26 years of The Media Exchange, written by Jo Wood

As I walked to our new office this morning, my phone was repeatedly bleeping. Rescuing it from the depths of my bag, I discovered that Linkedin had kindly reminded everyone that it is 26 years this week – just writing that is scary –  that I took the plunge and set up The Media Exchange.  So I thought I’d share a little about what it’s really like to run your own show for such a long time!

Firstly, I am still in awe of my much younger self! Had I stopped and thought things through just a little bit more, I’m sure I would have stopped in my tracks. I was young, naïve and determined, all things that from what I can remember didn’t even allow the word risk, to enter my head. In those days, I had to find an office, (there was no Fora or We Work equivalent) furniture, phones, money and some clients – all knowing that I had a mortgage to pay – honestly when I think about it now, I can only think I must have been mad!

For those of you thinking of setting up a business, any business, probably the biggest change is understanding that you don’t just have to secure business but you have to collect the cash too and work out how to pay the bills – I remember receiving our first cheque (yes, just cheques then) was a major milestone and you are suddenly responsible not just for yourself but for your team, their personal issues, their families and livelihoods – a truly sobering thought at times.

So 26 years has flown by but what have I learnt? Well, setting up a business is not for everyone. It has significant challenges and can be complicated with the most incredible highs – finding three Ad Directors for Nat Mags in our first few months, working on the launches of BBC Top Gear and Red as well as Yahoo! and Facebook – and terrible lows – the 2008/9 recession was a nightmare! The pace of change has also been huge – my vocabulary has grown enormously – email, digital, programmatic, native – the list is endless, who knew!  I have needed to be resilient, compassionate and able to deal with the unexpected. I never know quite what every day will bring – over the years I think we have dealt with almost every personal issue – love, life and death and everything in between.

That said I feel incredibly fortunate – the media industry is filled with some of the most loyal, creative, passionate people many of whom have worked with us from day one – yes really – and loads of whom I am privileged to regard as friends.

Most importantly, I have been able to work alongside some amazing people – not just the current team who are all incredible- but all those who have contributed over the years to our growth, development and success. When you set out, you feel invincible but actually it’s the team around you that conveys your vision and makes it all worthwhile and for this I am truly grateful!

Many of you will know that after 26 years we recently moved office. Amazingly I wasn’t sentimental about it at all – though it was a nightmare getting rid of 26 years of paper – just glad to move to a great location in fantastic new offices. In fact I might just be sitting right where Terry Mansfield sat all those years ago!!

Finally, yes every day I feel a bit old – the 26 years is a bit of a giveaway – but would I do it again – you bet!!

Jo Wood