Notes to my younger self

Everyone has played the game, ‘If only I know then, what I know now’. Arron Harnden of Shirtworks writes a note back to his younger self.

What follies I could have avoided, what time I could have made better use of, what future I could have constructed which materialises in my present.

Well, just in case Elon Musk (that bloke is awesome) invents time travel in the next couple of years, I am going to make some notes to take back with me. Notes to my younger self to read in 1995.

1) Take the time to hire the best people you can.

Remember when you went through that phase of hiring people you thought would fit in? Forget that, hire people who the current staff can aspire to become. Slow the recruiting process down a little and thoroughly investigate who it is you are taking on. You really are only as good as your people.

2) Do not waste time or money on print media advertising.

Even in the late 90s this will become redundant, forget all that crap and start thinking digital. You wasted at least 10k on print advertising from 2000 to 2008 you muppet! It might work for some, but not for you as a T shirt printing business.

3) When 1995 comes around, build a better website, spend 3x the amount of money you initially spent each year developing written or video content that people want to read or view.

You seriously need to get your head around the idea that you will one day spend hours and hours writing content for your website and your blogs in a way that will seem like you have jacked in running a screen printing company and decided to become a journalist. Learn to string a few words together, never rest on your laurels, keep posting new content, make videos, and constantly try to improve the customer experience. Your inner voice will tell you this is boring… do… not… relent.

4) Do not sign that 10 year lease on your current retail store when it comes around in 2007.

I know it seems weird right now but shops will start to close and be replaced by restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and pound shops, where you can get anything for a pound. I know crazy right?? Cut away that retail anchor you are dragging around before it starts to sink you, bricks and mortar equals costs, costs, costs and extra hassle.

5) When quick growth comes between 2005 and 2007, do not ‘panic staff’ the place, there is a recession just around the corner.

Be careful with overstaffing. The winter of 2008 will come cold and fast taking your breath away, and a truckload of expected revenue. You can’t afford to have people standing about wondering where all the work has gone. Think ‘lean’ during the summer and autumn of 2008 in preparation. Always be prepared to ‘de-scale’ if necessary. It’s ugly but true.

6) Do not stop learning.

You think you know it all… you know nothing. Try to fit in a new academic course in a business related field each year to help you develop and feed knowledge into the company. Marketing, accounting, project management, search engine optimisation… all that guff will pay dividends one way or the other.

7) Do not underestimate the power of some Palo Alto geek to mess with your head when they start inventing penguins, pandas and possums in the pre naughty teen years.

You won’t appreciate this now, in 1995, but Google is going to be the single most important company in the world, quicker than you can tape up a 23 by 31 inch frame. February 23 2011 is ground zero. Panda comes crashing through your sleepy haze and you disappear from page one of a Google organic search overnight. This will be as bad as the banking crisis of 2008. Don’t listen to a single thing that any of those SEO experts tell you from 2005 onwards. Learn to recognise old rope before you buy it.

8) Hold your nerve, brass it out, learn to ‘accept’!!

You will have bad days, it will feel like you are never going to come down from the peak of a ‘stress rollercoaster’. Fear not, most of this is in your mind. Things tend to get stressful when you feel like you are running out of time to get something done. Learn to put up with the discomfort of getting up early, the fatigue you feel after a 14 hour day. Manage your energy and accept that nearly all of this stress can be chased away if you ‘just accept’.

Lastly, one day in 1996, a really beautiful Brazilian dancer is going to give you her phone number. Don’t poop your pants, don’t lose the number you dumbo, make sure you call her!

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