(This is what I start with, but each course is shaped by the first hour talking to the people who attend. Lots of the stories I talk about donâ€™t appear here. I am not very good at sticking to a script, but I have enjoyed the courses a great deal. I have met some amazing people. And I have learnt a great deal.
I made a promise that I would put this up for all the attendees. I will make it look a bit better in the New Year. I will make the links work etc. And remove all the typos. That kind of thing.
But right now, I have kept a promise to get it up before the end of the year. Phew.)
A big thanks to Mark Shayler who came along on the 3rd one and added a whole new dimension to it. Â I enjoyed that a lot. His piece will go up in the New Year too.
Â I guess you are all here because you want to go and start something. Thatâ€™s good. Most businesses fail because they never start. So you are going to be ahead of just about 99% of other people.
So let me ask, what is everybody planning to do? If itâ€™s a secret, keep it that way. If you are happy to share it, then thatâ€™s cool too. Also which brands inspire you and why. And today, thereâ€™s a lot to cover, if there is anything you want to learn in particular, shout now.
(Discussion of where you are now, where you want to be, and how you plan to get there.)
Ok, today is going to be me going through 12 key points on building a brand with little money. Then after lunch, Mark Shayler will make you look at your customer in a new way.
Here are three circles. Circle one: My interest. Circle two: My Skill. Circle three: Zeitgeist. Where these 3 circles overlap, I have coloured in pink (I have two girls), this is where your brand must live. I will talk about zeitgeist and your skills later, but let me talk about your interests â€“ and why doing something love matters.
1, The easiest way to get your customers to love your brand is for you to love it first.
The biggest mistake you can make in life is to do something just for the money. It is the biggest sadness of man. People living for the weekend are people who are dead 5 days a week. Because they are doing the thing they donâ€™t love to earn money so they can do the thing they do love on the weekend. Donâ€™t do it.
You can always make more money, you canâ€™t make more time.
So here is some advice: Find your love. And make the thing you love doing the thing you do the most of your time. Not just on weekends. Oh, and the good news is if you love doing, you will get good at it soon enough. Work will never feel like work. The ticking clock will not be the enemy. And in the end, all that love will show in your product, your service, your business. And your day-to-day life.
Love pays well. Not just in a pay cheque but in your health, in your happiness, in your day to day, in family life. My old boss (Paul Arden) was a difficult but wise man. His advice was to chase the work, not the money. The money will come. And he was right.
Lets talk about some brands I Like. This is Patagonia. Itâ€™s my favourite outdoor brand without doubt. Itâ€™s important to understand why we do what we do. Yvon Chouirnard, I imagine, to make clothing for the sports he loved doing. He interests turned into a business. He loves fishing so he made clothing to fish in. He loved climbing so he made clothing to climb in. And he loved this planet we all live on, so he tried to make clothing that took the planet into consideration.
Another brand I love is Burton snowboards. It helps if you invent a sport. I will talk about that later. But they are run by snowboarders, and not bean counters. Itâ€™s an insanely creative environment. The snowboarders choose the range, do the catalogues, and do product development. Itâ€™s a $500 million company that used to sell lawn mowers in the summer.
Jake Burton started it. And is the soul of it. For him, success is having 100 days on the mountain. Thatâ€™s his rule.
(I tell a story about what they get up to inside the company that I was told by someone who used to work there. )
I have only ever bought Burton snowboards. I believe they exist to serve snowboarders. I believe they love the sport. The community it builds. I believe they love creative people. And they love letting them fly.
My favourite Burton snowboard ad was a fog bound lift with a lone snowboarder on it. The caption was: Will you still be doing it when itâ€™s no longer cool?
I know what the answer is for Jake Burton.
Let me talk to you about Mickey Smith. I saw a film he had made called the â€˜Dark side of the lens. After seeing it, I decided I had to try and meet him somehow.
Here it is.
I donâ€™t think you can make this film unless you love surfing. You canâ€™t fake love. The hours it would have taken, the bones that got broken, the friends lost along the way. The understanding of seeing it through the eyes of a surfer.
