Connect with us


Read Now: How to fail successfully – 101 Latest News



How to fail successfully

#fail #successfully

In this digital age, it is of no surprise that one single tweet could inspire a multi-million pound business idea.

Jonny Grubin was a 17-year-old university student when he saw a tweet that made him want to create a solution to a stranger’s problem. He saw an opportunity to create a business with other like-minded entrepreneurs from across the globe. However, things didn’t exactly go to plan.

After a failed attempt with no generated income, Jonny was still dreaming about making this idea a reality and after years of determination, the online sampling partner, SoPost, was born.

This episode will teach you how to preserve through unlikely setbacks, how to survive once you find success and how to use your copycats to fuel your motivation.

Dive into the highlights below:

SoPost: Creating powerful online sampling campaigns

How is SoPost different to other sampling channels?

A handful of strangers, one tweet and an idea making no money

Take qualified risks and build trusting relationships

Cold-contacting and networking can eventually lead to big business deals

Both your customers and copycats can help you to innovate and improve your business

How to prioritise and keep yourself focused

Surviving success and staff growth

Identifying your own strengths and weakness can catapult your business

Finding a business coach

Don’t wait around on decisions you know you’re going to make— just pull the plaster off

If your business feels like a burden and the sacrifices are too high, then maybe it might be time to re-consider

There’s always room for growth and a new challenge

SoPost: Creating powerful online sampling campaigns

Bex Burn-Callander:

Jonny, thank you so much for joining me today. How are you? Where are you?

Jonny Grubin:

It’s so nice to be here. I am in our HQ in Newcastle today. It’s raining a lot outside, but I’m really excited to be here recording this podcast with you.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I feel like you are one of Newcastle’s finest, because I always see SoPost and all these rankings like, fastest growing in the Northeast, Newcastle tech superstar. You are really flying the flag for tech in your local city.

Jonny Grubin:

We’re definitely trying our best.

I grew up here. I know I don’t sound like it, but I’ve been really passionate about building something in Newcastle.

It’s nice to be making a name for ourselves, but there are a lot of other amazing companies here as well who should be waving the flag for the city.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Well, on that point, SoPost, a lot of listeners might not have heard of you because you are this clever infrastructure that powers the sampling campaigns of all these big brands.

But maybe tell us a little bit about what you do and what’s made you such a fast growth superstar.

Jonny Grubin:

It’s funny that you say fast growth superstar, because we are coming up to our 10th birthday.

I think if you were to just come across us as a new business today, you’d be like, “Wow, they’ve grown so quickly.”

But you often forget that it’s taken a decade to get to this point. Also, a few years of work prior to even launching as SoPost. Our business today is very different to the idea that I originally launched with.

Today, everything that we do is really focused on helping brands, retailers, and publishers run incredibly powerful product sampling campaigns online. But I’m not going to lie, I never woke up one day and thought, “Oh, I know. I’m going to tackle product sampling.”

That wasn’t something that I even knew about. We do a lot of work in the beauty space and I can’t say I was particularly up to speed on what foundation was best, or even what fragrance sense I liked.

But today, we act as the platform that helps these brands and retailers run really powerful sampling campaigns online.

Essentially, we have a technology platform that makes it really easy for them to integrate sampling almost anywhere online, whether that’s within their advertising, on platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

Maybe they’re working with influencers, and you can swipe up on that influencer’s story to request a sample for yourself. Or maybe it’s through a piece of content on the brand’s website or with a retailer that they’re working with.

We have all of these different tools that make it really easy for sampling to plug in absolutely anywhere online. And then we power absolutely everything from that point onwards. The experience that a consumer has with the brand sampling program, that’s all powered by our platform.

There’s a lot of clever work that we do on the data side. Not just collecting names and delivery information, but we have some really cool machine learning algorithms that will analyse an order and make sure that the experience you receive is the right experience for you and for the brand.

The physical distribution of samples is all taken care of by us as well. And then once the samples have been delivered, there’s a ton of work that we do to measure the impact and hopefully, convert you to purchase if it’s product that you’ve liked.

The best way to think about us really is as the infrastructure for brands to run these powerful sampling campaigns online. It’s all focused on helping them do so in a way that is much more relevant than conventional forms of sampling, it provides a lot of data capabilities and really deep insights and analytics that typically haven’t been there in the past.

You asked about how you become a fast-growing business. I think one of the things for me was that I’d spent years and years trying to make this company something else, and I’m sure we’ll get onto that origin story and what SoPost was originally intended to be.

But I think the thing for me was that when we started exploring the world of sampling, it seemed like fundamentally it was a really powerful form of marketing. What I wasn’t trying to do was totally reinvent the wheel.

I was coming out with a better way to do something that had been done for decades, if not centuries or millennia. That meant that starting from a really strong foundational base gave us an incredible, I guess, launch pad from which to try and build something.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Because it’s true that sampling used to be pretty hit and miss. You were talking about beauty there, but I remember being a teenager and going into Boots or whatever, and the sampling was just grabbing the free things, just scrubbing on the back of my hand. Or usually, even more disgusting, actually putting on the lipstick and walking out.

And then obviously, the brand learns nothing about what you like or whether you are even the kind of person that would buy.

How is SoPost different to other sampling channels?

Bex Burn-Callander:

Presumably, the idea that then they know who this potential customer could be, do you look at things like how likely they are to buy? Can you tell that much about someone who swipes up an Instagram ad?

Jonny Grubin:

There’s a lot of things that we do at different points of the journey. You are absolutely right to say when you walk into Boots, there’s no science behind it. There’s a ton of wastage. Frankly, the brand doesn’t even know who you are or if you liked it.

What we are really trying to do is just improve on that and make sure that instead of it just being a case of giving away as many samples as possible and hoping for the best, it’s about saying actually, how do we flip that around and perhaps give away fewer samples, but make sure that each of them is performing and converting as strongly as possible?

We don’t know everything about people and there’s nothing creepy that we do on the data side. But obviously, being data enabled, really helps us out at certain points.

First and foremost, it means that we can be much more confident that once somebody receives a sample from us, they’re receiving it for the right reason. It’s not just, Bex has walked into Boots and wants to try some new lipstick. It’s actually, Bex is in the market for a new lipstick so let’s send her one.

And then once you’ve received a sample, even if you haven’t enjoyed the product, it’s still valuable to know that. But we can collect a ton of feedback directly from consumers.

There are some quantitative measurement that we can gather as well. We haven’t fully closed the loop from trial to purchase, but the insights that we have are so much deeper than what is available through some of those more conventional channels.

A handful of strangers, one tweet and an idea making no money  

Bex Burn-Callander:

Jonny, you hinted that basically, the origin story is quite interesting. It was all prompted by a tweet from Ben Way about wanting to get an item delivered to someone, he’s dyslexic, but he doesn’t know the address. And that you and like eight people from around the world came together.

But then I’m missing the bit in the middle.

What happened that took you from eight people around the world trying desperately to collaborate on this really groundbreaking and complicated bit of tech to Jonny’s on his own, launching a business from scratch again?

Jonny Grubin:

I think about that a lot, and part of me is amazed that we ever did that. You’re probably in 2009 at this point. I was 17. Ben sent out a tweet and I was just like, “That’s an amazing idea. I want to be involved with.”

It turns out a number of other people had the same view as me. What happened with this group of us who had never even spoken on the phone before, let alone anything else, we decided we were going to get together and try to build this company.

The concept wasn’t as advanced as my original idea for SoPost, but it was really all about allowing somebody’s Twitter handle or email address to be used as a facilitator for physical deliveries.

The hypothesis that we had was that people didn’t necessarily want others to know their delivery address, which also turned out to be wrong. Turns out if I’m sending something to a friend, they don’t particularly care if I have their address. It should be much more about the convenience and simplicity of it.

Also, if I’m buying something from someone on eBay, again, I trust that eBay seller. It’s not about privacy. It’s much more about, is it easy to use?

This group of us have got together and decide, yes, we’re going to start this thing and we are just going to take on the world and see what happens. We all got together. Everyone was doing different things.

I think I was studying for my A levels at the time. We had a couple of guys who were running their own businesses, all from very different walks of life. We decided that we weren’t going to raise any investment for it. We had some programmers who were doing the coding, we had some designers and so on and so forth.

When we launched, we launched a couple of weeks before I started at university. What we had done was we’d formed partnerships with two pretty big delivery companies in the UK, who had adopted our concept of an addressless label.

