Last week marked 8 years since FortyTwo Studio popped its head up and began it’s role in our lives and I’ve been I’m very fortunate to work with some cool people in all those years.
My colleagues, clients, collaborators and various industry bods over the years have been nothing short of huge inspiration and motivation as we try to build something worthwhile. The usual trick would be to celebrate all we’ve done in that time but who the hell wants to see us clapping our own backs - for that, go see this years review reel ;)
Instead, how about I admit to some of my mistakes over the 8 years - some mistakes, I'm certainly not going to list them all (and please don’t ask my colleagues - I’m sure they’ll have a list somewhere!).
So here we are, 8 mistakes due to bad decisions, over-thinking, under-thinking, sheer stupidity, procrastination and even laziness.
Why am I doing this? If we can’t admit own your mistakes, you don’t deserve to own the successes and also I’m more comfortable admitting that I don’t know it all and that I can f**k-up like the rest of us. And you know what, that’s how it should be!
Buying our own building 3 months before COVID - Yup, investing a huge amount of cash and committing to the additional investment needed to refurb and support our 400 sq.m hub was a beaut. Certainly nobody saw what was coming in 2020 but, in hindsight, perhaps risking all that outlay was error an of judgement.
Safe to say now, we got through it. The company remained pretty much the same during Covid (thanks again to all who stuck by us) and we’ve certainly grown and thrived since. However the stress and risk of that big, beautiful, brutalist beast was tough for a while and I certainly won’t put that strain on me or others in the same way again.
Lesson Learnt - Be more rigorous when planning large longer term financial commitments.
Trying to deal with too much financial management myself - When I started FortyTwo, I had to have my finger on the financial pulse of our day to day operations. It was not something I was altogether used to doing but I knew any founder has to know the figures inside-out from day one.
My mistake was keeping it that way for too long and not hiring the kind of financial and accounting advice we needed, sooner. Delegation is tough but I never thought that letting go of the financial control and admin of the business would be so difficult.
Lesson Learnt - Hire the experts and get out of the way.
Not asking for more help - Related to above but more of a common theme. Whether my family, colleagues or paid professionals, I’ve been either reluctant or late to ask for help. Perhaps it's been that touch of ego and preciousness (some) business founders have, where we think that we are the only one who can solve a problem.
It’s taken time but I am better at this now. My team have been more than capable for years of solving problems better than I, so I just try and stay out of the way as much as I can.
Lesson Learnt - Don’t be a hero. Lean on those who can and want to help.
"8 mistakes due to bad decisions, over-thinking, under-thinking, sheer stupidity, procrastination and even laziness."
Little bins - Ask the team. I’m not talking about it anymore.
Lesson Learnt - Don’t trust Amazon photos!
Holding on to clients for too long - We’ve all been there, a change in contact; a shift in priorities; or just not able to fit well together anymore, sometimes a client relationship is no longer working for either party. It is difficult to admit and harder to let go but there have definitely been a couple of FortyTwo/client relationships over the years that, despite trying hard to make things work, we should have ended earlier.
Nothing is solved by holding on too long but, again, is it ego that stops you from admitting it’s time to end it? Perhaps, but regardless of the reasons, it’s a mistake to blindly hold on to something that is no longer of mutual benefit.
Lesson Learnt - Have clear criteria and expectations of what makes a good working partnership.
Being too tentative post COVID - We have grown in the years post-COVID and have been building a fuller marketing and strategy team this past 12 months, however I should have done it sooner. I lacked confidence in an unsure world to recruit more and build more and feel that I held back our potential for a year or so.
I don’t underestimate the stress and strain those times had on me (especially with the additional building commitment - see Mistake #1) but I should have seen the growing opportunities and committed to them more quickly.
Lesson Learnt - When you spot the opportunities, take them!
Too many hats - As anyone who runs their own small business knows, you have many hats to wear regardless of the depth and strength of the team - people, projects, finance, BD etc. etc. the list can be vast, even if you are good at delegation. However, I made the mistake that multiple hats for everyone was also a good idea and key to the strength of the business. Whilst a team within a small business will always have a level of ‘diversification’ in their role, playing their part in admin, project management, client management and other related tasks, there must be a limit and priorities over who does what is key.
Over the past 18 months and continuing over 2024, roles are becoming more refined and specific to each role, which has been to the benefit of all. It’s far too easy when you have a great team to assume that they can be spread thin indefinitely and, hands-up, I have been guilty of that assumption too many times.
Lesson Learnt - Prioritise your team’s primary, secondary and tertiary responsibilities and dovetail this together into a cohesive whole.
Not paying enough attention to AI - This is an ongoing and endemic mistake. Whilst we’ve looked to various AI apps to aid various levels of low-level basic support, we’ve yet to fully embrace and integrate this into our workflow in a meaningful way. We don’t want to lose our creative direction or integrity of authorship in how we take advantage of this tech, but we must look at how it can help add value for the work we do. If not in delivery, then in strategy, process, research or other various support mechanisms.
Like all emerging tech over the ages, how it affects our day-to-day processes will be key in finding where the value truly lies. The sheer power AI can offer the creative industries has yet to be seen but however it develops, we must be onboard with more purpose.
Lesson Learnt - The next step is to just get on with it. The more we ‘get involved’ with the varied AI platforms available, the more opportunity we will see and understand what the future might hold.
Got some war stories of your own? Come on, share some mistakes so I don't feel alone or just send me an email of a laughing emoji at email@example.com.
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