Tom Chalmers is the founder and managing director of seven publishing and publishing related companies (including IPR License), having set up the first in 2005 at age 25. He has been shortlisted for UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year, UK Young Publisher of the Year, UK Young Publishing Entrepreneur of the Year, and long-listed for the Enterprising Young Brit Awards. He also speaks regularly on publishing and business and is an Enterprise Ambassador for the Prince’s Trust. Follow him @Tom_Chalmers.
What is the first thing you did to turn your current business from an idea into a reality?
I have founded six publishing companies since 2005 and was asked to be on the board of a company developing an online marketplace for trademarks and patents. I then put the two together and saw the opportunity for an online marketplace to license book and journal rights. The first thing I did was present the idea to the principal of the trademark and patents company. He also saw the opportunity and agreed to back the development of the initial platform.
What is the scariest part of being a young entrepreneur and how can others overcome this fear?
I think not knowing any better can sometimes be very useful. One of the advantages of being young is fearlessness. If I had started by first business now, at 35 rather than 25, I would have been more fearful and worried about my career, personal finances etc. Finding yourself in a room of business people who are much older and more experienced than you are is a scary feeling. In those situations, I constantly reminded myself that my new experience was key to the market at that moment. I soon learned to see myself as an equal.
Were you ever told not to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams? Who told you that, what did they say and why did you ignore them?
Not really. Because I started so young, I wasn’t giving up on that much. I was at an early stage of my career without a family to support or a mortgage to pay. I am sure there were some who privately thought I was a little crazy and it wouldn’t work out, but they kept those thoughts to themselves. When people are dismissive or tell me that things won’t work out, this really focuses and drives me — I enjoying proving them wrong!
What is the No. 1 thing you wish you’d known starting out and how did you learn it?
Probably how to grow a business quickly once you prove your concepts. Having started my first business on my credit cards and a car loan ahead of a global recession, the early years centered around word-of-month referrals. Now I look back and think there were parts I could and should have grown more quickly. I learned this lesson from looking at businesses I worked with or studied. I could see how once something appeared to be proven, they immediately focused on it, found or pushed resources into it, and drove hard to grow it quickly.
What do you recommend all new founders do for their business — or their personal lives — that will help them the most?
While all new founders should be working incredibly hard, it is important to have a clear line between work and private life and to stay healthy. In the first four years of business I took one day’s annual leave and regularly worked 100-hour weeks. However, when I wasn’t working I spent a lot of time with friends (rarely talking about work) and I have always tried to include exercise in my routine (football, boxing, jujitsu, gym and swimming over the last 10 years). I have learned to be aware of my health. When I feel that I have crossed a line, I will take a break.
How do you end each day and why?
I like the initial and end hours of the day because the office is usually quieter. I usually spend the last hour clearing up items. In my personal life, I always read before going to sleep. I often only manage a few pages, but it helps my mind slow down and relax before bed.
What is your best PR/marketing tip for business just starting up?
Think very specifically about what you want to achieve. Be targeted and build relationships for repeat coverage. Businesses often focus too much on social media. Its conversion to actual business, with a few exceptions, is very poor. It’s a tick-box activity. Most people will expect some level of social media presence, but a strongly targeted campaign towards a small specific market is often much more effective.
What is your ultimate goal? What will you do if/when you get there?
My aim has always been to leave a mark on history — even if in a small way — by having created something that made a difference. This is why I called my first business Legend Press. I wanted to create a business that became a legend.
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