leadership roles, and now being the CEO of a sporting club, what advice do you give your club and especially the young guys around, showing up on social media and being an elite sportsmen? What does that look like?

Craig Burton:

You see it all the time, don’t worry with the odd mishap that happens out there. And everyone is so visible, I guess, on social media and the young players coming through, it’s just the way of life now. And old dinosaurs like me look at it. And think why aren’t we putting this on social media. But that’s just how it rolls, and it’s not just sports people, it’s just your friends, etc. But from an advice point of view, we probably don’t drill down on that a hell of a lot at our level.

We monitor it so if we see something that doesn’t look quite right, we’ll certainly let the guys and the women’s team know about that. And there has been instances. So I think it’s a good call out Hayley to probably look at that area of our organisation. I know the AFL boys have a lot of work put into them in that area. So they would sit through before they get drafted. And when they get drafted. sessions on all those sorts of things, our range of topics, but social media and how you present yourself is really important. And I think it’s important for people of my age as well on certain platforms.

Hayley Osborne:

Yeah, so in saying that, what advice do you give your son around social media and his digital media presence in general?

Craig Burton:

We often talk about it. Like I said, they’ve had a lot of sessions on it at the club and the AFL players association. So they’re pretty well drilled in that area, and they understand the appropriate use of it. There’s a lot of marketing use that the players will do they have contracts with different people outside of footy. So they’re pretty good. I think, just how you bring your kids up in general flows into that area, I think now.

Hayley Osborne:

All right, let’s talk about your personal LinkedIn page, you are very active, you always show up, you always keep it up to date, you’re always onto whatever latest and greatest LinkedIn kind of rollout. Has showing up authentically, as a strategy for you being a catalyst for the growth in your career, and ultimately, ending up where you are now?

Craig Burton:

I got some advice, I think it was when I might have been still at the Crows. And I was really lucky. The period I was at the Crows was between 2005 and 2013 from memory. And that period, if you look back at it was when social media just started to really kick on. And I remember being in the office one day and the media manager came in and said, Oh, we better set up a Facebook account for the club and you laugh at it now. But that was only like 17 years ago, that all that started. So I was sort of in the growth stage of social media coming on board and I was lucky enough to do some lecturing and marketing and social media around the place back then I’m probably out of touch a little bit now.

But I still get it but going back to LinkedIn, someone gave me some advice then you can use that platform to show people you’re a leader in certain areas, whichever area you want to concentrate on and, I’ve used that wherever I’ve worked. It’s more of a work platform to promote the business, not so much myself. I think yourself comes along with what you put on. And like you said, just regularly making sure everything’s up to date. And don’t miss out too much. I have a policy of just trying to find something at least once a week to pop on there. My last post was to do with our women’s team. They made the grand final, and I try and engage some sponsors, etc, But I looked at the impressions on it. And it was really good, it’s great that people are interested in that sort of information.

Hayley Osborne:

A lot of business owners skip out LinkedIn as they say ‘I don’t know about LinkedIn’. And most people are obviously on Facebook, and Instagram as their biggest selling tools in business. But LinkedIn is the kind of quiet like the marathon runner achiever of them all. But I think, showing up once a week as a benchmark, is probably a good advice. Because it’s hard to be consistent in these spaces, but showing up once a week maybe doing a bit of engagement, I don’t know, how long do you spend stalking people? 30 minutes a week, maybe when you want the interaction, right, you’ve got to give it back as well.

Craig Burton:

I always have it open on my browser, because I might have a meeting with someone that I don’t know.  And I’ve got the professional versions, I’ve invested in out of my own pocket. I’ll look up people and get a bit of an understanding of where they’ve been. It’s really important for me just to have that profile and be able to like and comment on people, like you said, it’s not just about posting once a week, it’s about being engaged. So, I might be having a sandwich at lunch, and you jump on to LinkedIn and have a look at you know, Hayley Osborne might have put up a post and you have a read and you like that. I’ve really developed a good following, I guess. So. And there’s all different areas, there might be business, government sport, who knows.

Hayley Osborne:

So, in terms of ending up where you are now, do you think that obviously, by being consistent in your digital marketing, whatever that looks like, has helped with that?

Craig Burton:

I think it helps it certainly wasn’t the reason why I would’ve won this job. I think, these days, if you don’t have a good understanding of digital and be able to demonstrate it, in an interview, someone said, Do you know much about digital marketing? Oh, yeah, sure. of course I do. But you actually have to show people, well, this is how I do it, or this is an example of what I would do, etc.

Hayley Osborne:

I talk a lot in these podcasts. And you know, in my education pieces in general, that by not marketing yourself and your business, you’re wasting opportunities. So I’ve had a lot of opportunities that have come out of marketing myself, what are the biggest opportunities you’ve received by being consistent, going all in with your own marketing?

Craig Burton:

I think it helps when you’re talking to people in this environment, it’s not that sort of, never heard of you before. There’s a little bit of information and that can be good and bad. Sometimes. It’s good not to know who you’re meeting. And that helps with your inquiries, you can have a really good conversation because actually finding out at that time, so there’s give and take with knowing too much about people. But yeah, look, I think it’s the way of the world now. But people can find out who you are and what you do. And you know, these days, we just did a survey of our members to find out a little bit about their purchasing behaviour. And that was really interesting what came back but I’m sure the likes of Facebook and Instagram know a hell of a lot more about the people on their platforms and a little survey that we did would expose.

