There’s been some silence on this page for the last month. And with good reason. HackDigital.net in its current form is taking a break. You heard me right. That endeavour that I plunged into after departing my last employer is now on hold. Why? Here’s a few reasons.
1. I wasn’t ready
That’s hard to type. Even now. I’ve made peace with the decision, but it’s hard to admit these kinds of things. The goal of HackDigtal.net was to start a digital consultancy, grow it, and work things out as I go. That goal was achieved, yet I’m still saying this. There are many ways you can start a business. Here’s a few:
- Out of necessity – some businesses start because there’s no other way for a person to pay their bills, they have to hustle to make ends meet
- From a good idea – some things just click and borne out of a clever insight
- With a vision – some come about from a vision – a solid foundation about where they want to take a business and an undated desire to see things through
My imperative was not really any of these things. It was borne out of curiosity, a desire to scratch the itch, and good timing with the decision to leave my post at Google. There was not a strong need, there was no killer idea, and if I’m brutally honest, I didn’t have a vision.
To grow the kind of business that I want to be a part of one day, HackDigital.net was not the vehicle I needed.
2. Not enough buffer
This one was a tricky one to admit as well. One of my confidantes, Marie Sornin, wrote a guide about striking out on your own in the freelance world that really resonated with me. She talked about giving yourself a buffer and a point of no return. I didn’t really do this. I had some savings, some more debt, and worried about the rest later. Looking back there were some tight spots, and a couple of customers came at exactly the right time for me which was a combination of fortune and sheer hustle. Having the debt lurk over me was a big show-stopper in the end. I could have kept surviving and growing the business, but the threat of debt would have kept lurking over me like a dark cloud.
3. There’s a difference between consulting and growing a business
I think there’s a real difference between freelancing and growing a business. I was doing the former. I really liked my name, and the concept of applying my digital marketing nous to emerging businesses, but in the end there’s only me. I can only do so much with my expertise, and what I was doing was more akin to providing a single kind-of service to customers that would have me. I am sure there are businesses that grow from consulting, but it’s very tricky to scale what you do, and combined with my lack of clarity and financial security, it was always going to be an uphill battle.
Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
I’m now sitting on a plane headed back to Melbourne after a week of training with my new employer in Singapore. I’ve taken on a year-long contract and am really excited by the opportunity I’ve been presented with. It’s going great guns so far and it’s a new direction for me while being able to remain in my home city. I haven’t been this happy in a good while.
While I was working on the business, I had a quote that drove me, and was plastered across my desktop and phone. It reads:
Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter.
Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
The quote isn’t attributed to some fail-fast methodology neophyte from the Silicon Valley, it’s from a playwright called Samuel Beckett, who did most of his writing in the 1950s and 60s. As the rate of change continues to accelerate in the world – with ever-changing parameters, emerging technologies, and things to keep abreast of, the quote provided me with a large amount of solace.
I was under no illusions about the audacity of starting a business from scratch and in a new city. There was a high chance of “failure” and I’m embracing it wholeheartedly.
Plastered across my desktop and phone
What’s your elevator pitch?
When I joined Google, I was fortunate enough to hear a senior leader within the business, Shailesh Rao, talk about the experience of working for a startup. As he was extolling advice over a video conference, he smiled and exclaimed that you don’t know what it’s like to work until you’re timing your rides into elevators to get the exact timing of your pitch down.
I didn’t really know what he meant at the time, but sure enough, I was riding in a lift one day and met my second customer, YourGrocer.com.au in an elevator. It was a good experience.
And so was the rest of HackDigital.net, and the experiences I picked up will prove invaluable for the next project I pick up.
So what happens with this blog?
I’m going to work that out in a little while. I might revamp the site and simply use it as a blog for my thoughts on digital. I’m currently tossing up between using this space or staring fresh with a new writing project that I’m kicking around.
To all my friends and family that supported me during this experience – many thanks for your kind words and support – it meant a lot, and rest assured there’ll be more to come.