The
Inspiration
Project

WITH BRENDAN CORR

GUEST John Ford

Episode 24

John Ford: Episode Summary

  • How John ended up in the marketing space
  • What being rejected multiple times taught John about life
  • John’s response to marketing being all about “smoke and mirrors”
  • Navigating through moral and ethical practices
  • How John came to faith
  • What losing everything taught John about trusting in God

John Ford: Episode Transcript

Sponsor Announcement
This podcast is sponsored by Australian Christian College, a network of schools committed to student wellbeing, character development, and academic improvement.

Introduction
Welcome to The Inspiration Project where well-known Christian share their stories to inspire young people in their faith and life. Here’s your host, Brendan Corr.

Brendan Corr
Hi there everybody. Welcome to another episode of The Inspiration Project Podcast, where we’re bringing you stories of prominent Christians who’ve been able to find success by being authentic to their faith and true to their passions. This morning, we’re going to have a chat with John Ford. John is a marketing innovation and brand expert. He’s worked with some of the leading companies around the world, including Audi, American Express, Accor Hotels, McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Woolworths is a renowned international speaker was listed in AdNews Under 40 as a rising star in the world of marketing. And currently, John is the CEO of The One Centre, situated in Sydney. John, thank you for giving us your time. We really appreciate it.

John Ford
Thanks, Brendan.

Brendan Corr
That description of a marketing innovation and brand expert. It’s not necessarily the sorts of things you see at high school, subject selection expo.

John Ford
It’s cryptic.

Brendan Corr
How do you end up in that sort of space? What’s the pathway, the trajectory from choosing subjects at school to ending up CEO of a marketing branding expert?

John Ford
Very good question and one I’m constantly perplexed by myself. Shall I give you a bit of a background?

Brendan Corr
I’d love to hear. Yes. Thank you.

John Ford
Cool. So, I went to school in Sydney, in Cremome, at SCECGS Redlands, which is actually-

Brendan Corr
Great school.

John Ford
A good school. It’s only just become a co-ed school at that stage. So we were, as my headmaster told me at one of our reunions, not so long ago, we were the Guinea pigs. And I think we were actually the second year of boys, or maybe potentially third, but we’re also according to him the breakthrough year when they decided at a board level that the experiment had worked and it would effectively save the school at the time.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. Because, it had decades of girls only up to that point, right?

John Ford
It did, and it did have a lot of financial problems as well. So I think they had decided to look at a different way of doing things in order, which was then a different way of doing things in order to make it viable and it worked. So I was at school and then actually at school, I was passionate and I think quite good at drama. So I had focused my trajectory on being an actor and then a director, that said when I left school, I tried the NIDA, just after year 12 and which was quite a formidable drama school at that time and still is, but I didn’t get in. I got very close to getting in and I said, “Well, it’s down to you and another person” because we usually don’t take people who are 18.

Brendan Corr
Right.

John Ford
And the other person’s father was a very prominent playwright. And I didn’t get the gig and I thought, “Well, that’s just wrong.”

Brendan Corr
Yeah. Politics in play.

John Ford
Politics in play. But obviously, as I’ve got further away from all of that, I’ve realised that the other guy was very talented and I’ve actually seen him in a lot of shows and whatever.

Brendan Corr
Maybe it was justified. Maybe he deserves the spot.

John Ford
Justified. They told me to come back next year and of course I thought that was a nice way of saying, “You’re rejected”, which did teach me a lesson which is you get knocked back once, just don’t take that to heart.

Brendan Corr
That’s good.

John Ford
But it sent me off in a very different direction and I ended up at university majoring in geography and French, which I had been good at geography at school. So not getting my passion point with going to NIDA and doing drama, I decided just to do something which would be able to give me a degree. So I completed that at Sydney university and actually studying French, which was completely left field.

Brendan Corr
Indeed.

John Ford
But it was just interesting, I ended up going over to England where my parents were living at the time and then moved to France. And I didn’t know anybody. And I sort of fell on my feet there and ended up meeting through my landlord at the time a lady that gave me a room in her house, the guy who ran a … he was a buyer and seller of businesses from quite a wealthy French family. And he took a liking to me because I liked rugby and offered me a job in a company that he’d just bought. And he actually had a seat on the French stock exchange, which I thought was very exciting. It was like this James Bond type character, literally owned an Aston Martin and used to drive me out to this business, which was in Information Technology, which is starting to take off at the time. So I had that experience. I ended up coming back to Australia and then decided through that because he became this kind of role model for me of what success looked like, and trying to get into the banking industry and myself being a stockbroker. So Macquarie Bank, had a job out for a trainee stockbroker, and I applied for and after it was a test. Got the gig and it was also known as the millionaire’s factory there. So I was quite excited and I sort of could project this stellar career in banking.