If I can only scrape a living, at least itâ€™s a living worth scraping.Â â€”Â Mickey Smith
I was lucky enough to meet Mickey at the Do Lectures. He had never done a talk before. And he nailed it. And he silenced everyone. He spoke from the heart. And we all could feel it. He followed his love, and that love will provide him a career now.
Like I said, you have to love what you do first. If you are lucky enough to find something you love doing, you are at an incredible advantage in life.
For you, work will never feel like work, no matter how hard you work at it. You will never look at your watch, and think â€˜not long now to home timeâ€™. Youâ€™ll never have a Sunday where you dread the Monday. And all those hours and hours youâ€™ll put in will come from a hunger to learn and you wonâ€™t begrudge a single second of it.
Without wishing to be too morbid, itâ€™s good to remind ourselves that we will all be much longer dead than we are alive. And if we could choose, it would be better to do all the boring things when we are dead. And keep those things that we love for the short time when we are alive on this mortal coil. The choice of what we do is indeed ours to make. But sometimes we forget that.
I think you owe it to yourself to, by hook or by crook, to make sure that you do â€˜Your Loveâ€™ for a living. Thereâ€™s always a way. Donâ€™t listen to the excuses that you give yourself. Start at the bottom. But start at the bottom of something that is related to your dream. In the beginning it wonâ€™t make you rich, but it will always make you happy.
So my advice to help you is to find some role models. Use them to help motivate/lead you/to show you the way. Buy their books. Listen to their talks. Write to them. Call them. Ask them for advice.
They have found a way to make a business out of the thing they love doing.
Talent is the desire to practice â€“ Malcolm Gladwell
This quote is from Malcolm Gladwell who believes it takes 10,000 hours to become good at something. 10,000 hours is a short time to spend at something you enjoy, but an eternity if itâ€™s something you have no love for.
Two Kinds of Passion: Hot Passion. And Cold Passion
I think itâ€™s helpful to understand passion. I believe passion can both help you enormously and hinder you too. I believe there are two types of passion. One is â€˜hot passionâ€™. It is all heart; the head is not being called upon to think. And that means sometimes things can go wrong. Hot passion is a bit like infatuation; it burns brightly, but fades quickly.
Whereas â€˜cold passionâ€™ is calm, considered and long lasting. Both the brain and the heart are working together. Emotions have been taken out of decisions. And decisions are given time. And looked at from all angles. Cold passion is much more effective at getting results. Cold passion is like a lifelong love. Once decided upon, itâ€™s almost impossible to stop loving.
Itâ€™s good to be aware of the difference between the two. To be successful, you will need to learn to understand the pull between the head and the heart. And when you need to listen or ignore either one.
Find something you canâ€™t live without.
I was lucky, I discovered what I wanted to do for a living early on. I wanted to have my own business: A sports brand.
At 16 I quit school and with Â£500, which was all of my dadâ€™s savings, I started a market stall selling sportswear in what was then the coal mining towns of South Wales. It was a tough place to learn about business, but a great place.
There would be days that I would spend all day on the market stall and sell nothing. And because I hadnâ€™t sold anything, I wouldnâ€™t have any money for petrol. And because my carâ€™s petrol gauge was broken, I knew I would run out petrol, I just didnâ€™t know when.
That car taught me more about the importance of sales than anything else.
Just 6 months after starting I had to close the business and put my dream on hold. I had too many days on the market stall without selling anything. I had lost all my Dadâ€™s money.
I didnâ€™t realise it at the time, but failure was a good teacher. I didnâ€™t have the skills I needed to run a business. I would have to go and learn them. I spent the next 15 years working in advertising. I learnt about ideas, brands and how to tell a story. I also learnt I still wanted to do my own thing. The dream had not gone away.
So we (Clare and I) started howies in 1995. Of course, my first shareholder was my dad. Along with his money he told me this: â€˜wherever you go, go with all your heart. With that advice ringing in my ear, we wrapped our whole philosophy and values about life into it. For 6 years we did not pay ourselves. The love of it kept us going.