What that meant was that you, as a consumer, could go to our website, you could purchase a delivery, but instead of giving you a label that had a postcode printed on there, it would just have a barcode. And because we’d integrated directly into these delivery companies, they knew what to do with the item.

But for your purposes, it was just going to this anonymous address.

We launched that and it was amazing. We had so much coverage. There was so much excitement from consumers and the media, and retailers and everybody. But critically, no one was really using the product and we weren’t making any money.

I remember at one point, we had some coverage multiple times over a weekend on BBC Click, which was their tech innovation show that went out globally on the BBC News channel. I think we sold about £5 worth of deliveries.

Bex Burn-Callander:


Jonny Grubin:

Yeah. It sucked. We decided not raise any money. I was just making the decision to drop out of university to go full time on this thing.

From the outside, it probably looked like we were flying, but it was awful. We eventually at one point, printed out the entire user journey that you had to go through if you wanted to send or receive an item from us.

It was like a 25-step process. Whilst we were trying to make the experience of sending or receiving items easier, it was so complicated to use our product.

Take qualified risks and build trusting relationships

Bex Burn-Callander:

Was there a moment then when you all had to be like, “Guys, we’ve reached the end of the road?”

Jonny Grubin:

I wish it had been as straightforward as that. In hindsight, one of the issues was that you probably shouldn’t start a business with eight people you’ve never met before.

In that startup pre-launch phase, it was amazing. It really did feel like it was us against the world and we could achieve anything. Frankly, we secured these two deals with these massive delivery companies. One of them committed a huge amount of marketing budget to it.

I look back on that and I think, wow, what an experience. How on earth did we do that? We had nothing that entitled us to that. We certainly weren’t qualified to do any of this, but we made it happen.

But I think one of the issues was that once we launched and once, we realised that the thing that we had launched with needed to change, we hadn’t built the perfect product on day one, that’s where things started to become harder.

Because we hadn’t raised investment because nobody owned enough of a chunk of the business in their own right, there was no real leadership or direction. When we ran into problems, there wasn’t really a way that we could get out of it very easily.

We had all these different factions forming, and then I was put in the CEO position. All along, I was just convinced in the power of the idea. I think I certainly turned a blind eye to it for so long because I was just in love with the idea and I was so emotionally invested in it that probably, for about two years, that was all I focused on. And honestly, we didn’t get anywhere.

Then a couple of people left the team and eventually I can’t remember what triggered it exactly, but we threw in the towel and said, “You know what? The idea has legs, but this isn’t something that we can tackle right here, right now.”

I went from trying to lead this idea, to getting a job working in a frozen yogurt shop. In the first two weeks of doing that, I made more income than I had had in the year-and-a-half since dropping out of university.

It was a lot less stressful as well, but I never let that idea get away from me. I went from frozen yogurt to working in a tech incubator/accelerator where I was leading product. When I was there, it’s going to sound cliche, but I couldn’t stop thinking about this other idea. I’d be in bars with friends, and I’d be thinking about it.

I think I had a number of dreams about it, and I knew that I wanted to have another crack at it.

That was why when I launched SoPost, I didn’t spend a year building something to then figure out whether or not it was working. It was about very quickly launching something, iterating, and going from there.

I had a great upbringing, but I wasn’t in this privileged position where I could just afford to go and test something. I needed to pay my rent. I needed to pay my bills. And I’m a great believer in taking qualified risks.

A lot of people often ask me, “Should I just drop out of university and try this idea?” I’m like, “Well, would you go into a casino and put all your money on roulette?” Maybe some people would. But for me, I don’t think it’s necessary to do that.

When I was starting SoPost, I had these restrictions that I needed to have some income, but I was also so passionate about this idea. So when I started working at this accelerator, I made a deal with Simon, who had founded it, which was that he knew that I wanted to go off and do my own thing at some point.

He said, “Look, Jonny, come in, start full-time on our products and our focus. But as and when you have something that you want to pursue, as long as you’re covering your cost within this business, spend a day a week doing your own thing. And then two days a week, and then three days a week.”

Actually, in the last year that I was employed by that company, 95% of my time was spent building SoPost. Of course, they got an equity stake in exchange for it, which is touchwood, incredibly valuable today.

But what that meant for me was that I could spend a year getting SoPost to a certain point without having to worry about whether I was going to be able to pay the bills, about whether I had a roof over my head or not.

It meant that I could test things and get it to the point where I could then try to raise some investment and gradually build it up from there.

Bex Burn-Callander:

That’s so lucky though, that you had this enlightened boss who was able to see that he was better off having you in a shorter term, but having you committed and then be able to let you pursue your venture, than it would’ve been to be like, “No, you have to be 9 to 5. There’s no time for anything else.” That’s amazing.

Jonny Grubin:

Yeah, I know. I’m very grateful for that because I think he could have easily said, “Well, no.”

I think it takes a lot of trust to let somebody do that. I think it was trust that went both ways. When I was working on their products, I treated that company like it was my own.

I think there was one period where I worked 60 days straight, which maybe not particularly healthy. But even though it wasn’t my name on the cap table, I still acted like it was my company. And I think he saw that.

Even when I was spending my time trying to get SoPost up and running, I was still making sure that I was covering my costs within that business. Whilst it wasn’t getting eight or nine or 10 hours a day out of me, the value, it was still coming through.

But I think the reality is, if he hadn’t allowed me to develop a relationship like that, I wouldn’t have been able to get SoPost up and running, certainly not in the timeframe that I had in the end.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And then back to your Avon connection. You ended up going on this different path because of this amazing woman who saw potential in the tech.

Then once you’d completed that project, how did you get more customers? Did word just spread like wildfire and suddenly the whole beauty industry was like, “Me, me, me”? Or did you have to do something clever to get the word out?

Jonny Grubin:

Over time, word did spread. But I learned very early on, prior to SoPost, probably when I was 14, that stuff doesn’t just happen.

I remember when I launched my first business and I expected to wake up the next day with just all these orders and it just didn’t materialise. I think as good as anything you’re doing is, you still need to make that traction happen. It’s not just going to come.

I think whilst I understand the tech side of things, as hard as it is to put yourself in a bucket, I describe myself as a commercially focused product guy. With that, I think I found myself in this really interesting position where I can talk in depth about the tech, and I can really build out roadmaps that are right for whoever I’m trying to work with. But also, I can go out and sell.

In the early days, I hate this word, but I guess I went out and hustled. I cold-emailed people. I went to networking events. I think every evening, I was out at a different event. Slowly but surely, I managed to get some traction.

But what I see a lot of people do today is, they’ll go on LinkedIn and then they’ll just blanket message 100 people with the same communication. That wasn’t me.

I would go and say, okay, I want to try and get into Britvic. So I would find the right contact, I’d personalise something, and I would pursue it, but in a friendly way. I would go to these people and say, “Hey, I’m building this thing. I’d love to come, and I’d love to get some advice from you.”

There’s that old adage that if you ask for money, you get advice. If you ask for advice, you get money. In my experience, it’s true.

I’d go and meet these people in very senior positions at this company, really just to show them what I was building and to try to get their input. But more often than not, that would lead to pilots, which would then lead to bigger deals. Then others would see it and it would go from there.

In the early days, it was very much, the business was coming off the back of me cold-contacting people or trying to find ways to meet people.

I’d see that a person I was trying to contact was going to an event. So I would just happen to be there and strike up a conversation with them, which was quite hard as well. I think it is very different today, but I’m not naturally extroverted. It’s something that I had to push myself to do, and I found it very uncomfortable. In fact, I still often do find that kind of thing uncomfortable.

And then as time went on, it’s different industry by industry, but certainly in my world, a lot of brands look at what their competitors are doing. Also, people move from brand to brand. But I think for me, there were certain points where I can see, okay, this was a big inflection point for the business on the sales side.

One of them was when we started working with Cadbury, and then the second was when we started working with Burberry. But really, it was just building on what we were doing, and building, and building, and building.

It was only until several years in that we actually went out and tried to set up a proper sales team. Based on my focus and experiences that I’d had in the past, I wanted to make sure that we’d nailed the product down first. Then I wanted to make sure that we had the best account management that we could have.

Only at that point, did I want to go out and start building out the sales infrastructure. On the basis that, if you’ve got a great product and you’ve got great account management, A, your customers are going to stick with you, but B, they’re going to generate inbound business for you because others are going to see what they’re doing.

That was the strategy we took. For the most part, it’s worked out really well, but I think for us, it has really been about that dedication to the customer. It’s going to sound cliche, but going above and beyond and just making sure that we’re delivering for them. And that we keep to our promises, really.