Brendan Corr
You were on the production line for the million dollars.

John Ford
Exactly, was on the way. My girlfriend, of course, was delighted at the time that we were going in that direction, but I hated it. It was a terrible, terrible, misfit for me and great organisation. And I ended up getting out of there. And I met a recruiter. I had just had a sort of a feeling that I wouldn’t mind trying to get into the advertising industry.

Brendan Corr
Did you know much about the advertising industry?

John Ford
Not a lot and I didn’t know anything actually, but I had a sense that might be something to get into, because it was more creative, but it was still in business. So I had actually a very good friend of mine’s mother used to work at a recruitment agency where they had … that they used to recruit for the advertising industry. I went and saw them anyway, that didn’t necessarily get me anywhere, but a job came up at DDB in what was then called the press checking department of the media department.

Brendan Corr
Press checking?

John Ford
Yeah, well press checking literally because a lot of print advertising, they do placements in newspapers and the agency then had to get the newspapers, tear out the ad and attach it to a form or a booking sheet to evidence that the ad had run and it had run where said, it’s run, obviously everything’s digital now. So those sections are kind of gone, but they were ways in for people into the industry. So either through the mailroom or the press checking department. So it was really the bowels of the business and it wasn’t particularly glorious work, but it gave me an in and then there was an incredibly good job that was going inside the agency to work for one of the guys who was the best in the industry and ended up becoming chairman of that agency, which was the biggest agency in Australia at the time or second-biggest, very talented guy. So I ended up getting a traineeship as a strategist and I had three very good mentors who were older than me and a particularly good leader of that department who then went to run the agency. So I just got great exposure to the craft of advertising strategy and brand strategy. And I was quite young at that stage. And then I got headhunted and foolishly took that and jumped ship and that set me off in the wrong direction and evidently, found myself through luck and misfortune in a role in a Asian based network. And in a … and through that experience, I started working on ‘new business’ and we won a lot of pitches and then started to become like “the agency” and that catapulted me to having a profile of being a good strategist, but also good at breeding business, which is essential in advertising. And so I then decided to set up my own business, which I did and ended up selling that business to an agency network and that experience galvanised for me to set something up on my own, which was The One Centre and that’s back in around 2000. So 20 years ago, and in fact, we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of the agency now.

Brendan Corr
Oh, congratulations. That’s wonderful.

John Ford
So that’s a sort of a bit of a long, journey to…

Brendan Corr
It is quite a remarkable series of jumps and steps.

John Ford
Yeah, highly unpredictable and some random at the time, which seemed random.

Brendan Corr
I’ll come back to some of the lessons you’ve learned through that. Gives us a bit of a rundown of what The One Centre does. What is the essence and the core of your business?

John Ford
What we do, back to what is marketing innovation. So we have built a reputation over the time by virtue of the types of projects that we work on in either helping organisations do transformation projects or launch new types of product services or initiatives into the market, call it disruptive businesses if you like. So we get involved with companies and helping identify new market opportunities, how they would access them, what kinds of products and services, and then how they brand them and then take them to market. So we’ve done that with big organisations like Stores Of The Future with McDonald’s and projects with Amex on how to reinvent the airport direct sales, to Woolworths we created the everyday rewards platform some years ago. Through to completely new businesses like we’re working obviously in different trend areas, which tends to get investment: plant-based food is pretty big at the moment. So we’re creating the worlds, what’s going to be, of course, the world’s a real powerhouse quick service restaurant in plant-based food. It’s got aggressive goals. And we’re working on creating new sort of membership clubs for hyphenates, which will run across the world and products and services, which don’t technically exist now. We would be the parties that companies come to, to help work out how to do those things and then launch them to the market and learn and grow them basically. So we’re part sort of management consultancy, part brand consultancy, and then also part integrated marketing services business. So we can get in and help people work out what to do and what they are, how to actually package that up and present it to the market and then how to actually launch it into the market. And we’ve done that for both, as I said, like big companies, but also other smaller organisations or collectives of people that want to do new things. And we’ll go on the journey with them and that’s … It’s quite a unique place that we hold in the marketplace. So it’s not a traditional advertising agency. It’s not a management consultancy.

Brendan Corr
Become a specialty area for you guys.

John Ford
So marketing innovation or brand innovation and business innovation is really what we get involved with. So yeah.

