A Life Well Lived

As part of our journey to redefine Wealth we are exploring what “A Life Well Lived” means: interviewing artists, entrepreneurs, explorers, and change-makers as they share their stories and ask “what is my life well lived?” Here we talk to Jeff Taylor, founder of Courier Magazine, about his business and what living well means to him.

From its headquarters in East London, Courier reports on modern business and startup culture from all around the world. Launched in 2013 as a free paper, it has since grown to a readership of over 80,000 people worldwide.

“On the surface, Courier is a magazine, a website, but actually, the real heart of Courier is a media brand for people who want to work and live on their own terms.” Explains Jeff. “And what we mean by own terms is whatever you want to do, but freeing you up, letting you earn your own living, doing your own thing. Whether that’s starting up your own business, or just being part of the modern business and startup community.”

Before founding Courier, Jeff spent a number of years working as an advertising strategist for a number of large corporates, which although exciting; “Both myself, my co-founder at the time and a lot of our friends,” he explains “found ourselves wanting to swap that life for something that was more fulfilling, even if that meant taking a pay cut. We saw lots of dynamic businesses popping up and felt there was an opportunity to do something.”

“And it was in that very movement, i.e. us wanting to quit our jobs and seeing loads of other people doing the same, that we actually realised there was a business in that itself. Business media at the time, and even still to a large extent today, is about stocks and shares and corporations, or it’s horrible stuff like Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice and all those, clichés.”

On Founding the Business

“We wanted to create a media channel for people like us, who would never read business media but were interested in the stories and the dynamics and the people behind a whole lot of this stuff that was going on.”

In terms of what Courier looks like now, compared to when they first launched, there is no doubt that the business has changed dramatically. “Our first issue was a 32-page free magazine. We had a guy with a bike and a little trailer on the back, and he would take it around Shoreditch and drop it off at Shoreditch House, Allpress and a few of those places. The free magazine got bigger and bigger, to the point where we couldn’t really manage the logistics of it anymore, and so last year, we moved to a paid-for model, which had always been our intention. That was a big shift for us, but a year on, we’re still growing 30%, 40% an issue, we’re in 25 countries around the world now and you’ll find us sitting next to the Economist and Financial Times. It’s pretty cool to be able to look back over the past few years and see just how far we’ve come.”

On Being an Entrepreneur

“The thing I probably compare it to most is having a thesis due at university, or if you knew exams were coming. Even on the weekends, it’s still there in the back of your head. At a normal 9:00am to 5:00pm, you may be very stressed during those hours, but then you do generally get to switch off and enjoy the rest of the time.”

"I can honestly say, since the week we started Courier, I’ve never had the Sunday night moment, I’ve never dreaded going in."

“So the negative side of it is the demands of the business, the amount that I need to find for payroll this month for example, is always in the back of my mind. However, that is massively outweighed by the fact that I can honestly say, since the week we started Courier, I’ve never had the Sunday night moment, I’ve never dreaded going in. I might have had the, “Oh, I’m quite hung-over and I wish I didn’t have to go in.”, but I’ve never dreaded work, and that’s an incredible feeling.”

“I think the other great feeling is that you get to impact not only your own life, but the lives of the partners of the business, the employees in the business, etc. We get to give people employment; we get to help shape what their day is like.”

On Success

“It sounds cliché, but I think success to me is about being able to spend my days doing stuff that stimulates me, engages me, keeps me happy. Helping other people and making a positive impact. Being able to go to bed at night, tired but ready to come back the next day and do it again. I think, in a sense, from a career point of view at least, that’s what success looks like for me.”

"If we just focus on making the product really great, making a product that people love, then everything else stays under control."

“For Courier, our biggest KPI – if you want to use that term – is do people love what we do? At the end of the day, if someone doesn’t love what you make or you do, you have to do all these other things that pervert your business to keep it going. You have to spend a fortune on advertising or you have to make ridiculous claims, but if we just focus on making the product really great, making a product that people love, then everything else stays under control.”

On Wealth

“Wealth is such an interesting term. On a financial level, I think it’s not having to worry about tomorrow. But I’m not sure that’s true, because even wealthy people I know worry about not losing it, or about making more. Maybe in a financial sense, wealth is about having enough that you’ll be okay, and hopefully be able to help other people with that as well. Certainly something I’m really excited about is the potential in what is now the startup community – but as these businesses grow and get sold – the good that can be done from some of it. I think there’s a real ethos of that in our community.”

"Personal wealth, I think, is about feeling fulfilled, feeling satisfied. Being able to take pleasure in the simple things."

“And personal wealth, I think, is about feeling fulfilled, feeling satisfied. Being able to take pleasure in the simple things. Whether that’s a nice tomato salad with a little bit of tuna on top, or ten minutes of yoga in the morning. I think a lot of personal wealth and fulfilment comes from that place.”

On Fulfilment

“Professionally, it’s so nice having a product. We get to make something, and every eight weeks another issue comes back from the printers. It’s a slightly terrifying moment – if we’ve put an advert in upside down, we’re in a lot of trouble! But it’s also an incredibly fulfilling moment. To be able to say, “This issue is better than the last.” And to know we’re progressing.”

“The other fulfilling thing is when you get to meet the people who actually consume your product. It’s a funny thing for us because we don’t have stores, we don’t see our customers very often, so the rare opportunity when you do get to meet either the people who stock us, or people who read us, is pretty fulfilling as well.”

On Living Well

“Living a good life to me means being healthy, number one; and number two; being surrounded by people that I love and who love me. And then, I guess it’s about doing something great with my time, which for me is building something or making things.”

On Retirement

“I don’t dream of retiring by a pool with a piña colada – I’m not doing this to find an ‘exit’. I suspect even if someone came and paid some enormous amount of money for this business and said “Get out, this is ours now.”, I’d go and start something else four weeks later.”

"The only difference I see with retirement is having a business by that stage that isn’t dependent on the month’s turnover to still be successful."

“The only difference I see with retirement is having a business by that stage that isn’t dependent on the month’s turnover to still be successful, but I’ll still be working.”

“I do have this mad plan to become an expert in intestinal bacteria and set up a research facility around that. That’s one crazy retirement idea. I’d also like to go back and study Classics. But mostly, I think it would just be about still being able to do this, but maybe not having to worry quite so much about if the whole thing comes crashing down. Or maybe it’s a surf shack in Hawaii, and a big beard.”

 

Jeff is the founder and Editor-in-chief of Courier. You can find our more about the magazine by visiting their website, or following them on Instagram.