I quit my job to start a media company in the middle of a recession. Here's my plan.

After 9 years of working at one of the most amazing tech companies in the world I've decided to leave my job as Director of Events at TNW and dedicate all of my time to assembling the ultimate guide to prepare for a career in a fast-paced scale-up.

My job has been one of the best in the world. I've run events on four continents, won prestigious foreign awards, wakeboarded the canals of Amsterdam with Casey Neistat and worked with some of the most talented people the events industry has to offer. In that same period of time, TNW has grown from 11 to 100 people and with it, my career from event organiser to member of the management team.

I've been lucky to have worked with founders who were willing to entrust me their events business when I was barely of voting age, all while letting me make my own choices and mistakes in the pursuit of growing TNW Conference from 800 to 20.000 attendees. I truly couldn't have asked for a more fulfilling first decade of a career.

So why leave?

I’ve decided it’s time for me to follow a dream I’ve had for a long time: to become an entrepreneur. TNW has given me plenty of space to come close to that experience, but it’s impossible to replicate the actual thing without taking the leap of faith. I've decided it's time to take the red pill and find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Starting my own company

The past 9 years I've been inside a pressure cooker of knowledge and skill-building that has helped me negotiate million-euro deals, navigate challenging conversations in- and externally, and lead an internationally diverse team to success.

I've hired over 80 people, managed several PR crises, convinced the CEOs of Uber, Airbnb and Reddit to speak at our events, helped avert one potential bankruptcy, participated in multiple acquisition events, created over a hundred budget spreadsheets and generated millions in revenue for my employer.

Now I want to share all of that knowledge with you.

Business is changing at a rapid pace and so are the careers that come with it. The Hatchet is my attempt at sharing all of the things I wish I’d have known during my first couple of years of work and merge them into a guide that will prepare you for a career in a fast-paced startup, scale-up or corporation.

I'll be addressing exactly those topics they never cover in business school, like how to go about negotiating a better salary, convincing clients to work with you or how to be a great manager for your team. I won't just be taking examples from my own experience, but I'll also be sourcing some of the best advice available online.

The options to ‘hire me’ as your business mentor are simple.

If you subscribe below and choose the free plan you'll receive an occasional article from me with advice to upgrade your career. Like this one:

HOWEVER .. you can also ask your boss whether you can expense the Hatchet to get the full experience as a paid subscriber. A subscription is €79 a year, which is roughly €6 a month, or slightly more if you want the flexibility to cancel monthly.

It's a good excuse to use some of your annual learning and development budget.

Paid subscribers will receive

  • An article with advice every single week.

  • Extensive how-to guides on topics like: negotiating a better salary, conducting perfect performance reviews, hiring/firing employees the right way, client conflict resolution and improving your cold email outreach technique.

  • Year-round access to my entire content library so you can review my advice at exactly the moments you need it most.

A look at the roadmap

Starting a company isn’t going to be easy and I realise I’ll need time to breathe life into the project. I’ve saved up enough to give myself a 10-month financial runway and I’ve promised my wife that if I can’t turn this into a commercially viable company by then, that I’m going to have to find a real job again.

In other words, the pressure is on and the best way to deal with that is to set goals for Q1 to keep myself accountable.

Goal #1: convince 100 people to get an annual subscription

Let's run through my financial plan together.

I'm charging €79 for an annual subscription, of which I need to subtract 22% per subscriber in taxes, platform and payment fees. If I take the Dutch minimum wage of €1.653 a month as my benchmark for achieving commercial viability, it means I'll need to have reached 381 paying subscribers when I hit the 10-month mark on September 1.

€79 x 0.66 = €61.62 per subscriber

€1.653 x 12 = €19.836 minimum annual wage

€19.836 / €52.14 = 321.91 paying subscribers

To stay on track to reach that target I will need to convince a 100 people to purchase an annual subscription within the first quarter.

There are obviously other revenue-models I could pursue in time, such as sponsorships, but I'll wait with exploring those until I've reached a meaningful base of free and paid subscribers reading my weekly content.

My focus will be on the core target audience I'm writing for; the ambitious young professional in tech aged 20-40 wanting to invest in their career.

To reach them, I will be focussing my initial marketing campaign on direct outreach to my own personal network. For the past weeks I've been building a personal CRM spreadsheet that now lists 489 people I consider to be (1) warm enough contacts to reach out to and (2) close enough to the target audience to be interested. Since I need to bank on the personal connection I have with my network, I'll be using email and phone calls to bring the message across. It's best to keep it direct and personal.

As a starting entrepreneur I also believe it's vital to put aside any hesitance to promote my own company. Birthday party? You're going to hear my elevator pitch. Neighbour at the local supermarket? I'll trade you my place in line for 30 seconds of your time. I invited you to a catch-up coffee? Surprise slide deck in your face.

You need to be willing to scour the depths of your network to find every distant friend and vague business relationship and convince them to come aboard.

Goal #2: create two subscriber-only guides

Right from the start I want to create value for paid subscribers.

To do so, I plan to create several guides to navigate some of the more challenging situations I've encountered in my first decade of a career. These guides are meant to be foundational pieces that you can pull from the archive the moment you need them.

Think of them as the longer form content to go alongside the shorter weekly newsletters with advice I plan to send.

These are the two I'm considering for the first quarter.

Guide 1 - Art of the sales conversation

I'm passionate about the commercial side of business which I believe to be vital to anyone trying to fast-track their career. My guide will include:

  • Advice on how to prepare for a sales meeting, which techniques to use and understanding the psychology of why clients will or won't work with you

  • A collection of best practices, tactics and examples I've successfully used

  • A step-by-step guide for how to structure a successful sales meeting

Guide 2 - Negotiating with confidence

Negotiation skills definitely weren't part of my school curriculum, but there are so many tricks out there to become skilled in this domain. My guide will include:

  • A step-by-step strategy for entering and exiting negotiations

  • Advice on body language and listening skills to apply

  • Context on the psychological aspects of successful negotiations

  • A linked google doc with personal email templates as examples

Goal #3: launch a mentorship program with 10 mentees

Wouldn't it be nice to talk about your goals with a sparring partner that can relate to where you are in your career while guaranteeing 100% confidentiality?

I would've genuinely liked to have that possibility during my career, which is why I've decided to open my calendar up for a maximum of 10 young professionals a year who I'll speak with once a quarter for an hour to casually address some of the business challenges on their mind:

  • You have a business dilemma and want an independent soundboard before you make a decision on how to move forward.

  • You're thinking about asking for a raise and want to discuss the best strategy for getting to the result you're looking for.

  • You have a challenging conversation ahead with a client or team member and want to go over how best to prepare for it.

When I coach event organisers I charge as much as €150 per hour, but this mentorship program is €249 for an entire year simply because I want to help others succeed in developing an equally successful career.

This one-time annual fee includes a one-hour video or phone call each quarter to discuss what's on your mind and how I can help, as well as receiving all of my subscriber-only articles in your inbox.

The road ahead

I am extremely excited about this new chapter of my career, but it's also a strange sensation to be clear about your purpose and scared to shit about it at the same time.

You might think I'm taking quite a risk starting a company in a global recession, during a widespread pandemic and without any outside funding.

You're probably right.

I could have walked an easier road, but life is too short not to take the risk of following your dreams. In the words of George Clooney “the only failure is not to try”.

👉  Are you ready to start an adventure together?