Brendan Corr
Can I ask you, John, they may be unfair, but I think there’s a common suspicion about marketing that it’s manipulative and it’s trying to skew things and cover things. What’s your response to that common perception that it’s about smoke and mirrors?

John Ford
I don’t think it’s about smoke and mirrors. I do think it’s about persuasion and making things as attractive as possible for consumers. But I don’t really hold a lot of reservations about the work I do. I think everybody’s bidding for attention. Everybody’s trying to make products or services that are relevant and attractive and useful. And I think more and more, the kinds of work that we’re doing is … there’s a bit of a movement that’s sort of happened in the last three to four years around, purpose and profit. So helping organisations

Brendan Corr
Find they’re “why?”

John Ford
And also make sure they’re commercially sustainable. It used to be in the old sort of 70s, the economic theory was businesses didn’t exist to necessarily do anything else except make profit.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, bottom line.

John Ford
And anything with any social conscience or otherwise was sort of almost a communist type activity and altruistic and not in line with what shareholders’ interests are or customers’ interests. So the reality though, is that organisations today are under huge pressure and scrutiny to not only perform in terms of a product or service, but also deliver and contribute to long term social benefits.

Brendan Corr
Ethical practise.

John Ford
But also so positive social impact. So this is not just something which is used to be called like you’re in a social enterprise and obviously there are many of those. This is coming from the highest levels of leadership.

Brendan Corr
You’re right.

John Ford
In business as well. So Larry Fink who runs BlackRock, which is the world’s biggest investment company, $10 trillion worth of funds under-investment. They now have made it absolute in their investment criteria that businesses demonstrate one of the top five things are positive, long term, social impact and benefit. And this is obviously because Millennials and Gen Z consumers are demanding it. I think the money people are demanding it. And I think the world, as we know it through the environmental crisis that we find ourselves in some of the political and social, huge problems that we’re in is that, and obviously COVID has accelerated a lot of that. Confused in some ways, but accelerated, is that organisations now need to be focused on delivering returns, but returns also to society and community. So when we get involved in jobs, it’s a bit of a filter for us to say, “Look, whoever can approach this”. It’s not just the dark arts of marketing and branding to sort of have an attractive message, but to try and have a positioning in the market that we can demonstrate, not only is a benefit to consumer of this product or service because it’s helping solve problems that exist either environmental problems, social problems, problems with the way products or services currently are, but it’s also delivering impacts, which are positive for the earth, positive for the society, positive in lots of ways. Now, that’s a trend, of course. So it’s also part of the artifice of marketing but it’s also something I’m deeply interested in because I think it is the right way forward.

Brendan Corr
You’ve been describing some of the demands that the market is placing on … or encouraging in supporting a shift in an ethical or change of ethics. It raises a question for me. I want to ask you the question, where do you fall at the leading edge of taking things to market new products, new services, where’s the balance of responding to a market and creating a market where’s that sense of? Are you simply responding to things that are needful or are you part of perceiving a new opportunity, new space and creating that?

John Ford
I think the old adage that Henry Ford had is, “If he’d listened to the research, what people are saying, he’d be making a faster horse”. So the kinds of people that we’re working with, trying to be three steps ahead in the sense that they are connecting the dots on a number of things which may result in a completely different paradigm of product or service. Now, inevitably they are trying to present or find a space in a marketplace that is attractive, but it’s also solving problems for the user or the consumer or the client, as well as, industries as well as society. So I’ll give you an example. We’re working with a very, very bright group of Kiwis at the moment. We’ve developed some technology to change the way project homes are designed and built. So typically project homes are volume builders, they call them that. So it’s a product you have to go out to a village per se.

Brendan Corr
Show village.

John Ford
Then you go through months of determining how you would like to customise, because people want to customise stuff, you go into these circulatory processes to customise it. Then you have to get a break costed, et cetera, and then it gets built. And there are lots of inefficiencies in that system. So they’ve developed technology where they can actually help build or put all this plan up into a 3D system where a consumer can play with the model and literally live customise and live price, what they want and get all of the work done in an hour that would take six months.

Brendan Corr
That’s amazing.

John Ford
And the backend of this system reduces a lot of the wastage in not just obviously the design and the specifications of it, but it gives tools to the builder to better manage supply into the project. So it can save 90%. The university down in Melbourne, just said, the modelling on this is the same 90% saving.

Brendan Corr
That’s incredible. Wow.

John Ford
About 90% foot-print of the house of the actual construction process, save 65% in the sales and design processes, like massive changes.