I think even today, we’re a company of 85 people today. Of course, I’m not involved in every customer conversation. Some of them I’ve had no interaction with at all, but they know that if there’s a problem, they can come to me, and we’ll fix it.

Everyone in the company cares but knowing that there’s somebody there who really cares about doing right by the customer first and foremost, rather than just trying to maximise the money you’re making from them, knowing that you’ve got me there, who my whole reputation’s attached to SoPost, it makes a huge difference.

I think it allows us to build relationships and do work that others might struggle to deliver on.

Both your customers and copycats can help you to innovate and improve your business

Bex Burn-Callander:

When it came to building out the technology, so figuring out what functionality to build in, what to prioritise, did all of that come from your customers?

Were you just basically asking them, “What else would you like this to do?” Was that the roadmap in terms of innovation?

Jonny Grubin:

I wish I could say yes, because we probably would’ve got to where we should have been a lot faster than otherwise.

When we launched SoPost as the sampling business, the one thing that we did was allow brands to let their customers gift samples to their friends. That was all that we did for the first few years.

My view on this, was that gifting experience was where the real value in SoPost lay. But we actually had a lot of our customers coming to us and saying, “Hey, we loved what you do with the gifting, but we want to use your technology in other ways. We just want a form that we can stick on our website and let somebody enter their information to get a sample.”

I was sat there thinking, “What’s the point in that? There’s no value in it whatsoever.” I very stubbornly, despite the request from our customers, despite my team saying we should go out and do this, very stubbornly I said, “We’re not going to do that. That’s not what our business is.”

But when I eventually stepped back and looked at it objectively, it became quite clear that yes, there was value in that gifting, but that wasn’t the main reason why brands were working with us.

The reason they were working with us was because it was a qualified sampling experience, but of course, you don’t just need a recommendation to qualify somebody. There are other ways to do it.

But also because of the benefits that the data provided and the analytics. Really, if you look at what we were doing with or without the gifting and compare it to sampling in store or with magazines or at events, there were so many additional benefits that we offered that they couldn’t get elsewhere.

In that scenario, it was very much our customers asking for something and me stubbornly say no, we don’t see the value in it.

Bex Burn-Callander:

You’re slamming the door in their faces.

Jonny Grubin:

Exactly. Yeah.

But no, I think we have to be very aware of what our customers are asking for. I think there have been a number of scenarios where we said, actually, we’re not going to do that, even though customers are really asking for it.

You know what? Most of the time they’re right and we end up building it.

But I think you need to be careful not to fall into a position where you’re just building things that a customer wants, or you’re not just building things that one customer wants, that isn’t going to provide value to your long-term strategic goals. Or isn’t going to provide value to your other customers.

I’d actually say the things that most impact our roadmap, aside from the customer requirements that are coming through, are firstly, our vision for this space. I very much do wake up and think about this stuff now.

I think we see the world of sampling in a very different way, probably to anyone else on the planet. We’ve got a very clear view of where we think it can go and what technology we need to build to get there.

And then the other thing which really does motivate us and drive us is seeing all the competition enter the market. Because when we started back in 2012, we were first to market. There was nobody else doing this.

Then really since the onset of the pandemic, because you haven’t been able to sample in those traditional ways, we’ve really seen a lot of people come and enter. There are a number of those competitors who I have a ton of respect for. I think that they’re doing things in their own way, and whether I agree with their approach or not, there’s a lot of mutual respect there.

But then you have others who come in and really just copy us, to the point where you go on their website and you’ll see our assets on there, or they’ve forgotten to take SoPost out of the terms and conditions.

You stop and think, “Hold on a second, these guys are just ripping us off and they’re trying to benefit from decade’s worth of work that we’ve done to enter the market.” What that does though, is it motivates us to keep innovating and to keep building, and really honestly push ourselves further with the development roadmap that we’ve got.

I look at some of the functionality we have today, around, for example, being able to intelligently filter orders to the best experience for that consumer. That was something that we’ve been thinking about for years and years and years, but we actually accelerated the development of it because we saw people come into the market and just try to compete in a way that we thought wasn’t fair.

They were just trying to rip us off as opposed to doing their own thing. There are a number of features that we’re going to be launching over the next year that are similar. We’ve been thinking about them for a while.

They’re really going to change the way this space works completely.

But the reason we’re launching them now, and the reason we hadn’t launched them in the past is actually because it’s just going to set that really clear distinction between us and those people who don’t really have any innovative thoughts of their own and can’t just come in and copy those things.

Bex Burn-Callander:

That’s really interesting to know that it’s like the copycats, they put pressure on you. But it’s positive pressure. It’s pressure to actually keep excelling.

How to prioritise and keep yourself focused

Bex Burn-Callander:

But I wanted to know, so do you take yourself off in a dark room when you’re thinking about what to focus on? How do you prioritise? How do you work out like, this month, we’re going to do this?

Because you mentioned how there can be distractions, and you’d want to know that what you’re working on is actually a value driver. And not something that it’s going to send you off on some crazy tangent, but sometimes it must be hard to tell the difference.

Jonny Grubin:

It’s really difficult.

I’d say actually, as the business has grown, it becomes more difficult and not easier. In the early days, there was a team of five of us and it was very much me leading the product development. The feedback loops were so quick. We could go to a brand and test something and then rework it.

Whereas now, we constantly have activities running. I think we’ve got 30 or so people in the product talk, 30 or so in the commercial log. Even just understanding what customers are looking for, I’m not as connected to those conversations as I was when it was me leading all of those conversations.

I’d say a few things to that. One is, part of it is really about having this conviction that what we think about the space is right and we’re going to build that out. But I’d say for the most part, it’s about really trying to ship early and often.

In that when I launched SoPost before the sampling, I didn’t spend a year building something. It was a case of we hacked together something over the course of a few weeks, and tested and find that easiest possible way to test things. And that’s what we do today.

When we launch a new market, this isn’t specifically about a new product development, but when we launch a new market, we don’t go into Australia, hire five people, and then try to build the business there.

What we do is we test it from the UK. It’s like, okay, we are going to find a way to prove out positively or negatively, whether this is a market that we should go into.

It’s only once we’ve generated a little bit of traction from brands that we say okay, we know there’s something here. Now, we’re going to go and make that investment in the team.

I think it’s very similar on a lot of the product things. Sometimes it’s a case of we’ll go to a brand and say, “Hey, we’re building this thing out. Do you want it?” And if 10 of the brands say no, then we might kill it before we’ve got very far down the development road.

On the other hand, if we have five or six brands coming to us and saying, “Hey, we want to do something in this space,” we know that the demand is there, and we know that we can build traction off it.

These two things contradict, but I think part of it is just about having the conviction that what you’re trying to build is the right thing, even if your customers don’t see it. And then on the flip side, it’s really taking on board what they are saying and pivoting quickly, if you see that they are taking something up or not.

And then I guess the other thing I’d say is that internally, you really need to build a lot of communication channels. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by an incredible group of people who get the business and are senior leaders on the product side. They get more than just the product.

Likewise, our senior leaders on the commercial side, they understand more than just the sales figures that sit behind this. Having that team who really can look in depth at these things and who I trust to come with the right insights and to figure out what we should be doing.

It means that we can scale up and do a dozen different things at the same time and have more than just a hope. Have the knowledge that we are building in the right direction.

Surviving success and staff growth

Bex Burn-Callander:

Jonny, I want to hear a bit about the terrifying consequences of success.

Because I think when I first spoke to you, it was like 2017 or 20 18. SoPost had grown. It was more than 2000%. I remember seeing that and just thinking, how do you do that, in terms of how many new staff you must have had to hire, all your back-office functions?

It’s not sexy to talk about it, but how do you survive a leap that big? Can you share any of your learnings from that crazy time?

Jonny Grubin:

Even in the last year, we grew from 30 or so people to 60 or so, and we’re 85 today. The revenues have accelerated at a pretty astronomical rate as well.

It’s funny, because I remember not long after we raised our seed round of investment, I was sat in a board meeting. We were eight people at the time I think. I told my board, I said, “Hey, just to let you guys know, when we get to 20 people, you’re going to need to replace me because I’m not going to be the right person to lead the company at that size.”

I’ve only ever been in small businesses, and for me, a team of 20 people was huge.

The board said, “Jonny, thank you for letting us know, but we think you’ll be fine.” And today, we’re a team of 85 people.

