What I've Learnt: Sam Jones, Managing Director at Tunafish Media

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Sam Jones, Tunafish Media

Sam Jones runs the show at Tunafish Media, a Manchester-based social media marketing agency specialising creative content and strategic campaigns.

Not long after finishing his degree at MMU, Jones set up a content marketing and media production agency called Tunafish with some friends in 2011.

Today, Tunafish Media has won more than 40 industry awards, listing names like Skiddle, Muse Developments, Bury and Oldham Councils among past clients.

We heard from Sam about what starting his own agency and forging his own path has taught him.

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Spending half an hour playing with the dog before going to work. I’m not sure if it’s scientifically proven or not, but in my eyes dogs are hands down the best thing in the world for mental health. Half an hour chasing the dog around the living room and I’m set up for the day.

What's been your luckiest break?

When I was in my teens, I worked in radio. At the time, social media had just become a thing with MySpace and FriendsReunited. One day, the station manager decided we needed to be on social media and looked around the room.

I was probably the youngest there by ten years, had peroxide blonde hair and skinny jeans, and that happened to be what he thought was needed for the job. That snap decision has pretty much shaped by career as shortly afterwards, I decided I’d fallen out of love with radio and started giving more focus to what I’m doing now.

What's your best failure?

We started the business in 2011, without any real solid idea of what we were doing and how we were going to do it. In my head, at the time we launched, I was thinking "This is going to be easy, we’re all going to be living on Caribbean Islands within two years."

In reality, we were working on the business in the day and not paying ourselves, working bar jobs in the evening - then we cut a deal with the landlord so we could live above the pub if we locked up. Those first couple of years were just a series of back-to-back failures but we were too stupid to give up and here we are. Looking back, they were the best times too.

What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?

We hired a non-executive director about two years ago and it has been transformative for us. We started the business when we were 22 as three creatives and he has really helped us sort out our systems and processes, mature as business owners, and grow.

From a financial point of view, I got into Bitcoin relatively early and managed to get a bit of it out before it crashed through the floor. Saying that, I’ve still got a bit now which is pretty much worthless.

How would you describe your work/life balance?

Traditionally it’s always been horrendous.

The only hobby I’ve ever really had is playing football but unfortunately I also have the knees of an 85-year-old man so that went out of the window a while ago. To get a new hobby, I started [soup kitchen project] Not Just Soup, but realistically all I’ve done there is create more work. Recently, I reckon I’ve got a bit better but those around me would probably disagree.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

There’s too many. ‘The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield is great for anyone working in the creative industries and is the best book I have read about battling creative blocks and procrastination. I’m currently reading ‘From Mercenaries to Missionaries’ by Martin Murphy which I’m learning a lot from, and seems to be the perfect book for the size that Tunafish is at the moment.

I’ve always preferred reading fiction to business books. On that front, I’d recommend ‘Cloud Atlas’ or ‘The Bone Clocks’ by David Mitchell as he’s the greatest living author. I’ve just finished ‘Where the Forest Meets the Stars’ by Glendy Vanderah, which I loved too.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

When you’re about 24, you’re going to think it’s a good idea to buy a mint green tuxedo but it’s not. You’ll think you'll look cool, but in reality you’re going to look like an amateur magician.

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

Michael Di Paola. As with many SME start-ups in Manchester, MDP has been incredible with us and I don’t think there’s anyone in the city who does more to bring business leaders together, guide them and help them grow. He’s brilliant and probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He probably also has the record for being personally responsible for the most hangovers had by professionals in Manchester.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I consider myself a world-class gardener and an above average baker.

What does success look like to you?

Sitting in the sunshine somewhere drinking red wine, eating good cheese and surrounded by dogs.