Brendan Corr
That’s incredible.

John Ford
Which are beneficial to builders because there’s a lot of inefficiency for them. It’s beneficial to consumers because it takes a lot of the friction and the grief out of the process. And it’s great for what’s beneficial for vis-a-vis the current process for the planet. And what it does, it opens up building a home to a lot more people than those who are kind of stuck with it’s in the too hard basket, so beneficial for our client because they’ve got a software engine that can drive it.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. That’s awesome.

John Ford
And it’s so it’s quite revolutionary. So in that regard, it’s not just sort of improving a widget or changing the mousetrap. It’s coming up with a completely new way of doing things that requires quite a lot of behavioural change and cultural change in an industry. So part of the challenge then is to sell that product or service to people effectively so that they can see the benefits, not just see it, see the benefits of it actually make the behavioural change. So that’s the kind of, to answer your question, are we responding to industry or trying to take people forward? It’s pretty much a combination.

Brendan Corr
Both. Yeah. And there’s an example of the win, win, win scenario - where everybody’s improving their experience.

John Ford
We’re working with this fantastic plant-based quick service or quick fast food, but it’s fast casuals now the term. They’re passionate about plant-based food, benefits for your health, the benefits to the planet because of the inefficiencies of animal-based protein and the benefits of plant-based protein. But one of the big challenges with selling plant-based food is the perception that you can’t get the flavour hit. It’s like, “How do I get that primal?”

Brendan Corr
The animal fats.

John Ford
Exactly, the animal fats meet my hunger and satisfaction requirements. So we could have built a brand that talks to the vegan or compassionate market, but we wanted to build a brand that talks to that primal desire, which is the other 80%, 90% of society, which don’t really think about plant-based food in that way. So, but the objective of that is that they can have a far greater impact on the planet by targeting people who are non-vegetarians, just to encourage them to have one or two meals a week, which might be plant-based. So the way that they do that is not to walk around overly worthy about it, but just to really appeal to people’s appetites.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, the basic things.

John Ford
The basic things, and to make the food unbelievably good to eat, because, in the end of the day, good marketing can make a bad product fail faster because it’ll just once people use it and it doesn’t work or deliver, it gets rejected, and particularly in this world where…

Brendan Corr
And you lost trust.

John Ford
Social Media just goes like that. And it travels faster than the speed of sound. You lose trust and you wreck yourself. So they’ve worked great product, for them it’s a big cause and as I said before, strong purpose, whether you believe in it or not, it’s not necessarily the point but they’re compassionate, committed to it, but they want to create a way to have a massive impact as well as a profitable area. It’s a huge trend area. There’s a lot of demand now for plant-based foods in our world, but also internationally. So it’s potentially a massive market place.

Brendan Corr
Good for business.

John Ford
It’s good for business.

Brendan Corr
But good in so many other ways also.

John Ford
Exactly. So that, particular brand is called Flav. So it’s “flav your world and flav the planet”.

Brendan Corr
Mm-hmm (affirmative) nice.

John Ford
So you see those are the kind of things that we’re involved with. How do you and yes it requires we are in the business of persuasion and attraction, but I don’t feel it depends on what we’re working on. We don’t want to be selling things which are inherently bad, but bad is an interesting word because what some people find bad, other people find acceptable.

Brendan Corr
Yes.

John Ford
So we have to use our own moral conscience and also the power of the group and also the power of the people that are around us to help talk to us and counsel us on whether that’s a good or a bad thing, because we can come with our own biases and we may be overly defensive when actually you can get in there and make positive

Brendan Corr
A different

John Ford
Or you can be operating out of greed or other things and not see the pitfalls and what you’re doing.

Brendan Corr
Yes I, see that.

John Ford
So it’s important.

Brendan Corr
I want to come back to this. How do you determine your ethics and have your moral compass set to true north? What is your true north? But you’ve mentioned a few times about persuasion, the essential thing that you’re doing is having conversations with people that are persuading them to view something in a different way.

John Ford
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
I hadn’t seen it before. In that field. What have you learned about the inherent things that control responses or that influence people’s responses? The heart of humanity.

John Ford
Well, I think the emotional self will always override the logical self. And we as practitioners of brands and marketing, et cetera, have to strike a balance on the two, but we know that by creating a compelling emotional environment or case and using some of the tools and triggers of the human being that we can elicit a stronger relationship or propensity to behave in a certain way. One of the guys I went to school with actually before SCECGS Redlands, which was a little public school in Balgowlah ended up being a brain scientist and studying this whole area of how people make decisions and their impulses. And I’ve had a number of really interesting conversations with him on things as kind of cosmetic, but seemingly cosmetic is why the colour red is so powerful. Coca-Cola’s red, McDonald’s is red. We’ve just used red for Flav because it’s about energy. It’s about and I mean this in a positive way. It’s colour blood, it’s life.

