Mike Bandar, co-founder of Waybook

In our regular series, high-fliers remember where it all took off


Hi, Mike! Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Mike and I’m co-founder of Waybook, a business playbook tool that helps founders get business out of their head and improve training and on boarding for their teams.

What was your #MyFirstMcJob?

A farmhand and entertainer at Woodside Animal Farm in Luton, age 14.

How did you get that job?

With a bit of nepotism! My older brother has always been into animals, so when he got the job as staff supervisor, he gave me a job.

What did you have to do?

Farm work in the morning: muck out the cows, look after the llamas; then guest work in the afternoons: animal presentations, manning the hook-a-duck stand or working on the helter skelter.

What animals did you have?

It was a farm but we also had a zoo licence. So … donkeys, horses, cows, llamas, marmosets, emus, lemurs, Guinea pigs, rats, iguanas, chickens, things like that.

What were the perks of the job?

As a 15-year-old, getting to drive a tractor with 20 people strapped to the back was the most ridiculously fun thing ever. They also had loads of exotic chickens, so I used to borrow — although now I think about it, steal — their eggs and hatch them in an incubator at home, so we had all these exotic chickens as pets that my brother looked after in a homemade coop.

What did you spend your first paycheque on?

I was paid £3 an hour, so £24 a day. I was always hustling and trying to create my own Del Boy empire, so I went to an auction and bought 100,000 helium balloons, thinking it would make me a millionaire. But then I realised all the text and pictures had been printed upside down or back to front.

Did anything funny happen at the farm?

A friend and I had to paint the lemur enclosure. It was cold, so we locked ourselves with the heaters on. It seemed great fun, but it was only when we finished three hours later that we were ridiculously high from the paint fumes!

How long did you work there for?

Three and a half years. Then when I was 17, I transferred and became an explainer at Whipsnade Zoo. So I would write and give the animal talks, which I loved.

What skills did you learn that you might learn use today?

It was my first foray into communication and presentation. A lot of my time was in front of visitors, but because it wasn’t a formal environment, it was a really good test bed to find my natural way of communication and confidence. I also learned the importance of process and procedures. The farm was run really well by 14- to 20-year-olds because we had really strong processes. Everybody would get given a pre-set lists of procedures, what animals to take care of, and what activities to run. Now, most of my time is working with entrepreneurs, where process and procedure is just as important. Also, my sweeping game is on point. If you see my driveway in autumn, it’s beautiful. There’s not a leaf in sight.

Are you still in contact with anyone you used to work with?

Yes. We still meet up and love reminiscing because we shared such a unifying experience that ultimately resulted in trust and friendship. The conditions were pretty awful, yet we all rallied in and had such a great time.

Why is alumni important to you personally?

My farm days were so unique, they’vre been nothing but informative on my character and skillsets. Alumni is like a collection of your own history; the human representation of your inflection points and who you were at that time. Without alumni, those memories and experiences might not be as present.

Why is alumni important generally?

Alumni is a history of trust and respect. We’re always meeting new people so you can always build new relationships and friendships. But it’s hard to top 20 years of knowing someone. Alumni is a great way of enjoying that human authenticity and trust.

What would happen if you went back and worked on the farm for a day?

I’d absolutely love it. I would really want to look at the systems and processes to make sure the core work done was in the most efficient way so we could index our time more on the fun side, like driving the tractor.

If you could go back in and give yourself one bit of career advice, what would you say?

In everything we do, glamorous or not, success or failure, there are lessons to be had. If you are reflective, it’s a great way to build your character and turn any situation into a positive strength. I’d tell myself to cherish the moments, find the value in what you are doing, and reflect on experiences. I’ve always been quite outspoken on ways to improve things, so I would give myself more confidence: if you really believe something, know your place, but also build a case and be objective. Not all businesses welcome people who are curious, motived and outspoken. But the ones that do find value, I hope!





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