Today I fly to the USA one year later than expected, but what a year it has been! Like everyone in the world, the word rollercoaster jumps to mind when I look back on the past year. Although it has been extremely difficult for a lot of us, I believe it also came with some of the greatest lessons I have had to learn to date. I am grateful for all of these lessons and I know that they have certainly increased my resilience.
Last week, I was telling my dad about our latest documentary we are about to shoot in the States and how much Bankhouse Media has grown over the past 14 months. I felt almost guilty about going on the trip because of the devastation a lot of people have had to face over the past 12 months. People have lost loved ones, businesses and livelihoods and are feeling very uncertain about the future. I do sympathise with anyone who has had to deal with any unfortunate situation and I luckily haven’t been hit with any devastation. However, I have been in their shoes before and experienced a similar situation during the last recession when I lost everything and ended up on unemployment for several years. It is not something I would ever like to go through again.
When I got my visa for the US in February 2020, I had never been more excited about anything in my life. Finally, I was going to be living in the States full time! When the realisation hit that this was not happening, I had already moved out of my house in Dublin & put my life in storage. Soon after, I found myself back in my childhood bedroom living with my parents for the 1st time in almost 20 years! As lovely as it was to spend time with my folks, running my companies from my bedroom was not an option and I had to think on my feet to get myself a new apartment in Belfast as soon as possible. After a quick conversation with one of my clients I was introduced to the nicest apartment in Belfast City and I moved in that day. I can’t speak for everyone, but I do think a lot of people had some positives from 2020 and I wanted to note some of mine.
Spending Time With Family
I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 19 and subsequently moved out of Northern Ireland when I was 23. I have spent some time back here but only for a year or so at a time. In 2010, I moved out of Belfast for good and over the last 10 years have only seen my extended family at special occasions for no longer than a few hours at a time. Being back in Northern Ireland full time and getting back into the day to day with my mum, dad, aunts, uncles, cousins, and old friends was amazing! Over the years I had forgotten how important family and friends are to me. Of course, I have built up friends over the years but getting to spend time with old school friends and your cousins is something I may never have had the opportunity to do if the current crisis didn’t take place. I attended more family birthdays (socially distanced) in 2020 that I did since the year 2000. The joy that I have experienced with family this year is priceless and I won’t be giving up my home in Northern Ireland again! As a business owner, work/life balance is something we all strive for and this year has been my best yet.
Bankhouse Open For Business!
When shops, bars, & clubs started to close I made the decision to allow any of my clients the option of cancelling their contract and stopping their Direct Debits. This was a scary thing to do but I knew it was the right thing. Chasing people for payments that they potentially could not make was going to add as much stress onto me as it would them. Although this brought huge uncertainty, I couldn’t have anticipated what was going to come next! In 2020 more work came in Q2 than all of 2019 put together and I was starting to feel positive again about business.
Bankhouse Media became an Intertrade Ireland registered supplier, and I become a Local Enterprise Office (LEO) business mentor. Referrals were coming, new leads through our website seemed endless, and my business grew rapidly. However, this brought its own set of problems as I did not want the team to be overwhelmed so the next logical step was recruiting and training new team members. Training everyone remotely was challenging but either way this was a positive problem to have and I was grateful to have something exciting to focus on other than the daily news reporting.
We launched the Bankhouse Media Academy with a host of online courses teaching business owners how they can take control of their digital marketing by doing it themselves, creating a digital marketing strategy, building a website and generating your own leads through paid traffic allowing their businesses to grow in the most efficient way. I love getting new clients and learning how my company can add value to theirs. It is very rewarding as I know how important digital/video marketing and business consulting is to every company.
Getting our team back into the office was a big win as well. We were able to train up more new team members and fly though projects much more efficiently than when we were working remotely. I think remote works well but it all depends on the surroundings of the employee. When I travel and work remotely, I am very productive as I get a lot of peace and quiet to focus on my work. On the other hand, when I was back at my parents’ house it’s a different story. We have opened an office in Belfast to add to our Dublin office and I also got to build my own studio in Belfast so recording our online courses has been an enjoyable process.
