As a twenty something year old, I’ve had a slight opportunity to watch how business and managing teams has been done in the last 10 years. You see the same old tired attitudes again and again. Certainly, not how I’d like to get shit done these days. This weekend, I had a cool chat related to these themes with Jeremy Norton, a well experienced entrepreneur from the UK, living the sunny life of Barcelona and preaching some entrepreneurial good vibes. Here’s the interview:
Jeremy tell us a bit about yourself Where you from? what’s your professional background? What are you passionate about?
I was born in West London in the UK but spent nearly 20 years living in Brighton on the south coast of the UK before I came to BCN.
My first job after I finished University was as an animator, working in London. I was animating menu boards for McDonald’s.
I’ve always been passionate about creativity – in any shape or form. I love music, the arts, literature…
– Ha! that’s a pretty interesting first job. Going out of university and directly working for McDonald’s offering your creativity! Sounds pretty cool for me.
I was very quick off the mark. Most of my friends from University were more interested in spending a year travelling or ‘taking a year off’. I was more concerned about getting some exciting work and paying off my student loan. I was being interviewed for work in London before I had even graduated.
– That’s interesting! It happened to me the same! Seems like not a lot of students realize how important is to graduate while having some working experience on the field
Especially in the digital world. Software and hardware develop and change so quickly. It is so important to keep up with technology – even though it might be in the creative industry. Work experience is absolutely key. In a lot of cases it is more important than qualifications.
About your passions. Where do you think this interest comes from? Is it someone that got you into the themes or was it more like an inner awakening?
I have no idea where passion comes from. I think it might be a reflection of our attitude to the world around us from when we are very young. My mother has always been a keen gardener, so I was exposed to little things being brought to life from a very early age. As an adult I still love the idea of bringing things to life. Although I really enjoy growing plants, for some reason that translated into bringing still images into life. Does that make any sense?
– It totally makes sense! (for some people of course).
Talking a bit more about your professional experience as an entrepreneur. What was your first project about? And, why you decided to leave your job-career and take the decision to bet on your ideas?
I think all entrepreneurs think ‘I can do this better’. That was certainly the case for me. After having worked for so many years for fairly large companies, you see the same mistakes get made time and time again. You see the same old tired attitudes again and again. But at the same time you feel slightly imprisoned – if you are working as a designer, it is not in your job description to give advice or comment to sales team, for example.
I’ve always done extra work on the side. When I took my first job as an animator, I was also working for myself as a composer. I was working with dance companies, creating music for people with special needs to help them express themselves through dancing. So from the very start I saw wonderful personal and community benefits from following your own ideas and getting out there and making contacts. I can’t imagine a normal boss giving a designer that much freedom.
– It is totally true! The working rolls for most companies are like a circle, it just goes round and round! After getting to know several entrepreneurs in the past year. I’ve been realizing that, what pushed most of them towards entrepreneurship, is the fact that they want to take decisions for themselves and not others taking decisions for them without even asking for feedback!
Very interesting. I guess when being an adult, you have a lot of experience, you just get a bit tired of that situation. It is more risky to go out on your own – but that is what makes it exciting!
“It is that old fashioned ‘boss’ mentality that I am getting away from”.
So you’d say it would be perfectly fine for you to work with/for modern ideals of working rolls and ways to manage teams.
Exactly! I think this is a really exciting time to explore the possibilities that technology gives us. What is the point of driving to a meeting, using up fossil fuels, running expensive cars etc when a Skype call is perfectly fine. What is the point of having a big office with bills, rent and a big leather chair for the boss when you can outsource to like-minded individuals all over the world. You can build your own teams for different purposes without having to inflict the old fashioned ‘boss’ mentality on anyone.
It’s obvious that you have a lot more experience on the professional field than I do! And I feel quite curious about the top difficulties you found on the UK while developing your career as an entrepreneur
The biggest difficulties have been the very early days when there hasn’t been the financial back-up for when things go wrong!
For example my old Mac completely died. 10 years ago the cost of buying a brand new Mac that is kitted out with the latest video and animation software cost a lot more than what it does now.
To replace that meant borrowing a lot of money to get back on track. Not ideal!
Another hurdle is when standards of media changes. A good example is when 1080p high definition video first starting hitting the market. Up to that point, my system was happily churning out standard definition video. Suddenly one day a client wants everything in 1080p. I rendered out a 20 seconds 3D animation for his corporate video that took 4 days to render. That was the last time he used me because it was SOOOO slow! I then had to upgrade my entire office to accomodate the new media standards. More expense!
I think my last hurdle would be Social Media management. There are now so many Social Media channels that are all very important in every way. They are important for SEO reasons, they are important to show the public that you are being fresh, innovative and interesting. But realistically how often does a Tweet actually get you a job? We are exploring the market to help get not very ‘tech savvy’ but passionate and driven business to succeed in the digital world.
