So, after around seven years working full time, which in the traditional British sense would push my age closer to 28-30, I’m now 24 and bored as fuck with my day to day routine. Allow me to sum up what’s happened over the past four years, as those have been the most significant.
- Worked at an agency as a search engine marketer.
- Moved out of my house to get away from the unnecessary disputes and dilemmas of my family, causing substantial pressure to understand life quickly.
- Started a business, Right Casino Media, with my closest friend, David – incidentally, whose house I moved into.
- Moved into my first flat with long term girlfriend, Hayley.
- Mutually broke up with said girlfriend due to changes in life plans and circumstances.
- Decided to take a sabbatical; sold everything, got rid of the flat, went on a road trip for a few months, came back to said friend’s house.
- Had an increase in finances, have used this to take many, many trips to new and exciting places.
- While not disagreeing with my business partner, our wants and needs changed, leading me to fall out of love with our business and personal lifestyle.
- After many changes in the way I feel, think, and act and an eye-opening trip mid-2014, I decided it was time to; sell my business, sell my stuff, book some flights and change my life once and for all.
- After months of planning, organisation and mixed feelings I’ve now; sold my business, am finishing selling unnecessary stuff and have booked my flights.
So how did I get here?
Ah man, who knows what’s going on. Many of the things I’ve done have not been written about yet – trips I’ve been on, learnings from my business and life experiences in general. Fear not though they will all be covered over time.
This story is about the latest business side of things…
To make the decision to leave I went through a very simple process of pros and cons, combined with a thinking time deadline. With all the pros and cons together it was easy to see what the right path was. Though really, I didn’t even need the list as I’ve learned to trust my gut over the years. All the best choices I’ve made have been listening to my feelings and inhibitions, and the worst? You got it… going against them!
With all things considered I felt like it was time to shake things up… I mean, I’ve had a great time over the past four years don’t get me wrong – I’ve learned more than I can tell you, even if I wanted to. I have more to be thankful for with the operation of our business than anything else I’ve ever done. However, something is and has been missing for a very, very long time.
With all thoughts now beyond all reasonable doubt I approached Dave and not to my surprise, he knew it was coming. When you’re both best friends and business partners, they tie in and I think deep down he always knew this day would come; maybe we both just thought it would be further down the line? He was very understanding, decent and all-round ‘good’ about my choice.
However, as business partners this left us with a dilemma… what to do with the business? Of course when your partners it’s not a simple case of one partner leaving, I couldn’t walk away from my business with nothing, but I equally couldn’t leave Dave in a situation where he has a business to operate and I keep all my shares – that’s just not going to happen and neither of us wanted it. So we agreed on three core outcomes:
- My goal of leaving.
- His goal of keeping the business operational.
- Our joint goal of not letting business and money break nearly 15 years of friendship.
Queue the hardest couple of months of my working life negotiating; I was stressed and tired, I stopped going to the gym, I basically just curled up and hid away for a while. In order to handle this fairly we had mutual third parties join us to ensure we were amicable and fair. As a business that’s sole income is through affiliate commission, we had a rather difficult hurdle to jump – we had to somehow value the business as best we could in order to find out a reasonable share price.
With any standard business there are generic industry rules that can be applied. For example you can take the last X year’s profits, multiply by Y to get Z – not factoring in assets, debts, or any other element which may apply to your business. With our business, most of the value is held in assets which can’t really be assigned an exact monetary value, for example domains and affiliate accounts. And the income isn’t based around sales so forecasting is difficult.
We had to agree on a formula to value it which was possibly the longest task of all, weeks almost. From there, whichever way the figures came out, it was what we’d both agreed was fairest from the start and could not be argued. We took that route and came to the contractual process – this was equally as time-consuming and painful as the previous step but alas, eventually we got there.
And what now?
Signed, sealed, delivered… I’m free! That makes it sound like I have broken out of prison doesn’t it? It’s not the case. But I did feel, almost instantly, a sense of relief. The pressure lifted from my shoulders and I knew it was the right choice; it’s been years since I felt this way.
I finish at 5:30pm on 30th September 2014.
I really don’t know what to say, so I think the best thing is to offer my readers and possibly for my own peace of mind; the core things I have learned and why, takeaways as it were.
Easily the single most important factor in any relationship, and that’s what a business is when you have a partner or even one member of staff – it’s a relationship. You must communicate with your partner and team about everything that’s going on. Maintaining a level of understanding between us, through talking, has been pivotal in keeping us in sync and direction. Even down to when I finally made the choice to move on, we were able to move forward amicably and easily because we can and have been communicating on a regular basis for years.
Additionally, this has also been vital with the team. I’ve noticed substantial differences in workflow when communication levels were lower than normal. In times of stress and heavy workload, I may have not been able to prioritise my time properly, in those times it’s been clear the team were affected. Learning to cope with this and adjust accordingly has been central to my growth as a manager, and as a leader. When I’m clear with them, they are clear in their job roles and everything runs smoothly.
Takeaway: whether you think you have the time or not, ensure you are able to spend any amount of time necessary to keep the smooth running of a team member. This of course makes for a much happier employee and a much more synchronised partnership.
2. Strengths and Weaknesses
I’m someone who questions everything, what I do, what you do, what anyone does. I can’t talk to anyone or read anything without asking why!? This is something I do to myself on a regular basis… why have I failed at this? What is it I did right here? What did I do wrong there?
