Mike Soutar, CEO ShortList Media – ‘Don’t wait to be hospitalised before you start your own business’ at TEDxOxford
ShortList is a weekly mens magazine published by ShortList Media that operates under ‘freemium’. The magazine is free to readers, the costs instead recouped through advertising. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia ShortList has the widest circulation of all mens magazines published in the UK. Clearly ‘freemium’ is working out well for Soutar, but his one regret is not launching the company 10-20 years ago. Prior to founding ShortList Media Soutar was one of those high-flying business types with two assistants and levels of job satisfaction that could only be analogised to mid-sized mountains. It wasn’t until he was hospitalised for a nasty bout of typhus that things were put into perspective for him. His talk was a seven point argument for why we should set-up our own businesses now. Here’s my summary of his advice:
- Recessions are a great time to start a business. Apparently Disney, Apple, MTV and Microsoft were all founded in miserable economic climates. If you succeed now you’ll be able to thrive ahead of your late-starting competitors when the upturn comes.
- The earlier you start the easier. The young have fewer obligations. There’s no point waiting until you have things to sacrifice.
- Learn to think like an insurgent. When you’re competing against established companies remember that while they have everything they also have everything to lose. Conversely, while you have nothing, you also have nothing to lose. This gives the small guy a focus that the big guy doesn’t have.
- A little knowledge is priceless. You don’t necessarily need to know everything about your business area when you start. You’re in a position to learn new and different ways to do things that your competitors may not have considered. The bit definitely worth remembering is that you don’t know what you can’t do.
- Your greatest asset as a young person is that you understand young people. Apparently, I wouldn’t need to commission a focus group to explain why The Only Way is Essex is superior to Made in Chelsea.
- There are a lot of anxious investors out there. This was about the availability of seed capital. I suspect I was distracted by my phone at this point, because that’s all I can say about this point.
- The first idea doesn’t have to be the best idea you’ll ever have. Soutar evidenced this with his own experience. ShortList Media was born out of an earlier business that wasn’t half as successful. It wasn’t a bad business, but the point is that your ideas evolve.