Episode 12 - John Attridge

Do you want to utilise your business? Making Conversations about Capacity Count!

John Attridge – Guiding Businesses to Reach their Full Potential by Tapping into Spare Capacity


Making Conversations about Capacity Count

John Attridge capacity business

John Attridge, owner of BBX turns spare capacity into value for many businesses.

When you listen to John you just know there is a bigger story to this guy as his accent gives it away!

John has successfully built a business network and community to help people fill spare capacity and exchange services. It is a brilliant concept and if you’ve not come across it before yet in touch with me and I’ll tell you more. Using the BBX community helped my own business through the lockdown and has provided such a lot of support and new relationships.


In this episode the pivotal moment is closely linked to a light bulb moment after a clever question which leads John on a lifelong journey…you’ll have to listen to find out more.


Connect with John on LinkedIn.

Find out more about John’s company, BBX.

Listen to other episodes on your favourite platform…

Full Episode Transcript


Making Conversations Count – Episode 12

7th January 2021

Wendy Harris & John Attridge



00:00:00: Introduction
00:00:45: What is BBX
00:08:09: Want a sneaky peak?
00:09:01: Johns Pivotal moment
00:13:35: Final thoughts.


Interview Transcription

Wendy Harris: Welcome back to Making Conversations Count.  This is the podcast that brings you business leaders where they will share their pivotal moments, a conversation that’s created a turning point in their life or career.  Now, in today’s episode, I am joined by the very wonderful John Attridge from BBX.

John Attridge: Hi Wendy, that payment will be in by email soon.

Wendy Harris: So long as that’s not a phishing button when I click on to redeem it, that’s fine.  John, tell everybody what BBX is because it was something that was new to me perhaps about 18 months ago now.  Really, I have to say that in part it was a salvation through lockdown.

John Attridge: BBX is a community of like-minded business owners that want to do something to get a better result.  That’s either to grow their business, get a better lifestyle from running the business, or to exit it for more at the end of a given period of time in their exit strategy.

The idea enables an owner to harvest, capture and monetise what would have been wasting spare capacity in their business.  So, for someone who owns a hotel, it’s an unsold hotel room; if it was a restaurant, it’s an unsold cover at a given eating time; if it’s a magazine, it’s a place that hasn’t been sold when the magazine goes out to publication.

The UK is very service-orientated, 80% of the businesses in the UK today offer a service, so they are selling their time for money.  In that sector, it’s the ability to take on another customer, another client, another piece of work, another job over and above your current workload in a given period of time, all by not increasing any fixed cost in the business.  So, if it’s spare time that’s unsold, it’s the ability to sell that time without increasing fixed cost.

Wendy Harris: It’s a concept that takes a little bit of getting used to when you’re just starting out in the community, but it really does work for me in terms of I’ve been able to help people where I’ve got time, where’d I’ve been sat twiddling my thumbs.  So, I’ve felt that I’ve been contributing to other people’s businesses and helping them.  Of course, what that does is it gives me like a BBX fund that I can then go into the BBX community and if I need to purchase something, then I can use my BBX fund in exchange really.  So, it’s like a really good referral exchange.

John Attridge: So, I speak around the world as you know and one of the things that a small business owner doesn’t do enough of is marketing.  So that’s either sponsorship, promotion, PR, advertising; all forms of getting their brand and their name out into the marketplace.  When I survey them, I say, “Why aren’t you doing more marketing?” they say, “Well, I don’t have the funds”.  So, BBX can be a magnificent resource to capture and monetise that spare capacity, turn it into a marketing budget to drive regular customers straight through their front door.

Wendy Harris: It does work.  You’re not restricted to the UK are you, John?  Because people may have noticed that you haven’t got an English accent.

John Attridge: No, I’m from a bit south of London, I live in Bournemouth.  Do you mean where do I originally come from?  Okay, I live in Australia and I’ve been in the space 31 years.  We have branched out into the world, directly branded on a BBX basis and we do have a reciprocal network.  If you put the whole network together there are about 480,000 businesses in 32 countries.  When we trade with one another the transaction crosses over borders, so a pound earned here turns into a dollar purchasing if you’re going to stay in a hotel in Australia or wherever it happens to be.

Wendy Harris: When did all of that start, John.  How long has it been going?

John Attridge: BBX started in 1993.  I started in the space in 1989 from the Gold Coast in Queensland, which is where I’m from originally.