We got banned from The Mountain Bike Show, we got banned from The Malvernâ€™s Bike event, we got sued by Levis, we saw our favourite band wear our T-shirts, we argued with Banksy, we won awards, we got voted one of the best brands in the UK.
It wasnâ€™t always fun. But it was never work.
So yeah, do something you love. Find out what youâ€™re interested in. And do it.
(I tell a story about my argument with Banksy, getting sued by Levis and getting banned from every bike show going)
If you donâ€™t have a big budget, have a big idea.
Great ideas cost no more than rubbish ones. Thatâ€™s nice to know.
Ideas donâ€™t care about who you are, where you are, they donâ€™t go to those with the most money or the biggest smile. They come to you in the bath, in the hour of need, when you least expect it. But they will come to you. If you would just listen. And thatâ€™s a skill you need to learn. Always have your radar on. Always be listening.
Another skill is to weed out the good ones from the bad ones. But itâ€™s not always clear which are the good ones, the great ones, and the dud ones. Learn not to judge them too quickly. That dumb idea could be the one. If you think conventionally you may dismiss the one. Donâ€™t dismiss ideas for being odd, awkward, or feeling that you canâ€™t see that one working. Great ideas often have no reference points.
A great idea will get you more publicity, give you more energy, and will in the end give you more sales. Be different. Be better. And ideally, be both.
If you canâ€™t be different, be better. A small incremental change in quality will give you a business. But if you invent a whole new category, that will give you a real edge. Jake Burton invented a whole new sport. That helps when you do something like that.
Be experimental. Try things out. Make small bets. Fail fast. Ask yourself why it failed. And what would it take to succeed next time. Donâ€™t let failure put you off. Your biggest success may well come from a failure.
For me, I like ideas that change things. That ticks the â€œMy Interest circleâ€. So Ask yourself the question, what am I changing here? Have something that bugs you, have something you want to change. Love combined with purpose is an incredibly powerful combination.
So let me talk about a business that I helped to start recently. Â Itâ€™s called â€˜The 25 mileâ€™. A friend said he wanted to open a pub in town. I told him he was mad. He showed me around it. I still thought he was mad.
But I went away to do some thinking. I was interested in the trend of pubs. Why were lots of them closing? And yet within that downward trend, there was another trend that was growing. It was called food. The customer wanted food. But more than that, the zeitgeist was for local food. It was something I was hugely interested in. And it bugged me that on a Sunday, in a lay by just outside of town, all the catch of the week was brought together. And then it would leave town on its way to North Korea, Spain and Japan. And yet there was no fishmonger in town. There was nowhere to celebrate all these amazing ingredients we have on our doorstep. It bugged me. Having something that bugs you is a good thing.
So I thought that the town deserved somewhere great of an evening to eat the freshest, most local ingredients. A place that baked its own artisan bread of a morning, where growers brought in the ingredients from the fields, where the fishermen brought in their daily catch, and all washed down by the finest local beers. I wanted it also to be a place where talented chefs could practice their art. And I wanted to create an environment where women would feel comfortable, relaxed and, basically, not feel like a pub.
So it had my interest â€“local food, and the good of the town at its heart. The zeitgeist for local food was something we were all feeling. And lastly, I could use my skill to come up with a unique idea.
I had always thought putting restrictions on a business was a one way to make it special. To make it stand out. When I was at Saatchi & Saatchi, they never did any great work for Silk Cut until they were given hundreds of pages of restrictions of what they could do by the governing health bodies. Once those restrictions were placed upon them, they started producing award-winning work. I have always thought restrictions can make you stand out. No grit. No Pearl Jam.
My restriction for the pub was to source the main ingredients from within a 25 mile radius as the crow flies. I wanted us to be all about the best local ingredients we could find and give them to our customers the freshest, healthiest local food. That to me sounded like a good business to be involved in.
That restriction is sometimes hard but it will make us in the end. We trademarked â€˜The 25 Mileâ€™ in case we wanted to go and do a dozen of them. Ultimately that will be determined by one factor: Can we make the first one great? The journey from good to great is not an easy one. But I am keen to go there. I will let you know in a yearâ€™s time.
