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Reflections on 2 Years in business

Almost exactly two years ago I started my own business “Clear Presentation Design” (, in a nutshell I help people make better presentations.

I had never thought this was something someone like me could do, In all honesty I suppose I started the whole thing as an experiment, just to see if it could be done. 24 months later the grand experiment rolls on, and I’m still loving it.

This time last year I wrote a post about my thoughts on being one year in business. I wrote about the stuff I had enjoyed and the stuff that hadn’t been so great. I hope to keep this year’s end reflection a tradition, and hope that it makes for a good read that perhaps can encourage people to try and start their own business adventures too.

Great People
In the course of running my business from day to day I get to interact with some really great people.

I think people who run their own business, or work in a small business, tend to be a bit more optimistic than the average person on the street. I suppose that in a way running your own business pretty much demands it, without an in-built sense of optimism perhaps the hard times might just seem that bit too hard and those uphill battles that bit too much uphill.

And because I get to interact with so many small business folk and entrepreneurs some of this optimism and energy even manages to rub off on me from time to time, and for this I am very thankful. Such positivity is a powerful influence in these largly negative times.

There have been countless people who have gone out of their way to help me get my business going over the last two years and for that I am hugely grateful. If it weren’t for the help and good will I receive all the time my business just wouldn’t work.

Whether it was giving me business, a recommendation, advice or even the simple act of giving a RT on twitter it has all been extremely helpful and has played a part in my continued success.
So Thank you.

I look forward to meeting more amazing people as my business enters its third year.

I have always loved taking photos and this year I decided to get what you might describe as being a “proper” camera. Gone are the days of taking dinky little photos on my mobile phone, I now have a Sony DSLR and a couple of lenses that allow me to take some close up shots, which is what I really had a hankering for. A lot of my snaps are of architecture and nature and in particular birds.

I have loved traipsing around Dublin taking photos, and I have found that it really forces you look at things in a different way, photography really trains you to look at things much closer than before, and in a much different way. It of course does no harm at all to happen to live in a particularly nice part of Ireland, with amazing scenes to take in whenever you want… this makes taking good photos a bit easier.

The camera I bought was just about the cheapest DSLR that money can buy, and I have no real desire to upgrade for a long time to come, the way I see it taking great photos requires great timing, a great subject, great light, great patience, a great “eye” for shots and finally, and probably least importantly, the camera. A really basic (or second hand) DSLR will really do a fantastic job. You aren’t going to buy your way into being a good photographer.

Let my people go surfing
The book “Let my people go surfing” is an autobiography of sorts by the founder of “Patagonia clothing”, Yvon Chouinard. I read it a year ago and it is probably my all-time favourite “business book”, although it doesn’t deal with the topic like most books do.

One of Yvon’s greatest desires was to create a workplace/work ethos that allowed his employees to have the most fulfilling lives possible while also ensuring that they got work done. One of his many strong beliefs on the topic was that his colleagues should be able to go surfing (or pursue any other interest) when they wanted to, and make up for the work later.

There is some pretty flawless logic to this.

As he points out:
One of the lessons of surfing, or powder skiing, or any of those kind of sports, is that you don’t go surfing next Tuesday at 2 o’clock. ‘Cause you may show up there and it’s flat or blown out and… you’re a loser.

The point is that there are certain opportunities that aren’t just aren’t going to wait around. For example in Ireland we have very few good, proper, sunny days, some might say that if you get a nice day over here you should drop tools and go out and enjoy it while it’s there. Unless you have highly urgent work you should go out and bask in the sun, go take some photos up a hill, do whatever floats your boat. You can do the work when you get back, it will still be there.

I have really enjoyed having the power to choose when I work and where I work, and things like being able to take long photo-walks up Killiney Hill or Bray Head, and being able to watch my little brother’s basketball matches have meant a lot to me.

There is no office
Being self-employed has really opened my eyes to how thoroughly stupid our approach to “work” is. “Work” tends to be viewed as both a place, and an activity, with the two being completely intertwined. While this view is held quite widely, it is grossly incorrect. In reality the office or “work” is a place rife with time wasting activities and distractions that stop you from getting stuff done!

Being self-employed has allowed me to work from home, but more importantly has allowed me to work on the go, when and where I want. Because of this I was able to take up opportunities that in any other job I would have had to pass up. Just recently I spent a wonderful week in Bruges, and later Maastricht visiting a good friend of mine from college. I was able to fit in (almost) a full week’s amount of work, while being hundreds of miles away from my clients, I was in touch with them via email and skype whenever we needed to talk and the project went just as smoothly as any other.

This summer I was also able to travel while working in Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, Portland, Toronto and Montreal.

The office as we know it will surely be killed off soon, for me this has already happened.

The Internet is amazing for getting up and running
The internet allowed me to set up my business in a day or two, which when you really think about it is complete and utter madness, not too long ago this sort of timeline would be absurdly unrealistic.

I made my own site on wordpress, uploaded some examples of my work on, I ordered some business cards on and registered a twitter account (found here) and finally I registered as a sole trader with the tax office online… and that was me… ready to face the big bad world.

I have found twitter a fascinating beast. It is such a huge melting pot of information, you can control what information makes it way onto your screen by choosing who you follow, so when I hear this talk of “oh twitter is just full of people talking about what they had for breakfast and all about celebrity gossip” I feel like telling these people it is their fault!

For me it functions as a constant stream of useful information, mostly about business and tech, but some other fun stuff too. There are countless pieces of interesting information and links to awesome websites that I came across on twitter that I just would never have found.

These interactions of course don’t have to be restricted to the internet, in fact a diverse group of us twitter mad folk have even had a regular tweetup (a meet up in person)in Dalkey in Dublin. We meet up once a month over a few beers/wines and talk about anything you care to think of, if could be tech, business, life etc etc . I would highly encourage anyone to try and start up a tweetup in their local area. It has been a great way to meet a group of really cool people that I am sure would have just been strangers to me without the miracle of the internet.

Looking forward to 2012
I know things are still bad economically, but I have a feeling that things are going to be much better in 2012 for those that remain in business.

I remember in business school my lecturer described to us the “shake out” effect of a recession, and that is very much what we have had over the last few years. Those businesses that weren’t strong enough to weather bad times are now gone (having been shook out) leaving the stronger, leaner and more flexible businesses left to lead the way going forward.

I do of course feel sorry for those that have gone out of business, but I know, as do they, that they will be back in action soon. No entrepreneur takes these things lying down.

I think that 2012 will be a rebound year for us all, and I look forward to it greatly.

See you next year!
I hope you have enjoyed my random musings on my two years in business, and I hope you have found it in some way useful.

If you are a twitterer then why not drop me a tweet over at @clearpreso

If you ever need a good presentation check out my services at

And if you ever want to just meet up and chart about business just drop me a mail at

Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh is MD of Clear Presentation Design…visit his site here