Brendan Corr
Yes.

John Ford
It’s exciting, it’s fire. So it activates receptors in our body and our mind, which are exciting. So Coca-Cola’s red. So fire engines are red, ambulance lights are red, so things kind of obvious, but when you dig into it, there’s a lot of primal things which are in there. So the persuasion part of it, going back to your question is that the emotional self will always find a way over the logic itself.

Brendan Corr
So you can persuade yourself if your emotions are aroused.

John Ford
Absolutely, you can, and you can exactly. Sadness, anger, happiness, joy, excitement, they’re powerful things. At the end of the day, humanness outweighs how humanity speaks to us emotionally in terms of making us feel about some causes or feel strongly about things. So a lot of what we do are either visually or through other stimulus and is to try and present something which hits the right chord for people emotionally. But it’s not just about that, it’s also about putting forward the case.

Brendan Corr
Like I said you got to back it up with the fact and experience and..

John Ford
Exactly.

Brendan Corr
It’s got to correspond to the truth.

John Ford
It’s got to correspond to the truth. And otherwise you get other emotional impulses, which will in fact, blind people on the other side, which is as…

Brendan Corr
Prejudice against.

John Ford
And distrust, which are very powerful things. And they can work in different ways. So a lot of the time in advertising marketing branding, you are looking for ways to make something relevant. Original is important because you’re trying to be distinctive and unique, relevant, original, and impactful, so that you can be seen, be heard and connect and engage through communication and through product design, through the experience of retail experience, digital experience, et cetera, and to help people engage with you and create a culture and emotional space. Now, that can be not just on things which are consumer items that it’s true also finding the right tone and personality, which may be emotionally appropriate to any industry. So I’ve done stuff where we’re talking to doctors about products and services, as well as consumers about food or people about automotive or people about education, or you have to find through your research and insight work and understanding both human behaviour and attitudes and emotions. What are the important drivers in this particular field and area? What are the barriers to and points of concern to your product or service or whatever it is and how do we find the right space, the right analogy for this. But it’s all linking into an emotional state. A lot of people think in business to business communication, which is like , “Not us talking to a consumer, if you like” but to view for example, as principal of a school that we suddenly have to change our narrative to be very logical. Well, yes we do. But the way that we deliver that message is going to be encased in an atmosphere in a way which may also take a lot of boxes for you, which says, “It feels credible, authentic, it’s evidenced.” It’s not something that I would be conscious or nervous about sharing in my capacity as the principal, but in the same way, the principal is the principal, the principals also human being that has other parts of their lives. It might be a father or a brother or a sister to somebody. And we sometimes forget that we might be targeting somebody in a professional capacity or other capacity and under underestimate the other components of them, which are-

Brendan Corr
I understand what you’re saying. Yeah, that’s right.

John Ford
Alive and, so it’s like I don’t want to make it sound like it’s this kind of really intellectual or emotionally spiny area, but these are all the things that we need to think about.

Brendan Corr
Well, I think people engage in that sort of interaction without training, without intent, just as part of their relationships.

John Ford
Absolutely.

Brendan Corr
And I think you’re describing the reality of the humanness of dialogue and whatever form that happens across the kitchen table or through the airwaves. It’s about how we are communicating an idea.

John Ford
Exactly.

Brendan Corr
Or a response or an experience.

John Ford
Yeah. Absolutely.

Brendan Corr
And I get that. Let me take you back to that question about the ethics. You’ve been talking about the fact that you are governed by things that are bigger than just the immediate and the pragmatic. How did you come to an experience of faith for yourself John?

John Ford
My faith has its background, it’s interesting I think, when I had my second child, so I started this business around 2000, maybe a wee bit before. I grew the business quite rapidly, and then I had my first child in 2003 and my daughter, Bella. And then I had my second child, which is Lewis in 2005 and he was a really bad sleeper. So Bella was a fantastic baby. “Well, this is easy. Let’s have more.” So we did have another baby and…

Brendan Corr
That’s enough.

