The days are long, but the years are short. It’s a corny phrase that has popped up on my Instagram sometime in the last few days, apparently it is typically associated with motherhood, but I find it just as applicable to my 7-year-old baby. It feels like just yesterday I announced to my family & friends my intentions to start a web design company and become the absolute best at it. I typically don’t really celebrate or mark occasions but doing this for seven years seems a good time to look back on how I ended up here. I am writing this from my custom designed office that was recently completed in the new home I purchased at the start of the year. It is a long way from coding on the floor of the box room in my parent’s house when I started Avalanche but the happiness in finding myself in code remains the same regardless of the surroundings.
Over 61000 hours of this and I am still craving more. It is my drug and I love every day. Back when I started this, my family were supportive to an extent but given that I was deep in college debt, had no idea how to secure clients, how to dress or even how to arrange a meeting, they were probably right to be cautious. I mean, my parent’s house at the time did not even have Wi-Fi so, looking back, I can understand the scepticism. Even if, to this day, they are not 100% sure what my job actually is, so trying to explain web design market share was not the easiest job.
After all, it was a very crowded market space at the time and a 20-something year old kid would be much better making a safer bet taking the boring developer role and clocking in my 9-5. In fact, if someone asked me today, I would probably give the same advice. It is just the more logical decision but even in the cold technical data driven world I live in, the biggest decisions don’t come down to logic, they originate from something deeper, a passion that just cannot be explained and a belief that you have something more to offer the world. You can make your dent in the Universe.
I will be forever grateful that I had a handful of people who have always encouraged me to listen to this part of my brain than the logical side. Avalanche is now a big part of me, and it has allowed me to do, build and see things which were completely beyond my wildest imagination. If you told me that I would be a multinational company owner at 28 when I was struggling to get clients to pay me €100 seven short years ago, I would have laughed in your face. Some days it feels like I am watching myself do these things. It just should not happen to a kid from Benmore.
I always wince when someone refers to me as an entrepreneur because to me, an entrepreneur builds something brand new and takes it into the world. What we do is not re-inventing the wheel but one of the things I have learned in my years of business is that no matter the market, there is always room for those who do things differently and insert themselves at the top table. If you are driven and passionate about what you do, people will take notice. Most entrepreneurs see an opportunity to make the world better in some way and then build a company around that idea and that is exactly what I was lucky enough to do. I am turning 30 on February 24th, 2020 and I am really looking forward to it. I dedicated almost my entire 20’s to Avalanche and I have worked myself to exhaustion multiple times over the years, not because I had to, but because I wanted to.
It was hard but it was worth it, it has set me up for life and more than that, I wake up every day with a real purpose. I can look back on the part of my life where I was supposed to take risks and make things happen with real pride because I made it happen. I truly sympathise with those who will never know the highs that come from backing yourself and having the nerve to in these formative years as an adult as it can doom them to a lifetime of mediocrity and regret. This is the time to prove to yourself and the world that you are able to do something special, that no one else in this world can do. This time & dedication has given me my dream home, a work I completely adore and wonderful people to share it all with.
If you don’t love what you do and you’re not having fun doing it, you are going to give up. It is that simple, it is a lot of hard work, a lot of constant worry and if you don’t love it, you are going to fail. You will have disagreements with people, you will be stressed, I even remember the first time someone mentioned legal action against me and I turned into a nervous wreck even though the woman at the time was under investigation by Gardaí, the PSNI and the FBI for a series of alleged fraud offences but that is a story for another time (trust me it’s ridiculously good!). It is all part of the learning process and helps you grow both as a person and in business, now when I have a disagreement with someone, it is a lot easier to break it down as I have been through it before. Thankfully this has happened less than 10 times in 7 years, but it is also important that you don’t let yourself be bullied by clients.
I have found that people in general seem to have a much more blasé attitude towards those who provide a service rather than a product in Ireland. I have even had a client who completed a five-figure project and after 3 months of it being live with every single box ticked by Avalanche, the client decided they did not want to do it anymore as it was too much work. They then asked for a full refund because they changed their mind! If this was year one, I probably would have given in and sacrificed weeks of hard work and our time to keep a client happy but thankfully I was toughened by this point and politely pointed out that our service was completed and paid for. It is the equivalent of doing your shopping in Dunnes and asking for a full refund a week later. Absolute madness!
