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 episode of The Inner Chief podcast, I speak to Jaimie Fuller, Founder and former CEO of SKINS and now Chair of eo, on unlocking the secrets of the world’s greatest athletes and teams, coping with rapid growth, and “persivilience”.

Jaimie has built a successful business career around his greatest passion – sport.

He was the CEO of international compression apparel brand SKINS from 1998 to 2019, and he is now Chair and co-founder of eo, an Australian-based sports technology company that is developing a range of products designed to improve performance, accelerate recovery and adaptation, prevent injury, and aid rehabilitation.

Jaimie is also a prominent sports activist, initiating campaigns and speaking out against cheating, systemic corruption, homophobia and human rights abuses at the highest levels of several international sports including cycling, football and the Olympics.

He is a regular contributor to public forums and conferences around the world, on the role sport can play in helping to change society for the better.

In this episode we talk about:

✅  Finding fulfilment by owning SKINS and taking it on an explosive growth trajectory

✅  What he learnt about the inner workings of athletes, their preparation and sacrifices

✅  How great teams set the standards of work ethic and being grounded, and

✅  How his new business eo is accelerating human performance through sport, including the groundbreaking work they are doing on concussion, which has FDA approval.

Connecting with Jaimie Fuller

You can connect with Jaimie via LinkedIn.

Books and resources


“I made a lot of money as a printing broker. But I hated it. I had no sense of satisfaction. I had no sense of purpose.”


On why he bought SKINS

  • Don't get me wrong, I loved the money, but deep down, I felt empty. And then I was introduced to SKINS, which had only just launched in April 2002, and they were broke by that December.
  • Call it arrogance or stupidity, I felt confident enough that I could learn and go in and contribute.
  • When you start on this journey, the golden rule is it always takes longer. It always costs more, and once you get on it, you can't get off it. 

On the campaign that changed it all

  • I said to the agency’s Creative Director, “What do you mean I'm lying?” He said, “No brand sells to the elite. You're not doing that.” I said I was, and I got up and I went into the accounts office and came out with a folder and I gave him the file. And he started flicking through it. There were all the invoices to the Wallabies, Cricket Australia, AFL. And he went, “I can't believe this!”
  • The four key people in our company hadn't come from sport, so we didn't know that we couldn't sell to elite athletes. We didn't know that the very best you've got is to give your product to them and hope they wear it. But you're likely going to have to sponsor them and pay them.
  • So we spent two hours with the agency and they showed us their pitch and campaign. I hated it. The Creative Director and the CEO argued vociferously that they were there to make our brand famous. In the end I said that they’d been very straight with us and that they’d argued so strongly. So I gave it the green light and it was that campaign that ran in mid-2005, but exploded the business.
  • The TVC was so sexy and so good. But the press campaign and the print campaign that went with it was superb and absolutely took the piss out of Nike. We took a baseballer, a gridiron player, and a basketballer and we got a photo of these guys looking straight down the barrel of the camera and they were sneering into the camera. And superimposed over the mouth was an upside down Nike swoosh. The frame was that “we don't pay sports stars to wear our products, they pay us” and that generated so much interest. We had a big billboard up in Oxford Street in Sydney. 
  • I knew I was going to be sued by Nike, but I did my research and I knew that they couldn't just come and sue me, they had to issue you a cease and desist. So what we did was we prepared a banner to run across the mouth to replace the swoosh with the words, “Censored by US Corporate giant.” We launched that simultaneously, we went into six magazines, newspapers. It's the whole Superbowl concept – blow it out and we're done. I came into the office on the Monday looking for faxes from Nike or their lawyers but there was nothing. So we kept running it!
  • I get to the end of December and I wanted to see the P& L…and we'd lost a quarter of a million dollars even after having huge growth. It was just devastating. So in January we had some hard conversations. But by the end of January it exploded! By the end of February, my colleague and I were in London interviewing for a General Manager for the UK opportunity! So it literally flipped just like that – we went from drastic belt-tightening through to let’s open an office in the UK.

