Do you have an idea for a startup and would do anything for it to succeed? Would you work through your holidays, divorce, fatigue, depression… anything just to see it thrive? That’s what I did for Bigg Digital.
Back in 2016, I founded a company in Istanbul, Turkey called Bigg Ajans. At the time it was just me and a graphic designer working with me. It was fun and exciting and I was landing some pretty solid sales from the start! I worked on the Bigg brand, the pink, the yellow, the website, the socials, did a bit of SEO and a bit of advertising – you know, the usual things to see what sticks.
Bigg Ajans matured a little and became something I really loved to spend my time on. I wasn’t looking for full-time/part-time jobs to make extra money anymore, I was really in to Bigg. I was committed. I was convinced that this was it for me.
I never knew this commitment would ruin me – I mean, who could?
In late 2017, I figured I could make a few extra sales from Australia and so I started a website: biggdigital.com. I didn’t have any sales from the site, just a few jobs helping out a friend or relative from Australia. I was much too focused on Bigg Ajans, and this was something I simply wanted to grow on the side.
I was approached by the current “owner” of Bigg Digital on their trip to Turkey and upon their return to Australia, after a few phone calls and ideas thrown around we decided to join forces: he would be making sales and I would be doing the work.
In 2019, I came to Australia with my now ex-wife for the birth of our son. I can’t sit still and I mean my “business partner” (as he apparently claimed to the Fairwork Comission) was right there so we went about growing Bigg Digital, within a few months we were growing fast enough that it was time to get an office and bootstrap the rest. We were given a nice offer by the owners to use the office for a few months rent-free and we jumped on it. Then everything boomed. Soon after, everything went to shit.
Some people can handle the stress, and some others simply can’t. Anyway that’s another story, here’s what I learned:
Lesson #1: Paper.
Do you know who loves to have everything on paper? Lawyers.
Do you know who almost never gets the shaft? That’s right, people who don’t take risks. Also lawyers.
I trusted this person with everything and they took my brand, my business model and received a free education for themselves and their family. Perfect hey?
Since I got screwed over by this individual, whether it’s a simple website fix or a large-scale business agreement, everything is done AFTER signing a contract. The other day someone asked me to fix a simple problem on their website for a few hundred lira, you better believe I knocked out a contract!
(By the way I use concordnow and it works a charm for this purpose.)
Lesson #2: Pay.
I quit setting aside time for Bigg Digital on January 18, 2021. My last payment was $250 on October 9, 2020. Not $2,500 dollars – I mean like what the average graphic designer gets DAILY in Australia. Remember, according to Bigg Digital’s owner; I was a partner in this whole thing.
Bigg Digital’s revenue for the month of October was roughly $25,000. Expenses were around $14,900 – Let’s crank that up to $16,000 just to guarantee I’ve covered every little expense.
Now let’s say I was really a partner in this operation – that would mean I’d get half of the profit right? $250 is a long way off from $4,500.
By the way, I was happy to get nothing if everyone was getting paid what they deserve (to no one’s surprise, they all quit soon after I left) but that’s another topic. A whole other screw up that I need to deal with mentally.
I guess there are more important things than paying the people that work for you.
November, December, January = $0 – PLUS I got stuck with paying off Istanbul workers for the work they did for Bigg Digital once I left.
From October to January a minimum of $60,000 flowed through Bigg Digital. And I received $250 of that… yay me 🙂
Always, always, always get paid. Stop working as soon as you don’t. Do something, anything that pays.
Lesson #3: “Passion.”
A business is a business, not a “passion” you can and should let go of it when it’s not working for you.
A business is a business. It’s in place to give you a job and make you money, and that’s it.
Whether it’s a factory making toothpicks or a digital agency that you find really fun to work on, a business is nothing more than a money making device. If it’s not making you enough of it, or if it’s stressing you out too much in the process – there are other businesses, other jobs and other things to do. If you don’t have a way to make more money or reduce stress in your business, just walk away and refocus.
Lesson #4: Power.
A few months back, I was told by the owner and their partner that I had done nothing for the company, that they could just pay $250 for my logo and be done with me (we were designing logos for $250-$500).
Apart from creating Bigg Digital and its core branding, I was tasked with teaching them everything from web design, to graphic design to project management. I’ve set up every system and website still in their use today – from sales to workflow to comms. Hell, they didn’t even know how to hire an employee. Everyone that has been employed by the company was put there by me.
I maintained every product, system and managed almost every project right up until the end of my employment.
I, foolishly, gave all the power away simply because I trusted that none of the above was going to happen.
You can still stay humble with power, don’t fear it.