Get sh*t done

Niall Harbison, Penguin, €11.99

Mon, Jul 7, 2014, 01:00


Book Title:
Get Sh*t done


Niall Harbison


Guideline Price:

Niall Harbison is best known as the founder of Simply Zesty, the social media marketing agency he sold to UTV, making him a millionaire at 33 years of age.

This book is about the journey that got him there and his thoughts about how to get a business up and running and how to lead a balanced life.

Harbison is no preacher, however, and he is achingly honest about his own demons. We learn about his battles with drink and depression. This is exemplified in his story about a trip to New York with several other Irish business folks where he loses the plot and wakes up in a druken haze, having lost his wallet and passport with only a few hours before his return flight home.

Then there’s the failure of his first venture, iFoods. Having burnt through the €600,000 raised for this venture, Harbison’s main regret here was clinging on too long at the end, locked up in his apartment vainly trying to be the hero who would turn disaster around.

Being ruthless and learning how to fail faster will not only save you further heartache but will also free up time to focus on new endeavours and more positive pursuits, he concludes.

That needs to be balanced with tenacity. Simply Zesty at one stage had just €400 in its bank account, with wages due to be paid within days.

Harbison recalls leaving a crisis meeting to discuss this and approving a manager’s request for €400 of props for a video shoot as he walked through the office. A lucky break came when a major client paid early and catastrophe was averted.

The book has an overwhelming positive vibe, however. Harbison lives in world full of possibilities.

Remote and flexible working is a huge liberation and he details how he effortlessly rents his home out on Airbnb and then books flights and last-minute hotels where he can enjoy new experiences while continuing to work on his mobile phone.

He urges those who can travel to do so and sees this as one of the best ways possible to get an education. Don’t get tied down too early and live your dreams rather than becoming enslaved by what others think is the message.

We hear about his early life when he was being bullied in kitchens, but how he went on to hone his craft, working as a chef on the yachts of the super wealthy in the south of France and the life lessons he picked up there.

Technology can assist hugely and he provides a very practical guide to the applications that he has found useful. It’s worth learning some basic coding as most people don’t and it gives you a huge insight into IT, he advises. However, it is important to network and engage in the real world too, and he talks about the value of turning off devices as well.

Bootstrapping is great if you can get away with it and the odd “white lie” to big yourself up is also fine in his view. He recalls how he bobbed and weaved around Vodafone’s desire to visit his office in his early days – he didn’t have one at the time – and how he and his business partner parked their old Vespa scooter around the block from the mobile operator’s office when they visited.

Generosity pays dividends, he says, and he advises reaching out for the smaller players in your sphere. He instances helping out two followers on Twitter who had less than 200 followers of their own that led directly to contracts worth more than €100,000 each.

Conversely, having an enemy in business can be a marvellous motivator too. An unnamed blogger and business rival who became his arch-nemesis drove him to perform better.

“Every negative tweet he sent about us made me cycle home that bit faster so I could get to my keyboard and do something productive against him,” he reveals.

A tough savvy businessman, this book has courted controversy since its launch but it’s an easy read and engaging. Unlike many business bios it doesn’t fall into the preachy nature of many others.

Harbison weaves colourful anecdote with hard lessons well and has satisfied another of his life ambitions by producing a very accomplished first book.