John Ford
Yeah. Well, Lewis is very different. It also came at a time where I suddenly had this high growth business and we had not stalled, but I had an issue with a major client. We ended up getting out of that relationship and I thought that was the right thing to do, but it created a huge financial problem for me, which I underestimated. And I ended up in a very difficult position. We had the house which was in a bit of a mess at home because we had a child which didn’t sleep and all these really human things came to bear. And I think my wife and I got to a point where we’re struggling, but the process of actually … the pathway is quite interesting in that my wife’s Italian. And she approached a Catholic church in our area to have our child.

Brendan Corr
Christen.

John Ford
But the priest in that particular church wouldn’t have the Christening there because the godparents weren’t Catholic. So being the feisty Italian that my wife was, she decided to, “Okay, well, we’ll go and get him somewhere else.” So we went to an Anglican church in the area and the senior pastor there spoke to my wife, really top guy, Richard Harvey, down at St Matthew’s in Manly. And he said to my wife, “Oh yeah, we can Christen Lewis but I’m just going to come and see you for a couple of weeks and just to talk to you about…

Brendan Corr
What we’re doing.

John Ford
What we’re doing, which was good. So he came into our house, walked up the road, made the effort to come and see us and detected that everything might not be perfectly good.

Brendan Corr
Harmonious.

John Ford
Yeah, harmonious. And I think it was taking one or two sort of obvious reach into that space that we were in as well as doing the right thing in terms of preparing us for Christening. He started speaking to us about … I’d gone to obviously a Christian School and…

Brendan Corr
SCEGGS.

John Ford
I’ve been involved in a lot of religious ceremonies. My parents would have called themselves believers, but we didn’t have a real relationship with God. And we hadn’t really surrendered ourselves and really I think opened ourselves up to what that was. It just was a different dimension, but anyway, Richard put us onto a programme which we did at home and then Mon and I, which is my wife, both gave our life to Christ, which was…

Brendan Corr
Fantastic.

John Ford
Very incredibly important actually, because we were on the same journey together.

Brendan Corr
Amen.

John Ford
At the same time. And then there wasn’t a miraculous change in our circumstances, but there was definitely a movement in our lives that was going to get strengthened from there. So that circumstance led us to having an encounter really, and then began our faith journey. And we moved from there along in business in 2007, eight, nine, and then we had a massive problem during the GFC when the business again took off and grew, and we’re doing a lot of work internationally. It just so happened to be doing a lot of work in the Middle East when the global financial crisis hit and it just so happened to have a very big client, which was the world’s biggest development company, working on these incredibly exciting, but just slightly mad projects that were happening at the time in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Anyway, that causes a huge problem because their business effectively collapsed and which is a lot of other clients of ours, which were quite substantial clients had to put their jobs on hold. And I ran out of cash in the business and I couldn’t get the money in from the Middle Eastern client. And I had quite a big staff base and we ended up getting taken or being wiped out. I put the business into administration, had put everything we owned into that to try and save the company. So suddenly I had three children at that stage, all under five. The business got wiped out and we lost our home and everything that we own in the process because we mortgaged it in order to try and raise capital. So that was a very fiery experience.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, amazing.

John Ford
For us, it was a big torching for us, but I think it was probably in retrospect, the most important thing that happened to me in my faith life, because I became a Christian through in 2005, I think it was. Yeah. And then in 2008 and nine, we had this big issue, but I didn’t realise, I hadn’t really fully surrendered and understood how God builds things and what a relationship is really like. Well, I remember sitting down and thinking to myself at that stage, I have actually no resources here. We had a number of things happen. Like a friend gave us a house that they owned so they had been renting and we moved in there. It was very kind of them and some incredible things happened and some incredible hardship and losses and friendships, which were understandable because they were working with us and stuff, and people were going through their own problems with what had happened. And I was the leader of the business and ultimately responsible. It’s very hard to explain to people the domino effect and in Australia, the impact of the GFC was quite short and sharp. Whereas companies which were overseas or had been doing a lot more overseas were more susceptible to the global financial crisis. So it was confusing and people couldn’t quite understand where this great, still a business, and it went down and it obviously had problems and whatever. So that was quite hard for me because I lost my profile.

Brendan Corr
Yes. Reputation.

John Ford
And I had lost everything I owned and I felt like I was radioactive in that, it’s not easy to get a job when you got that happen.

Brendan Corr
Sure.

