In conversation with Nathan Farrugia - Episode 5 - Inspiring the Next CMO series

Join Lou in a conversation with Nathan Farrugia, an industry CEO, entrepreneur, business coach, author record-breaking athlete, TEDx speaker, Vistage owner, NED, and philanthropist. Nathan talks with us about:

  • Working from a rooftop garden in lockdown

  • Being inspired by children and their parents overcoming their challenges

  • His incredible family and how they inspire him

  • Looking for inspiration in the non-profit sector

  • Having pride in your own achievements

  • Driving forwards inclusive employment in Malta

  • Accepting the good and the bad about being in a position of responsibility

  • The importance of focusing your time to get the most out of it

  • 27 marathons in 27 consecutive days in 27 countries

  • Marketing is about connecting with people

  • Asking for forgiveness rather than permission


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Transcription (contains Amazon affiliate links):


Lou: Hello hello Right. This is our Inspiring the Next CMO podcast series for Behind the Fluff podcast from The International Bunch. It’s specifically for those in marketing, those interesting in marketing, those in academic publishing, scholarly comms and libraries. Who are we going to be talking with today? Nathan Farrugia. Nathan is an industry CEO, entrepreneur and my business coach and has known me for many many years back when I used to live in Malta but he won’t be telling any of my secrets. Nathan talks with us about:


  • Working from a rooftop garden in lockdown

  • Being inspired by children and their parents overcoming their challenges

  • His incredible family and how they inspire him

  • Looking for inspiration in the non-profit sector

  • Having pride in your own achievements

  • Driving forwards inclusive employment in Malta

  • Accepting the good and the bad about being in a position of responsibility

  • The importance of focusing your time to get the most out of it

  • 27 marathons in 27 consecutive days in 27 countries

  • Marketing is about connecting with people

  • Asking for forgiveness rather than permission


So why don’t we just jump straight in? Let’s go.


Lou: Welcome everybody to our Behind the Fluff, Inspiring the next CMO podcast series. Now, you can find lots of great resources to help you raise your game and inspire you at www.internationalbunch.com/be inspired.

Today I have a real treat for you. I'd like to welcome Nathan Farrugia. Nathan, if you go by his LinkedIn profile: entrepreneur, business coach, CEO, author record-breaking athlete, TEDx speaker - you might have to help with how I say this properly, Nathan, Vistage owner – NED, philanthropist, husband and father; now that's impressive hey. So, Nathan and I have known each other for many years and he's also my business coach. So hello, Nathan.


Nathan: Hi, how are things?


Lou: Good. Now, did I say that correctly?


Nathan: What, Nathan? Yes.


Lou: Vistage?


Nathan: Vistage, well, tomato, tomato.


Lou: Well exactly. We both speak British English, but we will say Maltese English and whatever I am. OK now before we start, I did kind of throw Nathan under the bus with this one. I didn't tell him about this, but we have one question for you. Now something we ask everybody when we do these podcasts: every day on our social media, we send out a word of the day under #intbunchwordoftheday. We would love to know what is your favourite word, and why, and what does it mean?


Nathan: Yes, you did surprise me with this. You would have expected something a bit more profound, but actually, my word is aubergine. An important reason behind this is because of my eldest daughter, when she was very young, it was one of her first words and she just used to make us laugh by saying it. So yes, she got entertainment out of saying it.


Lou: That is an impressive word for a little girl.


Nathan: I think it's shaped her choice of lifestyle as well because she's vegan.


Lou: I hope she does love aubergine; a nice chargrilled aubergine, it makes an excellent soup - I'm sure she knows that anyway.


Nathan: Yep, baba ganoush.


Lou: So first things first, what we want to know is a bit more about you: so what's the best thing you have discovered in this last year?

Nathan: My roof. (Laughing)

Lou: That’s true. You do have a pretty awesome roof. We've done a webinar together and you did it on your roof.


Nathan: Yes, and obviously, because I've been stuck inside, like most of us, I like to change space. I need newness, and when you can't get it outside, you have to find it somehow inside, so I moved my office to the roof on sunny days like today, and it’s really helped me cope with being stuck indoors. But actually, it has given me the opportunity to get fresh air, hear birds and be outdoors.