Thankfully, this is very much the minority of people and 95% of our clients have been lovely to deal with which is why we always go above and beyond for them. It is something I learned very early on, people are the common denominator in business and if you treat clients correctly, they will stay with you. I think it is a big part of why we are still thriving in an overcrowded industry nearly 3000 days after starting. We have just kept going and learned from every single tough day (there has been a lot) and tried to learn something from every negative experience. Lots of people want to stop because they get tired. If you think you can accomplish something without failing, you are mistaken. It takes a lot of work; this ultimately leads to failing at something. This is a good thing. Failing is not losing, it is just learning what did not work. Brush it off, change it and go again. I have made a million mistakes and will probably make a million more.
You will be criticised, mocked and probably sniggered at behind closed doors/troll accounts because people find it easier to criticise than do anything themselves, I am telling you to ignore these people. What are now called “haters” (which is just something people say instead of working to change their own flaws) are not useful. If someone contributes something that helps you to grow and advance, you should want to hear it, regardless of whether it is nice. It is why strangers support you more than the people you know. It is because most people you know have a tough time accepting you came from the same place, but they are still languishing there. It is a simple fact, in order to get something, you have never had, you need to do something you’ve never done.
I get hate DM’s by the dozen. I got loads when I wrote this article about Millennials, this one about 13 Reasons Why, this about Tinder and this about having kids. And what do I do? Most often, nothing. It took me some time to be able to delete and forgive, but that's mostly what I do now. There are two assets I value above all else: my time & my energy. Attempting to defend myself against people who just want to be hateful is a dire and irreversible waste of both of my prized assets. There's nothing wrong with some healthy, intelligent debate, it is a by-product of putting an opinion out there and is something I welcome, but most of the nasty DM’s and comments I've received over the years have been far from healthy or intelligent. Now I just ignore it as it not worth the time.
Maybe this is why 96% of businesses fail in ten years, people give up and decide to go for the easier route. In the social media age, you are going to receive criticism and have naysayers regardless of what you do, and some businesses are not made for this. I am talking about real businesses, not people who are on Instagram obsessed with their likes and followers. I mean people who are actually doing something. If your business revolves around the absurd social media popularity, you are much better getting a job in McDonalds and not looking for quick cash through selling shite and then crying wolf when someone calls you out on it.
Money is such a boring topic when you could be doing something that will change someone’s life so why not do what's scary and hard but pays off in the long run? Be willing to fail. Fail and pick yourself up go again because without the struggle, you will not know success. People will tell you to do what makes you happy, but this has all been hard work and I am not always happy. I don't think you should just do what makes you happy. You should try to do what makes you great. If you are going to try, then go all the way, it could mean losing people, jobs, girlfriends etc. It could mean not eating for several days, it could mean rejection or isolation but go all the way. It is difficult but I promise you it is better than anything else you can possibly imagine.
It’s just not ok to be a weak loser, don’t let your potential go to waste. I believe the reason people don’t put themselves in a position to fail, they reason they aren’t patient when it comes to finding their passion is because they value other people’s opinions too much and let those opinions drown out their own voice. As Nelson Mandela said: "There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living". If you look at people who are “successful”, they love what they do because it helps them persevere. Through good times and bad, it develops character. I have had months on end of misery in my work not that long ago. I had to face a full year where I was unable to do what I love but I am grateful for that experience as it has helped me to grow in business and as a person.
Similar to Liam Neeson, I happen to possess a very particular set of skills which originated when I started taking things apart as a child and putting them back together. I soon graduated into creating software & taking security systems apart but thankfully this is a life that is now (mostly) behind me. This inevitably sets me apart from your Joe Soap developer and has allowed me to work independently with several huge companies that I have admired my whole life. I have found that it is in designing things and the journey of taking someone from a conversation to a full-blown business that I find most fulfilment from my work. It is a privilege to be a small part of this, it has also allowed me to invest both emotionally and financially in several Irish businesses throughout the last few years. I have been supremely lucky to do this for seven years and I would like to thank every single person who has chosen Avalanche and believed in us to bring their dream to life. We have grown from just being a know it all kid with a laptop who does web design into one of the most progressive digital firms in the world offering a full suite of design, development & editing services to prestigious clients all over the world.
The overall theme of this article is to try and show you that anyone can do anything if they are willing to make the sacrifice, to have the courage to back themselves when everyone is telling you that you cannot do something. I am living proof that any idiot can do it if they apply themselves, the great thing is that even though we are 7 years in, we are just getting started because a kid made in Benmore is always hungry to show people what he can do. It’s both our curse and blessing.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt