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Welcome to Episode 2!

Today we are going to be talking with Shannon Glen from 7Levels in Hervey Bay.

Shannon had several careers before returning to his creative passion. Listen to this honest interview to hear more about his story and the wisdom he shares.

If you have any questions or would like to comment on this episode, please use the comment form below.


Hello and welcome to Fraser Coast Insights, today I will be talking with Shannon Glen from Seven Levels.  Hi Shannon!

Shannon:  Hello, how you going?

Tell me a little bit about your business for a start.  Tell me, what do you do?

Shannon:  What we currently do is cinema advertising.  We produce the ads, we sell the ads, place the ads, monitor campaigns, deal with customer enquiries and accounts, and we also produce some ads for television as well.

Luke:  That’s quite a broad scope of tasks!

Shannon:  Well let’s just say it’s a lot less broader than where we used to be.

How did you get started?

Shannon: I’ve always had a passion for video, so it’s something I’ve had since probably primary school or earlier, and really developed and refined that passion back in senior college when I did a course in film and television there, and I did so well in that, that I basically took out the perpetual trophies and all the State awards for production, and then realized at that stage that that’s something I really should be focusing on.  Anyway I didn’t, did I?  I went and did a degree in science, I got through that then got into retail for 12 odd years (as you do) then went on to run some electronic shops, and still had this at the back of my mind, and then went into business building websites for a while. God knows why I needed to go around this roundabout to get to where I was truly passionate, but I did.  But eventually I realized that there’s…there’s just one thing I need to be doing, and I’m now doing it and it’s made a big difference to our lives

Luke: Sounds like a very fulfilling task.

Shannon: Yeah…yeah.

What is it that you enjoy most about what you do?

Shannon: The creativity….yeah the outlet that wasn’t previously available.  All the print and web work in the world didn’t allow me to fully express my vision.  I’m a visual thinker, and so when I…when I conceptualise something, I see it as moving images, I see it as 3-D space, and the more I get into video editing and production, the more I start to find myself gravitating towards special effects creation and visual effects and 3-D work, and that’s obviously a direct relationship to the way that I think.

What have you found to be the most challenging?

Shannon:  Hmm…staying up-to-date and having the equipment that I need.  Video equipment is woefully expensive stuff, and the computer equipment and the hard-drive storage space and so on and so forth to support it is also woefully dear, me being a Mac guy compounds this problem.  Mac gear, as most will appreciate, is at least four to five times dearer than what you’ll find for a PC, but you know, having said that, it’s four to five times better.  So…the challenges are mostly financial. Thankfully because it’s not an industry that’s gutsed like you’ll find for example with web and print, the competition is quite low, there are few people that can do what I do and do it well, so therefore when I do get jobs, they’re quite large jobs and the money that comes from those is substantial, so I’m increasing my equipment stash all the time, it’s also allowing me to finish this home.

Luke:  That’s good, you’ve been building your own home which I’ve had the privilege of a tour today, so thank you for that.

Shannon: No worries.

Luke:  It’s certainly going to be quite a masterpiece by the time it’s all done.

Shannon:  Yeah, hopefully.

Are there any mistakes that you’ve made that you’d be willing to share?

Shannon: Yeah.  Mistakes that I’ve made… there’ve been plenty, in fact I could probably stay here for the rest of the afternoon and talk about those, I won’t.  I think probably the primary mistakes were not following my passion, doing things that I’m not truly passionate about is just a recipe for failure because while I was still getting a good result, I was doing things in a way that goes against my natural grain, and if you’re doing that, you’re not benefitting anybody, especially yourself.  So the biggest mistake that I’ve rectified is changing direction.

Another big mistake was the 80/20 Rule and the misapplication thereof.  I learned this rule too late in the game, but I did learn it, and what I’ve done is I’ve sold off 80% of the things that were causing me grief, namely my work base  that was in the wrong industry, sold that off, redirected my energies and my funds to the 20% that is following my passion and is making me some proper coin.  So now I’m doing a lot less work for the same amount of money or more money, which is allowing me again to finish the house, spend time with family, we’re now having a family where previously we were so wound up and stressed that that wasn’t going to ever become a reality.  The stress was tearing us apart as a family, it was destroying our relationship, it was destroying us from the inside, our health.  We just found ourselves working endlessly for near nothing. We were struggling, we couldn’t pay our bills, so yeah, the 80/20 Rule. If anybody was to take anything this from this interview, go and Google that up, follow it, learn it religiously because it will save your life. If you’re on the struggle street and you’re trying to run your business but you’re running it into the ground, then learn the 80/20 Rule, apply it, apply it, apply it.

Luke:  It’s something that hasn’t really gained a lot of traction until kind of recently, I’m starting to see that pop up in a lot of places at the moment, the 80/20 Rule, and it’s something that certainly seems to be very powerful for a lot of people, something that I’m trying to apply myself.

Shannon:  Yeah, do so.  Don’t stop until you get it right, cause it’s the only thing that’s going to really make you sing.

Are there any successes that you’ve had that you’re particularly proud of?

