36% Of The Way Through The Year

When this year started I knew it was going to be (and wanted it to be) the busiest year of my life so far. The grand plan was that I would grow our business, waking up with a fresh approach to every single day, whilst writing all of my thoughts right here along side it.

I’ve been growing the business and I think I’ve approached every day as if it’s the biggest yet BUT I haven’t written anything. Not even once.

Today we are 36% of the way through the year and here we are — I’m going to write some thoughts about growing a business, the challenges of setting ambitious time frames and some of the other things I’ve thought about along the way.

Disclaimer: these are just random thoughts and there is no method or order to this.

The Goal

Like I said, I started the year wanting it to be huge. Last year felt like a total write off and although lots of progress was made I didn’t feel like I (or the business) really kicked on. I knew the only way that I’d be able to end the year feeling like I’d really moved things on would be to set a timeframe and stick to it at all costs.

This year, we’re going to open three new offices across the UK. Each will be opened three months apart. Simple.

Approaching It

I’m pretty disciplined when it comes to work but this was going to take more than my usual. To actually stick to the timeline I knew that I’d have to pretty much dedicate every single day to making it all happen.

Over Christmas I tried to create some way that I can track each day and essentially wake up each morning with a focus on what needs to be done.

So, I made a spreadsheet and automated it using Siri Shortcuts. Every Monday morning at 7am my phone reminds me to write down three goals for the week to make sure we’re progressing on the timeline. Then on a Sunday night at 9:15pm I check if we did it.

On top of this, every night at 9:15pm I rate the day out of 10 based on how productive, enjoyable and positive it was. This forces me to think about what was good, what was bad and how to make tomorrow better.

This is gimmicky and not my thing but it’s been sort of helpful. I wouldn’t really recommend it to be honest.

The Highs

The year has had lots of highs. We’ve hired lots of great new students, started working with lots of new businesses and opened the first of our three offices — in Manchester.

Personally, I’ve always wanted to own and run my own business. Barring a brief phase from the age of 10 to about 12 when I thought I’d make it as a professional tennis player (I didn’t and I wasn’t close), my default response to ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’ has pretty much been “run my own business”.

Having spent many years telling people that I’d be good at running my own business and I was definitely going to do it, it almost feels relieving that I’m doing it.

On days when we’re progressing as a company and things are feeling positive I actually find it quite entertaining that it’s working and this is what I do all day. I think over the past few years there has rightfully been a focus on overworking etc, however, I wouldn’t keep doing this if I didn’t actually love it and this year has put that into focus.

The Tougher Bits

Obviously things don’t go to plan all the time and despite being a positive person 90% of the time, this year has had frustrating moments.

Opening an office in a new city that I didn’t know has been a challenge. I’d kind of forgotten how much effort goes into getting something new off the ground and the first couple of days I spent in Manchester ended up not being the exuberant celebration I’d expected.

With two offices (and a third on the way) my role within the company has changed pretty substantially. Where before I’d speak to everyone on our team basically every day, I now end up waving in the back of a Zoom call or saying hi every few weeks. This is, I guess, a natural progression but there is something I miss about seeing everyone all the time.

Process

Process is basically the word I whisper to myself all the time. A business like Today relies on well designed processes. BUT we also have to be creative… so, we can’t have tooooo much process.

This is the *and I cannot stress this enough* the bane of my life (and probably most of the people I speak to on a daily basis). Thinking about processes, how to improve them, how to simplify them, how to make them better for everyone, how to make them fit each person’s workflow is essentially most of what I do.

We’re rolling out a model across multiple sites and there needs to be an element of ‘the way things are done’ but with a local flavour — so processes are key. This is going to be a recurring theme over the next few years and I look forward to spending much more time in my own head thinking about them.

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Founder of Today, a global student driven media agency.

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Jack Allan

Jack Allan

Founder of Today, a global student driven media agency.

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