Today we’re interviewing Andy Hayes from Plum Deluxe. Andy was in a toxic corporate environment and was getting physically sick, so he decided he needed to do something else. He went into consulting, and that turned into basically a “job” as well. Finally, he decided to go with his passion and create what was in him to create, and he did it. He started with an idea, and it turned into products in an interesting twist. This is really a fascinating story of how he moved from “hunker down” to a really nice place where he loves what he does and what his company stands for, creating moments that matter all the time in his life.
Andy: I used to always say to myself that I was not a good business owner. I could not have a business. It involved too much risk. It’s really funny, though, because I have a totally different opinion about risking now. I used to be in the corporate software technology space. I’m kind of a tech guy at heart, and over the years I’ve experienced not one, not two, but I think three different corporate acquisitions. Each time I found myself making a trade. In one case, I traded less money for more benefits, more vacation, more insurance, or just better work environment. There are lots of benefits that are not just monetary. Then I had another trade that was more just about position, management of team, etc.
My last trade turned out to be maybe not the best one. My company was acquired in the European-banking crisis, and we were moved to another company that was a toxic work environment, something that was mentioned just a few episodes ago, I believe, in your podcast. I found that environment to be really, really stressful, and I experienced a lot of health issues, from migraines to passing out, skin rashes, all sorts of strange stuff. At the time, I had no idea that these were related — I just thought I was having a rough patch. Of course, looking back, I do know that there was some correlation there with that really difficult work environment, which caused me to decide that working in an office that makes me physically sick is risky – and that going out on my own would be a lot less risky because I would have more control.
That’s actually how I got started in business eight years ago. My business has changed completely in several parameters between now and then. At the beginning, I had no idea what the heck I was going to do. Now, I share that because I want people to know — if they’re really listening to this podcast and trying to create something that provides them with a solid living, a side hustle, whatever it happens to be — it’s ok if you don’t know, because I didn’t know either and I figured it out.
What I did that really helped me the most was I remembered what I did as a kid: I would tear up all these different pieces of paper and make little magazines, and I would draw the pictures and write all the stories. I was the editor, the writer, the photographer, and the stylist. I just knew that publishing was something in my DNA, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I was really lucky when I started my business that I live in a town that had a very small, closed group of entrepreneurs. That saved my buns in the beginning, because they gave me a lot of really good feedback. If you don’t have people in your life, right now, who will support you no matter what and will tell you when you are off track or help guide you, you’ve got to find those people. You’ve got to find people who are not going to just tell you, “That’s crazy, that’s a dumb idea, why would you do that?” or “You should get a pension, you should do this or that.” No, get people who will give you good feedback — positive or negative, it doesn’t matter. There’s a difference between just listening to what you’re trying to do as opposed to giving you constructive, positive feedback, like “That sounds like a good idea, but maybe if you go this way, that would be better.” At least I now feel the Internet is a place where you can find strong connections with people. You can find them online. It’s not the same as having a cup of tea, a sandwich, a face-to-face with someone and saying, “I need your help, I need your advice.” You’ve got to take what you can get.
I had an idea about this sort of magazine and I took it to my inner circle, and they said, “Actually, that’s a great idea, but magazines are dying so maybe this is not the best choice for you.” But then they said, “Your timing is perfect,” because Facebook Pages had just started, and WordPress was just becoming kind of a thing that was stable and becoming really popular. They said, “Why don’t you do a magazine online?” and I said, “That’s a genius idea, I will do that.” But I got derailed right out of the station.
I set up this website, and I was really going to focus on travel, because that’s what I knew really well. I was living in Edinburgh, Scotland, at that time, which was really tourism-heavy as far as industry. I was surrounded by all those kinds of people, and I have lot of experience in that, traveling the world many times over. There are a lot of stories there, lots of things I’d love to share about how people lived life in different places.
