with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

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In this Best of Series episode of The Inner Chief podcast, I speak to Cliff Gale, former Managing Director of Lite n’ Easy for over 20 years, on leading with passion, respect for your people and keeping the soul alive in your business.

I met Cliff through a former Inner Chief podcast guest, Sara Chamberlain, in 2019.

Cliff started his career running Bob-Jane T Mart Franchises. He then bought into Lite n’ Easy after he saw a two line ad in a paper in its very early days.

He proceeded to lead the business for over two decades and grew it into one of the most successful businesses of its type.

Lite n’ Easy is a 100% Australian owned healthy food business and has been around nearly 40 years.

In this episode we talk about:

✅  Keeping his finger on the pulse by respecting and listening to his people and customers

✅  How he kept the emotion and energy in the business as it grew to dizzying heights

✅  Building the soul of the business by focusing on the things that count and profit will come, and

✅  The difference between givers and takers.

Deal hope,



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“We would get lots of calls on a day-to-day basis. I'd be on the phone as I'd do everything in the business. We had people almost crying on the phone because they'd lost five kilos.”


On early career lessons

  • My earliest recollection being a sales rep was that I got trained by this older, very experienced sales rep, and he gave me some guidelines about how to be able to make your day as short as possible. I then got given a list of calls that I had to do. I had to cover about 50 kilometres and I had 67 people on this list. So I thought, simplistically, what I've got to do now is I've got to call on these 67 people every day. I found that was impossible to do, because the first day I tried and I couldn't get into work to complete all my orders for the day.
  • I then realised that I probably couldn't do that at all, so I then sort of cut it back a little bit, but all of a sudden, the run that I was doing was by far too much work for one person, because what I subsequently found was that nobody was ever calling on many of these people at all and they're all people that wanted to do business with us!
  • The store increased in business by 50% in about six or eight weeks, and people would say to me, “What did you do?” And I said, “Well, all I've really done is I've been respectful to people as I walked in the door. I've kept the doors open beyond 5:30pm, if necessary, and I've given people basically good advice on what they did. I've done nothing special beyond what I've always done.”
  • After Bob seemingly made 2 wrong decisions that impacted me, I said, “This is just so unfair, Bob. You're picking me.” He said, “Well, I want you to do it, please, and let's talk in a couple of weeks and let's reflect in three months on how this decision has affected you.”
  • The lesson I learned was that he's a really smart guy and even though I know he's absolutely wrong, I should just trust him. So I trusted his judgement. And subsequently, that's what happened. We hardly lost a customer. And I think to this day, they're pretty well the same.
  • I was taught that at times, even though you know when the customer is absolutely wrong, that you've just got to bite your tongue sometimes and just let go and just concede to the customer. I think that was a very strong thing that I learned early on, not to be too precious to myself, and the important thing was to move on. If you had a difficult customer, just resolve the issue.

On working at Lite ‘n Easy

  • It was a lovely business from the point of view that we had so many happy customers. We developed a system called a Care Card system. Philosophically, it gave our consultants the permission to release their emotions. They would write a very, nice heartfelt message to somebody saying, “Look, it was great talking to you today. I'm really excited for you that you've lost your five kilos, your 15 kilos, your 50 kilos,” whatever it might've been, “and I really, thank you very much for your call.” That became a very, very important part of the business. It was a release of emotion. It gave them the opportunity to release their emotion of what they were doing.
  • I try to have a philosophy that runs the business like it was when we started on day one. That might sound very simplistic and very difficult to do, but I always thought that it was best to continue with that intent all the time.
  • The soul of the business was maintained because I drove the culture of the business so passionately. If there was an issue with culture or certain people in the business not getting along with these people, I wanted to create a solution and get to the core of the problem. We would have issues within our call centre from time to time, and I'd say, “No, that's not the way a call centre runs. A call centre has got to run emotively. It's got to run fluently.”

On purpose, people and passion over profit

  • We were told that it can be seen that we care about the business, and we care about others. I was so passionate about the business and making the business successful. I was never focused on the profit of the business. The business was a very profitable business, but I knew that if we got all the blocks in place, that the outcome would be profit. So I never had to worry about that at all, and it was much more fun running the business by just being able to do things properly and for me to be myself there.
  • I prided myself on the fact that I really carried myself very similarly in my workplace as I did out of my workplace. I never wore a suit at work, I never wanted to be seen like that, and I don't believe I was ever seen like that either. I was just Cliff in there. I was seen to be the driver of the business.
  • I looked at my business very simply. If we treated people right, they would basically give it back to you. In this world, that might sound very, very simplistic but I think it's very, very underrated. I think the value of just doing the right thing by people is immeasurable. And yes, there's mentoring on the way as the business kept growing.
  • We had logistical issues, we had all sorts of production issues, but I reflected on the sense of why the business was successful, because people basically wanted to do the right thing.
  • We then found by just focusing on what we did and doing it very well, that was a very important part of why the business was so successful. We didn't try to be all things to everybody, but we tried to do everything very, very, very well, but profit was simply an outcome.

On givers and takers

  • We had to pay people the right amount of money. That was core. You had to make sure you're paying people a fair and reasonable amount for the role they did, but I learned this emphatically, that a lot of why people continue to work for me and wanted to do the right thing by me, was because I treated them with respect in the business. I ran the business morally correctly. We were generous in the way we ran the business.
  • People wanted to work at Lite n' Easy. I wanted to employ what I referred to as “givers” rather than “takers.” Givers are the ones that were prepared to hang around until everything was all finished and all done. Takers were the ones that, in the interview, they started talking about when they'll be getting paid, and when their first review was going to be, and things like that. We're able to identify very early in our recruitment process to try to identify people that were givers and takers.

On micromanaging

  • Because I was so passionate about the business, at times, I was really, really conscious that if I micromanaged something, I only did that because it was a serious problem and I didn't want to skirt around the issue. If it was serious enough for me to get involved in, I wanted to find out all the ingredients of what created that problem for us. By getting to the root of the problem, and that was really important to me, we would then come to an agreement that this moving forward would be done differently.
  • Micromanaging the business was in some ways a bit of a call for me, but I was very focused on not doing it unless it was really, really important. It reflected the passion that I had at the time. But I got out really quick.
  • It was really important to me to show everybody that this thing could be resolved.

Final message of wisdom and hope for future leaders 

  • Do not underestimate the core needs that your employees have in life of wanting to be appreciated and wanting to be shown respect in their roles. There's lots of media in the last year or two that's really highlighting the problems of harassment and all sorts of things like that. As I said, I ran the business ethically correctly, but I believe we've probably gone a little bit too far in the other way. There's been too much focus on profit outcomes in business rather than maybe building the process along the way through empowering people, through effective delegation.
  • Get back to basics, get back to what made you feel good with a former boss that you dealt with. What was a boss that you respected, and what did they do when you were working for them?

Deal hope,