Wendy Harris:  We’ve talked before in previous conversation, and you’ve exited haven’t you to enjoy retirement and come back?

John Attridge: I’ve left the business a couple of times and they still drag me back.  I did a trade sale in 2001 to my biggest competitor at the time.  As part of that agreement, I went and worked with them for a short period of time and then got used to them and stayed there for 13 years.  Then we exited that business on the stock exchange back in 2011, and then the opportunity came along to pick up the work that I’d started with BBX all those years ago and I started the BBX community here in the UK in 2014.

Wendy Harris: So, if you were a stick of rock, I do believe that if we were to open you up you would have BBX running all the way through you.

John Attridge: Quite a few layers.

Wendy Harris: In that 27 years of BBX, to achieve the kind of success that you’ve seen and to have, what was the figure you just quoted me, was it 480,000 businesses worldwide?  That’s an awful lot of conversations that you’ve had to have to onboard that concept of being able to grow your business and do better in a community.  So, how important has that been for you, John?

John Attridge: The gathering of community still stays to this day and I still get involved with bringing on new customers.  I bought my most recent one on yesterday, in the middle of doing this show, so I just can’t help myself.  If I run across someone that I think I can help, I explain what we do and why, I think I can add value to whatever it is that they’re currently doing; and nine times out of ten they agree with me.  It’s a passion; it’s something that is ingrained.  We train that with our staff, as you can imagine; now we’ve got a lot of staff in a lot of places.

All those people generally have the same commitment and passion, because this is an industry that is unfamiliar to a lot of people and so when people come across it the first time, they say one of two things, “How come I’ve never heard of it before?”  Secondly, “It’s so clever, is there a catch there somewhere?”  People sit there for six months trying to work out what it is and then they come back and say, “Well, I haven’t been able to find it, so I may as well give it a go”.

Wendy Harris: There’s nothing to lose by giving it a shot, is there John?  That’s the thing.

John Attridge: It doesn’t solve all business ailments.  The quid pro quo is that if you’re going to get some new business from someone outside your normal supplier list to then spend the new currency, you have to spend it back into the community.  So, you’re going to do business with new people coming in and coming out.  Some people want the silver bullet that they just want to get new business and spend it where they have before, and I’ve never met, in 34 years of doing business, I’ve never found that silver bullet.  Like everything else you need to put the work into it.

Wendy Harris: I agree, John, I agree.  The BBX platform does give every opportunity for you to be able to find — you’ve got relationship managers that are there looking to help you with whatever it is that you need to find, because you’ve got your feet in the trenches so to speak, so you know exactly who to business matchmake, don’t you?

John Attridge: My favourite one at the moment is why 50% of people in business survive despite their best efforts not to and the other half fail.  One of the big contributing factors to business failure is a lack of marketing; they are not doing enough sales at the front end because they are great plumbers, or they are great dentists or whatever it happens to be, but they’re not so great at marketing; they are not so great at sales; they’re not so great at accounting and finance, legal and all the other aspects, but marketing in particular.

So, that is the focus that not only do we work with businesses to bring more business and offset cost, but it’s the community.  As you know with this show, in three weeks we’ve been able to draw on some of my contacts from around the world and we’ve brought on board over 40 world leaders, thought leaders in their profession.  The only reason that I was able to do that is that I’ve met all these people.  And so, when you meet interesting and successful people in a community, in a network, then the bigger the network, the bigger the net worth as they say.

Wendy Harris: This episode will go out after the virtual event, but it is worth mentioning that this is the first virtual event of its kind, isn’t it, John?  It’s really going to be quite ground-breaking.  I could see the success.

John Attridge: As a value add for you, Wendy, if anybody wants access, the show is on 17 December, it goes for a month afterwards but if anybody watching the show wants a catch up like Netflix, if they just get in contact with you and I’ll give them a little sneaky access as a value add for the show listeners.

Wendy Harris: Brilliant, thank you.  I will make sure that I put the details in the show notes for them to be able to get in touch with you, John, thank you.

It takes us to that time on the show that I love most because I never know where this is going to lead, and I ask every guest to think about a pivotal conversation that they’ve had.  So, John, are you ready to share yours?

