What I've Learnt: Jon Stroud, Founder & Creative Director, Jist Studios

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Jon is the Creative Director at Jist Studios, the content producers with offices in Manchester.

The studio produces engaging and fun content for TV advertisers and social platforms, as well as documentary and interactive learning content. Past clients its worked with include Manchester International Festival, Currys PC World, and Struik Foods.

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

Aeropress filter coffee and a good breakfast (usually porridge) - You have to start the day right.

What's been your luckiest break?

Luck’s a funny thing, isn’t it? I’m not sure I fully believe that true luck just comes out of the blue. If anything, I think the luckiest break in my life has been the support of my family to enable me to do what I do.

I set up my first company when I was 18 and had no idea what I was doing. They allowed me to test the water and make mistakes while age was on my side!

What's your best failure?

Oh my goodness. Which one?! We fail a lot. Which means we learn a lot. I hate the word ‘entrepreneur’ because I think it's overused. However, the best part about being someone that starts and runs businesses is the iterative learning that we go through over a whole lifetime.

I was only saying the other day that by the time I get to 80 I'll have learnt an incredible amount! My best failure was probably my last business, a technology company installing WiFi on public transport. While the business itself was a success, my heart wasn’t in it. That experience brought me to where I am now.

Five years into Jist Studios, being creative every day, I love my job and can’t imagine doing anything else.

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

My team. It’s really easy as a creative to think you should do everything yourself. The old saying of "hire people who are smarter than you" is so true.

Putting both the time and finance behind growing the team has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done. Not only in terms of the product we can now provide to our customers, but also the satisfaction I get from helping the team to improve their skills and develop their careers.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

Cheesy, but 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull'. When I was about 16, a friend's mum bought it for me. The sentiment behind that book has stayed with me ever since.

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

Chill out!! People say life is short… but it’s not that short. You don’t have to do everything yesterday. You don’t have to be a millionaire by the time you’re 22. You have a life to live and time in your 20s to have fun. Go and do it. Don’t compare yourself to others. The rest can come later.

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

Mentorship. I’ve had three mentors in my career who have made an immeasurable difference to my life. Being a solo founder can be a lonely place. It doesn’t matter how many people you hire, the buck still stops with you.

Having a mentor and now a Non-Exec Director to hold me to account, to put checks in place, and to support me through the journey has been, well… I just don’t think we’d be where we are without them. Shout out to Viv Parry, Phil Lewis, and Matthew Littleford, you’re all legends.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I’ve just shouted across the office to gauge my colleagues' reaction to this question. Playing in a brass band in my youth came out pretty highly, quickly followed by “but when they know you, they’re not that surprised that you like playing big and loud instruments…”

How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?

Without doubt, COVID has brought our team together. It’s forced us to be more creative and resourceful in our work and less precious about the way we produce content. I hope some of that sticks. It’s not always about big shiny productions.

A real story, regardless of how it’s shot, will always resonate with an audience more.

What does success look like to you?

The answer to this definitely changes over time. Success as I’m sure we all agree is happiness. Happiness to me is to be financially secure enough for my team and myself to live as stress-free a life as we can, at the same time as being creatively fulfilled by the work we produce and the clients we work with.

Although… I would also like a bright red convertible Porsche.