Take a big break every 2 years – I took a 6 month break and hit the snow. Since I came back I’ve been 20x as productive as I’ve ever been, making 2 apps, selling one business, and co-founding a startup. Getting out and just living provides inspiration and renewed energy
Having a good network is incredibly valuable – none of my friends do what I do. In my cozy eastern suburbs life no one really gets what I do. I come out of a day pumped about what I’m working on, tell someone and get glazed over eyes. Since returning I’ve reached out and connected with many people that I’d previously admired from afar. They’ve taught me things, created new opportunities but most importantly made my life more enjoyable. A shout out to Murray Galbraith, Aylin Ahmet, Scott Kilmartin and Steve Sammartino for the profound impact they’ve had on my life this year
Invest in the 50/50s – not every investment has to be a sure thing. Sometimes the best opportunities come from taking a chance and exploring an idea. Whether it’s building a Lego car that runs on air or an app that has a small chance of ever making money, invest in things that inspire you, let you explore new markets and dream big
Put your time and money where your mouth is – I’ve come to detest ‘thought leaders’ that go around talking and blogging on professional and personal improvement without having the balls to practice what they preach. As @murraydg pointed out in this tweet, @sammartino is the ultimate example of the opposite of that
There’s more to every company than you think – I’ve started to listen to This Week In Startups interviews with founders as I work. What strikes me is that almost without exception, it wasn’t a completely unique idea or a great product that caused success but rather the founders ability to organise a great team, raise funding, network, scrap or fight when necessary and take a risk or make a big decision at a vital moment. With so many great Startups it’s not enough to have a great product
Being intimately aware of your psychology and how to get the most out of yourself is vital – I increased my productivity when I learnt how to structure my week and where I spent my time. I cowork or go interstate when I need to get creative. I work at a desk or lie on the couch when I need to just get a task done and I set myself up on a big desk in a brightly lit room when I need to be creative and solve problems. At different points I realise that I need assistance or a fresh view and grab a coffee with someone from my network and bounce ideas off them
Client work kinda sucks – it’s hard to put your best work into someone else. I love working with and for other people/businesses when you’re making a big difference but inevitably even the best client projects leave you inundated with tiny tasks and just getting things done
I just finished up a three year stint as President of my soccer club. Only twenty-one years old when I put my hand up, parents and fellow board members must have been nervous. Hell, I was nervous. I’d gone from starting a company with a goal of making others care about something I was building, to taking over something that people already cared about.
In that three years I’ve learnt a hell of a lot. In my businesses, I made decisions by myself. In the soccer club environment, I had a board of six to work with. It taught me how to deal with differing opinions, when to be strong, the importance of letting go of ego and the joys of working with good people. I’ve learnt as much as a person from jumping into an unpaid role at the soccer club as I have through any traditional learning.
It got me thinking about the path I’ve taken to get to where I’m at today. What would I do differently? If someone was to ask me how I do what I do, what would I say?
How to cram 10 years worth of learning into 3
Start a company. Better yet, start two.
Read a book a month.
Read a blog post a day.
Become President of a sporting club.
Travel to somewhere that makes you nervous every year.
Each suggestion teaches you different lessons. Each inspires you in different ways. Each is enjoyable in it’s own unique way.
How did you get the most out of yourself and your learning capacity?
I’ve always been a big believer that before all else, your business has to serve your life. It has to provide enough enjoyment that it’s worth the risk and it has to have the potential to let you live life on your own terms.
I’ve been pretty lucky since I started Engage Marketing back in 2009. I launched the marketing agency while living at home with my folks. From there it grew into something that serves the lifestyle that i dreamed of. Yes, I still work my 60-70 hours a week but I’ve got the nice car I wanted, I live in a nice home in a nice-enough part of Melbourne with a few of my best friends and I’m able to go to the snow and take the odd holiday. Best yet, I love the work that I do.
But, I’ve decided on a pretty huge change. From November, I’m going to be living in Whistler Ski Resort in Canada.
Why the change? I’ve become too comfortable and I’m not pushing my mind enough. I love my work, but I’ve become too caught up in getting work done and spend too little time learning and experiencing new things.
What’s happening to my businesses?
The hardest part of this decision has been the realisation that in order to make this work, I have to put Engage Marketing on hold. I’m going to be spending 6 months continuing my work with The Blog Designers and Plan Lab while I play a part in a new business with some friends. It’s going to be called Snow Pro and we’re going to rent out GoPro’s and camera recording equipment to skiers and snowboarders at the start of the day, and then turn their footage into 20 minute DVDs that capture the fun, thrills and spills of their day on the mountain.
