Mike Pritchett is the founder and CEO of Shootsta, an Australian startup that created a video content creation platform. Founded in 2015, the startup has grown to have a presence across Asia, Europe and US, with the headquarters now based in Singapore. Besides his work with Shootsta, he is also busy with charity work, co-founding Kenya Aid and Stories on the Street.
Oasis (OS) : What do you think are some of the biggest lessons that you’ve learned along the way as a leader?
Mike Pritchett (MP): Whenever I get started on a new task, I always imagine things are going to be a lot easier than they are.
For example, I’ve always envisioned Shootsta to be a global business even before we got started. We didn’t have any clients on board, but I drew out all the regions that we’re going to expand into early on. As soon as I saw that it was starting to work and that clients were coming on board, I had my eyes set on overseas markets. This momentum helped me to build the company quickly and expand abroad.
One thing I’ve learned from experience, and looking at other businesses, is that even if you know it’s going to be hard, you need to have the ability to bite off more than you can chew. Chew it, rather than just simply looking at all the obstacles and saying, “that’s just too hard, so we’re not going to do it.”
OS: With businesses’ increasing digitalization, it might take away the in-person element. Do you think this has lessened the impact that you would usually make as a leader?
MP: There are two opposing views to the work from the home movement — some like it more than others. Personally, I find it very difficult to connect and build relationships online. One of the biggest challenges is that without human connection, what does a company or the employee really have? The reality is that a paycheck is the only thing the employee has left. If somebody offers you a bigger paycheck, you’re gone.
However, if you turn up to an office each day, you have friends, companions, camaraderie and leadership around you. People will get a sense of belonging and it becomes a big shift to up and move to a new company. Whereas during COVID-19, we’ve had people join our team and leave our team much more frequently. Why would you have loyalty? I’ve had people join and leave before they even started because they got offered more money from someone else. That is a challenge for businesses right now. We offer much more than just a paycheck working at Shootsta but we can’t truly show that offering, unless we can be face-to-face and in the office, having a great vibe and great community within the team.
OS: What leadership values do you think are most important for a startup to succeed and why?
MP: Leading from the front is one of the most important things. I love the quote that you should never ask anyone to do something that you’re not willing to do and have done yourself. I think that’s extremely important. Generally, by nature of being a founder of a startup, when you start, you’re the only person. You are doing everything – sales, marketing, accounts, video editing. In my case, I’ve done it myself, so I’m willing to ask other people to do it as well.
Transparency is also important. As a leader, we have to make sure that people understand what’s going on and the motivations behind actions. To me, I’ve always compared being a founder to an architect. The beauty of being an architect is that you get to create a building that either makes people’s lives better, or worse. If you build something half-heartedly just because you want to make some money, then people that live or work there are not going to enjoy it. If it’s designed beautifully people will relish being there.
I think businesses are exactly the same way. It is up to a founder to create value for the people in their team. Then, you build an environment for people to enjoy themselves. It’s not about just having table tennis in the office. It is also about having the energy that comes from being in a company that cares about results, but also having fun while getting there. A founder needs to show that the company values the team and the process to getting those results. As a business owner and leaders, we need to help enable our employees to understand what their goals are, and make them feel achievable.
OS: How would you describe your leadership style in general?
MP: I fully admit that I make the mess and others clean it up, but I think that’s part of who I am and how I work. Something that I hold close to heart is “embrace the stress, embrace the mess.” It doesn’t need to be perfect — we haven’t been around forever and have decades of systems and processes in place. We just need to get this done and believe that the other things will work themselves out as we go.
I know this sounds like a bit of a funny analogy — If you get caught in choppy waters in a speedboat, you can be overwhelmed by the waves, unable to move forward. Then, you look across and someone is bouncing off the top of all the waves without any problems. They’re moving a million miles an hour barely in the water. Unless you understand how it works and you’ve done that, you don’t realize that once you get up to that kind of speed, you can just glide across the waves.
Ultimately, my leadership style is to get out there, get on with it and move fast. A lot of those things seem like a problem when you’re doing two, three, or four knots, but suddenly it is not a problem at forty knots. Some people find that really challenging, others absolutely love it. I probably do have a little bit too much of a sink or swim approach. That’s why I’ve brought on other people around me that are a lot more nurturing and process-driven to help people that are not. I’ve made sure that I can accommodate for that by putting people around me that are the Yin to my Yang.
OS: Looking back at your journey, if you had the opportunity to talk to your younger self when you started Shootsta, what would be some of the advice that you would give to him?
MP: Back yourself, and don’t take the foot off the accelerator at all. I think there were times within the business where I held off on products. We recently launched new products, but I wish I had these out eighteen months ago. The idea had come up three years ago, but I didn’t push the button on them. I didn’t push hard enough.
A lot of people will tell you to hold back and be prudent. I always want to ask myself, whenever you listen to a piece of advice from someone, work out whether you want to be in their shoes, and whether you want to be them or not. If they’re not in the exact seat that you want to be in, then their advice is probably not worth listening to. If they are in the seat that you want to be in, and they’re living the life that you want to live, then listen to their advice. I’m fortunate enough to have some fantastic people around me, which has been a huge part of what has helped me get to where I am now.