When I began playing rugby league at the age of 16 I decided that I was ready to take sport seriously and try to become a professional player. So I played for an adult team, I learnt to keep my head down and how to compete with much stronger players. I found myself at a professional club on an amateur contract with a load of other guys in a similar boat and I learned from the guys that had been around longer than most, these guys exist in almost every profession. They’re the ones that don’t boast (generally because they don’t need to but also because they aren’t too fussed with status), they are all concerned about the work. They will also be the ones that don’t moan or brag about all the effort they’re putting in. However, once a training session has finished, these same guys would be doing extra work after everyone else has gone home. I followed their lead and in two years at this club I was offered a professional contract.
Now okay, my signing-on fee was a bag of chips (and didn’t dare hold out for a tub of gravy) when other players were signing for tens of thousands but that wasn’t the point. My goal was to get signed and be paid to play sport. Job done.
I would route the diligence that is needed to build a company back to this – it’s quite simple: work hard, improve and reap the benefits. You have to figure out your place in a market, where everyone seems to know the rules (except you). You have to be honest about your work, what to charge but also be confident in your ideas. And you have to work very, very hard, and when everyone else has gone home you work some more. This is the only way I have found to get ahead. After all, my company consisted of me and if I wanted to be like the guys slightly ahead of me with a few employees, I needed to work harder than them. Of course you need to have a plan, and a touch of intelligence but 10% inspiration 90% perspiration, is a pretty realistic ratio.
I still set myself goals and try to ensure that they seem just beyond my reach. These goals usually aren’t financial, of course we have our 3 year business plan in place where we have our gross, net and turnover targets but equally as important are to target the things we wish to do…simply because we want to. The kind of work we would enjoy and be good at. When doing things you enjoy you work harder and become an expert, I have found that if you excel at things people usually pay you well for them. And so the money follows the dream.
When my rugby career was over, I set myself another goal of making a film. I was 25, I had never studied film but I admitted to myself that this is what I really wanted to do and I felt I would be good at it. I had access to the local Rugby Club bar and using this as a set, I made myself a film that ran for 35mins…it took 12 months and I loved it. Throughout this time I learned to write a script and storyboard, understand a little about how cameras work (I still only have this much knowledge) and then coax in enough people to help me and then direct them – all in my spare time. One of these people had a mate called Nigel who worked for a production company Resolution DV.
Now the film didn’t win any Oscars so you may see this as a failure (as I did for a while) but it depends on your goal. My goal was to make a film that worked – it did (if you know our films, it’s a typically dark tale). Nigel is now a director at my company, Fuzzy Duck, a large proportion of our work is film and Fuzzy Duck bought Resolution…if you like doing things you work harder at them, if you excel at things people usually pay you well for them.
My goal to have my own company has been realised. Where everyone shares a similar vision, the team work hard for one another and the profit margins are shared. If any of the team have their personal creative ambitions, we do our best to help them realise these within the company dynamic. The success of these ambitions, what the goal is and ultimately what success looks like is measured. For success is relative, whether it be playing professional sport, making a film or even building a company.