I’ll be continuing Engage Marketing when I return next April and I’ll be armed with a wiser mind than ever before. I plan on spending my extra free time digging into what is now a huge list of marketing, business and entrepreneurship books.
In summary, Engage Marketing is on hold for 6 months while I snowboard and increase my time spent working on Plan Lab and my other business, The Blog Designers. I’m incredibly excited to be going on an adventure folks!
In the next fortnight I’ll be releasing Plan Lab online marketing plan software. I started development back in February, logging onto freelancer.com, posting a description of what I wanted to build and then choosing a developer from India to make it happen.
Along the way I’ve learnt a hell of a lot. These are the 21 most important lessons that I’ve made in development, business, entrepreneurship and project management from creating my first product.
Building a consultancy when you’re great at your profession is easy. Building a product isn’t.
Developers just want to get paid.
The majority of Indian’s don’t value the importance of design and the user experience.
If they say “it is clear” after you explain something to them, it usually isn’t.
If it’s a 3-month project, expect 6-9 months.
You’re to blame for most of the time delays.
Compromise on some of the little things in order to launch. Just work out what is truly little in the scheme of things.
They’re comfortable with building something ‘average’. Either way, they get paid and it’s probably less work than building something truly great.
Expect them to be great at traditional development skills. Don’t expect them to be on the cutting edge of modern standards.
Outsourcing development overseas still represents amazing value and it’s hard to look past it if you’re building a minimum viable product.
Be willing to take control of the things that truly matter.
Treat them with respect. You’ll get a better product, have more fun do it and you won’t be a tool.
Good luck getting personality out of them. I’ve drawn one laugh in 6 months of joking around with our developers.
Try as hard as you can to have them ‘buy in’ to what you’re creating and help them to recognise what’s truly important to your projects success.
You’ll have 1 or 2 headaches explaining things. Resist the temptation to bash your head against the desk. Sketch out your thoughts, explain them and show examples of similar concepts.
Do some forward planning and show them where you’ll be improving the product in the future. It will save a lot of headaches down the track.
No matter how many businesses you create, they’re all gut wrenching.
Building passive income is liberating.
Get out of the office when you’re dreaming it up. Most of my creativity came at the beach, running laps or lying by the pool.
The best thing that I ever taught myself is to code. I remember begin 11 or 12 and hearing my father talk about some software that his training company had developed. With his business in the bottom floor of our family home I had access to a bunch of funny-coloured iMacs and some old C++ (used to develop old PC software) and HTML books.
I found that C++ bored me to tears but with some of my holidays spent on HTML, i quickly learnt how to code together a website. Learning basic HTML opened my mind up to being able to look at any form of coding and being able to work out patterns and make sense of it all.
Without that knowledge i wouldn’t have been able to code together Engage Marketing‘s first website at no cost (as an 18 year old even the cost of web design might have been prohibitive to launching), I wouldn’t have been able to create The Blog Designers that initially relied on my knowledge only and I probably wouldn’t be launching Plan Lab.
Quite simply, coding has given me the power to come up with an idea and act on it.
In an entrepreneurial world where we can create our own future, that power is bloody priceless. One business that i have a lot of respect for is Treehouse, an online platform that teaches you how to design and code. @ryancarson has done an unbelievable job using technology to teach coding to the masses. Set aside a night a week and give it a try!
NOTE: #secretproject is not the product name. The real name will be revealed in the next 14 days.
Over the past 18 months i’ve been slowly working towards launching my first product (my brand of cachaça and my leather Macbook sleeves never got off the ground). It’s been a learning journey to say the least.
I had the vision for my #secretproject when I was planning Engage Marketing 3 or 4 years ago. After so many months of bit-by-bit planning I finally jumped in head first and told myself if i didn’t accept that it wouldn’t be 100% perfect, it would never get off the ground.
That realisation led me to go out in search of a “kick-arse developer” (my words used on the project description). Since then I haven’t looked back.
To be completely honest, i don’t know whether this product will be a commercial success on the scale that i had originally hoped. That’s not for a lack of confidence in the product. I’m ridiculously excited about the opportunities that #secretproject will open up for it’s buyers, but as you go along, life gives you a few knocks and tries to dent your confidence.
What i do know is that i’ll learn a hell of a lot and that alone will be worth 50x more than what i’ve put into it (i also expect triple figure revenue – just not the Aston Martin DBS-sized profits that I had dreamed of as a teenager).
Launching #secretproject, I hope to learn:
How to get maximum value out of working with overseas developers.
How to create a turnkey operation.
To back myself in larger ventures.
Agile management skills and techniques.
That launching is half the battle.
Have you got any tips for me or comments on the learning value of trying to launch something new? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or on Twitter (@MikeFromEngage).