AMA: James Saward-Anderson, founder of Social Tree Global

It’s not every day you talk to a world record-breaker.

James Saward-Anderson holds the world record for lifting the heaviest weights over the course of an hour!

And when he isn't busy being superhuman, James is running his social media agency Social Tree Global.

James

Hi James! Tell us a bit about your company.

We are a UK-based B2B social media agency with a focus on finance, healthcare and technology.

How did the idea for your company come about?

The idea came to me and Max [Max Hannah, co-founder] whilst we were both in our graduate jobs. I worked in B2B conference management and Max in enterprise sales.

We both saw the utility of Linkedin for business but at the time, few people took the platform seriously as a demand generation tool. We decided to start our agency to fill this need.

What company values were you keen to instil from the get-go? 

Resilience - our founding principles were based on the spirit of adventure and resilience. 

How do you keep your team aligned?

High functioning teams that operate in remote working environments have a high degree of trust installed amongst the team members.

trust

Without a strong foundation of trust, every single tactic and strategy will collapse. Trust is given by default with our new starters and rescinded based on poor performance.

So far, we have been very fortunate to have amazing people in our team who are motivated to perform and enjoy the responsibility which comes with this culture.

Alignment stems from this trust and understanding of our core business objectives.

Do you have a share or option scheme in place for your team? 

We currently don't have one but we might revisit the idea in the future. As an agency, we try to pay above the average rate and reward our people fairly. 

Can you share any practical tips or processes to help people work remotely?

The first is to build structure into the day. Without some kind of structure and routine, it is impossible to do anything. But on the subject of structure, not everyone is tuned the same way.

Some people prefer starting work later than others. Some prefer working staggered hours across the day. Find the best routine which suits you.

Secondly, I would recommend daily physical training. You cannot function well working from home if you are not routinely exercising and training.

Thirdly, if you can stick to one room for work and make sure you allocate other spaces in the house for downtime.

morning routine

What is the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur?

The biggest mistake I made was not to understand the basics of accounting and finance earlier! Entrepreneurs are notoriously bad with spreadsheets and forecasts.

I think the energy which drives us to start new ideas and run with them despite every other quantifiable metric saying otherwise, results in this skill imbalance. 

We hired a part-time FD over the last year and he has helped us hugely stabilise and understand our business better.

We can't be good at everything! Do you think you’ve got your work/life balance right, and why?

I work continuously but this is because Social Tree is a part of me, when I work on Social Tree it doesn't feel like work - I enjoy it!

That's great to hear. When we interview a founder, we like to ask a couple of off-the-wall questions...

Have you ever had a near-death experience?

Yes, when I was 19 I was attacked with a knife during an altercation in the street. I intervened during a public domestic violence scenario in which the abuser tried to stab me in my kidneys. 

I managed to prevent him from penetrating my skin too deeply but I was left with a scar from him slashing me. Thankfully, Max was there to prevent the attack from taking a fatal turn as he also reprimanded the man until the police came.

Both of you are incredibly brave. Thankfully you're OK! Final question, do you think your views are mainstream or a little off-centre? How so?

I have some unique perspectives.

Because of what I've accomplished, such as holding the world record for kettlebell swing and squats for seven years, running to Rome, and co-founding Social Tree Global.

weight lifting

My fundamental belief is that eternal happiness is largely a myth. You can achieve happiness very easily, it dances in and out of your everyday life. 

The aim of life, therefore, is to chase greatness in your particular field or passion. Happiness comes through the process, not the end destination, life is a continual struggle to an ever-moving destination.

What a great way to conclude our chat. Thanks so much, James, and good luck with future record attempts!