On what he learnt from athletes

  • I got so caught up in the naivety and the passion that sport represents and means to all of us. For these guys, it's a job. I got very close to Brett Lee and I remember one night saying to him, “Do you really appreciate how fortunate you are to do what you do and be paid large amounts?” In hindsight, it was just such the wrong thing to say. It was just the wrong attitude because this is his future and what he achieves as a player, he sets himself up and feeds his family and educates his family. So the importance that money plays for elite athletes, a lot of us underestimate.
  • Having said that though, there is a counterbalance which is the role that sport plays in society is enormous. It's immeasurable. It makes these heroes, and it makes them immensely powerful, but it also comes with an obligation.
  • The public really underestimates what these people go through. They might see them play football for 90 minutes, but they don't see the hours and hours and days training and preparation and everything that goes into it.
  • What I found interesting about those engagements is the degree of arrogance (it's actually confidence) when you want to be the best man in the world. Out of 7 billion people on the planet you're going to be the best. That has to come with a degree of self-belief and confidence. And sometimes that gets misunderstood or it doesn't get appreciated.

On maximising your athletes’ talent

  • Let's talk about the Wallabies, the All Blacks or the Springboks. Basically it’s the same level of talent that's running through those national teams. The philosophy back then wasn't to treat you as a human and then secondly as a player. At that stage the main approach from coaches and federations was they were going to use you, but the moment that you become useless to them, step aside because there are people lined up behind you that we're going to bring into your shoes.
  • Rob Nicol (former Head of the International Rugby Players Association) said to me that New Zealand had elevated their relationship between the players, the team, the federation. So there was instantly a level of mutual respect and understanding of the very simple concept of a rising tide floats all boats. And so the better the sport’s federation does, the better we do as players, and you have an obligation to look at it through both of these lenses.
  • Great teams’ players also police their own. When you go to training and if you're running around the pitch, if, when you wear this jersey, if you cut a corner, you're going to get pulled up by your teammates.
  • Craig Bellamy (Melbourne Storm coach) has a principle that when young players come into the squad, they also have to have a job because they needed to keep grounded and they needed to understand. reality as opposed to spending your off time playing Playstation or Xbox. He was one of the very first coaches to do that sort of thing, to look at sport through the lens of life to understand the humanity and the journey that they're going on and to not treat them as lumps of meat that are there to perform.
  • Alistair Campbell was Tony Blair's communications guy and he's invented a word: “Persivilience” which is about perseverance and resilience. The great stories are when you go from bottom to top, when you're in the absolute doldrums, you're facing corporate death but you can turn it around. They're the awesome stories. But they don't just happen magically, you've got to have “persivilience” and you've got to get that connection.

On healthy conflict in teams

  • One of the things my co-founder Dean Hawkins learned from Robert Louis Dreyfus at adidas was that he used to say that conflict is good. And it's got to be good conflict, not violent, screaming and yelling. And you want to use that conflict for the organisation to get better. And whether you're a Formula One racing team, or whether you're a club or a national team like the Wallabies, you need that conflict.

On having the right people on the bus

  • Remember the Sydney Swans talked about the “no dickheads policy”? Well, I’m a huge believer in the concept of a team of champions versus a champion team. There's no question you've got to get that chemistry, you've got to get the mix, but you've got to get the fundamentals and the foundations and the philosophy right underneath them. That’s a champion team.
  • In my previous life with SKINS, I was CEO and Dean was Chairman. And I was a really lousy CEO. So when we started this business (eo), I said to Dean that he needs to be CEO, because I know what a great operator he is. My skill set is more on the branding and the selling side. So getting the right people in the right positions is critical.
  • Great coaches don't have a one size fits all approach. Some people need the carrot and some people need the stick. And you've got to be able to work your way through that and understand what's best suited to which one.
  • You've got to be fairly tough – look at the greatest coaches, they're very clear in their communication. If they don't like what you're doing, they'll tell you straight. Feedback is critically important for everyone, but there's a balance between insult and engaging.
  • I constantly hear about somebody being threatened by somebody below them. My objective has always been to make myself redundant. I want the very best people. I don't need to be the guy. I want the very best people to not need me at all. That to me is happy days. Make the people that are reporting to you to win more than you because if they achieve their dreams, then we're all achieving ours.

Final message of wisdom and hope for future leaders 

  • I worked with a lot of older people and they were fabulous to work with. These people have got long term relationships. You're able to tap in as well as their experience and knowledge.
  • Having said that, I'm a huge fan of the younger generation. I love their approach to so many things in a social context and progressiveness, because they're coming through a different time in life. But that younger generation coming through is bringing a heightened level of compassion, awareness and propriety, I think it’s fabulous.
  • My biggest message is make sure you do it with a laugh. Don't lose your sense of humour.
  • If we can let the younger generation have to take decisions and do things, then I think that we will be much better for it.

Deal hope,