Events manager Jordan Walsh reveals the two make-or-break lessons he has learnt in business, and the hour-a-day time investment that is boosting the effectiveness of his other waking hours.
- Business name: Iconic Live
- Industry: Event management and technical production
- Number of employees: 50, up to 100 staff in peak event periods
- Operating since: Iconic Live was founded in 2017; its predecessors were founded in 2013
What was your first paid job?
I was a sandwich artist at Subway. It was during this time that I got my first taste of business. I loved it and I actually became an assistant manager at 16. My first boss taught me a lot: in fact, we’re still in touch to this day.
What made you get into your current business?
I’m passionate about facilitating fast but sustainable growth in companies. With Iconic Live, I saw an opportunity to do just that. Technology is becoming increasingly important in the conferences and events experience, and so I definitely saw the potential in leading and growing a technical production company.
Now with our recent acquisition of an events management company, we’re continuing to fulfil this vision and we have grown really quickly, but also sustainably.
What has been your biggest triumph in business?
Overall, I’m most proud of having built from scratch multiple multimillion-dollar businesses. It involves a lot of effort and comes with a lot of sacrifice along the way, but the triumph of having built something from nothing, which provides genuine value to people, is unparalleled.
Conversely, what has been your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
There are two mistakes that pose an equal threat to a business, even though they’re diametrically opposed.
The first is getting complacent. If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward. I’ve learnt that no matter how strong you think your business is, if you don’t keep improving it, you will suffer the consequences.
The second is making things too complex. This is the number one way to make your business not scalable. While you want to keep moving forward, you can’t make change for the sake of it. It’s absolutely vital to stand back and look at the business and consider the systems and processes needed to scale the business as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
You have to strike the right balance between the two.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I’ve received a lot of great advice since starting in business. I think the best piece is to lean into your strengths and to find people to cover your weaknesses. I don’t believe it’s necessary to become good at every part of business to succeed in business.
Don’t waste time trying to work on your weaknesses. To be successful, you have to find out what your strength is and lean into it.
If you could change one thing to make life easier as a business owner, what would it be and why?
It would make life easier for business owners if the rest of the world understood just how hard it is to build a business. There is a lot of celebration of business owners in our culture, but often the focus is on the status symbols like driving a fancy Lamborghini or getting VIP tickets somewhere.
The truth is that our lives are comprised of juggling lots of balls, working long hours, taking risks and living with uncertainty. Of course, I’m not asking we get sympathy — as business owners, this is what we choose — but I think it would help if we were respected for the grit and determination that we put into running a business, rather than be judged on the superficial bells and whistles that might come after success is achieved.
Who do you look up to in business and why?
I look up to people who have been able to build businesses in their own right. I find it incredibly inspiring to hear stories and know the people who have had an idea and from nothing have made it a reality, and years later, it still exists.
That’s what gives me drive: not the big hitters like Gary Vee and Elon Musk, but the regular people around us who are beating the odds to make stuff happen.
What do you do to get away from work?
This year, I’ve been going to the gym every day. I’ve already lost 15kg and feel so much healthier and more balanced. It’s just one hour a day, but it’s crucial for me to have that time to switch off. I put my headphones in, and for an hour, I don’t talk to anyone and it helps me be much more present and effective for the rest of the day.
What is the best thing you have ever spent money on in your business (and why)?
Good people. Without a doubt, they’re the best investment you can make in your business.
When you’re just starting out, it’s just you and you try to do everything. But when you scale up, you need to have the right organisational structure and the right people in the roles to enable your continued success.
It’s like having a strong tech system. If you build your business with the right people, your business will be infinitely scalable.
Name a little-known fact about yourself.
My fiancé and I ride Motocross bikes and I love ’90s hip-hop.
What is the funniest experience or encounter you have had in business?
When I was just starting out with my first company, I was pitching to really large corporate clients all over the country. As I think is pretty common for business owners just starting out, I wanted to give the impression I was more established than I was — because I knew I soon would be, I just needed to get a foothold in the market. So, I would fly Tiger Air and stay in cheap hostels, but then front up to their huge corporate offices wearing my only nice suit and a smile.
Luckily it worked: We won the business and the clients never knew (until now)!
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.