Business lessons from my dad

March 25, 2022

Listen instead

My dad never met John Farnham.

For context for all of you outside of Australia, John Farnham is an Australian singer, and one of our most-loved and most popular performers. He was Australian of the Year in 1987 (the year I was born), has done more farewell tours than he had hits, and features heavily in any Aussie's go-to karaoke song rotation.

But, he didn't start out as a superstar.

(Oh yeah, he also played Jesus Christ in Jesus Christ Superstar.)

Before his 1986 hit 'You're the Voice' peaked at number 1 on the Australian singles charts, Johnny Farnham was a teen pop idol.

He'd been the lead singer of the totally wholesome Little River Band.

And was best known as the blonde-haired, blue-eyed, sweet kids that sang 'Sadie the Cleaning Lady'.

So when the booking agent suggested that Tiffany's nightclub - at the time, one of Sydney's largest venues - host part of the Whispering Jack tour, my dad said no.

"Little Johnny Farnham? Who wants to come and see little Johnny Farnham."

To this day, Whispering Jack is the second-highest selling album in Australian history.

And, a hard learnt lesson that I've been told many, many (many) times.

You can't know everything about everything. Trust the people who know more than you.

Picture me, 6 months ago, wondering what on earth I was doing with my life.

The question really was, what on earth am I doing with my business. But that had become my life.

Through a range of sometimes mandated and sometimes self-imposed lock-downs, my world had shrunk to my tiny office space, with occasional excursions to the kitchen or the bar (mostly because of it's use as a make-shift standing desk, sometimes because of it's beverages).

Then a coach I'd followed for a while began advertising their latest intake. I thought: is this the thing that makes it all make sense?

Or, am I just taking another detour on something I can figure out myself. After all, her speciality is messaging and positioning. Don't I sort of do that too? Plus, the price tag threatened to make my heart stop.

You can't know everything about everything. Trust the people who know more than you.

I took the plunge.

Now, this isn't one of those affiliate marketing pieces where I tell you a nice story so you book a spot with someone else and I get a financial kick-back.

If you ask, I'll happily tell you who I worked with and what we did. But not here.

Here I'll tell you what I felt after I made that decision.

Sheer relief.

Relief that someone might tell me what on earth it was that I'd been trying to say all these years.

Relief that I could take a break from worrying about the next best thing to do, and have someone tell me.

Relief that I could feel all those wonderful clarity feels that my clients tell me about, but I find so hard to uncover for myself.

Sometimes, you just need an outside perspective. Someone to challenge you to elevate your ideas, ask you how you do the things you do, and challenge you about why that one thing you said a moment ago was really important.

The process has allowed my business to evolve but also, weirdly, has let me reconnect with the business I set out to build.

I'm still asking the same question I was almost 4 years ago.

Can I make content design and strategy accessible to growing businesses, and give them the tools they need to solve business problems with content?

Over the years, I've seen people in content related roles narrow their focus, while I've continued to expand.

This has made me question if I really know what I'm doing. But yeah, I do.

(My new mantra is "I'm not a lonely panda, I'm a raccoon"...but that's a story for another day).

I started this business to make sure that smaller, growing, complex - but not giant - businesses can get the skills that (right now) only big corporates access regularly.

I think through issues by either speaking them out or writing them out.

Having dedicated time to talk through what I do, and turning that into website copy, has been a process of falling back in love with the practice of content strategy.

(Maybe I...or someone else...can do the same for you?)

I love nerding out over the idea of the perfect project: taking a blank slate and creating content models, messaging, getting a CMS that works, designing content, testing content, changing content, then working on content governance and workflows to maintain the final product...

But I also love that there is no perfect project, and that every day is a new opportunity to find a way to connect different activities and tasks to get to the next best possible outcome.

If you have a moment, take a peek at the new site.

It's not finished (the internet never is).

And - even thought I wish it were another way - there is way more therapy needed to work through content for a website project that you'd imagine.

Like any site, it's just some words on the internet, but it represents a huge amount of thinking, planning, creating, and deciding.

It represents handing over the reins, and recognising that I can't know everything about everything: that I should trust the people who know more than me.

Keep reading

Stretch your vocabulary (but not in the way you’d expect)

Everyone’s a copywriter

Knowing what works on your website