Barbara Pease | Profile Magazine
Barbara Pease is a superwoman in every sense of the word. Even from an early age, she has been resolute and resilient, and together with her husband Allan, gone on to defy the odds in life and diversify their business to stay one step ahead of the game.
“The way we work is excellent, the formula is perfect and we have never had an argument in business. There are no egos and we each know what we do.
“I do everything as far as running the business, if I need to chase an account, negotiate fees for Allan, deal with international agents, make sure rents are up to date, our buildings are kept in top condition, work with the tradesmen, I do everything that needs to be done.
“This allows Allan to focus on what he’s best at, which is entertaining and writing. He’s great with the media, he’s funny, he's great on stage. Also when we decide we want to write a book, he is free to do the science and research and then my part is deciding, ‘How does this apply to the everyday person? How does it affect them in life?’ And then we make it humourous. That’s the formula.”
From the balcony of their palatial Buderim home, Barbara Pease, number one best-selling author, opens up about her past and the hard-fought journey to reach the pinnacle of success – both in business and in life.
Born in Maryborough, to housing commission parents, Barbara and her family later moved to Gladstone, where she attended high school.
“Coming from a poor background; where I was taught to work hard, I had drive, so by the time I was 12, which was the legal age you could work back then, I had three part time jobs,” she says.
Barbara worked at the local grocery store and skating centre, where she promptly learnt how to run both businesses, and was also a cleaner for her neighbour.
“When you become so resourceful, everyone wants to hire you and the phone would always ring,” Barbara says.
“I had all this money coming in and I would allocate a certain amount to my goals such as buying my first car by the time I was 17, because I knew my mum and dad couldn’t afford it. Everything else went towards buying luxuries our family didn’t have or buying something for myself.”
Harboring a thirst for learning, Barbara sought mentors from an early age.
“I found different teachers who I could learn from, not only from what they were teaching but to learn life skills too, because Mum and Dad didn’t have that to give me because they’d worked from such a young age – my mum was milking cows from the age of eight and Dad lost his mother at that age, so his dad pulled him out of school and made him go to work and look after the rest of the siblings,” she says.
“They didn’t have the opportunity, so I was determined that I was going to make my own; I was going to put myself out there and the opportunities would appear. It’s a bit like our latest book, The Answer – you don’t try and decide how to do all of these steps, you just put it out there and things appear so you grab the opportunities.”
After finishing Grade 12, Barbara followed what she thought was her dream to become an accountant, before moving to Townsville where she worked her way up the ladder at a major hotel and put her hand up to run the accounts department.
“I was still young, only 19, and they said they couldn’t put the finances of a hotel in the hands of such a young person, and I said, ‘But I’m already doing it’, and they said I had to be a lot older,” she says.
“I knew I couldn’t go any further, so I applied to work for the airlines and the same thing happened – ‘You have all the qualifications, you have all the skills, but you’re too young’. Age was becoming a barrier for me.”
It was then that Barbara was approached by a woman who had been told Barbara could “sell ice to the eskimos” and offered her a job selling advertising space in the Townsville Bulletin.
“That was the awakening, because there I felt like I didn’t need to learn everyone’s job, I could now learn how to sell better and look after my clients,” she says.
Barbara became a sales gun and cracked her first million-dollar budget. She also fell for and married one of her colleagues, whom she had a son with, but when the marriage broke down, Barbara resigned from her position and went on to work for various companies including TAFE, Torgas and Skillshare.
“One of my colleagues at Skillshare said to me, ‘Take this video home, I think you could teach it, it’s about body language’. I put it on and was watching this guy, Allan Pease who was making me laugh and I really liked his material. I thought I’d take it and start using it and I introduced a body language section into all of my classes.”
Not long after, Mr Body Language came to town for a seminar, a perfect opportunity for Barbara to get some new material.
“When Allan was at the back selling books, I went and interrogated him,” she says with a laugh.
That was October 1989, and the pair had an instant connection. In 1991, Barbara moved to Sydney to work with Allan, they were engaged the following year and in 1993, married.