Now, I’m sitting here thinking, gosh, when we get to 300 people, they’re going to have to replace me. But they would probably say the same thing, which is, “Jonny, thank you for your concern, but we know you’ll get there.”

I think a lot of it is just about that. It’s about learning with the business and really a commitment to your own development.

I’d say in particular, that growth from 30 to 60 in a very short period of time was really hard for me, because you go from being at a size where you know everybody’s name, you have personal relationships with people, to needing to put a lot of these back-office functions in.

So you need a proper HR department now. You need to think about processes and all this stuff that as an entrepreneur who’s only ever started things, rather than grown things, it’s all of those things that you hate and also, you just have no experience of.

That coupled with the pandemic not only had the business doubled in size, but I couldn’t get to know the team in the way that we could in the past.

I think one aspect of it is really surrounding yourself with the right people. Our CFO, he’s been with us for, he’s going to kick me because I’m going to get it wrong, but for four or five years now. He joined us from Mediacom, one of the largest media groups in the country, where he was responsible for 1,500 people. He joined us when we were about 20 people.

But having someone there who has seen a bigger organisation and has been able to adapt to a fast-growing startup was incredibly valuable for me. Particularly when you start modeling out cash flows and P&Ls, because I tell you this, having a wage bill of 80 people, again, it’s very different to a wage bill of 15.

But I’d say the thing that was probably the most valuable for me is, about a year ago, I got myself a leadership coach. Because whilst the business was growing, I recognised in myself that I wasn’t developing at the pace that the business needed me to.

Getting a coach who could help, firstly, she could look at things objectively. She had no connection to the business other than being my coach. But she really helped me work through things. She helped me tackle assumptions that I had around what my role should be.

I found myself in a position where I felt like I was doing a lot of things that I thought the business needed me to be doing, but that I didn’t enjoy doing and I wasn’t particularly good at. She really helped me understand that actually, it’s not a bad thing if I focus my efforts on the areas that I am great at. Or as she termed it, where my magic lies.

For me, that’s been incredible, and it makes me less daunted now about going from 80 to 150 people, because what I do today is very different to what I did three years ago. I know that I can mold my role around my strengths and also selfishly, the things that I enjoy.

Because I know that operationally, I’m not that good. Actually, it’s of no help to the business if I’m trying to be operational and not being customer-facing and failing it at both things.

Identifying your own strengths and weakness can catapult your business

Bex Burn-Callander:

Was it obvious to you the things that you were good at and the things that you weren’t that good at though?

Because I can imagine that if you’ve been doing that role for a long time and you’ve learned so much and you’re so competent at lots of things, it can be quite tricky to work out exactly what you need to jettison from your timetable.

Jonny Grubin:

Yeah. Well, I think it was the other way. I was jettisoning the things that I was good at, because I felt like I had an obligation to do the other things.

For me, and it might just be that I’m lucky or unlucky in this respect, but the things that I’m not very good at, it overlaps with the things that I don’t enjoy doing.

Once Tia and I sat down and mapped out where I was spending my time, it was pretty clear to highlight what my strengths were and what my weaknesses were.

Even today, I’m still having to do a lot of stuff that frankly, I’m not very good at and I don’t enjoy doing. But because I’ve acknowledged that they’re not strengths and I don’t feel bad about not being great at them, I don’t feel the weight or the burden of it like I used to.

For me, that’s been critical because I don’t think you can grow a business at such a pace if you, as the leader, aren’t developing yourself.

I’ve seen so many other entrepreneurs who haven’t grown up at the same rate, and it can be really crippling just in terms of the stress that you often feel yourself in there.

Finding a business coach

Bex Burn-Callander:

How did you find your coach? Was she a recommendation? Did your board help you? Or were you Googling at three in the morning, help me?

Jonny Grubin:

She was actually one of our very first customers.

She used to run digital marketing at a big beauty company. And then fast forward a few years, she left that career and she set up a coaching business.

For me, she was a perfect fit because also, I’ve never had a therapist. I’ve never had a coach. The idea of that, where you have to be completely vulnerable and open with somebody, it was difficult anyway.

But then also, when you are mid pandemic and you can’t do this stuff in person, I needed somebody who I knew and trusted. So I went with her for that reason.

But actually a lot of my team work with her or her colleagues now. Not just for my benefit, but I think the business is doing better because Tia and her colleagues are helping us all figure out what our strengths are, and figure out how we develop in the direction that we want to.

Don’t wait around on decisions you know you’re going to make— just pull the plaster off

Bex Burn-Callander:

If you cast your mind back for me, Jonny, and you think about the first few years of the business, if you could go back and tell yourself, don’t make that particular decision, is there a mistake that sticks in your mind that you would love to warn other startup entrepreneurs not to make?

Is there just one real doozy?

Jonny Grubin:

Is there a mistake I would warn others not to make? Gosh, I’ve made too many to count.

I think I’ve often been scared of making decisions. I think when I’ve looked back on them, whether it’s about, should we take the product in a certain direction or is this the right person for the team, I’ve always known what decision I should have made.

But for various reasons, I delayed making it.

I’ve never regretted making any of those decisions. What I’ve regretted is not making them sooner. I think that’s it.

If you know or if you feel like you know, just do it. Pull the plaster off.

It’s always going to hurt regardless of whether you do it now or in a month’s time, but you’ll be better off knowing.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Do you follow that advice now? Are you quite quick fire now on decisions? Or is this still an ongoing battle?

Jonny Grubin:

It’s an ongoing battle, but I’m trying.

If you’re business feels like a burden and the sacrifices are too high, then maybe it might be time to re-consider

Bex Burn-Callander:

You dropped out of university to focus on the first iteration of the business that then became SoPost.

I want to know, do you feel like you’ve made a lot of personal sacrifices to be successful at what you do? Or have you managed to have a balance throughout your career? Do you look back and think, oh, you know what I had to give up on X or Y to be here?

Jonny Grubin:

Well, I definitely did. But I think this idea of balance is a slightly flawed concept.

When I was starting SoPost, I’m not ashamed to say I overworked myself. I was working probably 12-hour days, seven days a week, on the regular.

That’s definitely not something that you can do for an extended period of time, but I don’t think I would’ve got the business to where it needed to get to or get it to that next stage had I not made that commitment.

The honest answer is yes, I have made sacrifices, but they’re exactly the sacrifices that I wanted to make.

Today, I’m traveling constantly, which makes it hard to fit in all the running I like to do. Sometimes it makes it hard to hold down relationships. I don’t even keep fresh food in my fridge because I know it’s going to go off.

Those are all sacrifices, but it’s easy to sit back and moan about them and say, “Oh, I wish I could sleep in my own bed rather than on a plane tonight.” But I stop and think about it and it’s like, actually I’d rather have what I’ve got than the thing I’m missing out on.

The reality is, particularly now, if I wanted to change any of that, it’s all in my power. It’s all in my control. But I think at the start, I never stopped and thought, hey, my friends have it better than me, because I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. I knew that in order to move forward, I had to make that commitment.

I think that’s maybe something people should be asking themselves. If you are weighing up how invested in something you are, maybe the good test of that is whether it feels like a burden or not, whether you feel like you’re missing out.

When I was at home working late and my friends were out clubbing, I never felt like I wanted to be doing the other thing. Which maybe sounds really nerdy to say, but that’s just the reality of it. I think if it was the other way, maybe that would’ve been a sign to me that I should perhaps be doing something different.

Bex Burn-Callander:

You don’t want to regret your choices.

Jonny Grubin:

Exactly. Yeah.

There’s always room for growth and another challenge

Bex Burn-Callander:

But you were always the startup guy.

Do you miss the cut and thrust of creating something new? Do you feel like at some point maybe you’ll be wizened and gray, but maybe you’ll be back with another startup?

Or is this challenge the right challenge now for you?

Jonny Grubin:

I love building things. There’s a lot that we still have to do with SoPost and I’m not thinking about a time when I’m not doing this. I think the position that I’m in now is great because not only am I getting this new experience of growing and building something, but also, I’m now able to start new things within the company.

For example, a couple of months ago, I ran a pilot to see whether we could build out our own local delivery network or not. Part of that was actually me going out and hand-delivering items to understand how it works.

Even though we’re this company with dozens of employees and multimillion-pound revenues, I’m still able to test an experiment with things. In some ways it’s better, because I’ve got resources behind me now.