A lot of these people are not on Twitter. It is finding a balance between good old fashioned leg work; physically walking around the city to find companies than can benefit from digital signage, an online presence and Social Media accounts, and maintaining a strong Social presence for reasons described before. There are only so many hours in the day Obviously I’m very aware of automation – I have heard of Hootsuite.
– Haha! And imagine what’s still to come.
– So looks like you’ve seen the whole transformation of social media in first row!
I’m older than I look. The radiation from my computer monitor keeps me looking fresh.
– Haha, good one! Now that you’ve mentioned it! tell us your secret! Is it the therapy time while growing plants ?
Growing plants helps! I’ve got tomatoes, mint, corn, peppers and avocado plants all on the go outside on our sunny roof terrace It keeps me sane.
– That’s so nice! I happen to have kind of the same hobby at home. We should find a business model that encourages people to gardening at home – don’t you think? I see it as a way to destroy big corporations not caring about our health and simply thinking about living a more healthy and self-sufficient life.
I thought about this. Marijuana is now being legalised in a LOT of states in the USA. The illegal dope growers are now becoming extinct, but on a planet with a growing food crisis, CO2 issues and global debt, surely these agricultural experts can put their business, farming and networking skills to good use and help feed the planet with organic crops and make serious bucks at the same time?
– Do you know any of those agricultural experts? hehe…
I have small question before we continue to talk about your current professional activity – And I’d like you to answer from a more personal perspective rather than professional ¿Why Barcelona?
Barcelona is inspirational in its architecture, the people, the lifestyle, its passion, music and arts. The weather is amazing and it is a progressive city. There is so much free training for start-up companies. There are so many Meetups in great places with amazing people giving really interesting talks and lectures. The technology here is brilliant too. Even the ATMs (cash points) are really advanced!
It makes the UK look like a hangover from the 1990s. To be here is really exciting and feels like an adventure holiday every day. On a very personal note, my Welsh grandfather came to Spain to fight against fascism with the International Brigade in the 1930s. I never met my grandfather as he died before I was born. I wanted to come over here and say hello and see why a Welsh coal miner from a tiny village wanted to protect Spain from Franco. So far I can see why – what an amazing and beautiful country.
– Agree! We love the emerging startup ecosystem developing here and of course the weather is a key factor I’ve heard many many times.
– Such interesting facts about your grandfather’s history. Im sure that’s the perfect icebreaker when the time to meet Catalans come.
Pitch time! Tell us about your entrepreneurial life?
The focus is on digital animation and video mostly corporate
but fun projects are brilliant too. So we are a digital marketing company specialising in Film/Video and Animation/Motion Graphics for websites and digital signage.
It is VERY hard to specialise these days! Everyone does everyhting! A really good example is film making skills. In the old days there would a be different teams of people: filming, editing, sound production, special effects, motion graphics etc etc.
colour correction – the list goes on. Now one single person is expected to all of it themselves.
Obviously software makes it ‘easier’ – but it is still one hell of a lot of skills to be excellent at to continue getting good work!
– Yeah. So you’d say that technical skills and good productivity has become more important that the proper soul of visual content creation (creativity)?
There’s a lot of truth in that. In a company a Creative Director would creatively shape a brief or project – so somebody technically proficient with software would be perfectly able to fulfil the creative aspect of a project. That does sound a little bit hollow though. Again that is a brilliant reason to go out on your own and be an entrepreneur – you get to be the tech guy (which I actually quite enjoy) and be the creative guy at the same time. You are no longer pigeon-holed. You get to do everything! Technical proficiency absolutely has its place though. Would Michelangelo get any work today in the digital world if he didn’t know how to use Photoshop?
– Great stuff Jeremy
From your experience – What skills you consider a MUST on today’s entrepreneurs (it can be either technical or more self-developing skills)?
Good question. Be organised. Get your spreadsheets together. Financial projections, client database, competitors, niche market etc. Get it all written down so you know exactly where you are and where you are going. Then ignore your spreadsheets and go to the local bars and meet people and talk to them about what you are doing. They will most likely be your first customers. Be sociable. Say thank you to the person who sells newspapers. Their rich aunt might be the person who has that $10,000 budget for that amazing website.
If you are being an entrepreneur to be that boss in a huge office with the leather chair – you are probably doing it for the wrong reasons. Think about what you can offer the world. How will you make other peoples lives better? Learn to be humble – you can’t take money beyond the grave. Make sure you like what you are doing so no matter what happens you enjoy the ride.
Thank you so much for the interview Jeremy I truly enjoyed and learnt from it as well!
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