I know that being in business for yourself is tough. Full of ups and down, surrounded by people with secure jobs who think you’re slightly crazy for trying to do it all yourself. Even when you have some successes, like I have, there is always that nagging sense of self doubt that you’re about to trip up.
To be fair, that feeling can be well founded. After all YOU are a pioneer. Nobody has ever been in your business, with the skills you possess, at this very moment in time. With so many things to think about in business it can be hard, and confusing on what to focus on.
As an avid skier and I often use a skiing metaphor when describing running your own business. When you start out, you typically seek the safety and comfort of the beginner slopes. Every turn laid out in front of you, the lift off in the distance ready to bring you back to the top. The better you get, the more likely you are to seek the thrill of back country with it’s deep powder, steep slopes and the excitement of the trees.
On those slopes you can ONLY see one turn ahead, and have to trust in your knowledge and skills that you can make each turn, even when you can’t see more than one turn ahead. Marketers, coaches, and consultants like myself are like a skilled skier. Experienced guides who can show you the mistakes we’ve made and how to avoid them, show you how to ski those trees and steep slopes, and in your business context, how to fast you want to go.
Whilst i’ve been fascinated with everything about business since I was 6 years old (I blame uncle scrooge golden books), almost the entirety of my adult life has been focussed on how people can use technology better to communicate. Since the advent of the internet, i’ve been involved in some form or other of digital marketing technology to allow people to connect better, faster and in a more leveraged way.
The first one I remember was starting a circus at the age of 6 when my parents first moved to Canberra. I can’t recall now if I just loved it because I was seeing my ‘Uncle Scrooge’ golden book come to life before my eyes, or the resulting sugar rush from all the 1c lollies I was able to buy with the proceeds. I’ve also tried my hand at importing and selling Ugg boots at trash-and-treasure, making wine racks, and doing door to door sales, all before I turned 18.
Oddly enough, I’ve never had a lemonade stand.
I think the most memorable client I ever worked with was a clairvoyant. It was for a 4 hour digital marketing consultation on a project funded by the Australian Government to help businesses in regional areas become more comfortable the use of digital technologies. I still joke to this day that I said nothing for the 4 hours we were together and she read my mind instead.
Kidding. I actually do take downtime and when I do I love catching up with friends and cooking and entertaining with my wife of over 20 years, Penny. I also love skiing, play basketball and coach my son, James’s rugby union team.
Way back in 2000 I co-founded a website called The RiotACT with a group of friends to unearth what was going on in our home town of Canberra. Despite only having $600 to fund the venture, it quickly grew and by 2006 we had in excess of 25,000 unique visitors per month. After 2006 I took over as CEO with the intent to underpin our side project with the usual business trappings, the words of one of my early mentors often ringing in my ears “Are you good enough to get better?”.
Back then there were was nobody else to follow however. No Facebook to model, or leading newspaper to copy in creating a digital business. I had to invent it through trial and error, and by studying every emerging technology and trend. Somehow it worked and by 2012 RiotACT was serving over 18 million pages per year to 2/3 of the working age population in Canberra, making it one of the largest independent media sites in Australia.
It’s a toss up which moment was harder. Leaving RiotACT at the end of 2013 after committing so much blood sweat and tears into building it, or the first time I came home to find legal papers under my door threatening to sue for everything I owned because of something someone else had said on the site.