Whereas in the past, it was literally like, I had no investment, nobody around me. Just go and try to figure that out. I think I have the best of both worlds, but if and when the next thing comes along, I’m 30, I can’t imagine I’m going to retire anytime soon.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I can’t see that happening. There’s just the energy just pouring into the screen. I just feel like you could do 50 million things at once.

Inspired by this small business story?

Wherever you’re listening or watching, subscribe to Sound Advice on Apple iTunes here.

We are also on Spotify and anywhere else you get your podcasts.

Join our community to share your insights and stories on Twitter @SageUK using the hashtag #SoundAdvicePodcast, on Instagram @SageOfficial or in the comments below!

Want to know more about SoPost and Jonny Grubin?

You can check out SoPost on their website or Twitter.

You can also find Jonny on his Twitter.


Read Now: All the Nvidia news announced by Jensen Huang at Computex – 101 Latest News



All the Nvidia news announced by Jensen Huang at Computex

#Nvidia #news #announced #Jensen #Huang #Computex

Jensen Huang wants to bring generative AI to every data center, the Nvidia co-founder and CEO said during Computex in Taipei today. During the speech, Huang’s first public speech in almost four years he said, he made a slew of announcements, including chip release dates, its DGX GH200 super computer  and partnerships with major companies. Here’s all the news from the two-hour-long keynote.

  1. Nvidia’s GForce RTX 4080 Ti GPU for gamers is now in full production and being produced in “large quantities” with partners in Taiwan.

2. Huang announced the Nvidia Avatar Cloud Engine (ACE) for Games, an customizable AI model foundry service with pre-trained models for game developers. It will give NPCs more character through AI-powered language interactions.

3. Nvidia Cuda computing model now serves four million developers and more than 3,000 applications. Cuda seen 40 million downloads, including 25 million just last year alone.

4. Full volume production of GPU server HGX H100 has begun and is being manufactured by “companies all over Taiwan,” Huang said. He added it is the world’s first computer that has a transformer engine in it.

5. Huang referred to Nvidia’s 2019 acquisition of supercomputer chipmaker Mellanox for $6.9 billion as “one of the greatest strategic decisions” it has ever made.

6. Production of the next generation of Hopper GPUs will start in August 2024, exactly two years after the first generation started manufacture.

7. Nvidia’s GH200 Grace Hopper is now in full production. The superchip boosts 4 PetaFIOPS TE, 72 Arm CPUs connected by chip-to-chip link, 96GB HBM3 and 576 GPU memory. Huang described as the world’s first accelerated computing processor that also has a giant memory: “this is a computer, not a chip.” It is designed for high-resilience data center applications.

8. If the Grace Hopper’s memory is not enough, Nvidia has the solution—the DGX GH200. It’s made by first connecting eight Grace Hoppers togethers with three NVLINK Switches, then connecting the pods together at 900GB together. Then finally, 32 are joined together, with another layer of switches, to connect a total of 256 Grace Hopper chips. The resulting ExaFLOPS Transformer Engine has 144 TB GPU memory and functions as a giant GPU. Huang said the Grace Hopper is so fast it can run the 5G stack in software. Google Cloud, Meta and Microsoft will be the first companies to have access to the DGX GH200 and will perform research into its capabilities.

9. Nvidia and SoftBank have entered into a partnership to introduce the Grace Hopper superchip into SoftBank’s new distributed data centers in Japan. They will be able to host generative AI and wireless applications in a multi-tenant common server platform, reducing costs and energy.

10. The SoftBank-Nvidia partnership will be based on Nvidia MGX reference architecture, which is currently being used in partnership with companies in Taiwan. It gives system manufacturers a modular reference architecture to help them build more than 100 server variations for AI, accelerated computing and omniverse uses. Companies in the partnership include ASRock Rack, Asus, Gigabyte, Pegatron, QCT and Supermicro.

11. Huang announced the Spectrum-X accelerated networking platform to increase the speed of Ethernet-based clouds. It includes the Spectrum 4 switch, which has 128 ports of 400GB per second and 51.2T per second. The switch is designed to enable a new type of Ethernet, Huang said, and was designed end-to-end to do adaptive routing, isolate performance and do in-fabric computing. It also includes the Bluefield 3 Smart Nic, which connects to the Spectrum 4 switch to perform congestion control.

12. WPP, the largest ad agency in the world, has partnered with Nvidia to develop a content engine based on Nvidia Omniverse. It will be capable of producing photos and video content to be used in advertising.

13. Robot platform Nvidia Isaac ARM is now available for anyone who wants to build robots, and is full-stack, from chips to sensors. Isaac ARM starts with a chip called Nova Orin and is the first robotics full-reference stack, said Huang.

Thanks in large to its importance in AI computing, Nvidia’s stock has soared over the past year, and it is currently has a market valuation of about $960 billion, making it one of the most valuable companies in the world (only Apple, Microsoft, Saudi Aramco, Alphabet and Amazon are ranked higher).

Continue Reading


Read Now: Run a business that doesn’t run you – 101 Latest News



Run a business that doesn’t run you

#Run #business #doesnt #run

Who’d have guessed that clearing out a rat-infested basement would have led Dan Kieran to his light bulb moment?

After realising he had sold 300,000 copies of his books, he wanted to create a way to give publishing power to authors and readers, so they could communicate directly about what they wanted to read and cut out the middleman.

Running a business is stressful and like many others, Dan turned to the use of alcohol to console himself when things went wrong or celebrate when the company was doing well.

In this episode, Dan explores how you can become a more successful entrepreneur by ditching alcohol and ensure a better company culture by creating team outings that don’t revolve around the pub.

He discusses how to neutralise your fears, anxieties and weaknesses to run a business that doesn’t run you.

Here is his unfiltered advice below:

Bridging the gap between authors and readers

Kate Bassett:

I want to go back to the beginning of Unbound. You came up with the idea for it back in 2009 while clearing out a rat-infested basement in Bognor Regis.

Tell us about that light bulb moment.

Dan Kieran:

Well, so to go back a little bit before then, I spent 10 years writing books. I had a very successful career. My first book was a big hit called Crap Towns, it’s about the worst place to live in Britain, and it did very well.

Basically, over the years, I got closer to writing the books I wanted to write, but my sales figures were declining.

After the crash of 2008, publishers were becoming even more risk-averse, and they were basically only really interested in trying to find bestsellers.

I effectively lost my livelihood overnight.

Because I’m a double university dropout and don’t have any kind of safety net, I was back doing minimum wage jobs. The same kind of jobs I was doing before I set out on my path of trying to become a successful author.

I was clearing out the rat-infested basement with accountants in Bognor Regis, and I was on my lunch break, and I was looking out to sea, and I realised I’d sold like 300,000 copies of my books to people around the world over the last decade.

I didn’t have the name and address of a single person that’d ever bought one. I realised I’d completely put myself at the mercy of all these gatekeepers, all these people between me and the readers.

I realised that someone had to build a platform that allowed authors and readers to come together so that publishers wouldn’t decide what books were published, but that readers would.

This was a really important insight actually, that publishers don’t sell books to the readers, they sell them to shops.

By cutting out the middleman, you could not only get authors more money, but you could also massively diversify the types of books that were being published because you were going straight to readers and saying, “What do you want?”.

It was a kind of revolutionary idea, but it also felt like it was harnessing the best of emerging technologies. Twitter was quite only a few years old at the time. Authors were just beginning to harness their audiences themselves.

We were very lucky with our timing. Kickstarter was two years old, crowdfunding was hot. The stars kind of aligned, but I always look back on it, and I was so grateful that I didn’t have that safety net.

I think it’s something that a lot of entrepreneurs have is, they don’t have any choice.

That can be incredibly motivating. It certainly was for me.

Kate Bassett:

It was a case of survival.

Dan Kieran:

I think when you’ve got nothing to lose, you may as well go for your dream. That is what entrepreneurship is. It’s talked about in quite kind of macho ways.

Essentially, you’re trying to make your mark on the world.

You’re trying to, I don’t know, you’re trying to make an impact, and you’re going for the thing you believe in.

It’s so crucial that you run a business that you do believe in because it’s going to take so much out of you, which is what my book’s about, really about how much pressure you get put under and how you can cope with that and how you can handle the mental health challenges that are going to come whilst running a business.

Because as I say, the language around business and entrepreneurship is still so macho, and it can be incredibly lonely doing those things. It’s incredibly exciting, but it can be tough mentally, too.

Your own personal flaws will creep into your business because it becomes an extension of yourself

Kate Bassett:

I’d love to talk to you about some of those pressures, because I know you hatched the plan for Unbound in a pub with two of your mates, John and Justin, but you took on the CEO role.

