A decade ago Jordan Fogarty was left for dead by his friend who’d fled the scene of a high-speed car crash in which he was the driver, leaving Fogarty, the passenger, in a coma for a week. At the age of 19, with his sights set on a lucrative legal career, the experience changed his life forever.
Today, as CEO of Be Media, a multi-million dollar turnover marketing business based in Melbourne, Australia, Fogarty says the accident and the experience of being abandoned by his friend forced him to take a look at his own values, focusing away from money and commercial success and more on people and giving back to the community.
He says: “I’d always been interested in starting my own business but in high school, I guess I was a bit brainwashed into following a more typical career path. Having got the grades I needed, I decided to study law.”
The two years following the accident, in which Fogarty sustained serious head injuries, were a long and hard road to recovery, with hundreds of medical appointments, rehab, and being wheelchair-bound for a couple of months.
“The hardest part of the recovery was dealing with the fact that the driver of the car left the scene of the accident,” he says. “It was devastating and I found the court case and criminal proceedings very taxing. But I learned a lot about the power of forgiveness and letting go, which I was eventually able to do with the driver.”
One thing that the accident did do was make him reflect on the kind of life he wanted, and having been given a second chance at it Fogarty decided to give up his plans to become a lawyer and think about starting his own business.
Whilst he’d been recovering in hospital, he remembered volunteering for women’s refuges as a 13-year-old and raising $100,000 for the refuges. He decided that becoming an entrepreneur, rather than a ‘cash cow’ for corporates, would provide the opportunities he wanted to make a bigger impact on people, business, work, and the wider community.
The accident had given him the urge to start his own business but it also gave him the courage and the belief that he could handle any challenge; in comparison to the crash, starting a business seemed like a piece of cake.
In 2013, aged 23, Fogarty launched his growth marketing agency Be Media with $50,000 of his own money and has continued to grow the business, which now operates in three cities, without any external investment.
He says: “Our growth marketing approach and model is quite unique in Australia. Some consultants or strategists are advising on growth marketing, but there aren’t many agencies doing it well. Most are focused on new leads and the vanity metrics of the digital industry. Our strategy is to work with our clients to identify the key growth drivers and bottom line growth opportunities across the entire customer journey and lifetime.”
Be Media has also signed up to Pledge 1%, a global movement that empowers companies to donate 1% of their staff time, product, profit, or equity to any charity of their choosing. It’s a simple and flexible model that has helped Fogarty integrate giving back into the DNA of Be Media and further ingrain this vision into its culture.
He says: “We didn’t do it to win clients, we did it to give back to the community and give the team causes to rally around and feel good about. Your intentions in these matters are important; people know if you are doing it to genuinely help, or just to make more money. As a bonus, our giving back culture has attracted like-minded business owners and entrepreneurs.”
Fogarty also advocates corporate volunteer programs that benefit businesses and employees, having discovered that increased job satisfaction and engagement ultimately save the company money in higher staff retention rates and attracting top talent.
The business now employs 35 people in its Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth offices, and is on track to turn over $7 million this financial year.
Fogarty has no regrets about his change of career path or the loss of the huge earnings he would have made as a lawyer. Instead, he is strangely appreciative of the opportunities to rethink his values and his outlook on life that his near-death experience brought him.
He says: “I’m still loving every moment of running this business, even the hard stuff, and I working closely with my leadership team. I’m handing over more of the operational tasks so that I can focus on strategy and my personal brand, through speaking engagements to wider audiences in Australia and overseas.”