I started that, but because I was so good in what I used to do (software), people had heard that I was available, so they would say, “I remember that you used to do this…I have this project, would you do it?” Of course, in the beginning I was like, “Heck, yeah, that’s a lot of money, I’ll take it.” And then the next person would say, “I remember you from such and such. I think you would be really good on this project. Would you take it?” And I was, “Heck, yeah. I’d love to do that.” I thought these projects were exciting, because they were projects that were just one step removed from my old job. At my old job, though, there were things that I would loved to have done, but I was always in a position that I had to fight to get the money to do the project or it was just too forward-thinking for my company. And these were exciting things. I say that I got a little derailed, but I was enjoying the side stuff, so it wasn’t so bad. Plus there was money. That was it. This was an income to make sure that I had a good foundation to start out with. I became just a “gun for hire” and lost sight of that real vision of having my own publishing thing. I did that work for probably two or three years, just taking on jobs because they just kept coming. They still show up – years later, they still show up.
While I enjoy that work, I started to realize I was becoming the same overbearing boss that I had when I was employed. I thought, “You work day and night, and the only difference now is that you get paid for hours, and you get paid a pretty good wage per hour. But that’s not good enough, is it?” At the end of your life do you really want to say, “Andy, you had a pretty good life, that $100 that you were making on a Sunday night when everyone else was out enjoying the theater, having a glass of wine. What a great life.” No, you’re not going to say that. You’re going to say, “I wish I had the glass of wine.” So I said, okay, and I got up with some parameters on this consulting work, because it was eating my life away. I needed to work on what the heck it is that I want to leave as a legacy, what is it that I really want to work on that will outlive me, that will grow beyond me.
This came at a really interesting time, because it was when my mother had cancer for about six years and she passed right about the time I was having this deep internal debate about what it was that I really wanted to contribute to the world besides being a gun for hire. One of the things I realized from her passing was that a lot of things I was trying to talk about on my personal blog, which is now Plum Deluxe, were about the life that she lived and her philosophy on life. What I saw in my mom, there at the end when she was ill, was that she had this joy and drive to live really fully. She was always out with her girlfriends, doing book clubs, running 10k races on the weekends, and going off on weekend getaways. They were living it up. I remember this as a child, and also being sort of her life philosophy, she made cakes for a living as a side hustle. “It’s Saturday afternoon, so we are going to bake a cake and celebrate,” and I would ask “Why?” She would say, “Because it’s Saturday. We don’t need a reason to be happy.” And I thought that if she could be in such a rough point in her life and live so fully, why can’t we all do that? Despite the circumstance that it was, that gave me a ton of fuel to really reorganize my publishing, my content, and my life’s work around this philosophy.
That’s where I really clicked into where I was supposed to be. I changed the name to Plum Deluxe. I centered everything around making moments matter and things really took off, and that’s where we just found a deeper relationship with our readers. We started rolling out products, like our
Loose Leaf Tea line and eBooks, etc., that people are just snatching up left and right. I did enjoy that long scenic road, finding something that was really full of purpose, and the co-driver made it easier for the customers to fall in love with the work I was doing.
Andy Hayes Top Tips For Getting Started in Business
1) Ask yourself what YOU really want to create. Don’t listen to what others think you should create.
2) Get feedback as to how what you want ties into what customers are needing – you need to get out and talk to people – email and surveys are not enough.
3) Find a support system of people who will support you.
4) Give yourself permission to create and experiment and make things the way you want. We are lucky to be living at a time when you can make a lifestyle business that totally works for you. So don’t be afraid to make it how YOU want it to be.
Guest – Andy Hayes – Plum Deluxe
Andy Hayes is the founder and creator of Plum Deluxe, the website that helps you create moments that matter. A published author, prolific writer, and public speaker, he is based in sunny Portland, Oregon. Featured in sites and magazines such as CNN, Wall Street Journal, and National Geographic, Andy is known for his fresh ideas on living a good life.
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