Because of this, I have been able to question what it is I’ve loved working on, what I’ve hated, and which of both I’m actually very good at – then finally which should probably not be in my next job description. For example, while I thoroughly enjoy looking at our analytics and tracking software’s, actually, I’m really not the best person to be analysing the data; I’m not a data analyst, though maybe it’s something I could learn with the proper training.
Equally, I learned what I’m best at and this is not running a business. I am not an out-n-out businessman, you won’t call me the next Peter Jones and you certainly won’t find me negotiating terms in a corporate firm somewhere. That said, I am a creative leader – I can take a brand from zero to hero being the lead on all core areas. Something I’ve gone on to do for external clients too. The process of researching a market, creating a brand and worthwhile product has been something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, leaving me with my most proud piece of work; www.rightcasino.com. Special shout out to my team here of course!
Takeaway: when you start a business, you will be required to handle everything, that’s just the way it is. Over time, you should use the growth to dive into different areas and really understand where you can be the most effective team player. Read up on Pareto’s principle, I feel it applies here.
3. Marketing & Sales
When we started this business, I thought I was the shit. I mean, in some ways I was hehe, together we had certain things more than covered; like SEO, web design and development. However, I quickly learned that SEO alone was not enough – whilst we utilised the skills we did have to make money, when presented with the next steps I found myself wanting to turn to a manager of some kind, which I didn’t have, I was one of two leaders!
Essentially, after the first 12 months until now, it’s been a day-to-day learning curve of all things digital. Because we have not always had the resources to hire a member of staff for every sector, it has been a core role of mine to dive into new areas and ‘figure it out’. Over the years I’ve taught myself and kept up to date with marketing techniques including; organic search, paid search, social media, display, content creation & syndication, video and so much more. I would learn something, then pass it to the next team member to drive forwards – sometimes a new employee, other times an existing one ready to step up a level.
Even my first big conference, I was like a lost puppy compared to the most recent one – where I basically walked around full of confidence making money left, right and center… smashed it. Going to conferences, visiting clients and having heated, high pressure meetings and calls has allowed me to strengthen and hold my ground in tense situations. I’ve been nervous, sweaty and worried but somehow walked out of a meeting with a huge win and thousands of pounds worth of sales.
Takeaway: sometimes being taught, lead or managed just isn’t an option. You have to dive in and try it for yourself; it’s the best way to learn. Sit back and read 149 pages of documentation if you have to, get stuck into a new service and test it, lean forward on the edge of your seat and accept the punishment coming your way when you haven’t met clients expectations – you will learn to deal with it, and you will be better next time you’re in that seat.
4. Office Decorum
I can’t stress enough how important it is that everything appears well to all team members at all times. There have been really high pressure times which have called for drastic decisions, don’t get me wrong, not always finance based. Anyway, keeping it cool is a must for your office environment – you simply can’t show despair publicly when people are looking to you for guidance. Both Dave and I ‘more or less’ managed to always keep a cool environment with nominal debate between us in the office. Whether it’s a talk about strategy, growth, hiring or firing, we have always kept our dirty laundry out of sight.
In additional to this we have team member clashes too. When you’re part of a young, vibrant, energetic team where each member has to be the leader of their own sector – conversations can get heated. We’ve always maintained a laid back feel, allowing for healthy debate about any topic, opinions to be voiced and everyone to get a fair say. However, at times I’d be required to chime in to ensure the smooth communication between team members, usually when I felt they were not seeing eye to eye.
Even still, there are ways to deal with those members too. For example, it’s never ideal to “tell someone off” like they are in school, in front of the class – we’re all adults here and things should be personalised. Instead, whether it be via email, skype or a quick chat outside – I’d always approach each member one-to-one and explain what it was I wasn’t happy with and how they could ensure improvement next time.
Takeaway: a happy office is a productive office. Nobody wants to work with someone they aren’t seeing eye to eye with, help them gel together. Allow your team to talk to you one to one, take their opinions on board and explain things properly – they will be much more receptive and appreciate your management.
5. Go With The Flow & Don’t Procrastinate
Things change; the market, my mind-set, the employees, how the industry works – what’s hot or not. Fact is, things are going to change whether you keep up or not. I can’t express how important it is to go with the flow and ride the waves. It’s something we didn’t do quick enough after our first year which resulted in us spending the next year catching up. We were lucky though and caught up in time whereas many businesses in our industry crumbled because they han’t built up the finance to support their rocky patch!
Dude, just don’t procrastinate and ‘long’ things out unnecessarily. When we first started the company things moved FAST! If we had an idea, it was being worked on in the next few days, if we wanted to launch a new section of the website, I’d just get started. As the company gets bigger and priorities change things tend to get lost in the mix, and more importantly, begin to slow down… needing some kind of plan for the plan, which then needs organising into a manageable plan, which turns into a plan of actionable plans. By the time you’ve planned whatever it is you’re planning, you probably could’ve built over half of it. Sometimes it’s much smarter to just build something which is half as good to test the theory, and then fix issues later; you rarely get it all right the first time anyway.
Takeaway: stay up to date on and go with the flow, don’t mess around deciding on this idea or that. Just get on with it and make money, when you’re making money, then you have a great problem – how can I fix and improve this? That’s a lot better than a plan to make money, having still made none.
Goodbye and good luck guys
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that has been a part of the business, and even more to those who will continue to grow it to full potential. I feel I’ve helped pave the way, leaving the team in more than capable hands.
I thank those of you, all of you, which have helped me learn and improve as a manager, as a teacher, as a leader and as an individual – you know who you are. *tear*