John Attridge: Yes, it was 19 September 1989, a lot of millennials won’t have been born then obviously, and a guy walked into my showroom.  I had a showroom of brand-new Mazda rental cars, and it was in the middle of a pilot’s dispute where every pilot in Australia had gone on strike and they ended up being on strike for five months.  So, being an inbound tourist-reliant operator on the Gold Coast, a little bit like Covid.  Was it Mike Tyson that said, “Everybody’s got a plan until you get a smack in the face”, and we couldn’t see Covid coming, we couldn’t see this pilot strike coming.

A guy called Chris Cooper, and I can remember his face and I haven’t seen this guy for 30 years, walked into my showroom and saw a car rental on the driveway with a sign saying, “Rent me”.  He walked in and he said, “Are you the owner?”  I said, “Yeah, I’m John”.  He said, “I’m Chris”.  He said, “I’ve got an interesting question for you.  If I could give you a new customer and a banana would that be better than that car sat on the driveway with a ‘Rent me’ sign on?”

Wendy Harris: Now I need to know about the banana, John.

John Attridge: I did too, I nearly threw him out and I thought, “This guy’s a lunatic”.  I didn’t and I just said, “Run that by me again?”  He said, “If I brought you in a new customer and gave you a banana would that be better than that car sat on the driveway come tomorrow morning”.  I went, “A new customer that’d be good.  A banana I can eat.  The car sat on the driveway is worth nothing, come on.  You’ve intrigued me now”, and then he told me the story about how to turn spare capacity into held value.

In those days we used cheque books and we didn’t have the internet; we didn’t have mobile phones.  So, we started our own bank, if you like, of business people that wrote cheques to one another and you went to the book and did a double entry, so if someone rented my car for $100, I got plus $100 in my account, they got negative $100 in their account.  We issued interest-free lines of credit to enable the first transaction to take place.  We started off with a little community of 50 people.  One thing later I’ve been 31 years being an overnight success.

Wendy Harris: Yeah, I love the overnight success that takes 31 years.

John Attridge: That was in a moment that I remember it as if it was yesterday, and as it’s just gone 31 years, I can envisage the guy’s face, the mental impact once I understood.  The penny dropped immediately that a car sat on the driveway, if it was still there tomorrow, would be worth nothing to me.  The fact that I got a new customer and instead of a banana, I got this held credit that I can then go and buy marketing or accounting or stuff to offset costs in running my business when I didn’t have any Aussie dollars in my account, to me was just such a no brainer, where has this been all my life?

Wendy Harris: A brilliant concept that you have really harnessed and made it accessible to everybody.  It is about getting that message out there isn’t it?

John Attridge: Yes, it started with an idea, been a lot of pain, a lot of conversations; but imagine back then we had no tools.  The internet allows everything to take place now on an app, so people transmit the currency just by the click of a button on their app.  We don’t need any paper, no chequebooks, no records because it’s all dumped into a bank-like system.  You get a statement every month, people can contact one another on WhatsApp or speaking on Zoom across the world.  So, back in those days, none of those tools were available.  So, what started off with an idea hasn’t changed one iota, but the way of delivering it has significantly changed.

So, timing was correct, we really struggled in the early days to communicate this, but as the internet grew legs and as communication got better, the delivery mechanism has become more accessible.

Wendy Harris: I am so glad that Chris dropped into your showroom that day with a banana.

John Attridge: That’s it.

Wendy Harris: Or a metaphorical banana, at least.

John Attridge: A metaphorical one, yeah.

Wendy Harris: What a great conversation to have, that’s led to the success that you are obviously still enjoying now because they’re not going to get rid of you anytime soon, are they John?

John Attridge: There will only be one exit.

Wendy Harris: John, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our chat today; I knew I would.  We’ve given a bit of an overview to BBX and if somebody wants to carry on that conversation with you or just pick your brains about anything at all, how is the best way for them to get in touch?

John Attridge: Just John Attridge on LinkedIn.  If they want to go to the website, it’s just BBXuk.com.

Wendy Harris: There we go nice and simple.  We’ll make sure it’s in the show notes, thank you again, John.  I really appreciate it.  Please do send us any of your comments, we love to read the feedback that we get.  Do share this with your family and friends, you never know who might be needing John today and for their future growth in business.

The subscription page is open for you so that you never miss an episode or guest and we’ve got some great guests coming up.  The place to go is www.makingconversationscount.studio/podcast.  It’s been fantastic to have you as a guest, John.  Thank you so much to the listeners, until next time.



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