What were some of the responsibilities of that role, and how did you earn your new job title?

Dan Kieran:

We were in the pub talking about who was going to do what. They both pointed out to me that I was the only one of the three of us who didn’t have a job.

So they were like, “Dan, you should be CEO.”

Of course, as I say, I had nothing to lose. I was like, “Well, I’ll go for it. What the hell? Let’s do it.”

I didn’t have a clue what it entailed.

I very quickly learned that in every walk of life, other than being an entrepreneur, your job title is a of confirmation of status that you’ve already achieved in the eyes of the people around you, hence the promotion.

Obviously, as an entrepreneur, you get called the boss long before you’ve proven you’re capable of being one. I think this is when I started to realise that I was going to have to find a way to make sure my abilities progressed beyond the demands my business was going to make of me.

I had a huge problem with mental health in my late teens. I had terrible panic attacks and was agoraphobic for years. I was aware that I had issues I needed to deal with.

There’s something about being an entrepreneur and all of your weaknesses are put under a spotlight, and you have to face those issues, or you will fail, not least because you will put them in your business.

That’s what entrepreneurs don’t realise, that you’re going to put all of your flaws and your faults in your company because you effectively build it out of yourself. You have to do that in the first instance.

Because before you’ve built a business anyone can believe in, you have to make people believe in you.

This is why it’s so exciting, and it’s why you push yourself to such extreme lengths to make it successful.

Of course, the flip side of that is that it means that if anything happens to the business, or it fails, that becomes an existential threat to you personally.

I think this is what the highs and lows of the entrepreneurial journey are. I hadn’t read that in many places. I hadn’t heard that from lots of entrepreneurs.

That was my challenge.

I thought, “Well, I’m going to have to evolve myself as an individual while the business grows and that’s what will keep me ahead of the challenges I’m going to face.”

That is what I learned, and it worked. That’s the thing I’m desperate to share with other entrepreneurs now because I feel like that second journey of your own development is actually the one that determines whether or not you’re successful.

That’s not widely discussed, I don’t think.

The mental health of your CEO will determine the success of your business

Kate Bassett:

As a double university dropout, someone who was thrust into this position of boss with no prior experience of running a business, how did you get over that initial feeling of imposter syndrome?

Dan Kieran:

I think, well, to be honest, I drank a lot.

I did all the things that you do when you’re stressed, which you think are going to help, which don’t. I also made tons of mistakes. I learned very quickly that you can’t throw your weight around.

I think part of the problem is the models of leadership that we’ve come to see in the media and certainly, in the entrepreneurial circles, the ways things are discussed. It’s all about toughness, being hard, when actually, if you actually look at genuinely brilliant leaders, they’re all soft.

They may do things which are difficult, they won’t shy away from tough decisions, and they’ll be fierce if they have to be, but they do it from a position of gentleness and softness inside.

I was doing therapy around that time to help me overcome those challenges and looking at anger, getting frustrated.

What I realised was that if you show your emotions, if you get angry with people, you just immediately lose them. Lots of entrepreneurs think, “Oh, I just have these character flaws that people have to put up with because I’m the boss.”

But that’s not effective leadership.

I think that’s the challenge is, are you prepared to do what the business needs but also, look in the mirror and are you prepared to work on yourself? Because ultimately, if you’re the boss, that’s the primary driver of whether the business is going to be successful.

I always say this to investors, the one thing all your money is dependent on is the mental health of your CEOs that you’re investing in. It’s not technology, it’s not the internet. It’s how well they’re able to cope with difficulties and unforeseen situations.

I was lucky early on to realise that my weaknesses were things that would have to be dealt with. I also, I hadn’t flown for 20 years, I had a flying phobia, things like that. I mean, I was lucky in that, that was an obvious thing I needed to engage with.

Which, guess what? Turned out to be nothing to do with flying.

But that process of learning about myself made me curious and excited about genuinely leading people. Because it’s such a privilege to do it and to see people grow and to nurture that growth and give them what they need to succeed for you. It’s a strange thing.

You do it out of self-interest, but it’s in everyone’s interest. There’s a way of aligning the business’s interest with the self-interest of the people in the organisation.

I think the truly great CEOs are able to make sure those two things are aligned and articulate why that alignment is so important.

Giving up alcohol will make you a more successful entrepreneur

Kate Bassett:

I know that you also made the decision to give up drink, even though the early days of Unbound were spent in the pub.

At what stage did you make that decision, and how did it change you as an entrepreneur and CEO?

Dan Kieran:

It’s one of those, as I say, at the beginning, I always say starting a company, a startup, is like being in a rock band. You’re all one big gang, and you’re all in it together.

You do work crazy hours, but a lot of those hours are spent in the pub, because you’re socialising and the work is mixed into that, and I think that’s a really exciting component of the startup culture.

A few years in, my wife, Isobel, got pregnant, and she obviously gave up booze as part of that, and I decided to give up to just share her T-total pain.

Very quickly I felt like I had a superpower.

Every morning I would wake up feeling amazing. I was probably getting drunk two or three times a week as I had done my entire life up until that point, pretty much.

A few months in, I stopped and looked at it and thought about it. And I realised that this was the first time, I was now 40-odd, this was the first time since I was 15 that I was learning what I was like as an adult, without regularly ingesting a depressant.

It just seemed like a stock piece of information that I’d never considered that all this drinking was actually making me feel worse about myself, in myself.

It was damaging me physically, but it was damaging my ability to be a successful leader and run a successful company.

I stopped, and I didn’t drink for a long time, and I ended up developing rules around drinking, which was that I don’t drink as a consolation because something’s gone wrong and I don’t drink as a reward for things that have gone well.

What I found by deploying those two rules of drinking was that I didn’t drink, which was quite instructive, that actually it was a crutch for when things were difficult.

Then I woke up and was in a worse frame of mind to deal with whatever had caused me to drink in the first place.

Or I was taking a moment of success, celebrating it by ingesting huge quantities of a depressant, which made me feel terrible the next day.

I think it’s just something in the culture in the UK, we’ve all grown up with it. Alcohol and fun become synonymous in our minds. I think it’s really important to disconnect them and to just make sure whether you’re doing it, you’re doing it consciously or out of habit.

It’s single-handedly the best thing I did in terms of my chance of being a successful entrepreneur, was giving up booze without question.

Simply because every morning I woke up, and I felt great, and I just felt more able to handle the difficulties that inevitably arose.

Don’t revolve all your team outings around alcohol—it will improve your company culture

Kate Bassett:

It became a way for you to get to know your own self sober. Did it also change the culture of the company in some ways?

If so many of those early days had been spent in the pub, did you have to stop socialising with employees in that way?

Dan Kieran:

Yes, I did. That was another part of my evolution as a boss.

I think in the early days I felt like I needed to be there. I wanted to be there. I mean, we are all friends.

As we got further and the business became more successful, I realised that my role was taking me away from the rest of the team socially.

That was a really important moment too, because number one, the team need time when you’re not there, so they can moan about you, which I think is really important to give them that space. I would always go for a drink, one or two, but then I would very deliberately leave.

Also, if you stay in the pub all night, people start telling you how to run your business, and they get a bit more confident with the more they’ve had to drink, which can be less helpful.

Also, it creates the perception that there’s a clique around you. Like people that go to drinking with you are closer to you than everybody else. It can just start to cause problems if in the culture of the company if you are perceived to be more available to some people rather than others.

To be fair though, the younger generation, I mean I’m 47, but our employees in their 20s seem much less focused on alcohol actually than I was when I was that age. I do think there’s a shift around that, which is interesting and very positive.

We were having just as much fun, I should hasten to add. It wasn’t that we were lacking, in fact, we were having more fun, I think, as a team.

The culture got much better because there wasn’t this default expectation that team things had to involve going to the pub or alcohol, so we became a bit more creative about how we did those things, which was welcomed by lots of the members of team.

Alcohol’s a tricky one, but it’s something to just become super conscious of when running a business. Because it can very easily get you into difficulties when it doesn’t have to.

Fear of fundraising can come from having to change your lifestyle if the business fails—so come up with a plan B

Kate Bassett:

Of course, some of your other big responsibilities as CEO was building the brand and telling the Unbound story, but also of course, raising money.

I wanted to talk to you about pitching, because you’ve said the smell of fear repels investors.

How did you get rid of your own feelings of fear and inferiority around investors?