Hayley Osborne:

And that’s the other thing. Lots of people, I guess, dismiss the idea of how important an email list is. Because you can have all your followers and everything on your social media. But essentially, they’re more of a cold audience, right. But if somebody signs up to your email list to hear from you, they’re your warm audience, they want to hear from you. And if you’re not contacting them, it’s almost like spamming in reverse. So I mean, as a sporting club, is that like a priority that you would, that you update or continue to build your email list and communicate with them? Because obviously, you want people at the games like that’s the other part of, you know, being in your position,

Craig Burton:

So our email database is critical to our business, we would have in excess of 5000 people on that database, we estimate that if you had a grand final tomorrow, and North were in it we’d probably have at least half the crowd supporting North. So that’s a 20,000 people that refer north to another team. So there’s people out there that the hard rusted on supporters, less and less, but that four or 5000 on the database is critical in that we can communicate to them very regularly via email, not too much, hopefully not too less. Like I said, the information we give them is just enough to keep them interested, because most of the time people are accessing on their mobile. So you can’t have long articles, you just want a little bit of information and click through to the main guts of the article.

And plus, I think it’s a mixture of how you use your socials to also get that message out because a member or person on the database might get lots of emails, like we all do, and not really pay attention, but they might pick it up on an Instagram feed or Facebook feed. So we’re getting the message out there. So I guess my message to everyone is that you can’t rely on any one medium, you’ve got to be active in as many as you can handle with the resources that you got.

Hayley Osborne:

Okay, now, more personal questions, just a few to end with, is there one thing or one person that has been the most influential in your career? So far?

Craig Burton:

Yeah, it’s an interesting question. And it comes up every now and again. I wouldn’t say there’s one person, and I won’t name people. I had a meeting with someone when I was at the brewery. And he said to me one day, you know, you’ve got a good job. Have you ever thought of studying because I didn’t study at all when I left school, so I just went straight into work. So I’m in my 30s. And this guy said, you ‘should think of, a marketing degree or the sort of work you’re in’. So anyway, long story short, I enrolled at UNISA as an olde aged student and did a marketing degree part time when I was 35. And probably took me till I was 40. Odd. Got that. And I sort of had a bit of hunger for study. And then I got to the crows and, and the same sort of discussion was on with the CEO there. And there was a sports administration, MBA through Deacon and three of us from the crow’s did that as well. So for 10 years, I basically studied non stop, I suppose part time, and ended up with an MBA in sports administration, which is really helpful in what I’m doing now.

Hayley Osborne:

Funny how it all comes together.

Craig Burton:

It was still some generic quite a few generic subjects that were helpful. And just the people you met, I still catch up with all we have conversations or we can email each other or on LinkedIn through those journeys. So they’ve been, but all the people who I’ve worked within my, my jobs, there’s been influences along the way, whether they be CEOs, general managers, people I’ve worked with, I’m a bit of a person that takes a bit from everyone and uses it how I see fit. So yeah, probably hasn’t answered your question. Exactly. There hasn’t been one individual that’s probably stood out. But there’s lots.

Hayley Osborne:

What’s the number one thing that you’re most proud of?

Craig Burton:

I think getting to where I’ve gone and being able to bounce back because as I said before, I’ve had I have had three redundancies and you sort of think why me after one even two then three and then when you look back at them and reflect you go well, that there’s some reasons behind all of them? Could that been avoided? Yeah, possibly. But the people making the decisions at the time, don’t think that and it’s hard to influence so you just got to pick up and move on. And I think that’s when the LinkedIn and all the building your own brand it was really important because when you’re cruising along in a job, you probably don’t think of that.

Hayley Osborne:

So what’s the number one piece of advice that you’d give to business owners right now?

Craig Burton:

I think it’s been a really challenging last few years. But if you look back, if you’re a small business owner or big business or footy club, there’s always challenges that the last few years have been, you know, a bit harder than probably most. But we’ve just got to keep to the basics. And I think people is the most important part, if you’ve got a good team, you treat your people well, you’re leadership is such that it’s collaborative, you gotta listen to your team. And we have a small team here. And they’re a good team. They know what they’ve got to do. But my job as a leader is to is to guide them. It’s not to tell them, you know, there’s things I do differently than people that I work with, and always has been, you just got to be in sync with your team and make sure that, the purpose and the reason why they get out of bed each day is still there.

Hayley Osborne:

Good advice. I know that you are very motivating in general. So that is a testament to your ability and your leadership. And obviously, you’ve helped me along my career and my path. And I thank you so much. All right. I reckon that’s a wrap. Now, if anyone wants to connect with you, Craig, where can they find you?

Craig Burton:

Well, we’ve talked a bit about LinkedIn, you can easily jump on there. More than happy to follow or join people on LinkedIn. I’m pretty accessible. I guess.

Hayley Osborne:

I will put your links in the show notes. And if anyone loves football, North Adelaide football club in the SANFL is where it’s at.

Craig Burton:

That’s right. We’re going really well at the moment. Like I said, women’s team in the Grand Final. And our men’s team are also tracking really well.

Hayley Osborne:

All right, thank you so much for joining me and I will see you soon.

Craig Burton:

Thanks, Hayley. All the best.

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