And because it has an idea, it has something to fight for, I can see 10 or 20 of them in and around Britain. Each fighting the good fight of great local ingredients cooked simply but beautifully. Always have something that bugs you. And a big enemy: Fast food.
When you start your brand, give it a set of foundations. Itâ€™s good to define them. Make sure they are important to you. Then itâ€™s your job to make sure that these foundations are important to your team. Employ people who get it, who feel the cause to. Itâ€™s easier then.
Â The 25 mile. A local eating house.
â€œWe are lucky to live here. All these great ingredients, wonderful growers and hard working farmers surround us. Our idea is just to celebrate them with each plate of food thatÂ weÂ serve.
Our 10 founding principles
Â (If we stick to them, we will succeed. And if we ever lose sight of them, we will almost certainly fail.)
Â 1, We stand for the best of local.
We source the very best local ingredients from within a 25 Mile radius (As the crow flies.) and cook them with skill and love. Of course, there will exceptions to our 25 Mile sourcing rule like coffee, rice etc. But those exceptions aside, we are all about great local food and beer.
2, We only hire talented, hard working people who love food.
The secret to success, and itâ€™s no secret, is to work with the best. Life is easier when you do that. So we should take our time when we hire. Find those talented people who care. Train them like crazy. Let them shine. Â Let them fly. Trust in them. And look after them along the way. And when the business does well, make sure they do well too.
Â 3, Do â€˜Simpleâ€™ unbelievably well.
We are not fancy. We are not super trendy. We are not blowtorches at dawn. We are all about â€˜Simpleâ€™ honest, local food. But â€˜Simpleâ€™ requires great skill, passion, and years of training.
4, Consistency is the â€˜Geniusâ€™.
Each meal served will make our reputation. Or lose it. Anyone can be great now and again, but to be consistently great is the thing. Consistency means discipline. Discipline to follow the rules we have set ourselves, to know the manuals inside out, to train and keep training even when busy. Consistency is a way of thinking that the business follows each and every day.
5, Remember who puts the food on our table.
Always have the greatest respect for the customer. We work for them.Â If we listen to them, we will learn how to get better. Always put them first. They want us to do well. And ultimately, if we give put great food on their table, they will put great food on ours.
6, You canâ€™t build a business until you build a team.
Of course, who you hire is important. Some people are brilliant, but they canâ€™t work with a team. Fire them quickly, or even better; donâ€™t hire them in the first place. The team comes first.Â We have to build a team around the love of local great food. We have to show the world that local food is the answer. Teams are more powerful when they have a purpose.
7, Great Value doesnâ€™t mean a low price.
We will serve great simple food at a fair price. We donâ€™t want to be a special occasion place where you go twice a year. We want to be a â€˜Local Eating Houseâ€™ where you go frequently. We want them to always think that was a fair price for that great meal.
8, Have some fun.
When a business has made a decision to be great at what it does, when everyone has accepted the hard work that doing that entails, that everyone understands the mind numbing boring disciplines needed to be great. Then something interesting happens. Your customers love you. They are happy. And you are happy because they are.Â And because you have worked so hard, the business runs really, really well. And the business grows and you grow with it. And itâ€™s a bunch of fun. But the fun has come from the hard work you put in.
9, Build a place of community and learning.
Our success is intertwined with our local farmers, our local growers, and our local fishermen. We need to support them, come rain-come shine. We can make their life easier by making commitments to forward buy from them. So they can plan ahead knowing there will be a market.
We also need to use each â€˜25 Mileâ€™ that we open to be a place for passing on the knowledge and passion for great local food. Our chefs will regularly hold courses where they pass their skills onto our customers.
We can also use The 25 Mile to give back to the community. We need to think about how we do that. But we donâ€™t have to think about why we want to do that. This is our town. If we are doing well, we will give something back to those people who have supported us.
10, Prove them wrong.
We are fighting for great local food that has never seen a freezer, a motorway or a supermarket shelf. We believe in local, we believe in fresh, we believe in providing the best local food for our town and the people who live and die here.
