Nathan Chan is the publisher of digital magazine Foundr, which launched in March 2013. Foundr is all about sharing ideas, interviews and inspiration for and about entrepreneurs. They’ve had some pretty heavy hitters grace the cover of the magazine, including Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Seth Godin, Daymond John, and Tim Ferris.
We spoke with Nathan about how he turned an interest in startups into a burgeoning publisher.
Tell us a bit about what you do and your journey to get there
Foundr just started off as a passion project when I launched the magazine in March 2013. I didn't know anything about business, I didn't know anything about publishing, didn't know anything about apps, didn't know anything about startups, didn't know anything about content or interviews, or anything of the sort.
I started it while I was working my day job. I never treated it like a startup, never treated it like this big business that was gonna turn over millions of dollars every year, just kind of started really, really small.
It's funny looking back. I don't know why I thought so small, but I did. Sometimes in a way that can be a blessing in disguise, because I wasn't intimidated by the process – I think a lot of people do get intimidated by the process when they have such big dreams and aspirations that they don't even know where to start. For me, it was just launch this magazine. Our website was a basic landing page, we had no social media presence, nothing. And when I launched the magazine, it kind of took off from there.
From there, I just kind of built up the business so I could leave my day job, that took me about a year. Then, fast forward to now, we've got seven full time staff, multiple seven-figure turnover, and we're growing at a reasonably fast rate.
How do you set goals? Do you follow a specific process?
I set goals by the year. I've most recently changed those goals to go by the Australian financial year.
I use a process that one of my mentors taught me, which is utilising your goal pyramid. Essentially the process is that, over 12 months I focus on one or two goals and they are the top of the pillar. All the pillars underneath are sub goals or objectives that I need to hit in order to attain that big goal.
Now I've been following this process for the past three and a half years. So I've done it three years in a row since I started Foundr, and every single year that I've done it, I've hit my goals. To be honest, don't know if I'm going to hit my goals this year, just because the goals get bigger and bigger and more audacious, but we'll see how we go.
What do you do when you hit a roadblock or things aren’t going right?
To be honest, during our winter in Australia, a lot of things weren’t going right. But before then, that past 18 months, we were really on the up, and now if you think of the growth, it's kind of like a staircase, where it's gone up, then flat, up, then flat. Last winter it was a bit flat. Not in terms of revenue growth, but in terms of the scale that I was trying to achieve, it wasn’t as fast as I would like.
So what do I do when things aren't going right? Well, one thing that I did in particular, was I went back and started looking at my journal. Because I realised that it'd been a year since I'd journaled. I was like, "Okay, I need to go back to basics. Let's journal, let's start writing down, looking at my goal pyramid more often. Speaking and getting more help." That's another thing, making yourself vulnerable and reaching out to experts that can help if things aren't working.
What’s one habit you credit with getting to where you are now?
Probably just setting standards with our content. So our core business is content – whether it's free content or premium content, that's our business. Whether it's in the form of magazine, podcast, educational products, and books, social, you name it, we have content that we're putting out.
I think the biggest thing is setting a schedule for each of those mediums. So having those standards for our content, and constant shipping schedules, everyone works around that, so it's just already done. I just know 10 months from now, a magazine issue is gonna go out in the middle of the month, no questions asked.
What keeps you awake at night?
Just excitement of the time that we live in. Things are really exciting with Foundr. We're doing a lot of cool stuff where we're making really big dents in this space. That keeps me awake, it's really exciting.
Who inspires you the most?
Probably Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, just because what those guys are doing is so big, and I think the kind of stuff I'm doing is so much easier for them. It's just insane what those guys have done and are currently doing. So, they inspire me.
What's your favourite quote or saying?
"If you always do what you've always done, you always get what you've always got." Great quote by Tony Robbins.
What tech tool or app are you loving right now?
I don't know, tricky one. Really loving Zapier at the moment, I think that's a really powerful tool for automating stuff.
What’s one big goal you've set for 2017?
I've got many because I've got my big goal and my sub goals. I don't actually share my big goals publicly, I do to my friends and family. So, I guess one big sub goal would be to hit a million followers on Instagram by the end of this year.