How long does it take to become elite at your craft? And what do the people who master their goals do differently than the rest of us? From a one-man band to a credible brand, iThinkMedia truly is the story of how one man mastered his craft.
The inspiration for this post came earlier this month when I saw an anniversary on LinkedIn – iThinkMedia was 8 years old! It took me by surprise when I realised how quickly an unfamiliar brand could rise to such limits within such a short space of time.
According to Malcolm Gladwell:
“It takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in your field.”
Personally, I wouldn’t describe anyone in online marketing as an expert, that would imply that one knows everything there is to know within their industry; skilled and astute maybe, but never really an expert.
It is an industry that is renowned for constantly changing and developing; making old methods obsolete on a weekly basis which makes it impossible to know everything, but that’s just my opinion. However, if Malcolm’s theory were to be applied to our CEO, Chris Ailey, he’d be an expert 20 times over.
Everyone has the same reaction when they come to the iThinkMedia HQ. And it’s usually along the lines of “Am I in the right place?”
After applying for the role of PA to the Managing Director, I received an email offering me an interview. When the address turned out to be the place across the road from my grandparents’ house, I became slightly apprehensive, shall we say.
My brother and I had spent our childhood ‘accidentally’ kicking balls over the towering hedge that dominates the perimeters and riding our bikes back and forth past the gates just to try and get a glimpse of the estate. With this in mind, it wouldn’t be my first guess for the location of such a new-fangled and current business.
It was the first time I had entered the grounds with a genuine invite; I can only class the other times as harmless trespassing. The driveway splits as you pass through the gates and one sign points to Cole Green House, the other to The Old Barn.
As I turned the corner and caught sight of the sizeable barn, I became very aware that this business was going to have a warming character and considerable personality just like the dwelling itself.
That was over 5 years ago and needless to say, I was offered the job. Back then there were only 9 of us and we had only a handful of clients, albeit reputable clients. Regardless of this, we still weren’t established enough to be classified as anything more than average.
Every member of staff knew the boundaries and knew what was expected from Chris – he was the type of boss you wanted to work hard for. There were lots of team building days, many a pub lunch and even BBQs in the grounds. In return for such an enjoyable atmosphere, staff stayed late voluntarily, emails would be answered outside working hours and people strived to reach their targets expeditiously.
If you skip back a further 3 years, all you’d have is Chris sitting in his garage with his laptop and a handful of connections he’d picked up through recognition from working at DSG. Those people had seen his ability to achieve results and maintain his personable approach to everything he does.
To this day, people he worked with there still recommend him to prospective clients and undisputedly sing his praises. He is the definition of personable and working for him is enviable to an onlooker. The amount of times I’m asked if there are any jobs available in the office is quite remarkable.
There’s no doubt that leadership is about making important but unpopular decisions, but if you’re already Mr Uber Popular when difficult choices are made, then you’re winning!
Over the last couple of years, Chris has replicated this approach into starting a new content company. His recipe for success has been passed across, creating yet another successful enterprise to his name.
With this in mind, it is sometimes difficult to retain the unique ethos that once defined our business and made it stand out from the rest. But hats off to Chris who has preserved everything that originally characterised him as a leader, making people want to come along for the ride.
People flock to him in a crisis and lean on him for support on a regular basis. His ability to maintain his composition in both hardships and in triumphs verifies the intuitive reverence people give him. That’s why clients buy into his brand and why staff praise his methods of leadership – a recipe for success in my book.
Really, he’s probably just the flukiest man ever to step foot on this Earth and just in case his head can’t fit through the door after reading this, I’d like to add that he isn’t perfect, he has an astronomically bad sense of direction! But 8 years on, the business is on top of its game and a million miles from where it started, holding a large amount of illustrious clients under its wing.
For everybody that arrives at The Old Barn and finds themselves asking, “Am I in the right place?” they soon realise we are as valiant as the barn itself but as humble as the surroundings it occupies.