January 18, 2020

Everyone makes it look so easy

Simon Hakim

Tell us a little about you (name, age, country, job before starting a company) and what you are working on

Hello I’m Simon. I live in Melbourne, Australia. I’m 51 but people think I’m 45 ;) Before I started my own company I worked for a small advertising & design company.

What does education mean to you? Do you have any educational qualifications?

As one of my lecturers used to say. Having a degree is only a ticket to the game. I def. believe that. I’ve got a basic certificate in electronics, an associate dip. In electrical engineering and bachelor of business in marketing. I also do numerous short-courses to keep learning.

What moment or experience inspired you to start your own business?

When I was 16, I started making and selling skateboard decks for friends. They were no good as they always break. After that, I started making brand t-shirts and selling them to friends, family and record stores. I made them using paper stencils. After that, I got a part-time job in a record store, worked for a screen printing company and did odd jobs like cleaning, working in a timber yard, etc.

I had no real career aspirations and just floated from one thing to the next. At the time my girlfriend's father said I should get my life sorted out… He was right. He worked in mining and said I could apply for a trainee job as a design draftsman. I applied and got the job. This means working full-time and doing study part-time. I did that for four years and completed it. It’s a long story but I met a guy in marketing and thought that sounded amazing.

So I resigned and went back to university full-time to do a marketing degree. To support myself I worked in retail. As part of the degree, you had to go and do a year working. I got myself a job in outdoor advertising as a marketing coordinator. It was my first role in the advertising, marketing & media industry and I loved it.

After getting retrenched, I got a job as an account executive at a small advertising & design agency. In 3 years I became the managing director. I was promised shares/equity in the company but it never happened so I resigned and started up my first agency… from there in 2010 I started and co-founded Hunter.

Describe the process of starting and launching the business.

How long do you have? Everyone makes it look so easy. What you fast realize is that it’s really really hard. There are so many other things you need to consider like banking, accounting, software, computers, staff, office space, etc. I’m sure these days it’s much easier. Nobody teaches you how to start a business. There is a steep learning curve.

Did you ever doubt yourself or face any significant challenges along the way?

I believe I can do anything which is why I’m stupid. I’m a massive optimist. There are a whole bunch of challenges. Finding clients, earning money, getting staff, getting your company media exposure, keeping clients, keeping staff, managing cash flow, working insane hours.

If so, how did you overcome the self-doubt and make your idea a reality?

Because of how I grew up (another story) I know that nothing happens unless I do it. I live with it’s up to me principle and don’t expect anything from anyone.

How are you doing today and what does “success” look like for your company five years from now?

According to the B2B rating agency clutch.co, Hunter is the no. 1 branding agency in Australia. We think that’s pretty cool. We have learned a lot over the past 10 years and one thing is always true for us. It’s not how big you are or how much money you earn.

It’s all about the quality of the work and the value we create for our clients’ business. We are profitable. We try to only work on four clients at any one time. In 5 years’ time we might have a completely different business> Something we are working on now to pivot.

In terms of customer acquisition, what is working? How do you attract and retain them?

We work with entrepreneurs, challenger brands & agents of change. We mainly work in the food & beverage space (CPG/FMCG). So our target is really narrow.

It makes it easier to approach a company if you think there’s a good fit between your expertise and their needs. I think the idea of trying to hold onto a client as long as you can is a flawed and old-world business model.

We basically come in and help start-up, scale-up or reboot, and brand and then get out of there. We offer the most value at the start of the relationship and not by hanging on.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I have learned so much and continue to learn so much every day. I am blessed as I never stop learning, exploring or collaborating. Some things to think about. If you borrow money then you have to pay it back…

So respect every single dollar and use it wisely. You don’t know anything, so always listen and think before you make the big decisions. Nothing will happen as you planned it to. Never rely on anyone but yourself.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Pipedrive for CRM, evie.ai for calendar, linkedin, xero, trello, slack, dropbox... I’m always looking at ways to better automate the mundane tasks

What are some sources for learning you would recommend for entrepreneurs who are just starting?

Read as much as you can. If it’s an industry you know nothing about then go work for someone else before you jump in. Unless it makes sense never borrow money.

Advice for professionals who want to get started or are just starting out?

It isn’t easy. You either have what it takes or you don’t. It’s that simple..