Wade, what's your backstory?
Starting in Adelaide, I desperately wanted to get into radio. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. My first job was working 7 days a week for $35,000 a year. I soaked up every minute because, to me, radio was like being paid to do what I loved.
I spent 15 years in one company (Nova Entertainment) in a variety of roles and locations. I also met my wife there, so I felt like I grew up inside the business in many ways. Then when it came to trying something different, I resigned without a job to go to. I fell into a media agency General Manager role. Then I was headhunted to create a new business unit within another media company.
This is where I really got the appetite to start my own business. I was effectively an intrepreneur in a major media publisher, which meant I could learn on the job.
I've never had a formal qualification, but I'll back my ability to learn. I seek out those with information and ask questions. A lot of what I've learnt over the first 20 years has informed how I want to operate over the next 20.
Tell us what your company does?
Essentially we are a creative services business. We think of creativity as a swimming pool, and we move from lane to lane - depending on where we can add value. We do everything from brand strategy and creative asset development to facilitating workshops and conducting ideas sessions.
How did you come up with the idea?
Creativity is essentially problem-solving. I decided on 'The Ideas Business' because I wanted to communicate that we were, in fact, in the business of ideas - with ideas being the result of creative thinking.
I wanted to keep the name broad as I wasn't convinced to build a creative agency or work as a team of consultants when I started. I wanted the market to show us where they saw our value, be led by them, and I needed a name that would be relevant based on a varied service offering.
How did you go about building and launching the business?
I was extremely lucky to be in the right place at the right time and then worked hard from that opportunity. My first client was an existing relationship who basically said, 'I want to back you'.
It's easier to push yourself off the cliff when you have someone handing you a parachute. To get started, I worked on the brand identity, value proposition and service offering. Once I had that in place, I felt confident to begin shopping myself around to other businesses where I thought we could add value.
How have you grown the business?
One of the things I realised when I was out on my own was that my networks were everything. Unless you're starting out with a massive marketing budget, chances are your first 100 sales are going to come from 100 people you already know.
I quickly realised that my networks were primarily related to where I was employed at the time. Meaning they were making connections with the company I worked for, and I was just the representative. When you go out on your own, it's back to basics. One to one conversations, working out how you can add value.
I also find that the best marketing is still word-of-mouth. I have people making introductions for me because they're clear on who I am and what I can do.
The clearer your offering, the more current customers can share you with future ones. This helped me a lot get off the ground and still helps me today.
What’s your biggest selling product?
One of the efforts I'm truly proud of in just over 4 years of operation is that 1.5 of those years (so far) have been in Covid. We went from 7 clients to 1 in the space of a week because we had built an 'in-person' model to deliver our services.
We always had a book/online version on the drawing board. But looking at forward revenue and seeing a cliff coming gets you motivated! So we launched a prototype of an online training course for creative thinking. To fund it, we ran a Kickstarter campaign and raised $8,000, which covered video production and editing costs.
From there, we've evolved the program to become the Creative Champions Course (www.creativechampions.co/courses), which is the flagship product for our training services. We've already put nearly 200 people through the program since we launched it, so we're proud of the way that's started.
In terms of what we are most in demand for - it's definitely our facilitation services. We have inbound demand, which means we have strong forward bookings for people who want us to run their creative sessions online and in person.
What have been some of your biggest failures along the way?
I think one of the biggest lessons I learned early was that cash flow is critical. It's something you hear about and read about, but now I am focused on it daily.
In the early days, I had a good start, so I probably didn't leave enough in the bank for the proverbial rainy day... then Covid hit. I had to rely on my own Superannuation and Government support to stay afloat.
Coming out of the pandemic, I'm much more cautious about keeping funds in case that client who said yes (and haven't paid yet) changes their mind. With Covid, that happened to me with such regularity that it made me more cautious. I'll still invest and grow the business as that's how I know I'll be successful. Now I have a minimum benchmark of where I want the bank balance to sit going into the next quarter. It helps me plan for the unplanned.
What day to day digital tools do you use?
What books have been a great inspiration to you as a founder?
I'm a massive reader. I buy 3-4 books per week. I've always been a 'learn by reading' person, so some books I devour immediately when they arrive - others I put on the shelf and use for reference.
