Being your own Boss Series: Stephen Hackett of Relay FM
Being an entrepreneur is incredibly rewarding, but also comes with its challenges. For the second edition of Hover’s Being your own Boss Series, we talk to the team over at Relay FM. Relay FM was co-founded by Myke Hurley and Stephen Hackett in July 2014 and has been growing ever since. Hover has been proudly supporting the Relay FM podcast since 2015. Co-founder Stephen Hackett sat down to answer our questions about entrepreneurship in the podcaster’s world and has advice on balancing both your work and your family life when you love both.
What gets you out of bed every morning and how do you start your day?
I’m Dad to 3 school-aged kids, and most mornings are spent helping get everyone out the door to school on time. That’s pretty great motivation. Once everyone is gone, I’ll head to the gym or start my work day.
How did it feel to launch that first podcast episode?
I believe my first podcast appearance ever was an interview with Myke Hurley, who is my co-founder at Relay FM. I was nervous about it, but I think it went well enough.
When we started publishing our first show together, I remember being excited to share something with the world. It was fun to have an idea and just make it happen. That show wasn’t very good, but the core idea of it lives on in a show named Ungeniused that we still release today.
How have you prevented burnout in the tough position of running your own business?
When you get to do what you love, it’s easy to spend every waking moment on it, but in the long-term, that’s a foolish game to play. Having time away, if it’s just an afternoon walk or a family vacation is key. Rest is important, and very often, I find myself being able to think more clearly about whatever is going on if I take some time for myself away from the business. I’m not very good at that, but I’m trying to be better at it.
What is the most difficult aspect of working for yourself?
I’ve never found it difficult to stay on task or make myself get to my studio by a certain time. For me, the biggest challenge is that it can be lonely. Relay FM is completely distributed. I’m in Memphis, TN and Myke is in London. We have hosts all over the world. Slack and iMessage keep us connected throughout the workweek, but at the end of the day, it’s just me and my iMac spending a lot of time together.
To balance this, I try to see friends for lunch and run errands with my spouse as often as possible, but I have to work at those things to make sure I carve room for them out on my schedule.
What is the most rewarding aspect of working for yourself?
For me, it’s being able to provide for my family on my own terms. Relay FM doesn’t take anything on that Myke and I don’t agree too, and while there are certainly things that are more or less fun than others, I happily do them because it means the company keeps moving forward.
Working for myself has afforded me a decent amount of flexibility in my home life. I’m a better and more involved husband and dad most weeks than I could ever have been back when I had a 9-5.
Can you discuss an opportunity you’ve been able to do, thanks to running Relay FM?
In our Apple nerd world, WWDC every June is like the Super Bowl. Thousands of developers and nerdy folk descend upon San Jose for a week. Getting to go every year to hang out with people we work with and meet listeners is truly a special experience.
What was your personal favourite episode of all that you have done and why?
That’s like trying to pick between kids. I’m on six Relay FM shows now, so there’s a lot to choose from, but Episode 164 of Connected was pretty special. We recorded it front of a live audience in Chicago last fall and it was a real blast. Live shows are always special, and I love doing them.
Which accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
Every time I think about the fact that Myke and I get to work with some real titans of our industry, I’m humbled by it. As a Mac nerd, I’ve read and followed people like Jason Snell, Christina Warren and Andy Ihnatko for a long time, and now we work together on Relay FM.
What is the number one step a person can take to get their own business of the ground?
Figure out your angle. Some people call this the unfair advantage or your hook. If you can isolate what you can offer that no one else can, focus on growing that. Setting yourself apart is hard, but critical in crowded markets.
What do you wish everyone knew about running their own business?
That you’re never really off. If you run a bakery, even when the “Open” sign isn’t lit, I’d imagine you’re working behind the scenes to keep things moving. In companies like ours, that are always on, there’s no Open sign. People are online 24/7/365, and that means Relay FM needs to be up and running, no matter my local time. That’s hard to accept, and it means making hard decisions when it comes to family and friends time that I think most people don’t expect.
What is your favourite thing to do to relax and step away from the stress?
For me, I ride my bike. Getting out of the studio and into the world while breaking a sweat is the best thing I can do for myself.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve given or received?
That success takes time. Very few people roll out of bed on the third day of their company and walk into success. You very often have to build the house one small brick at a time.
Catch the Relay FM podcast. As they like to say, it’s a network for those who are creative, curious, and maybe even a little obsessive – just like the hosts!