March 5, 2020
What was your first break in business?
I started at a very young age and my first break came before I’d even sat my GCSEs. After making a modest amount from a website I’d built for fun, I launched the (awfully named) ForFree4U Network, where I used commission paid by advertisers to incentivise people to sign up with those advertisers through me, rather than by going direct. Over the next year, I generated a return of about 200x on my investment, and I really consider that to be the break that led to everything that’s followed in the 14 years since.
What did you want to be growing up?
There was a short time when I wanted to be an architect, but I’ve always been drawn to entrepreneurship. Since I can remember, the idea of building something – it didn’t really matter what – excited me.
What made you set up your own business?
SoPost isn’t my first company, and it actually grew out of the ashes of an earlier venture. That had been a heroic failure, but I was convinced the idea behind what we had tried to do was strong – so strong that I obsessed over it. I launched SoPost because I was convinced by the fundamentals of what we’d originally set out to achieve.
What is your company’s mission?
We’re building the most powerful product sampling platform in the world. Specifically with a focus on relevance, data and analytics, we’re convinced we can be the absolute best at what we do. We have a strong first mover advantage and we’re the gold standard in our space, but there is still so much for us to do.
How do you get the best out of your team?
I’m lucky to be surrounded by a team of leaders. My role is to set our strategy and make sure everyone understands the ‘why’ behind the ‘what.’ It is also to help create a culture where people see the impact of their work and how they can grow. This is a group effort, but I’ve found communication to be key, not just in getting the best out of everyone, but in creating an environment that we can all be really proud of.
What has been your career highlight?
I don’t know if this counts as a highlight, and it certainly didn’t happen overnight, but when I stop and think about it, getting SoPost to profitability is probably the thing I’m most proud of. It can be really hard to know whether you’re doing well or not, particularly as a solo founder with no university education, who hasn’t raised masses of venture capital. Getting into the black, while maintaining our growth and culture, really changed the game.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Building such a strong team has been incredibly tough, but also immensely rewarding. I think it’s something you need to continually focus on, and it’s probably the thing that keeps me up the most at night. We are spread across three offices and making sure we have the best people and a good culture isn’t something that happens without a continued focus.
Who or what inspires you?
My team. So many of them have done extraordinary things and I’m constantly blown away by the efforts they go to – and the sacrifices they make – to build SoPost with me. Some of the team have been with me for seven years now and seeing how much they’ve grown really does inspire me.
What are your company’s short and long-term goals?
As a business, our long-term goal is the same as our mission: to build the most powerful product sampling platform in the world. There’s a lot more to it than that though, and we’re working hard to make SoPost an anchor for the North East’s tech community. Our short-term goals are a combination of efforts that help us plot the path to long-term success.
How do you achieve a good work/life balance?
I travel so much that it’s not unusual for me to be away from home for half the month, and I do a much better job at carving out space for myself than I used to. Having an amazing girlfriend who I want to spend my time with certainly helps. She’s recently got me into running and cooking, and I’m discovering activities like this can help me turn off.