A few lessons I've learnt while building a creative services business over the last 10 years. This one's for all the entrepreneurs out there, whether you know you are or not.


Just over ten years ago I somehow found myself standing in a hallway on the set of The Hobbit with billionaire Oakley and RED Camera founder Jim Jannard. I was his PA for the week while he was in town, checking out how his cameras were going on the film. For some reason he took it upon himself to give me life advice for the week, which I wasn’t going to say no to. There was one thing he said to me in that hallway that has stuck with me ever since; “If you can learn to block out the false perception of even your closest friends and family, then you can achieve whatever you put your mind to” I later understood what he actually meant was ‘learn to block out the false perceptions of yourself’.

I took that advice, and soon after, on the 21st of March 2011, registered my first business; benfo Ltd. Here I am ten years later, sitting in my (almost award winning) studio, surrounded by incredible creators, pinching myself that I have achieved what I have. Over the last decade I have done so much more than I thought possible when I was 20, lying half asleep in my university lectures. Hell, I hadn’t heard the word entrepreneur until I was 21. As is always the case when you reach a milestone like a decade in business, you look back at what’s worked and what hasn’t, and I thought I’d share those thoughts.

You can’t skip the journey

This is by far my biggest learning in business and in life. I used to look around and compare myself to people and their status, their position, their success, and I would judge myself based on that, and how far I had come on that journey, and whether it was good enough or not. I used to think there was a silver bullet for success that I didn’t know about, some secret or trick that took you from zero to hero. I would literally search google for things like “what’s the secret to growing a successful business”. It turns out, there is no secret but perseverance. The successful people in the world are the ones who can pick themselves up and keep going, time after time. You do that over and over, and you’ll eventually get to where you were heading. That applies to anything in life; sport, cooking, exercise, art, you name it. Just keep getting back up and survive the journey, and you’ll get there.

The three step business plan

I also used to write these massive business plans, they would be 40 pages long and have all these crazy details in them. The only time I ever read them was when I wrote them. They did nothing for the business. What I eventually realised is that in a service business, your business plan is three simple steps that you just keep doing, and the flywheel effect kicks in and your business gains momentum and grows. They are: build a brand, do the work, tell the story

1 - Build a brand that reflects you and your values. A great brand doesn’t reflect it’s product or service, it reflects the people behind it, so focus on people.

2 - Strive to do every job slightly better than the last, that’s all. Don’t try and be a global player on day one. Just never stop pushing for improvement. And whatever you do, do it with respect and integrity. Put people first in everything you do. Do these two things and clients will always come back.

3 - Tell the story. Once you’ve done the work, tell the world, and that in turn helps grow your brand, and you’re right back at stage 1. Now just rinse and repeat.

I guarantee, if you focus on those things over a long period of time, you will have a very successful business. 

Working on yourself is working on the business

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of always doing tasks and aligning our value to achieving said tasks. So much so that the thought of working on ourselves seems to be at the detriment of the business. Well I want to release you from that lie. A healthy and happy you will be the best thing you can do for your business and yourself. Like everything in life, there’s a balance. A time for work and a time for play. But the key word is balance. I would argue you can achieve greater success if you seek balance over success. Somehow the world has kept this from us.

You are not your work

I have only recently separated my personal identity from the business, and it’s a journey I’m still on. I spent a good part of the last ten years thinking that Wrestler was a reflection of me. While there is some truth in that; I invested the bulk of my time and energy into this business, I am so much more than a content creation machine. It’s easy to link ourselves to our work and seek to gain our identity through that, but it’s a dangerous game. Something like Covid comes along, knocks over your business and then you’re left standing there as no one? Risky business. Seek to be someone who’s more dynamic than a limited liability company or you could be setting yourself up for a nasty fall.

Moral of the story is, don’t overthink it. Just be patient, do whatever you do with integrity and passion, and you will eventually reach your goal. Who knows exactly when, but you’ll get there.

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