Mid way through my last year of art school, I started a design business on the side. I called the company McAlpine Graphic Communications and I was officially in business January 2, 1990. I was 20 at the time, I had zero qualifications to be a business owner and I had only had one real job (if you don't count paperboy at 12 and the fry guy at McDonald's at 14). That one real job was a part-time sign painter in high school and college. And I do mean "painter" since computerization was just coming into the sign industry at the time!
About five years into working for myself, I stumbled into providing design services to First Heritage Savings Credit Union—one of British Columbia's largest credit unions at the time—on a referral from a local printing company. One referral lead to more referrals which lead to total specialization. Today, Currency Marketing (after a name change or two) works exclusively in the credit union industry and has worked with credit union clients all over Canada and the United States.
It's really hard to fathom that it's 25 years later and more than half my life has been invested in this business. After 20 years in business I wrote a post about the 20 lessons learned. Since those lessons still apply, here's that list plus five more:
- Do what you love
- Work with people and companies you respect
- Tell the truth
- Get really good at something
- Never stop learning
- Abandon what's not working
- Learn to say no
- Don't take it too personal
- Strive to achieve a work-life balance
- Give your people freedom to excel and to fail
- Have a vision and stand for something
- Differentiate your offering
- Don't underestimate the power of luck
- Learn from your mistakes
- Don't be afraid to ask for help
- Treat people well
- Not everyone will believe in what you are trying to do
- Don't steal ideas
- Never screen back red, it just turns pink
- Laugh often
- Constantly protect and exercise your curiosity
- Fall in love with a problem, not your solution to that problem
- Sign up for every points and mileage club possible
- Don't take anything or anyone for granted
- There's much more to life than work
Thanks to everyone who has enabled me to do what I love for 25 years. I truly hope that I never have to look for a real job!
Tim McAlpine is the President and Creative Director of Currency Marketing. He is best known for developing the Young & Free Marketing Program and the It's a Money Thing Financial Education Program that credit unions from around North America are using to connect with new young adult members. He is also the driving force behind CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec competition and a co-founder of the CU Water Cooler.