Adam Callow of ExpertTrades.com and the StartUp Diary Podcast joins Colin for a chat about running a Let me introduce you to Adam Callow of ExpertTrades.com and the man behind a podcast that I recently got hooked on – StartUp Diary Podcast.
Adam and his team have been creating a narrative-style podcast sharing the story of how their company started out. Their business is now three years old, but they still consider themselves a startup and plan do so to for a long time. Let’s see what Adam had to say when we spoke…
Why do you think having a startup mentality is important?
I used to work in a corporate environment and watching things try to happen was frustrating. It was cumbersome, slow, and difficult to respond to market conditions.
From the moment I started my company I knew I always wanted to run it in such a way that we could react quickly to market conditions. I believe being a startup is purely down to how fast you can respond to the market and I never want to lose that whether we’re 1, 3 or 10 years down the line. I want my business to stay agile and nimble.
You have a team of 9 people now, how do you stay agile as your team grows?
We’re clear on the kind of mindset that we want our new hires to have. We don’t want people who expect the same thing day in, day out. We breed into the company a mentality that we’re prepared to move fast and break things! We need to listen to our customers, test new things, and if we try something and we fail then as long as we learnt something from it, it’s not a failure. Failures only arise when you learn nothing. We’re prepared to test and test and we have that mentality in the company – this has enabled us to sustain our growth for the past 6 months.
What gave you the idea to have a podcast?
I truly love podcasts and they were the reason that I managed to leave my old corporate job. I was an area sales manager and as such I spent a lot of time in my van travelling to and from client appointments.
I discovered podcasts, specifically Andrew Warner’s podcast called Mixergy – he opened up my mind to what opportunities were out there in terms of business, startup, and entrepreneurship. For about 2 years straight I listened to nothing in my van except podcasts!
I always thought it would be so great to be in a position where I could add some value to people who are 1, 2, 3 years before me in their journey of leaving their corporate job and starting their own business. For me, creating a podcast now is really my way of giving back and adding value to the podcasting community. At the moment it’s an experiment for our team and a passion project for me.
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Did you genuinely have no intention of using it to grow your business in the early days?
Exactly that. I wanted to give something back and also give my Creative Director, Martin, a new creative challenge and the opportunity to learn skills that will help the business.
How long does it take Martin to produce the podcast each week?
2-3 hours per show. All of the recording, editing…etc is worked on outside of core working hours. As a startup we manage our time very carefully and from the onset we agreed that the podcast would be outside of working hours.
Do you think that’s quite common practice for startups when trying something new that may not have a direct return?
I think it depends on the nature of the podcast. If it’s going to have a positive return on investment, then I think it should be completed in working hours.
It’s hard to track the return on a podcast. Do you think at some point your podcast will become part of your standard working practices?
I can’t justify that at the moment as we don’t make a return. But, it is forcing us as a company to sit and review what we do on a day to day basis because we know it’s going to be put in a public environment. This results in us to thinking clearer and deeper about the actions that we take.
With our podcast, we are almost up to the present day in terms of where we are with the narrative, and when we are there, we are going to sit down with the team each week and work out what worked and what didn’t. So the podcast is helping our thinking, or team ethos and mentality, and the overall work that we do.
The podcast is put together and produced very well – it can’t be easy. Where did you get the idea?
It came from my respect for every single listener’s time. I wanted to ensure that we stripped out all of the fluff and that is was worthy of subscribers.
I’ve recently weaned myself off a lot of the 45 minute to 1 hour + podcasts. I became really aware of the fluff in many long podcasts. In contrast I really started to notice the quality high production podcasts and those that have a singular focus. I made the decision that a 15-20 minute podcast is what I wanted to create. I didn’t think an hour show is something I could expect people to listen to and nor can we deliver an hours’ worth of value every week.
I want the people who give up 15-20 minutes of their time each week to get something of value and something they enjoy.
How do you go about creating the recordings?
I’d love to say that we have a really efficient practice! Truth is, we don’t always know what we’re going to be doing each week in our business.
When we initially sat down and outlined how we were going to do the show, I sketched everything out in terms of what would be covered in the episodes up to current day. We have about 7 more to do from that plan. We try and do them when we have quiet moments. There’s no schedule but we hope to get more organized – most likely when we understand the value of the podcast and what it can evolve into.
Do you plan the episode each week with Martin?
We have the outline planned, and we decide in advance if we’ll record one episode that week or two, or if we have time we’ll record some back-to-back episodes. We schedule ten episodes out but when we record it is not not planned.
Does Martin send you a script before the main recording?
I send him over the topic and main points I want to cover. He has an opportunity to think of questions that he thinks the listeners will want to hear. He ensures that those questions are included in the show. He asks some tough questions and puts me on the spot from time to time!
Once we’ve done the full recording he goes back and adds the narrative.
Right now you’re not promoting your business on the show, will you consider doing that in the future?
At the moment it’s a passion project. I want to help people and I’d love it if in 3 years time someone got in touch and told me that because of my podcast they left their job and are now doing their own thing. It’s an ego thing completely!
Mentioning our business may take away from the core messages that we want to deliver. We work in the construction industry – our service is ExpertTrades.com and we work with plumbers, electricians, heating engineers…we know that they don’t tend to listen to podcasts. I never expected our podcast to impact our business. For that reason, we decided not to mention our business. The only thing is whether by not mentioning the business we dilute the credibility of the podcast. Will people question if it’s all real?
I don’t think the podcast will directly grow our business but we may bring it in more to build that credibility. There may be an opportunity in the future for creating a podcast for our clients. Having our current podcast will have taught us how to do that.
Sounds like you’ve got a big opportunity to create listeners if you decided to do that. They aren’t listening to anything right now so your only competition is inactivity!
Yes. We have a great audience that we could put onto podcasting but the thing in my mind is the upward battle. None of these guys listen to podcasts so we’d need to get them to understand what podcasts are, get them to subscribe, and ensure that they see the value. But, I think we produce a pretty good show now so it’s something we should test.
You have got a big opportunity in terms of the type of people they are, they are presumably out and about a lot and may want something to listen to. If a podcast could help them and you can overcome the technology barrier, then surely it’s an easy sell?
Exactly. The technology barrier is what we need to overcome. That said, getting them to listen to the podcast should be a lot easier for us than other aspect our business – we introduced a quoting and invoicing platform and getting them to use it was like pulling teeth out, but when they used it they loved it!
Colin, this interview has made me realise that I need to do something about this!
Adam is the Founder and CEO of Expert Trades (www.experttrades.com). Expert Trades work with both manufacturers and merchants in the construction industry to help them build an online presence and create a community around their brand. Adam is the man behind the very well-produced StartUp Diary podcast which chronicles the startup journey of his business.