Getting me to narrow this down is like asking me to pick my favourite child, so in the context of being a 'Founder', I would say some great reads are:
Cult Status by Tim Duggan
This really focuses your thinking on the impact you want your business to have rather than just the products and services you sell.
This is Marketing by Seth Godin
It reminds you of all the things you already know but forget to do when you start it out. The sooner you read this, the more successful you'll be at finding customers.
Overcoming Floccinaucinihilipification by Jon Manning
Okay, so this is a crazy titled book but translated, it teaches you how to value and monetise your products and services. The number one problem I hear from people when they start out is how to price what they do. Read this, and you won't go wrong.
On websites, I have a regular recurring appointment in my diary at the start of every month to visit sites that inspire me for different reasons.
When I started, I looked around for other businesses that I wanted to emulate in terms of branding.
I love 'The School of Life' because I felt like they had a higher purpose. The way they communicated that in their design was contemporary and consistent. I go back there every month to see what's new.
Otherwise, I try and keep up with industry news sites (Google alerts are your friend) and look as far afield as possible.
I look at plenty of international sites and follow people on Twitter who are sharing the work of others. I actually set up a separate email address to send all my articles and clippings to! I'm like a magpie grabbing bits from everywhere.
Podcasts - I really am a bit fussy on this. To me, there's a complete overload of content out there - so I tend to listen to things that give me different points of view rather than just what's popular. ABC Radio National has a show called 'All in the mind' about different aspects of psychology. It helps me understand why we do what we do as humans, and then I look to apply relevant stuff to my work.
What quotes do you live by?
Two of my favourites (which are now part of our business mantra are):
"Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value" - Albert Einstein;
"If you don't ask, you don't get" (Author unknown).
There are plenty more (I'm a quote collector), but I keep coming back to those two above all else.
What do you do to look after your mental health as a founder?
We're lucky to live near an amazing beach, so regular walks become part of my day. Having a dog helps you stick to it. He can guilt you into wanting to go even when you don't feel like it, and you're always better for it.
I try and manage my mental health by working in 'flow states'. Rather than being a slave to the desk for set working hours, I work my schedule to when I feel optimal.
I like getting some work out the way early in the morning, taking a longer break during the day (usually for a walk), and finishing off the afternoon.
I'd much rather work 6 days a week doing days like this than cramming everything in 5 long days and being exhausted. It fits the way I like to work.
In a few words what does it mean to be the founder of a business?
It's a roller coaster, so you have to be ready to take the ride. I know some people who got on, liked the highs but didn't like the lows and got off. And that's fair enough. It's not for everyone.
I like to think being a Founder is part-awful, part-awesome. There are days when you think, "am I still going to be in business next month?" and there are days when you think ", I can see how successful we'll be in 5 years from now".
It truly can be that dramatic, and Covid has really made the speed of the roller coaster go from the kid's playground to Luna Park.
So I think being a Founder is preparing to wake up and go on the ride every day. Despite all the challenges I've had in the last 4 years - there's not one single day where I would have chosen to retake a salary. I've certainly thought about it - but never have I actually felt like I wanted to get off by choice.
What are the biggest pieces of advice you’d give to other founders?
A few things.
First, get a great accountant. Don't settle for the same people who did your Income Tax Return when you got your first job, just because you know them.
Actively seek out someone who understands you and your business and knows a lot more than you do about the nuts and bolts of running a business themselves. I honestly wouldn't have made it this far - certainly not through Covid - without my Accountant team.
Second, publish content daily. It's a hectic world out there, and quite often, I've picked up work through a Linkedin post I've either written myself or shared of something else.
Being consistently present in people's feeds is a way to get noticed. As an example, I found Founderoo through someone else sharing a post on social. Now I get the chance to share my story with you.
YouTube is the biggest search engine after Google. I'm sure as a Founder, you spend a lot of time working out the best way to be found online. Well, get busy with content production, or you'll be behind the pack.
Third, it goes back to one of my favourite quotes "if you don't ask, you don't get". I know so many talented people who go out on their own and hope the quality of their work brings them the next customer.
If wishing made it so. The hustle is real, and I ask one question of people considering the Founder path: "are you prepared to ask people for work?". Of course, it's not as blunt as that in its delivery - but I spend a large percentage of my time having to sell myself and what value I can add.
I have a pretty good strike rate when I do - but I also see that if I hadn't have suggested I could be helpful for that person and what I can deliver - it would have sailed right past me.