John Ford
Offered a couple of things overseas, but I just thought I can’t leave here and put more disruption into my family. So what I ended up doing is staying, but the experience that being brought back to almost like a naked human being literally feeling I had no resources other than I needed to go to God. And actually that’s when I started to put in some really behaviours and seek God and pray and read the Bible in the morning and commit myself and commit the problem to Him and to … because I think I was privileged in the sense that my parent, my dad was actually a very good journalist. We lived in a nice home. I went to a good school, even though I had a bit of gaps in it. It was a bit rough leaving school and getting into uni because I missed out what I wanted to do, but I’ve sort of fallen on my feet and something, I was in this part of this business on the front page of Marketing Magazine and suddenly I was succeeding quite well. Drive a Porsche 911, had a very nice house.

Brendan Corr
The dream.

John Ford
And then the dream, and then just, in a matter of months, just everything got torched. And I was back to absolutely zero in a worldly sense, but actually it was the most profoundly important thing that happened to me in my life because I began to seek God.

Brendan Corr
Amen.

John Ford
And see Him moving in credible ways, which were immediate things as well as things which I couldn’t have imagined three or four years later, that would happen because it’s the process and where I ended up and rebuilt things. But it was that realisation and that was the real surreal time for me. I think we became Christians. We were in a difficult spot. We were genuinely now, but we didn’t … it wasn’t a fundamental, absolute reliance. And I reached a point where I had to have a fundamental absolutely reliance.

Brendan Corr
Right at the core.

John Ford
Right at the core. But also, and that happens to guys, and I think it’s one of the things that happens to everybody, but I’d also suffered it through my life, a feeling of depression and anxiety. It had a presence in my life. And particularly a little bit in school and then when I left school, you go through periods of gaps where you think, “Well, what am I doing?” It’s so a lot of pressure on young men and women at that age, because you’re trying to find a way, your dreams might not have come to pass in that regard and you don’t quite know what to do, and you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders about how do I actually build my life? But it came to some heads along the way. So I had experienced that. In 2005 and when we gave our life to Christ, I did find I had an alleviation of those issues. But in the process, therefore, when I went in, we had this terrible event happen during the GFC. I didn’t have the blackness and the difficulty I had the big external cleansing of staff. And then I didn’t actually have, I had moments in despair, but I didn’t have that..

Brendan Corr
Absolute desperation.

John Ford
Absolute desperation because I knew that was the life of God.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s great.

John Ford
And then, but I also had to recognise that in that situation He’d given me this life, but now I had to really commit my future to Him, and that I needed to import into my lifestyle behaviours which were seeking Him by building a genuine relationship, actually not being, “Thank God, thanks for that.”

Brendan Corr
Tried.

John Ford
I need “this, that”. Yeah, it wasn’t try it. And not that it needs to be heavy.

Brendan Corr
No.

John Ford
It’s just like …

Brendan Corr
But intentional.

John Ford
Raw and real. And I think getting to that point where your having raw and real conversations and putting it to Him and also recognising there are things that you’re doing in your life even then that were not necessarily behaviours that are in synchronicity with his commands and guides.

Brendan Corr
When helpful.

John Ford
And helpful, so you had to strip away some of that stuff as well, come back to the essence of the relationship, which it is a relationship and seek God. And then from there I have literally experienced in Mon my wife we’re absolute witnesses to the blessings and grace and incredible connections that God makes. It doesn’t mean that you don’t face other trials and difficulties, which we have. And right now we are obviously in one because of COVID and we also have some family health issues going on around us and they’re difficult. But I think what has gone through such a fiery process we have learned is that you just have to keep walking and bringing it to Him. And there’s also blessings and encore curses, but there’s difficulty as well as good things happening at any one point in time. It’s not all good and all bad. And therefore I think that recognising that and having a life and a joy irrespective of the situation is a part of the blessing of God.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, it’s wonderful.

John Ford
That’s a big thing. So that faith life and it’s so real in my work life.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s awesome.

John Ford
It’s very hard to talk about, every day I would face things in the day or in the future where at a practical level, if I need to write a strategy or come up with an idea for things, I’ll take it to God.

Brendan Corr
Amen. that’s great.

John Ford
And inevitably, and always, I’ll have an insight moment, an idea, or if I’ve got problems or if I need this or that look, and it’s not always, it’s not like a transaction. It’s not what the expectation is. It’s more just sharing and asking and being open as well as surrendering to difficulties. And some things just don’t change the way you’d like them to, others do. So I felt in a role that I have, which is a leadership role, as well as, I’m tasked with coming up with ideas and solutions for clients that God is the ultimate creator.

Brendan Corr
Amen.

John Ford
And He’s brilliance and wisdom and incredible ingenuity. And the insight that He gives you is just generous, endless and..

Brendan Corr
And He can drop things into your mind or into the heart.

