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What I learnt from 1 year of podcasting

A year ago today, I published the first episode of my podcast — The Startup Playbook Podcast:

3 days later, the podcast hit №3 on iTunes for it’s category

I wrote a detailed blog post on my process from deciding to start a podcast, launching 3 weeks later and getting to №3 on iTunes which you can read here.

However, in this post, I wanted to explore the personal lessons I took away from launching 58 podcast episodes this year and getting to interview some of the best founders, investors and industry experts from Australia and around the world.

Below are my 6 key lessons from a year of podcasting

1. Play to your strengths

When we all think of success and successful people, we think that there must be some common path they all went through or a magic formula that we need to follow to be successful.

One of my biggest takeaways from this last year is that there is no magic formula. The journey to success is different for everyone and there is no one pathway that fits everyone.

For example, a few of my podcast guests were head hunted from consulting firms to lead startups (Adam Jacobs — Co-founder and Managing Director of the Iconic) or left successful corporate careers (Leigh Jasper — Cofounder and CEO of Aconex) to pursue their ambitions.

Others pursued their passion and found a way to make it work, such as Justin Dry, Co-founder and Co-CEO of vinomofo who went through 4 years and 4 pivots before finding a model that worked and recently went on to raise a $25M funding round.

Instead of following what made others successful, they forged their own path and played to their own strengths.

This lesson has forced me to become more self-aware so I can capitalise on my strengths rather than focusing on my weaknesses.

2. Focus on what’s important

I think one of the things that holds people back from launching their business, publishing a blog post or starting a podcast is that they want to wait until everything is perfect.

Often this means that they don’t end up launching at all. When I started the podcast a year ago, I really focused on getting stuff done.

Sheryl Sandberg Quote

You need to meet a baseline standard for consumers to be happy, but after that point, it’s not going to make a substantial difference.

That baseline for me was having high quality guests, insightful questions and engaging conversation. I could always get better equipment etc, but if the quality of content is not there, it didn’t matter how perfect the editing or audio quality was.

Find the differentiator in your business and focus on making that the best possible. The upside for your business will be so much greater than trying to perfect all areas at the early stages.

3. The value of listening

Being in a startup environment where everyone is focused on “pitching” everyone around them and making a sale, I think listening is an extremely underrated and valuable skill that we can all spend more time focusing on.

Although I generally have 4–5 talking points that I will want to cover with each guest, it is only there to provide structure for the conversation. The majority of the questions I ask the guests are based on their responses to previous questions or something we discussed before we turned on the microphone.

This has allowed each episode to be engaging because of the different experiences of each guest.

Listening has also played a large part in the overall direction of the show.

When I first launched the podcast, I thought the podcast would have a global focus because I assumed that local founders would have less access to international guests and so would be more likely to tune into a show that shared their story. However a lot of the early feedback I got proved me wrong.

I had unintentionally stumbled on a gap in the market that people were looking for. My early listeners were engaged because they wanted to hear from Australian companies and founders that they could relate to. They wanted to find out how these founders started in Australia with all of our “limitations” and succeeded globally.

So I honed in on this point by bringing on guests with specific experience in the Australian market as well as shaping my questions to international guests around how Australian startups can learn from experiences gleaned overseas.

Listen to your audience, they will tell you things you may not have considered!

4. Not all feedback is useful

Although getting and listening to feedback can be useful (as highlighted above), not all feedback is valuable.

Some of the feedback I have received for the podcast includes:

“Your podcast is too long. People don’t want the details, just a summary, I don’t think anyone will listen to a 45mins podcast”
“Your podcast is too short. It needs to be at least 90mins to get in depth in particular areas”
“You should talk more about yourself on the show”

And my personal favourite:

“People will get sick of hearing your voice on the show. You need to find a way to bring other hosts on, not saying it needs to be me but I think I would do a really good job.”

All of these were real feedback I received for the podcast.

As many of the investors on my podcast have mentioned, the best founders listen to feedback, take out what is relevant and leave the rest.

