Meet Julian Hall, an award winning, serial entrepreneur. Having started out as an investment banker, Julian is now the Founder of 2 companies: the Ultra Academy and the Ultra Kids Club. It is now his mission is to teach young people about entrepreneurship. As a powerhouse advocating the importance of innovation for the future of the global economy, Julian is also an international speaker, business consultant, coach, media specialist and author of 3 best-selling books. Here’s everything you need to know about Julian as a Rebelhead Entrepreneur…
Getting to Know Julian
What was your background before entrepreneurship?
Investment banking. In investment banking, everything is processed to the finest point to make things better. Efficiency is key for saving time. This background means I’m always looking to improve processes. What struck me about entrepreneurship was that adults have an incredible failure rate with only one in ten entrepreneurs succeeding. I therefore want to help the next generation get ahead of the game by injecting real lessons of entrepreneurship into their lives to cover the elements schools miss out. My mission is to create an environment for the kids of the future to flourish. Sure, I’ve made money throughout my career, but after a while you realise money won’t make you happy; it doesn’t define your purpose, it should just be a by-product of the thing you love to do.
“What struck me about entrepreneurship was that adults have an incredible failure rate with only one in ten entrepreneurs succeeding.”
Where does your passions for entrepreneurship come from?
I’ve seen entrepreneurship change the lives of people around me, even those who have overcome huge struggles. Entrepreneurship is no longer just a route to making money, it’s a route towards personal development, finding your purpose, innovating and creating an impact. All of these things are essential given the current tech landscape, where opportunity is vast and kids are born with digital in their DNA. I am propelled by the issue that we are still using old solutions to solve problems of today.
“I looked at the disposable cash in my account and realised I wasn’t any happier.”
Why did you leave investment banking?
Investment banking brought me everything I thought I’d need in life; I’d travel the world, had a good amount of money in the bank, had purchased stocks and got into property. The pivotal moment was when I was sat at my desk, I’d paid all my bills and I still had around £4,000 in my account. Up until that point I was taught money makes you happy. Yet I looked at the disposable cash in my account and realised I wasn’t any happier. I decided to invest the money but didn’t want to put it in the stock market as this is essentially investing in other people’s business and I’d already set up a few of my own. I’d dabbled in buying and selling computer parts and cars; I’d imported mobile phone accessories from China and so on. My businesses hadn’t worked out previously as I didn’t have the capital, so I decided to use my capital from investment banking to invest in my own businesses. I would pay teams of people to fly to New York and buy movies, music, clothes and accessories to sell in the UK. The drive was to purely make money, but again, none of these things worked out for the long term. Hence through my current business, I now have a greater purpose and mission to improve the education and lives of young people.
What was your most significant entrepreneurial experience?
In 2000 I saw the .com boom. Companies including Yahoo and Lastminute.com were popping up left, right and centre. I’d seen an advert in the paper by someone selling a web business where solicitors could buy leads as potential clients. At the time solicitors weren’t great at marketing and competition was growing among newly qualified lawyers, so they would pay internet companies, who were good at marketing, for leads. The business model consisted of the owner distributing targeting potential clients and the solicitors would pay £400 – £800 per lead.
“It inspired me to teach myself Google marketing and within 2 years the website was making as much money as my investment banking job.”
I met the owner of this company in an East London chip shop and gave him an envelope of money in return for ownership of the business. I then started to generate income enquiries through the web and paid an agency to improve the site. I’d actually began to code at the time and managed to call them out on the ridiculous amount they’d charged for changing one line of code; I was probably the first client they ever had who could assess their work in the back end of the site to see how much work they’d done. It inspired me to teach myself Google marketing and within 2 years the website was making as much money as my investment banking job.
How did you survive the credit crunch?
50% of survival was learning how to structure a deal so we wouldn’t lose the business. If a client was paying £2,000 we’d say pay us £1,200 but pay us 6 months in advance, or we’d give a 3-month payment break, where if they renewed for another 2 years, or if we thought they were going somewhere we’d take equity in the company. There was risk on both sides throughout all deals. We would also take clients out for dinner and ask what was keeping them up at night; some would be surprised by the services we offered that they didn’t know about which could help to solve their problem. Others said they could no longer afford to keep us, but would make 2 or 3 referrals upon leaving.
The other 50% of survival was creating unique packages. At the time everyone had the same services: SEO, pay per click and e-mail marketing. We therefore renamed all of our services to give them more character. We re-named pay per click to be ‘Pythagoras’; his character was a mathematician since it was everything to do with metrics. Our SEO then became ‘Einstein’ because of the science behind the service, content and blog writing became ‘Shakespeare’ and e-mail marketing became ‘Mercury’, the God of speed. This made our offering look like it was a cut above what everyone else was doing, yet our services weren’t any different from anyone else’s, we simply packaged them in a creative and entertaining way.
How do you choose your business model?
There are so many start-up models out there, but the problem with them all is that they pre-suppose the individual is well-rounded enough to adopt that model. The ‘human’ element has been removed from most of them, which is hugely important. You would think with models like the Lean Start-up, that we would be way more successful as entrepreneurs, but we’re not. The flaw is not in the model, the flaw is in us not understanding ourselves; it’s an identity problem. Different types of entrepreneurs should adopt different models, if you don’t have the soft skills required to employ the model including competence, resilience and courage, it won’t work out.
“There are so many start-up models out there, but the problem with them all is that they pre-suppose the individual is well-rounded enough to adopt that model.”
If you don’t know yourself well enough to understand your own strengths and weaknesses, you already decrease your chances at succeeding with any form of entrepreneurial business model. It’s like going to play a football match despite not having the skills to kick a ball, or diving into a pool yet you don’t know how to swim. No one sits you down when you choose your model and says ‘Do you realise how much courage you’re going to need? How much confidence is going to be required from you?’. A lot of business is self-interrogative. When you price your product or service, it is directly related to your level of self-worth. Some people use this as a selling point ‘we’re offering a lower price’ – yet the reality is that other people are charging more because they value themselves more.
Rebel Wrap Up
How do you overcome self-limiting beliefs?
By making sure I’m afraid of whatever’s in front of me. If I’m not afraid of it, then it isn’t big enough. You have to ensure you’re always operating outside your comfort zone. I find myself in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’ mode. I remember being asked to speak at events and I instinctively wanted to turn them down because it was such a daunting thought, yet I would deliberately drag myself there because I knew I had to do it to grow. At one university event I was even told 2minutes before I went on stage that I was due to deliver the keynote speech; I don’t remember what I said but I do remember people shaking my hand afterwards and telling me it was the best speech they’d heard all year.
“If I’m not afraid of it, then it isn’t big enough. You have to ensure you’re always operating outside your comfort zone.”
Do you have a mantra that you live by?
“I see myself spiritually before I see myself physically. This allows me to get over things really quickly because I’m not wholly married to the things that happen around me.”
Yes, that I’m a soul having a physical experience. I see myself spiritually before I see myself physically. This allows me to get over things really quickly because I’m not wholly married to the things that happen around me. I rarely take things personally, I see things far more objectively and there is a huge commercial application when you think of things in that way. It’s helped me to reduce my ego and stress, which are the no.1 killers of entrepreneurship. People are far too connected to their goals, money and concerns of how others perceive them. I see my body as a physical vehicle; it’s simply a shell for my soul and it allows me to drive myself to the places I need to be to fulfil my purpose in life.
“I see my body as a physical vehicle; it’s simply a shell for my soul and it allows me to drive myself to the places I need to be to fulfil my purpose in life.”