What I've Learnt: James Whittall, Founder & MD, Influx Digital
Web design and digital marketing agency Influx supports a wide range of small and medium businesses.
It was founded by James Whittall in 2016, and has been growing ever since. Based in Manchester's Spinningfields, Influx prides itself on its flexibility - many of its team members work remotely from around the country, and it has a pool of external talent Influx draws on to meet clients' needs.
Having had a varied career up to this moment, James shared some of the things he's learnt...
Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?
I find that working out in the morning sets the tone of the day, it gets me in the right mindset and I feel ready to tackle my tasks. Even when I was on the dole and managing tricky life situations, it was the one thing I could definitely achieve every day. It felt like an accomplishment when things were tough.
What's been your luckiest break?
It sounds a bit cheesy but being born in the family that I was. I was lucky enough to grow up in an amazing family, especially my parents and grandparents and I am very lucky that they are all still around and are a huge part of my life.
What's your best failure?
After I was made redundant, I was on the dole and it was a low point. I think for me it prompted a sort of 'fight or flight', and the fight in me ignited some kind of entrepreneurial spark.
What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?
I invested a lot of time into my own personal development. I read a lot of books, listened to audiobooks and podcasts whilst also being at the gym. I started to feel even better when I paired this with good nutrition, making sure I was eating better foods and engaging in more healthy lifestyle choices, shall we say.
Which book would you recommend others to read and why?
I would strongly recommend '12 Rules for Life' by Jordan Peterson. It’s all about self development, being a better version of yourself, taking responsibility for the things in your life that you can control and putting yourself in a better position to take on challenges you don't control. I would also recommend his lectures as well, he has a lot of content to listen to and watch. They have helped me and so many people I know.
What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
I was lucky enough that at 21 I had found what I wanted to pursue as a long-term career. It was something that I enjoyed which I appreciate some people can take years to find and some may never find at all.
If you haven’t found that yet, try new things, do more, push yourself to your limits until you find something and then go after it 110%. Also don’t be afraid to ask the people around you for help or advice - you never know what you might learn.
Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?
I learned a lot from my Dad and I have a lot to thank him for - he gave me a lot of opportunities. He’s an extremely hard worker and I have always looked up to him a lot for his work ethic. He went to night college when I was a kid and this meant that our family was given so many more opportunities, and I’m really grateful for that.
Tell us something about you that would surprise people.
This links back to my ‘best failure’ in a way. In 2014, I went through a very bad patch in my life, I had depression and hit a very low point in June of that year.
I was 20 at the time and still trying to figure out what I would do next - It really felt like an uphill battle. This experience completely changed me as a person and led me to be the person I am today.
How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?
Before the crisis was even at the forefront of our lives, Influx Digital was an agile, flexible company. We moved to a fantastic WeWork office last year which we can still use for meetings, and the team can pop in and out freely.
The majority of the team logs in from all over the UK but can do from anywhere in the world, so we’re used to a non-traditional way of working. We’ve never needed a traditional nine-to-five, we have a lot more freedom to work how and when we want and it’s an excellent setup for businesses that we think more people will take on board.
What does success look like to you?
Success to me is growing alongside our customers. The reason Influx started was because I loved the process of starting a business from scratch, building from the ground up and then watching how it evolved. I did it first with my Dad and then for my friend Craig at Clarke Delta. I learned so much and it truly cemented the decision to start Influx. Being a part of these businesses, past, present and future is hugely exciting and to watch them grow is incredibly rewarding.