Starting Out as a Startup

Ideas board

The beginning

There’s a moment when you sit down and look at a blank word document.

You know this is it.

You start simple, Dear [insert boss’ name], and you’re underway.

If you’re slamming the door on your way out, you’re usually done in 3 minutes. If you’re sad to leave, it takes closer to 30. A coffee. A few revisions, then hit print.

Take a deep breath, slowly walk over to the boss and ask if you can have 2 minutes.

Breathe. Don’t forget to breathe.

Then hand it over…

Congratulations, you’ve just taken the first step to starting your own business.

For me, this happened in July when I took the plunge and resigned from The Tomorrow Lab. Despite being as sure as I could be that it was the right thing to do, the walk, oh, the slow walk across the office, had my heart beating so hard I could barely get my words out. Yes, me, Andi Jarvis, almost lost for words. Eeek.

Before the beginning

To be honest, the resignation letter wasn’t the first step in starting my own business. The ideas had been floating around for much longer than that.

I’d always loved my job at The Tomorrow Lab and one of the many reasons was the opportunity to be an intrapreneur. I’d come up with a few hair-brained schemes (sorry, strategically developed marketing ideas) over the years, pitched many of them to clients or pushed for them to be implemented internally.

In addition to that, I was working with a great bunch of people, doing working on campaigns for amazing companies and had just launched Colab. Work life was, on the whole, pretty good.

However, in the last 12 months I’ve felt the urge to try working for myself. Some changes outside the office had made me ask The Big Question about the meaning of life and, despite the teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing, working for myself felt like the right answer.

I’d spent many nights laid awake trying to come up with a way of running my own business. Trying to work out what I enjoyed, what people might pay me for and what would help me balance home and work. I might have been guilty of overthinking it – at least two people I know and respect told me to JFDI (Urban Dictionary will tell you what JFDI means if you’ve not come across it before, just don’t show your mum) – but I wanted to get it as right as possible before handing in my notice.

What any entrepreneur will tell you is that the perfect moment to resign doesn’t exist. Waiting for all the stars to align before jumping into your own business doesn’t happen very often. In many ways accepting that perfection doesn’t exist makes the challenge even bigger. Jumping off cliff is scary enough when you know there’s 10m of water to catch you at the bottom. But jumping in with no idea if there are rocks, sharks, or, worst of all, those fish that eat the dead skin off your feet at the bottom is terrifying.

But when I’d accepted this leap of blind faith was the only way forward, it made it easier. I had a bit of an idea of what I planned to do when I resigned, but in the week following my resignation, I made more progress than the 52 that preceded it. It’s amazing what a bit of focus can do for you!

The Future

Outside of marketing circles, no one really understands what I do, so I simplified it to a simple one liner: I drink coffee and talk to people. (Incidentally, I’ve had to drop that line after Tyrion Lannister took ownership of something similar, but much, much better.)


So what are you going to do now, Andi? I can hear you all ask. Something similar, yet slightly different to what I was doing previously. All under the rather cool banner of Eximo Marketing.

The plan for Eximo Marketing is to focus entirely on marketing strategy. I’ll be consulting with companies, running strategy courses and build your own strategy workshops. There is so much great tactical marketing going on, especially digitally, but I firmly believe that with the right strategic framework around it, it could perform so much better.

I’ll also be trying to get more time on stage talking (mainly ranting) about marketing strategy and hosting events. Basically, I’ll be anywhere with a stage and mic.

The eagle-eyed (or those under 30) will have noticed I’ve been referring to marketing strategy not digital marketing strategy. Or even social media strategy. There is good reason for this.

I will be creating and developing marketing, digital and social strategies, but I start each of these from the same place. To develop any strategy, you have to understand all the elements of the business, then let the customers guide you to the tactical outputs.

Digital or social solutions will almost certainly figure in the bulk of strategies, but only if there’s a compelling reason for them. I’ve always felt like part of me is an analogue boy stuck in a digital world and working for myself should allow me to explore traditional marketing channels for clients.

And finally, I wouldn’t be ticking every cliched marketing box if I didn’t say I planned to write a book about marketing strategy. That, however, will be a few months off before I put pen to paper (there’s the analogue boy again).

The Present

So, here we are. It’s September and Eximo Marketing is now a thing. It’s a thing that has a few great bits and bobs lined up. In between all of that, I’ll still be drinking coffee and talking to people, so give me a shout if you’d like a brew and a chat!

Andi Jarvis is founder of Eximo Marketing in Northern Ireland. You can get in touch with him on Twitter and Linkedin too.


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