Spoke Turns 20

Today is my 20th year in business. My company Spoke was incorporated on June 11, 2004.

Wow, what a ride since then.

Vowing to never be an employee again was the best decision of my working life.

I relish every moment of it, even the tough times.

There have been many ups and downs, but what has remained clear is that I can take full responsibility for every up and every down, and my own response.

Just after I quit my management role to start the business, the ever-wise executive assistant to my director said: “Andrew, I always thought you were far too entrepreneurial for this role!” It is one of the greatest compliments I have ever received.

I had no idea how radically my mindset would shift, leaving the shackles and rat race of being an employee.

More than anything else, learning to roll with the unexpected and the uncertain has been key.

The very first day I sat down to create my brand, things did not go according to plan. A good friend and colleague, a master of PR and marketing, was going to meet me at a cafe to brainstorm. They were a no-show. I was disappointed in the moment, though later found out that sadly they had been assaulted the night before.

When they didn’t show up, I thought ‘I’ve got this.’

I was sitting in the courtyard of a Kingsland cafe, the sky was blue, and bright crimson bougainvillea was spilling down the side of the fence beside me. I was eating a tasty buckwheat galette, and a cup of cider. The cafe followed a tradition from Brittany in France, where cider is served in a teacup. It was a delicious accompaniment to the galette. It was a lovely moment.

I looked out at that blue sky and started to doodle on a notepad. It was then that the word ‘Spoke’ came to mind as apt for my business in communication, media and facilitation. It could be a company name, a logo, and a metaphor representing connection with multiple people like the spoke of a wheel. It also evoked ‘bespoke’, the tailoring of my services, and what I was offering: to enable people to be seen and heard, to have spoken.

Spoke’s purpose, and I now realise this has been my purpose all my life, is Connecting Humanity.

I was keen to keep it simple; I had no capital, no office. So I just registered the company, registered for GST, got a former student and colleague graphic designer to make me a logo and a card, and that was it. Metaphorically, I simply put my plaque up and said I was in business.

And that was it. Soon, contracts started tumbling in out of the blue, and I have never looked back.

Spoke has taken me to all corners of the world, and to all corners of Aotearoa New Zealand.

I’ve sat beside my own infinity pool in Bali writing my book The Weave, I’ve swum up stream from crocodiles in Arnhemland on a business development retreat, I’ve played kōauau to an audience of millions in New Delhi, and I’ve spoken at conferences and workshops from New York City to Darwin, from Sydney to Queenstown. I’ve jammed with the kōkako songbirds in the Hunua forest, attended sacred wānanga in obscure corners of Te Tai Tokerau, helicopters around Ngaruahoe and the Tongariro crossing.

I’ve advised some of Aotearoa’s most renowned leaders, and supported some people in their simple day-to-day endeavours.

With colleagues and whānau, I have made apps, videos, books, workshops. We have mentored and coached CEOs, budding entrepreneurs, managers, rangatahi, whānau, neurodiverse communities, people of many genders and ages.

What an amazing time.

And we’ve made some amazing products, mostly books, workshops, and coaching programmes.

Just in the last year, we’ve delivered a range of Story Mojo and Story Masterclasses, Weave facilitation workshops, All In and New Turn mentoring programmes, and many others. The latest offering coming up is Space. It is a book and a workshop, looking at how we can create space for ourselves and others, in work, life and leadership… to be continued…

Have I made it? Am I rich? Well it depends how you define these things. I don’t think ‘making it’ is a concept I adhere to. It sounds too finite. I consider I am perhaps at the half way point, reflecting on the next 20 years in business. My dear mother was still working, largely by choice, at 80. I have several friends loving their work in their 80s. I intend to do the same.

As to being rich? Financially no, it comes and goes, by choice. But rich in experience, heart, spirit and adventure? 100%.

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