Felix Velarde is the author of ‘Scale at Speed’ and CEO of 2Y3X.
In 1994 Felix Velarde started one of the first specialist digital creative agencies, Hyperinteractive. His next, Head New Media, became the world’s most awarded digital agency and was bought by MullenLowe Profero. Felix had a career which also included being CEO then chairman at pioneering CRM firm Underwired, and CEO of The Conversation Group.
Felix has been an Adjunct Professor at Hult International Business School on its MBA and International Masters programmes, and after selling Underwired in 2014 he joined the Innovation for Jobs leadership forum and the organising team of People-Centered Internet, both chaired by the Internet’s co-inventor Vint Cerf.
His consulting firm, 2Y3X, now has a six-year track record of success and has expanded internationally with offices in the US, Europe and the Middle East. His book, Scale at Speed – How to triple the size of your business and build a superstar team, was published worldwide by Hachette in June.
Where did the idea for 2Y3Xcome from?
I semi-retired at 47, having had a long career as a serial entrepreneur and founder. I’d started a bunch of pioneering agencies, including one of the first web design agencies. And looking back on that career, I realised that the first half of it had been completely trial and error – and extremely frustrating!
What had held me back was not knowing how to scale a business in practice. So when I stopped running companies of my own, I decided I would help other people by teaching them how to scale their own businesses. The 2Y3X programme became a distillation of all the learning plus what is now six years of refining and optimizing the process – about how to break through growth barriers at speed.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
On a typical day I’ll do some social media outreach, specifically on LinkedIn. I enjoy it partly because it’s nice to see what my friends in business are up to, but also because it’s good to share the latest things you’ve learned. I’ll usually be preparing for a podcast or a webinar, catching up with our regional leaders, and sharing information and updates with our consultants all over the world. I almost always speak with Jim Sterne, who heads up 2Y3X in western North America.
I might also work on one of our new business ventures, including a cohorts programme which is based on the Scale at Speed book and aims to give people a fast introduction to the 2Y3X processes. We’re just in the process of preparing that for launch so it’s all top secret!
How do you bring ideas to life?
I usually create a mental picture of whatever system I’m trying to work on and then I’ll play with it until I figure out what needs work. I’ll always ask people for their ideas and feedback at each stage too. Feedback from everyone no matter what their job title or role is always gives us a new perspective or suggests we do some testing.
One of the best ideas I’ve ever worked with came during a brainstorm in which a passing visitor to the office made a casual remark that eventually became one of the most famous websites in the UK for a while. So I think being open to change and to serendipity is really important.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Entrepreneurs who start companies to change the world for the better, not just to make money. The newer generations of entrepreneurs are absolutely going to change the world, and 2Y3X is there to make sure that they don’t have to get bogged down with trial and error. We can teach them the all essential processes for success if they bring their vision and their determination.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I use the Strategy Map format that we use with 2Y3X clients for three-year planning. It’s great because you can use it for the next three weeks, months or years. I use it as a to-do list, but it’s a great framework for prioritising and triaging tasks in order to reach your goals.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Get a mentor much, much sooner. Go and see how other people do things. I spent ten years trying to invent new ways of doing business from scratch. What a waste of time!
When the right components are in the right order, business works. It’s so simple. And if I’d had a copy of Scale at Speed or access to the 2Y3X process back then, I’d have been able to get on with doing the really cool stuff that I’d really wanted to do but struggled with.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’m a firm believer that we should be learning all the time. I think having self-confidence in your ability to do something is much more important than absolute confidence that you are right about something!\
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Figure out what you really want. Being an entrepreneur is a choice, there’s no obligation – like reading a book that you’re not enjoying, you don’t always have to continue to the bitter end. If you’re struggling, seek help.
We have seen a lot of clients who come to us and are ready to give up. But we reassure them that with our help they can make it work. It is true. We recently had a client sell their company for one and a half times what they thought they’d one day get for it – and it took less than two years! It’s utterly exhilarating.
Stop and check in with yourself. Are you enjoying this? If you had the opportunity to bring in a partner to share the load, or to sell the company or cut your time down by 50%, would you take it? If so, there’s your answer, now you just have to figure out what steps to take. That’s where something like 2Y3X has such power – it’s not about getting there at all costs, it’s really all about making your best dreams a reality.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Start at the end and work your way backwards. Once you know exactly what you want your business to be like, and what you want your life to be like, you can map out your plan to get there. And be sure to work out why you’re setting the goals themselves. Are you doing it to make 6 million? 10 million? To create an enjoyable job for the rest of your life? To have social impact you’ll be proud of? Whichever it is, articulating it will motivate you along the journey.
The 2Y3X programme itself is designed around this initial goal setting, so you can figure out what needs to happen each year to create real change. With this method, you cut out a lot of wasted time and effort and focus only on the critical tasks that will deliver your goals.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve had so many! Not listening to wiser heads. Not seeking advice and listening to what they had to say.
One of the dangers of being an entrepreneur is that you might think that everything that comes out of your head is the solution. The reality is, listening to ten different opinions will expose you to new ways of thinking, will light up potential dangers or risks or opportunities you might not have considered before. It can make things much less stressful, and much more fun.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I once had a neat idea on a beach and would love to make it happen one day. It’s an app for coffee lovers that recommends coffees a user might like based on the other coffees they’ve enjoyed. It would have a database of coffees on a kind of colour wheel, which would be really cool. If anybody wants to make it happen, please do!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The first is the money I spent renting a car with my wife and visiting friends in Dorset on the south coast of England. I live in London and Dorset is absolutely beautiful. I also had to pay my personal trainer for the month this morning. Your health is a really, really important thing to invest in. I also recently bought the book ‘Building a Story Brand’ by Donald Miller which is just fantastic, and Iain M Banks’s The Player of Games, because I realized recently I don’t read enough great fiction.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
The strategy map I mentioned earlier is hosted on Miro.com and is great for my business. We also use Asana because it’s available in every country that we operate in (and some other apps aren’t). We also use Notion for our staff handbook and xero for our accounting.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The book that changed my attitude towards the world at large is “Scarcity: why having too little means so much” by Sendhil Mullainathan. It gives a salutary lesson in our privilege and has given me pause for thought over the years. It’s a really important book.
I would hope that anyone reading this interview might consider getting hold of my book, “Scale at Speed – How to triple the size of your business and build a superstar team“, because it will almost certainly accelerate your business!
What is your favorite quote?
The one that’s been with me all my life is Oscar Wilde’s, “We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”. Back in my teens, I remember journalist Val Hennessy using that quote to illustrate the scene that was around in London at the same time I was starting to figure out what kind of person I wanted to be. I’m an optimist so this quote always stuck with me.
- Start a company to change the world, not to make money. You will be far more fulfilled.
- A mentor can open your eyes to new perspectives. Seek regular advice and really listen to what they say.
- Figuring out what you really want is the first step to a more enjoyable career (and life).
- When you’re planning to grow your business, start at the end and work your way backwards. Identify what needs to happen each year to get you closer to your goals.
- Get hold of a copy of “Scale at Speed” – it’s the detailed instruction manual for what we do at 2Y3X so you can get on and start building your company yourself. Good luck!
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.