“I said, ‘The only way I can work with you is if you give me control of the business’, because there were limited systems in place, no real organisational skills. I thought he would fight me on this, but he agreed. So that was my next journey, learning how to run a speaking business,” she says.
“When we started, 90 per cent of our business was books, eight per cent was speaking and two per cent was real estate. But our books were huge in bookstores at that time. The Answer came out a couple of months ago and the Chinese and Russians have already been online selling it for $2, which we get nothing from. It’s a different world now.”
Because of the changing business landscape, the Peases decided to diversify. Their business is now broken up into speaking, products/books, media and real estate. Property accounts for 76 per cent of their business activities, encompassing a commercial portfolio, residential, and the recent addition of several large developments.
“We’re not a couple who stays in the one area of business, so we didn't just stay in speaking. Many speakers are doing it tough because they've stayed in speaking and haven’t diversified,” Barbara says. Their fighting spirit is commendable and is a direct result of having lost everything in 1994, when a series of wrong decisions and bad advice caused them to lose everything. At age 34, and Allan 45, they were completely broke.
“We’d had an amazing journey and now we’d lost everything! We decided to make a comeback and even though we’d lost everything, we needed to figure out how to move forward, we needed to set a goal. We decided we were going to become best selling authors again, we were going to recover financially and we’re going to get our lifestyle back.”
But to become financially independent, Barbara and Allan needed to sell millions more books and having already dominated the Australian market for over 20 years, they needed to think bigger and capture even larger markets; it was time to conquer western and eastern Europe (which had about one billion people compared to 300 million in the USA).
In 1997, Barbara and Allan moved to the United Kingdom, where they rented a humble home and established their new business using two laptops, a borrowed car, two old telephones and a Yellow Pages phone book. Over the next three years, they went on to book seminars and conferences and self-published Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps, which sold 12 million copies worldwide and went into 55 languages. They made enough money to clear their debts and regain their luxury lifestyle.
Barbara and Allan then went on to write another 10 number one bestsellers and by 2004 were the world’s biggest-selling authors, produced a number one Box Office movie, nine television series in the UK and four stage plays across Europe.
Having experienced such success using ‘the secret of the RAS’ (The Reticular Activating System), a goal setting technique, Barbara and Allan then put it to the ultimate test – conceiving a baby. The odds were against them, at age 41, Barbara was considered “geriatric”, and Allan was 52 and had no viable sperm because of radiation treatment he’d received for prostate cancer (brought on by the stress of going broke).
The doctors repeatedly told them it would never work, but Barbara and Allan were steadfast in their decision and after a few rounds of IVF treatment failed, they trialed a new technique of DNA insemination. It was successful and two male embryos were implanted, with one female embryo placed into cryo-suspension for future use. Brandon was born 8 March, 2005 and his fraternal twin sister, Bella, was born three years later.
It turns out their formula for success worked in more ways than one and Barbara and Allan are back on top of the world, planning their next big move.
The difference between how men and women communicate in business
“Men are direct, they want to get to the point. This is what I want done and I want it done by this deadline,” Barbara says.
“Women are more indirect. You make them feel good, like they’re part of the team – this is what I’d like you to do, this is the reason why, this is what it will achieve and how do you think it would work? Do you think we can get it done by this time?”
Interestingly, Allan and Barbara have a role reversal when it comes to closing the deal.
“I let them talk and then I come in to close the deal. Allan uses the niceties that normally a woman might use, he’s not interested in closing the deal, that’s my job and I love it,” Barbara says.
Allan says, “When we go to meetings together, which we do a lot, and when we’re negotiating overseas contracts, I listen to what’s being said and take notes and Barb will sit back and watch what people are doing and write down attitudes.
“At the end we compare notes, of what she saw versus what I heard and sometimes you’d think we’d been to different meetings. What you see is what people really believe and feel, what they tell you is what they want you to hear.”
Originally published in Profile Magazine
Photo: Paula Brennan