You can get caught up in waiting for the right time, or for things to line up perfectly before taking action, but being on the road, no matter how imperfect is always preferable to waiting for something that may never happen.
Neil Mclaren is the Founder & Director of vaping.com, one of the leading online destinations for vaping products and industry news. Vaping.com supplies more than 150 brands of e-cigarette products and their own carefully created brand vape juice, developed based on feedback from the vaping community which they serve. Neil is an advocate for improving education and research into vaping, to maximize its potential for public health.
He is also Co-Founder of the E-cigarette Summit, which has been referred to as a meeting point for Scientists, Regulators, Industry, Public Health and Practitioners eager to explore the latest research findings and facilitate respectful debate on the topic of vaping in the interest of public health.
Neil is also Co-Founder of the E-Cigarette Forum, the original dedicated Vaping Forum and home to one of the largest and most active vaping communities in the world. It was here that the term ¨Vaping¨ was first used to describe smoking e-cigarettes.
From these endeavors, he has become not only a respected figure within the vaping community but also a highly respected entrepreneur. From his base in London, he serves an international customer base and a global vaping community.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
We originally set up e-cigarette-forum.com to start a dialogue about the then-unknown technology of e-cigarettes, as a method to switch from smoking tobacco. The Forum grew into a global platform where the community could share knowledge and discuss ideas for improving the fledgling technology. Later, small e-commerce sites would emerge in what was, at the time, an industry in infancy, to do product research – for example, the first mod was designed and sold on the Forum by one of our members. Eventually, as we had such an active and engaged community, we gained a lot of credibility within the industry as advocates of e-cigarettes as a valid method to move away from the harms of lit tobacco.
The term ¨vaping¨ (in reference to smoking e-cigarettes) was first used on the E-Cigarette Forum, which inspired the name of our e-commerce site – vaping.com, which continues to serve one of the largest vaping communities in the world. Vaping.com acts as a distributor of trusted brands of complete kits, devices, tanks, and vape juice.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Our days can be quite varied as we are such a very small team running such a large company internationally. Within our direct team, we each have individual responsibilities, therefore, there is little delegation required. But we do work with an SEO agency and freelance writers who, have an extremely important contribution to our online presence and how we reach and communicate with our customers.
We check in with the various teams we work with on a daily basis and deal with any outstanding tasks when necessary. When we’re not in the office, we might be attending conferences specific to this industry, such as the E-Cigarette summit which we co-founded to speak with policymakers to support the idea of e-cigarettes being utilized in the interest of public health.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We are fortunate to serve one of the most engaged and enthusiastic communities in the world. As advocates of vaping as a safer alternative to smoking, we have earned the trust and support from the vaping community internationally. As a result, we reinforce this trust by asking our customers what they want in our products and from this we gain valuable feedback on new ideas. Our customers shape our business and we use their feedback to directly guide the products we sell or the ejuice ) we create.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Advances in technology have brought about the emergence of many new products. As technology becomes more standardized, efficiency increases and production costs can be reduced to enable wider accessibility to high-quality products. This has been the case within the vaping industry and cost can’t be a barrier to accessing e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco products, price sensitivity is a big factor for people who spend a lot of income on tobacco and want to minimize it.
This constant innovation around technology means that we are seeing many solutions to widespread problems which open up a lot of opportunities concerning public health in the future.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I exercise every morning before I go to the office, this puts me in the best frame of mind for starting the working day. I plan out my schedule at night before going to bed, prioritizing the three main things I want to accomplish the next day. This saves time so that I know exactly what I’m doing when I arrive in the office.
Most importantly I avoid opening emails in the morning, allowing me a clear, uninterrupted stretch of time to get the main tasks of the day completed, before I get sucked down the rabbit hole.
What advice would you give your younger self?
The timing is always bad. You can get caught up in waiting for the right time, or for things to line up perfectly before taking action, but being on the road, no matter how imperfect is always preferable to waiting for something that may never happen.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Vaping is the most significant public health invention of the 21st century.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Journaling – get the ideas out of your head and onto paper, every day, you’d be surprised where this can lead.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
The strategy is the driving force behind any successful business, having a good idea just isn’t enough to gain any kind of traction.
We built our community and started our conference before any commercial sales element was brought into play, which gave us an industry understanding and centralized position. So when it came time to launch a sales business we had all the contacts, industry respect and understanding we needed to get started on a strong footing.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Choose mentors but choose them wisely. There are plenty of people who may seem successful and offer you a chance to get to the next level with your business, don’t just take them at face value, do your due diligence and trust your instincts. We’ve narrowly avoided two terrible relationships, and not before lawyers had to be involved, we were lucky they didn’t end up costing us much more in the long run. We’re now extremely detailed when it comes to vetting new partners and senior advisors.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
It’s pretty obvious the world is moving to electric cars, figuring out what to do with the millions of petrol engines on the road and polluting the environment holds a wealth of opportunity, whether it’s recycling or repurposing, you can feel good about doing it.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a new desk lamp with a color smart bulb – people often overlook the importance of lighting, especially in offices, but it’s hugely important in creating the right environment for focus and creativity.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Trello is a project management tool that enables us to delegate tasks across teams internally and externally. We work with many teams internationally so time zones and geographic restrictions can prevent the availability of face-face conversations whether in person or via video calls. Trello makes staying on top of tasks incredibility easy from a remote position. We can assign tasks, act on any tasks required from us, ask questions, get feedback etc. It would be difficult to manage these working relationship without it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Carol Dweck, Mindset – if you want to understand why you’re holding yourself back, and you are, this is the book for you.
What is your favorite quote?
“When you’re going through hell, keep going” I’m pretty sure that Churchill didn’t say this exact thing, but the paraphrased version works. As an entrepreneur things will be tough at times, but there’s always the other side, keep going and you’ll get there.
- Be careful before committing to bring new partners into the business solely to speed progress up.
- Build trust, credibility and the right contacts within your customers community before launching a commercial business.
- Don’t spend the mornings opening and responding to emails. It’s not a productive start to the day.
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.