From the start I wasn’t trying to be everything to everyone, I had a clear idea of why I was hosting the podcast and who it was for (more on that below).

I also knew that the podcast wasn’t going to be successful if I tried to replicate someone else’s model — I had to find what worked for me and play to my own strengths.

Does the podcast have areas it can be improved? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean that I have to change the structure of the show, my interview style or get someone else to do the podcast for me.

If you are getting feedback (good or bad), try to understand why they are giving that feedback and what you can take out from it. Don’t change your entire business based off one person especially if they are not going to be a consumer of your product!

5. Intent matters

Creating content week after week is extremely difficult. I try to do most of the editing on weekends but there have been several weeks where I have had to edit the audio recordings till the early hours of the morning.

Late night podcast editing sessions

As you can imagine, this isn’t particularly fun to go through every week. There have been multiple weeks where I have questioned why I continue to put myself through this and if it is worth the time, money and resources that I devote to the podcast.

Due to the early success of the podcast, over the last year I have met with 20–25 people who wanted to know my process in putting together a podcast, because they wanted to start a podcast similar to mine.

I gave them all of my information in how to find guests, what I do to prepare for the show, how I promote the show, what equipment I use, the software I use to edit the shows and where I host the podcast.

Out of the list of 25, 3 of them launched and so far only 1 has published more than 5 episodes — congrats Dustin Elliott and the Why2 Podcast!

I can’t speak for why other people stopped or gave up, but what helped me keep going over the last year has been continuously coming back to the reasons why I started the podcast. The 3 reasons why I started were:

  1. I wanted to get insight and learn from people who had “been there and done that”
  2. I wanted to create a resource for other startup founders to gain insight and practical advice from
  3. Being an introvert, I wanted to get better at interviewing and public speaking

As long as I was achieving at least one of those objectives, the podcast seemed worthwhile for me to keep continuing.

As mentioned at the end of point 1, over the course of the year I also became more self-aware in what would keep me going, particularly at times when I didn’t feel like staying up late to edit shows!

I realised that having external accountability really pushes me to get things done. So I added artificial accountability for myself by ending each episode with “Thanks for listening, i’ll see you at ep X, next week” which forced me to deliver on my promise!

Having motivation to do something when things are going well isn’t hard. The challenge is to keep going when it gets difficult! Find out what motivates you and create an environment that pushes you to keep going.

6. The compounding value of content

Content Marketing can be really effective for startups and businesses to drive traffic and growth. However, most companies never see results from content marketing.

From my experience, there are usually a couple of reasons for this:

  1. The content isn’t good enough or relevant enough to their audience
  2. There is no distribution strategy to their content

However the most common reason people don’t see results from content is because

3. They give up before they can see the results of their content marketing efforts.

I never wanted or looked at the podcast as a channel to drive revenue for me. In fact I have turned away several sponsorship opportunities for the podcast (more on this in a future blog post).

However, running the podcast consistently over the last year has created a lot of opportunities and opened a lot of doors that may not have otherwise been there. I believe that a lot of this was due to the shear consistency in putting out valuable content week after week.

For example, 8.5 months in, I received a random LinkedIn message from a listener wanting to talk about a business he and his fiance were planning to launch. That conversation was a catalyst for me. I started a new business (Playbook Media) and that listener became one of my first clients.

If I had started the podcast wanting to create a business, I may have given up 8 weeks in because there wasn’t a direct ROI for my efforts in the initial period. If I had given up early on, that conversation and opportunity may not have presented itself.

So if you are in the same position of not knowing whether your content or efforts are going anywhere, remember why you started in the first place and if what you are doing is truly valuable to people, you will get a return far greater than what you have put in…you just need to stick it out for long enough to reap the benefits.


If you enjoyed this…

Checkout The Startup Playbook Podcast on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher or head to startupplaybook.co for the full interviews, show notes and curated tools and resources for startup founders.

You can also connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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P.S. thanks to Liam Hänel ♛ for help with editing the post!

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