How I Succeeded is a regular series on Lifehacker where we ask business leaders for the secrets and tactics behind their success. Today: James Wakefield from InStitchu.
Current gig: Co-founder and CEO of InStitchu
Location: Sydney, Australia
Current mobile device: Apple iPhones 6S, but very much looking forward to upgrading it!
Current computer: I love Apple products and recently I have invested in a brand new MacBook. I travel a lot so it's great to have a semi lightweight laptop that is easy to work on if you are out of the office for few weeks.
One word that best describes how you work: Driven
What apps/software/tools can't you live without?
Slack. We have been using it ever since it launched. We have a large team across Australia and it has become an essential tool for communicating with everyone in the business. It’s also great for making everyone feel part of the team even if they are based in a different state and you’ve never met them :)
I’m also a big fan of Evernote. It’s an awesome tool to keep you organised throughout the day and make sure you have a productive day at work.
What social network do you find the most useful?
For our business we use Instagram and Facebook. Our products are visually beautiful, and it's great to be able to demonstrate what we have in the showroom to our new or returning customers. I personally use Facebook, I find it useful to stay in touch with people that I meet when I travel or at networking events.
We also use Linkedin for recruiting. This is such a powerful tool! You should only use a recruiter after exhausting Llinkedin.
What were the most important lessons you learned while growing your business?
Where do I start! There were so many lessons! But the most important one is that you shouldn’t go into a business alone. If anyone were to ask me if they should start a business by themselves or with a co-founder, I can say with 100% certainty that I would always go into business with a co-founder.
Sharing your success with someone is far more rewarding than doing so by yourself. More importantly, having someone to share the stressful times with and bounce ideas off is extremely important.
Another great lesson that I've learnt is that everything is negotiable and it's very important when running your own business.
What has been the most surprising part of your business journey?
There were a lot of hurdles along the way, so to me the most surprising part is that we have built such strong and successful business considering what we had to start the business with.
We bootstrapped our business for the first few years which meant we had to sell suits in order to be able to fund our businesses growth. There were many months where Robin and I went without any pay and lived off credit cards. However, thankfully those days are far behind us now and we are fortunate enough to be going from strength to strength!
We are now able to enjoy every aspect of our business and more importantly, I am able to sleep at night. If you look closely at Robin’s hair and my hair, you will see we have dozens of grey hair! Despite the fact that there were periods of extreme stress, I am very happy to have experienced them as it is these challenges that learn from and improve from.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Telling InStitchu’s story to the world, we are all so passionate about what we do at InStitchu and it’s too hard not to share it with others!
What's your sleep routine like?
Now my sleeping routine is great :)
I think I have pretty good life work balance, I usually try to get 6 to 7 hours sleep, which allows me to rest and be ready to tackle the day. I do few sessions Crossfit sessions during the week which helps me to unwind after work.
What advice would you offer to other businesses on how to succeed?
Give it a go. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
Don't be scared to shake up an existing industry. When we started, people told us that Australian consumers would never buy suits online, let alone tailored suits online. How wrong they were! There will always be people that tell you that you can’t do something, but the ability to persevere through this negativity and build a product or service that you believe in is essential when starting a business.
If you are starting a retail business, build the platform so that it can scale as an omnichannel business. The online and offline sales channels need to be able to merge as one business. Doing this at the start will save a lot of time, money and prevent a lot of issues.