Business has continued to grow into 2021 and we are currently working on some of our most exciting projects to date releasing over the next 12 months. Our podcast has allowed me to interview some great business owners offering valuable tips to struggling businesses as well.
Celebrating 4 Years No Alcohol!
In October I celebrated my 4th year off alcohol which I believe is my greatest achievement to date. Every year I mark the day with a dinner with family and friends but this year I was unable to do that. This year I decided to make a video talking through some of the things I’ve learned, the changes that have happened in my life and some of the struggles I have faced (& still do face) throughout this process. Giving up booze isn’t easy but I can confirm it is definitely worth it. My YouTube video has had over 20k views and I get at least 1 message every day from someone struggling with addiction or congratulating me on getting this far. I was very nervous releasing this video but I am so glad I did. It has opened my eyes to how many people are struggling out there and I am glad that I can help in any way possible.
I have always tried to give back as much as I can when possible and in 2020 I saw two great opportunities to do so with the biggest being Ready Donate. Ready Donate was created by Enny Buono and is a small association that collects donations and meals to give to families in need operating in Dublin. Ready Donate has supplied over 19,000 meals since last March. Enny is an amazing man and he’s also my barber. We share a lot of the same values so when he approached me about Ready Donate, I jumped onboard immediately. I think this organisation is something that could be rolled out in every town and city in Ireland and it helps so many people daily. It’s something I am very proud to be involved with.
The next opportunity to give back was through our documentary ‘Street Leagues’ that we premiered at the Dublin International Film Festival in February 2020 then went on to secure a nationwide cinema release and Bankhouse Productions donated all the proceeds to charity. The Irish Homeless Street Leagues take a unique approach to helping homeless people and recovering addicts reclaim their lives by using the power of sport. The film follows a group of players as they rise from their daily struggles to compete on the world stage in the Homeless World Cup, finding self-worth & a sense of purpose along the way. ‘Street Leagues’ featuring contributions from actor Colin Farrell (the ambassador for the team) and showcases the dramatic ripple effect that is possible within any society when its marginalised members are empowered to fulfil their true potential.
Taking Some Time Off!
Even though most of the UK and Ireland was on furlough, I was busier than ever and really needed to take a week off at a certain point. I was able to take a 7-day holiday in Greece travelling to Mykonos, Santorini and Athens. This holiday was yet another opportunity to learn, grow and evolve but this time my evolution was not on a professional basis but on a personal one. I don’t know what it is about Greece but I had a life changing holiday and it came at the perfect time. I was able to reflect on a past relationship that I hadn’t fully dealt with and finally had the opportunity to put a lot of limiting beliefs to bed. Hecate is a goddess of Greek mythology who was capable of both good and evil. She was especially associated with witchcraft, magic, the Moon, doorways, and creatures of the night such as hellhounds and ghosts and I feel like I experienced it all in some way. I will definitely spend more time there in the future and I would highly recommend it to anyone. The sunset in Greece is magical and this holiday, I believe, changed my life forever!
2020 taught me more than any other year. By losing the ability to jump on a plane, I was thankfully forced to deal with issues that I would otherwise subconsciously distract myself from. I didn’t realise I wasn’t ready to go to the states in 2020 but now I am. Over the past year I have put Bankhouse in a position where it now works for me as opposed to me working for it. Of course, I still work for Bankhouse and our next documentary ‘The Evolution of Business’ is completely focused on digital marketing and will feature some of the greatest businessmen and women of our time. But the day to day running of the company is now taken care of by my extremely efficient team that I am very grateful for and it allows me to focus on where I want to bring the company over the next few years. Having this mental freedom has been a game changer and having the support of the team has facilitated that.
Staying positive and listening to a good audiobook or podcast instead of watching or reading the news has been essential for getting through the challenging times along with focusing on everything I am grateful for each day. I hope that hitting rock bottom like I did in 2012 and coming back from it will show anyone who has no hope right now that they can come out the other side of this stronger than ever. Things do not happen to you, they happen for you and if you take that approach to life, then you will start to see the opportunity in everything – no matter how challenging it might seem at the time.
Thanks for reading.