Our Growing with instantprint series aims to inspire others and celebrate our employees’ successes. For this special edition, we spoke to instantprint Co-Founder, Adam Carnell, to find out what skills he had to develop to run a business, his favourite memories and what advice he has for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Which of your skills were most useful when you founded instantprint?
Optimism was a big one – starting a business isn’t easy, so being able to stay optimistic and get your head down was extremely important early on.
More broadly speaking, we were working every hour doing everything when we started out. From printing to answering the phone and even developing the website. I wouldn’t say it was one key skill that we had; it was more like having to be a jack of all trades.
Would you say that your time management skills played a vital role in this?
That’s actually something we weren’t good at. It was more down to not being afraid to take anything on or feeling that you don’t have the skills to do anything.
Like believing in yourself?
Exactly – virtually everything we did we had no experience of doing before. And our focus on putting customers first was something we focused on from the very beginning to build a good reputation and develop good customer relationships at the start as well.
What skills did you have to develop as instantprint grew?
As well as time management, we had to develop delegation skill. Passing on responsibility to other people was something we found difficult to begin with. And training people up to do things how you want them done was something we found quite challenging. That was one of the biggest areas that I had to develop.
As the business grew, we saw things gradually changing, which involved constant monitoring and learning. We had to gain an understanding of the processes involved in running the business and get good at implementing these early on. We started with no processes in place and had to develop them and understand how things worked – so that was a massive skill we had to focus on.
Did you find it hard to let things go when you first grew?
Yeah. The hardest part is going from just telling people what you’d like them to do, to passing it over to them to make their own decisions and have full responsibility of that area. That’s the difficult bit to do as you grow.
How has yours and James’ friendship developed throughout instantprint’s lifetime?
We first met in secondary school when we were 12. Our life positions have changed a lot during the 10 years we’ve been running a business together, so our friendship has changed with things inside and outside of work. One thing we have kept is the trust between each other. I’ve never really thought about that really. We’ve been best mates for a long, long time.
So, how did your friendship kick-off?
We were in the same class together, so we were always good mates. But I think we actually became best mates when we actually had a fight.
A physical fight? Who won?
It got broken up before there was a clear winner. But because of that, we both got detention where we had to clean up the dining room for a year. So, we had a lot of time to talk, and that was when we became best mates.
I guess you hear a lot of friends going into business together and they end up falling out. We’ve never really fallen out. Sure, we’ve had disagreements, but never a real fall out over anything really. And no more physical fights since the one at school!
What’s your favourite memory you’ve had running instantprint together?
I think it would definitely stem back to the early days. Every day was completely new, we didn’t really know what we were doing so it was good fun back then – it still is now but when you reminisce, I guess it goes a bit rosier!
It’s probably some of our classic memories we discussed last time, like lifting the Riso through the window, that make up my favourites.
The best one has to be the story of the ancient guillotine that we bought off eBay that was a 1976 model – very old vs our factory now. When we fired it up with our sales rep, and a good friend back then, Danny. We gave it a first run through the cutting cycle and it just made this almighty bang. And Dan just ran straight out – he thought it was exploding! There have been lots of good memories.
When we were moving out to find a new building, we looked at getting some new premises and we actually viewed the facility which became the Geordie Shore house!
What skills would you recommend developing to those who are just starting their own business?
Sometimes people have this preconception that you have to be an expert in all things. I believe that virtually anyone who can put their mind to anything can learn any skill they want to. So, I guess the most important thing is being able to focus on what skill they need to learn for their business’ needs. Get stuck in and try to properly understand it and you’ll be surprised how capable you are.
For example, I think a lot of people shy away from web development or IT infrastructure. But if you really put your mind to it – and it may take a while – you can learn the basics.