John Ford
Absolutely. And there’s no doubt in my mind.

Brendan Corr
It’s fantastic.

John Ford
Because I’ve had that pathway, I’ve seen Him work, I’ve seen the evidence of it irrefutable. So that’s exciting for me.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, indeed.

John Ford
And it does help you to gather the courage to keep going, because it’s very difficult to face the future. And if you think about it in the rational, all the things which could go wrong, you’re surrounded and swamped. And I know that feeling that I had when I was 16, 17, 18. And in my twenties and thirties, they don’t go away. But at your toolkit and your resources, if they’re in your own steam, I got to run out of steam, but your toolkit and your resources are your faith and the provision of your God and the movement of the Holy Spirit. And the big thing I think is And if there’s anyone message for anybody that’s listening to this, particularly a young guy or girl, or even a parent is the Holy Spirit and having the spirit of God in you is and asking and seeking. This is a big healer of emptiness and a sense of darkness and blackness.

John Ford
It’s not to say you don’t need the help of the medical community, friends and counsellors and professionals, but access and seek.

Brendan Corr
Amen.

John Ford
The spirit of God, and also just assess yourself for the things that you’re doing that are not in synchronicity with God’s desire for your life, behaviours, habits, addictions, even in very young groups of people, things where you start on things, it’s not where you necessarily end up. So part of the process of, I guess seeking, you can have by major changes, but often these things are gradual. But you need to also make an effort in the physical and in the world that you’re in and own your own habits to help with those things. And that doesn’t go away at my age. It’s still something I have to, it’s kind of a discipline as well as a feeling. And I know when I’m not doing the right thing, because it’s evidence to me what happens in my spirit and being aware of that. So I think it’s important to build that personal direct relationship.

Brendan Corr
Amen, yes.

John Ford
Is that an effort, is that works? Well, it isn’t away, the Lord said, seek Him.

Brendan Corr
Yes.

John Ford
So that faith is work.

Brendan Corr
And it is part of our humanity we were talking earlier about, recognising the authenticness of our humanity and habits and disciplining mind and thought patterns.

John Ford
Yes.

Brendan Corr
Is part of the things that we need to bring before God?

John Ford
Yes.

Brendan Corr
As well as our faith and belief.

John Ford
Yeah. The choice. Paul says, “Fill yourself with things which are noble.”

Brendan Corr
Amen. Think on these things.

John Ford
Yeah. Because, it’s so easy to think about other things and that’s where the process of, I think going to God in the morning is important because I know this morning, actually, I didn’t. I feel I looked at the stock market and what’s happening in New York. Because obviously things are up and down and it pollutes your head too fast. You need to be prep. God gives you sleep. He also gives you an opportunity, I think in the morning and people pray at different times and all day, which is obviously important. But I think in the morning time committing yourself to reading the word praying…

Brendan Corr
That’s wonderful.

John Ford
Is one of the most valuable and rewarding and essential things you can do to prepare your mind and body and Spirit for that day. It doesn’t mean you’re immune from problems and issues and catastrophe, but how you respond to those things as they happen will be quite different. Yes.

Brendan Corr
That’s fantastic John.

John Ford
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
So appreciate you giving us your time, sharing your story. It’s a remarkable story the in and outs, the twists and turns of how your life has unfolded. But more than that, the things that you have learned or that God has allowed you to learn by reflecting on those things is invaluable.

John Ford
Yes.

Brendan Corr
Thank you so much for sharing your story.

John Ford
Thank you, Brendan.

Brendan Corr
And your faith with us. And may you be assured that we’ll be praying that God continues to hold you, lead you and bless you in all that you do.

John Ford
Thank you. It’s been a real pleasure.

Brendan Corr
Thank you.

About John Ford

John is a marketing innovation and brand expert. He's worked with some of the leading companies around the world, including Audi, American Express, Accor Hotels, McDonald's, Coca Cola, Woolworths is a renowned international speaker was listed in AdNews Under 40 as a rising star in the world of marketing. And currently, John is the CEO of The One Centre, situated in Sydney.

Photo of Brendan Corr

About Brendan Corr

Originally a Secondary Science Teacher, Brendan is a graduate of UTS, Deakin and Regent College, Canada. While Deputy Principal at Pacific Hills for 12 years, Brendan also led the NSW Christian Schools Australia registration system. Brendan’s faith is grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep knowledge of God’s Word. Married for over 30 years, Brendan and Kim have 4 adult children. On the weekends, Brendan enjoys cycling (but he enjoys coffee with his mates afterwards slightly more).