Lou: For those of you that don't know, Nathan's actually in Malta. So a lot of the houses there have flat roofs, and you get a little bit of background noise though don’t you, which is to be expected.


Nathan: Yes, but it's a less sterile environment like that as well; a dog barking or an ambulance going by, or whatever.


Lou: Absolutely, it just shows that people are around, doesn't it? It’s life.


Nathan: Exactly


Lou: So here's a question, actually yes, who does inspire you?


Nathan: I get inspiration from many people. I don't sort of have a list of people that inspire me, but I look for inspiration in the way people do things, the way people behave. I spend a good amount of time in the charity world, in the non-profit sector, and so watching how people are with their philanthropists, or actually even people who benefit from the charity can be inspiring. The parents of some of the kids that we treat at Inspire, with the disability and how they cope with the difficulties that they're facing. I am inspired by clients. I work with people like you, who decided to quit the day job and start a business, or really push through their vision to make something happen; and this is inspiring. So I guess inspiration is all around if you look for it. The danger is that we don't; we just are self absorbed and don’t perhaps notice the goodness in other people and look for that inspiration that is everywhere.


Lou: Absolutely.

So When you were young, what did you want to be?


Nathan: When I was young and I started to think about answering that question, the first thing that came to mind was to become a vet, and simply because I loved animals. I always had a caring sort of approach to doing things, and it always stayed that way. In fact, I ended up in the medical profession, eventually as a physiotherapist, so this feeling of fixing things or making things better or making people, or animals, or businesses today better, is something that is probably deeply ingrained in me.


Lou: And of course, if people read your book as well, which I'm hoping that Nathan will talk about soon, but if people read your book they'll also find out more about you when you were young: what some of your aspirations were and also how you were challenged with a medical condition and how you've managed to overcome that, which I actually think is incredibly inspirational in itself and really, really important.


So, if you were to have dinner tonight with anyone alive, dead, whoever you want it to be, who would it be?

Nathan: Well a flippant response would be my kids because they are teens now and all they do is stay in their room, or if they go out, they go out with friends. (Laughing)

So it would be nice to sit down with them and have a proper conversation. I'm being facetious; we do spend time together but not as much as I would like. Interestingly, because we have been stuck indoors, the first opportunity for them to go out we obviously encouraged because we want them to be out and meet friends. So we're sort of sacrificing our own family time for them to be outdoors with their friends. And I think we spend most of our quality time in travel as a family; that's where we have to be together whether they like it or not. (Laughing) But we do have good times on travel and that's something we miss obviously.


So I think, you know I like…I'm not a very social person in the sense that I don't have wide-reaching sort of friendships, etc. I have a handful of good friends and I enjoy company with them. Actually, we've been lucky because the rules here allow us to have up to four people in the house, and obviously, we've had people over and spending time with them, a close-knit group of people that we know, we trust because they are not mingling themselves. So it keeps it safe.


Lou: Yes, you know it’s funny if we do this again in a year's time when hopefully things will be back to normal, I bet some of our conversations will be very different: oh do you remember the old days when we used to have to limit the number of friends indoors?


I do see pictures on social media of friends in Malta who are out at restaurants, you know having a meal together and stuff, and I think: those were the days. One day!


So let's talk about your career - tell me about your career and how you got to where you are today.


Nathan: Well, like I said earlier, I started off being passionate about the therapeutic and health realm. I was always athletic, having overcome asthma, which did condition my early years. And so I, therefore, gravitated towards the health sciences space. Obviously, because I was heavily into sports I felt that being a physiotherapist would be useful to treat myself and save me a lot of money, but also to help my fellow athletes. And I was just curious because obviously, as a sportsman you do end up at the physio more often than not. I happened to be in the hands of some good ones and I thought, well, this is a career I could aspire to, which I did and I followed at Uni. But coming out of that I realized that there was an entrepreneurial side to me that I hadn't known about and when I started to set up my private practice, actually more than one, I realized that actually, there's a business side to this that I enjoyed: employing people, and building teams and working with partnerships and developing projects and programmes beyond the actual science of therapy. And so I wanted to learn more about this and I went off and did an MBA overseas to really enrich my theoretical or academic background as well.