Shannon:  Successes.  I’ve had a lot of successes throughout my careers, plural.  If I just keep it limited to what I’m doing now, then yes.  And I’d have to say that probably bumping into the right people and having the opportunity to fully explore my creativity in business and produce some seriously high-quality adverts in this case, has been the biggest success that I’ve had, and probably will have, because it allows me to really… really engage, really think and create and become what I want to become rather than just turning over, you know this…these mid-dollar productions, just one after the other after the other, which is good, you need that, don’t get me wrong, the bread and butter you can’t do without…it’s there, but these high-end productions that, you know that meeting the right people have led me to, yeah, has changed the focus again to a higher standard, it’s made me reach harder and higher every time.  And then what I find that is having a knock on effect to other productions and because I’ve had an opportunity to really explore…the extent of my creativity and really push the boundaries technologically, I’m now putting those gains into the bread and butter work.  So its lifted the business, and it’ll continue to lift the business.

If you had to start at least this phase of your career over again, what would you do differently?

Shannon:  I would start with venture capital, I would have a funder, I would have somebody to tip in enough funds for me to get the appropriate gear and the right Mac set up, and have all that in place before I started, because the frustrations that have ensued from wrestling with technology that’s too old, not up to scratch, it’s just been a real struggle.  I’m still achieving the result, but it’s taking 10 to 12 times longer to achieve it.  So yeah, if I were to do it again from scratch, I would start with some venture capital and I would get equipment set up straight away and I would be able to pay that back in a very short…in a very short time frame.

Why did you choose the Fraser Coast as the base for your business?

Shannon:  It’s for family and…that’s pretty much it.  This is not…this is not a good place for a business to either establish or run.  Big business can work here fairly well, but small business will always do the hard yards, and if you endure you will succeed on the Fraser Coast, but the socio-economic demographic of this area is quite low, and so you have to work the extra effort.  So if it weren’t for family I would have probably moved on, I would have found ourselves maybe in Perth or Sydney or somewhere like that where the industry and the capacity to earn is greater.  Yeah, having said that, the competition is a lot stiffer, but it does challenge you, it does really push you to excel.  But yeah, now I stay here for family, and you know what, I like the area, it’s a beautiful place to raise kids, and now that we are having a family of our own, I don’t think we’re going to be in any hurry to move.

Are there any local businesses that one, really impress you, and two, what are the qualities that impress you about other businesses?

Shannon: There are quite a few strong business owners and strong businesses in the Fraser Coast that I…I guess takes some inspiration from, some of them are medium to large enterprise, some of them are small enterprise.  I’ve seen a lot of businesses…I mean I think I know just about every business owner in town at this stage, two of my dealings in … in different career paths, but there are a few standouts.  Did you want me to mention names, or we keep it generic?

Luke: We can keep it generic or mention names if you feel strongly enough about it.

Shannon:  Ahmm…I think I’ll keep it generic.  I think it’s fine enough to say that there are a few that really inspire me, you know I do keep an eye on their progress, and sometimes meet with their owners or their managers and swap a few tricks.  Because I think, you know if you support other local businesses, they’ll support you and that whole circle of support needs to go around and round in a community of this size.  And certainly if you stay in keeping with the right-minded business owners, you will succeed because their networks are strong, and not only do you learn from them, but you also…you also get some back scratching going on, and that’s important because again there’s not a lot of industry here, so you really need to be in keeping with the ones you know that are good managers.

What advice would you have for anyone starting a business on the Fraser Coast? Anything specific to the area or business in general?

Shannon:  Business in general is research, research, research.  Really understand your demographic before you start anything because on one the biggest and easiest traps to fall into is not understanding your market and missing it altogether when you start up.  It costs a lot of money to start a business, it always does, even if you say I’m going to go out and I’m going to print business cards and that’s not going to cost me anymore, there’s a computer.  Good luck with that.  I’ll tell you straight away that you will need to market yourself or people aren’t going to find out.  Word of mouth is great, but it’s not enough to start a business unless you’ve got lots of time and somebody scratching your back or holding your finances in their hand until you get on your feet, and that can take years.  So yeah, know your market, get your capital in place. 

If you’re going to do it while working or clawing your way up the ladder, as I like to say, be prepared for a lot of hard times and a lot of struggle.  I’ve done it this way, I wouldn’t recommend it to you this way, but I also understand and appreciate that there are many people that may not necessarily go and get finance because they don’t have a credit rating or history, or don’t know the right people to get finance from, no venture capital for example.  It’s going to be hard, but if you get your demographic wrong and don’t understand your market, then just shut the door and walk away, change it.  And then having said that, if you find that it’s not going in the right direction and you’re not getting the results you need, ask questions. Why?  Ask other business owners what they perceive your business as and where it might be going wrong…If that doesn’t yield the right response or result, change your approach, change your business, change your whole career path, because if it’s not working, your demographic, then you’re not understanding your demographic or you’re doing the wrong thing.

Luke:  Some very very wise words there…

Shannon:  Hopefully someone will glean something from it of use.

Luke:  Yeah, thank you very much for you time, really appreciate it.

Shannon: No problem at all.

Well I hope you’ve enjoyed that honest insightful interview from Shannon. If you would like to hear anymore of our interviews, please subscribe on our website, and I’ll forward to seeing you all again next time.

This interview was conducted by Luke Farrugia, Entrepreneur and digital marketing consultant. He resides on the Fraser Coast with his wife and can’t resist a photography opportunity. He can generally be found on Twitter, Linked In, his blog or over at Farbox.