Dan Kieran:

I became so fascinated by this. Again, because I spent so much time on my own evolution, I had by this stage realised that fear drove a lot of my decision-making.

I think that happens to a lot of us, whether we’re aware of it or not. Very, very often, we act on the basis of the fear of something that may happen.

Fundraising is such an exposing exercise. You’re basically going to someone and saying, “Hey, here’s this beautiful thing I’ve made.”

You are asking them to judge you and then prove how much they’re interested in your idea by giving you money.

It’s potentially toxic. It’s bad for your ego, it gets caught up in it.

It’s a bit like standup. You’ve become like a standup comedian that raises money instead of gets laughs. It’s incredibly exciting because of that.

Imagine standing in a room full of people and telling them a story and then them saying, “Yeah, here’s a million pounds to go make it happen.”

This is why we’re entrepreneurs. That is amazing privilege to be able to do that kind of thing.

To be able to show up as the best version of yourself in those meetings means you’ve got to understand your fear. You’ve got to deconstruct it. You’ve got to understand why you’re so afraid and why you’re so nervous.

It’s pretty obvious why, because in the event of you not raising the money, your business won’t exist anymore. I always say that being an entrepreneur is like go into a casino with your reputation. By the time you realise it, that wheel is spinning, and your reputation is on it.

I think the stakes are incredibly high with fundraising and that’s why people find it so difficult. So what I did was I basically tried to work out what I was so afraid of.

In the end, I worked out, I was scared of letting my wife down. Because if I didn’t raise the money, the business would fold, and I wouldn’t have a job and our lives would change radically.

The way I dealt with that was by sitting down and talking to her about it and saying, I say it in the book, I had this conversation, “Honey, I’m fundraising and if I can’t do it, and it doesn’t work, then our lives are going to change.”

We would have this conversation about what we would do in the event of that happening. It was one of the best conversations I’ve ever had.

We had it many times every time we did a raise, and it would always end in the same way with us just planning what we would do.

“Well, we’d leave London, and we’d have to sell the house, but we would maybe live closer to our parents, and we’d maybe get some more help with the kids, and maybe we’ll see you more because you won’t be working so hard.”

She was like, “Well, actually, if that happened, I would like to retrain.” And I’d say, “That would be great. You deserve to do that.”

And by the end of the conversation, we are in a position where we’re like, “Actually, this sounds great.”

Finding the root of your fears and neutralising them will be your superpower

Kate Bassett:

Plan B became very appealing.

Dan Kieran:

Suddenly you’re like, “Oh, so if I don’t achieve this thing of fundraising, we’ve now mapped out a path to a life that we both want.”

The reason that was so powerful and so empowering is it meant that when I then stood in a room with investors, I still wanted to raise the money. I still cared about raising the money. I just wasn’t scared of not raising it.

Neutralising your fear and your anxiety gives you superpowers. It’s a bit like when you give up booze, you just suddenly have this extra level of self-belief.

Those conversations with Isobel were completely, that’s why I’ve continued to raise the money we needed even in incredibly difficult conditions like the pandemic and Brexit.

Again, that became something that I became super conscious of that my own fear was getting in my way most of the time. Because that what was interesting, that the merits of investing in Unbound at that point were no different.

The story was the same, the business performance was the same, the metrics were the same, but how I felt in my own mind is what would determine whether we raise the money. Which again, is a source of huge pressure.

So learning that and learning to get your own head in the right place becomes incredibly powerful. As to your point a little bit earlier, your staff see you doing this.

They see you raising your game, and all of a sudden, this job title that you were given when you didn’t really deserve it, all of a sudden, you’re emulating that job title, and they’re seeing it in you, and they’re seeing you change.

That’s quite inspiring for people because then they do the same thing.

If you show them that, that’s valued in your business, that going on those evolutionary journeys, I mean, staff used to say to me, “How do I get a pay rise?”

I’d be like, “Well, show me you’re evolving as an individual. Show me the thing you were scared of doing that you’ve now confronted and dealt with. Whatever it is.”

They look at me like I was mad. The point is that if they were prepared to do that, they’d be more valuable to the business because I’d be hiring the people working for me would be on that journey too.

So that’s why I think it’s so incredibly powerful. It makes you so much more likely to be successful as you can imagine, because you’ve got that self-belief, and you’re just driving yourself forward all the time.

Life coaches can help you to change the limitations you’ve set for yourself

Kate Bassett:

You talk a lot about confronting and neutralising fear. You mentioned earlier that you started speaking to a therapist. I know you also started working with a business coach.

At what stage did you do that and why?

Dan Kieran:

I used different coaches at different times. The first coach I used was around very specific issues with the business. I felt like I needed someone, I met him for breakfast every couple of weeks and I would just basically use him as a confidential sounding board.

He would never tell me what to do. In me articulating the problems I was having, I would very often come up with the answers myself, which is true of the best coaches.

Then the second time as much later on when I really, I felt like I’d reached the edge of what I was capable of. This is a huge theme in entrepreneurship where you, I got away with it.

I felt like I got away with it at the beginning, and we were growing, and we had multimillion pounds in revenue, and we had 30 members of staff. I felt like I’d got to a point, and I was no longer sure if I could carry on progressing beyond that point.

So I got a coach to help me understand that those definitions I’d come to accept about myself were stories I told myself and were not necessarily true.

That was a huge moment.

I also did a therapeutic retreat called the Hoffman Process, which was really extraordinarily powerful. Which really helps you disentangle the stories you’re telling yourself about what you can do and where your limits are.

One of the things I was terrible at was DIY.

I met an amazing man who builds wooden surfboards called James Otter. I went and spent a week in Cornwall with him building a surfboard in his workshop.

And what was interesting about the surfboard was that even if you achieve certain things, if you wake up one morning, and you’re feeling depressed and terrible, you can very easily persuade yourself that all your achievements were not because of anything you did.

You can think, I only got that because I was lucky, or this thing happened, or I did it with somebody else who was really talented. You can persuade yourself that you don’t deserve the things about yourself.

What was interesting about the surfboard is that I didn’t believe I’d be able to make one, but it turned out I was able to make one with the right teacher.

Now on my wall, I have this beautiful, physical, amazing wooden surfboard. It’s a physical representation of my ability to go beyond what I think I’m capable of. I can’t deny it when I’m feeling low, in a low mood, because it’s a physical thing I can touch on the wall.

I work with entrepreneurs now and part of the thing I work with them on is, how do we change the limitations they’ve come to believe exist about themselves? How do you help people redefine their sense of who they are?

Because that is how you progress along with the demands your business is going to place on you. It’s such a thrilling journey that your personal journey of the evolution is much more thrilling than the business one, actually.

Well, I’m sure we’ll come to it, but it also enables you to leave. That’s why you can leave a business in the end, it’s because you’re on that journey.

It’s incredibly important for you for the long term of your life beyond the time of running the business that you’re doing.

Kate Bassett:

You’re right. I think so much of fear stems from the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.

That’s really powerful that you confronted that head on.

Your business cannot be used as a way to support your low self-esteem or feeling of inadequacy

Kate Bassett:

In terms of the therapy and the coaches and the surfboard and the retreat, was that enough to protect your own mental health as the business grew?

Dan Kieran:

Not always.

What it allowed me to develop was the confidence to spot when the mental health toll was too much and to say, “Actually, I don’t have to constantly be ahead of this.”

There are moments when I can actually say, “This is enough, and this is too much.”

Asking for help is very difficult. I know there’s a lot of talk about how everyone’s much more open about mental health now.

If you are the CEO of a business with venture capital investors or whatever, if you start to show signs that you’re not up to the job, you’ll get replaced very quickly. Because the needs of shareholders are paramount.

So I think there’s a huge pressure to deny when things are too difficult. I think as entrepreneurs, we’re very bad at being honest with ourselves when we need a break.

That certainly happened to me.

I got to the point with the business where I felt like I’d had achieved everything I set out to achieve, but I didn’t feel this amazing feeling of euphoria I was expecting. I described it to a friend, and it was like, “Oh, it sounds like you climbed a mountain, but when you got to the top you realised it wasn’t yours.”

I felt a little bit like that. I think there is definitely a type of entrepreneur of which I am one for whom building a business is like I describe, it’s like having a neon sign above your head saying, love me.

You don’t feel good enough in the manner of yourself. You feel like you have to create this thing that everybody outside of you agrees has merit and is valuable.

Steve Jobs famously said, “You got to make a dent in the universe.”

He was a famously complicated man.

