'I don't really switch off, even on holidays I'm always thinking about the business'

Tools of the Trade: Squaredot founder Ian Blake talks crossfit and ‘white space’

By Zuzia Whelan Reporter, Fora

EVERY WEEK, FORA gets inside the heads of some of Ireland’s top entrepreneurs to gain insights into what got them to the top of their trade. This week we spoke to Ian Blake, founder and managing director of B2B marketing agency Squaredot. 

Ian Blake is driven by a fear of regret. The Squaredot boss spends nearly every waking moment thinking about his business, even when he’s on holidays. 

It’s not surprising then that the B2B marketing agency has global ambitions – right after it gets famous in Ireland. Squaredot was founded in 2015 and specialises in delivering content for its clients to use for marketing. It currently employs seven people and its clients include Roomex and Linked Finance. 

As part of our weekly Tools of the Trade series, we spoke to Blake about fear, crossfit and ‘white space’. 

Are you a specialist or a generalist?

I’m a B2B, marketing specialist. So, my background I’ve always worked in B2B sales and marketing before I set up this agency. But being a managing director, you’ve got to know when your area of speciality stops and you have to use the skills of other specialists, like web designers, developers and writers. 

What’s one habit you would recommend people starting in your sector take up?

Always talk to your market. Always have a set number of meetings with existing customers or prospects in a week. Information you get from the market is invaluable. 

In business, when is it time to reinvent and when is it time to strengthen what’s already there?

It boils down to three questions: What is your business good at? What does the market want? What is the competition doing? When you ask those, you get your ‘white space’ – the area that you can win in the market. 

If you’re struggling to find your white space you have to reinvent, but if you’ve found it, it’s time to double down. 

What helps you switch off?

I don’t really switch off, even on holidays I’m always thinking about the business. I like it that way, it suits my personality. I’m an all or nothing person. 

I do crossfit every morning before work, I also meditate at least once a day and I spend time with family at weekends and holidays. 

How do you manage your money?

In business, we keep a very close eye on things like profit, revenue and cash flow. We always know where we stand. 

Personally, I don’t pay too much attention to it. I’m a big believer in ‘you can’t take it with you’.  

How do you deal with conflict?

I always listen to the other side, understand their point of view. I use that as a starting point for conversation and go from there.

What ambitions do you still have?

To be the B2B marketing agency of choice now in Ireland and grow the business here, while having a long term view on growing internationally. We have several international clients at the moment, but getting famous in Ireland is the number one goal.  

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What’s your main motivator?

Fear of regret. At the end of my life, I don’t want to look back on it and ask what might have been. I want to look back and be proud of something I built, with the help of a team.

What book would you recommend the most?

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. It’s brilliantly written, but it’s a lesson in tenacity – the number of lows the guy went through. 

It’s proof that that’s how many lows an entrepreneur has to go through, to just keep the business alive. 

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