Building a business and successful running a business will not give you peace of mind. It will not deliver you happiness. It will deliver you lots of incredibly enriching and nourishing things and be a wonderful thing to do.

But in the end, if you’re expecting it to deliver something that you don’t already have inside you, it will let you down.

Part of this second journey, which is so amazing, is as you work, as you go on it, the business matters to you less. You stop seeing it as a way of shoring up your sense of low self-esteem or inadequacy.

You start to imagine your life without this thing you built to prove yourself to the world on someone else’s terms, almost. That’s definitely where I got to, where it wasn’t that I couldn’t do it.

It wasn’t that it was really destroying me. I just got to the stage where I thought, “Well, I don’t want this anymore. This isn’t the thing I want to spend my life doing now.”

And leaving a business is incredibly difficult and lots of entrepreneurs get pushed out before they’re ready because they built it out of themselves. The idea of leaving it is existential.

It’s incredibly challenging, that’s why the second journey is so powerful. Because it allows you to disconnect yourself from it over time, so that when the moment comes when you go, “Actually, I’m not sure if this is for me.” It no longer feels like you and the business are the same thing.

I’m incredibly proud of Unbound, and I’m thrilled that it has been so successful and that it continues to be successful without me, frankly.

It’s something I did. It’s not who I am.

I think that’s really important to have that sense of perspective, that the time of you running your business will come to an end and you need to run it every day, being aware of that.

It can’t be this cipher that protects you out in the world from the things you’re nervous about. It’s a fantastic vehicle to learn about yourself in the process.

Establish the vision, secure the capital and hire people who can run the business effectively without you

Kate Bassett:

Actually, you’ve said the final act of leadership is knowing when to let go.

How did you know when to let go? How did you come to terms with that decision, and how did your co-founders react to that?

Dan Kieran:

I always say, when you start and run a business, you have three jobs.

One, is the vision. Why are you doing it? Why is the world a better place for the existence of this business you’re going to make?

The second thing is, make sure you never run out of money that the business is properly capitalised. Which is why you are constantly raising money in your mind, and not in any other way.

Then the third one is, you’ve got to hire people that are better than you in every role.

This is, again, a very challenging thing to accept that the moment of success in your business is when you create the business to be so successful, there’s no longer a seat for you.

This is something that a lot of founders find deeply challenging. This idea that it doesn’t need them anymore.

Again, the second journey is what gets you to a place where, I mean, what it allowed me, was I saw it was time for me to go before anybody else did.

And trust me, that is the best way for that to happen. Because if you don’t, it will get to a point where the business decides it needs to get rid of you. Being able to see it coming meant that I could prepare for it. I was clear where the business had to have got to in terms of its revenue and profitability before I would leave.

I had a path to where I needed it to get to. I did a fundraiser. It was properly financed. It was in the best possible position, best numbers you’ve ever done. I created it.

Also, I was gradually stepping back. The thing about hiring people that are better than you in every role is you get these incredibly ambitious people around you that want more and more responsibility. You just gradually let them have it.

Over time, it meant that when I left, the day-to-day impact was very minimal. Because people had already been running it around me, and I wasn’t needed in the way I had been.

The conversation with co-founders is difficult. But again, one of our big rules at the beginning was that we would prioritise our friendship as co-founders ahead of the business, which was a very easy thing to say when you’re starting out and much more difficult when you’re running it years and years in.

It meant I had a very open friendship and relationship with them both, and they knew that I was getting tired. They knew that.

I just felt like the skill set I had developed was no longer the one the business needed.

It’s a mature company now. Entrepreneurs are kind of, it’s just a very different skill set. Some people can make that transition, but it wasn’t something that interested me in the same way.

I was just incredibly open with them.

They were surprised. Lots of hugs, a few tears from me. It took time for them to get their heads around it, I think.

Again, they trusted me. They trusted themselves. They knew the business was maturing. It was done in a very slow, considered, non-frightening way because it was so important to keep the business stable and not frighten the horses, as they say.

And having that second journey is what allows you to make that transition, which is why it’s a great thing to do, because you’re a better entrepreneur, you’re a better boss.

It also just gives you that little bit of self-awareness you need when the time comes, when this potentially threatening thing happens, and you have to leave the company that you started.

Kate Bassett:

It’s a really crucial tip to fire yourself before someone else has to do it for you.

Building a business will help you to evolve as a person, but you will find purpose beyond it

Kate Bassett:

So tell us about your journey now. Because I know that you said Unbound had become your shield. How does it feel now without it?

Dan Kieran:

It’s really disconcerting. I basically saved up enough money to have a year afterwards where I didn’t have to earn money, just so I could come to terms with what I’d done, really. That’s when I wrote this book.

Because I wanted to get everything I learned down in a format while it was still fresh in my mind, while I was in a good position to share it.

But losing the job title was really tough. The first month or so I was frantically posting on LinkedIn to prove to myself I was still relevant. It’s really fascinating, actually, how you suddenly lose these badges, and you’re like, “Oh, who am I without them?”

But that is why I left, because what I learned was that Unbound had become a prism I was living my life through. Everything I did in my life was experienced through the prism of what was going on with the business at that time.

Bath time with my kids, dinner with my wife, with my friends in the pub, whatever it was.

And I realised that if I didn’t take that prism off, I would forget it was there. Then I would realise it was there 30 years down the line, having not done what I was supposed to do next.

While I found it very disconcerting, I knew I needed to do it. Because what’s fascinating is, when you build a company, and you prove yourself against the world in that way, and you have level of success, what you never think of is, what that means you’re going to feel like once it’s gone away.

Actually, that’s the moment of the great nourishment because you’ve left the thing. It’s no longer your shield, you’re standing without it. But it’s something that you did, and it’s something that has helped you grow, evolve as a person.

Of course, now, I look around the world, and I’ve got all these ideas of things I want to do. I’m writing lots of books.

I mean, most of my time, I’m a stay-at-home dad now. I do three days a week at home with my kids, looking after my two-year-old and my six-year-old. I’m just filled with promise now.

I’m just thinking, “Well, I don’t believe there’s anything I can’t do now.”

I’ve got a huge sense of passion for the future and excitement, but also, I’m not in a rush. I don’t feel like I have to do anything soon. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the experience I had, and it’s made me such a different person. I like myself so much more now than I did when I began.

In fact, John said to me, I met him, my co-founder, I met him quite recently for a walk. He said, “God, when we first started, you were a really angry, upset man. I could really tell that life had really kicked you, and you were really hungry for something.”

He said, “Now, you just seem so calm and relaxed.”

I do think that. I think we do businesses to help us evolve for a reason. It was the making of me, in so many ways.

Inspired by this small business story?

Wherever you’re listening or watching, subscribe to Sound Advice on Apple iTunes here.

We are also on Spotify and anywhere else you get your podcasts.

Join our community to share your insights and stories on Twitter @SageUK using the hashtag #SoundAdvicePodcast, on Instagram @SageOfficial or in the comments below!

Want to know more about Unbound or Dan Kieran?

You can visit the Unbound website here.

You can follow Dan’s Twitter.

Continue Reading


Read Now: This Stock Screener is on Sale for Memorial Day – 101 Latest News



This Stock Screener is on Sale for Memorial Day

#Stock #Screener #Sale #Memorial #Day

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

When it comes to investing, entrepreneurs have to strike a delicate balance between risk and reward. Life as an entrepreneur is inherently risky, but when you throw investing into the mix, you run the chance of your personal finances impacting your business ones.

As such, it’s important to invest with as much information as possible to mitigate your risk as much as possible. Tykr is an all-in-one stock screening and education platform that can help you do just that.

Tykr is easy to use, letting you find more than 30,000 U.S. and international stocks within a matter of seconds. Every stock is afforded a Summary and Score designed to help you better understand that stock and its risks. A stock is either On Sale (potential buy), Watch, or Overpriced (potential sell), measured by the open-source calculations that Tykr’s algorithms do. The stock’s score shows how safe it is — higher score, safer stock.

Throughout the app, you’ll gain an investment education that will help you mitigate risk and maximize your Margin of Safety (MOS). You can browse for stocks to buy or look at your current portfolio and figure out what might be ready to sell. It’s a seamless way to better manage your portfolio while gaining the knowledge and confidence you need to invest wisely.

Find out why Tykr has earned 4.9/5 star ratings on Trustpilot and AppSumo. During our Memorial Day Sale, you can get a lifetime subscription to a Tykr Stock Screener Pro Plan for an extra $20 off with code STOCK.

Prices subject to change.

Continue Reading