We are fighting the fast food industry one dish at a time.
Put a moat around your idea.
Donâ€™t be naive, protect your ideas. Use trademarks, patents, formulas. If your idea is a good one, someone will at some point try to copy it. The other powerful tool is called secrecy. That one doesnâ€™t cost much. Work on your idea without telling anyone it. When you launch you will have the element of surprise. That buy you 6 months from a rival. Use that time well.
There are many kinds of moats beyond trademarks etc.
The moat for Coca â€“Cola is the formula. The moat is in the bank. The other moat for coca cola is the space it occupies in our mind.Â The other moat is its distribution. The other moat is all its other brands. It has rings and rings around it. Itâ€™s almost undefeatable.
Nike has a few moats too. It had air technology for a while. The other moat is its consistency in its brand voice. Same one for decades. Winning. So moats can be both an invention, a formula, a way of doing something but also the space it occupies in your head.
Moats make it harder for your competition to take your business away from you. Think about what moats you can put around your brand. What things make your brand so special.
Warren Buffett calls it a one bridge town. Itâ€™s the thing that gives you the edge. It may be your story. Your technique. The way you look after your people who then give incredible service because they love what you do.
Yup, build a moat.
3, Be First
Why itâ€™s important to be first?
I am a runner. Some days the wind is with me, and some days it is against me. Having the wind with me is like the zeitgeist. Everything is easier when it is with you. Everything is harder when itâ€™s against you.
Lots of people start businesses but have no idea if the zeitgeist is with them or against them. They have not considered the trend; they have not asked themselves what will the customer want in the future. Is the wind going to be with them or against them?
Before you start a business that will take 10-20 years building. Ask yourself at the beginning. Is this the one? Why Am I in business? What will I change? Am I doing something that hasnâ€™t been done before? Will I be first?
Being first gives you an incredible advantage. Yup, itâ€™s like when you have the wind on your back when you are running. Itâ€™s just easier. Easier to get press, easier to raise money, easier to get customers, easier to build a business before your rival starts. And if you do something well, you will have rivals.
In terms of the Internet, itâ€™s really important to be first with your thing. Look at lastminute.com. They were first. Like a big land grab, you want to build your audience as quickly as you can. You want to capture their imagination with your idea. If you can do that, then you are away.
But donâ€™t think just being first is enough. You have to do it well. Otherwise a better-funded version of what you are doing will come along and take your lovely idea, your lovely customers and provide them with a better version of what you did. Be first. And be best.
Take The 25 Mile, we are probably the first restaurant in Britain we source our main ingredients from a 25 Mile radius. It will get us noticed. It will, more importantly, make our food fresher and tastier. And customers love eating great local ingredients. If we are successful, there will be others who come along. We just need to make our experience as unique as we can.
I talked about Jake Burton; it always helps to invent a sport. Patagonia was pretty much the first company to do a fleece. Hiut, my denim brand will be the first jeans company to do ————————–. Itâ€™s good to be first.
So ask yourself the question, what am I bringing to the party that hasnâ€™t been done before? Am I answering a need/want that hasnâ€™t been catered for? Am I going to change an industry? Or invent a new one?
You need to ask those questions if you want to be first.
How to identify a niche before others?
I think that part of your job as an entrepreneur, as a brand builder, is to always have your radar on. When you see someone doing something odd, itâ€™s your job to ask â€œWhat does that mean?â€ The difference between you and other people is your brain has to think differently. It has to be switched on. It has to notice new behaviours, new patterns, new unanswered needs.
Your eyes and ears will provide most of the answers you will need. You just have to be aware of when they are giving you the answer. To do that your brain has to be switched on. To spot a star, you have to be looking up at the sky and not down at the floor.
So if you want to spot a niche, always have your radar up? Always be looking. Watch how people use something. Study people. Listen to people when they say â€œI wish someone wouldâ€â€¦..Keep asking yourself â€œWhat does that mean?â€
Study trends. Watch the zeitgeist. Ask people what they think is a good niche. Get into the frame of mind to ask the right questions. Go looking for the star. Carry a notebook. Write notes to yourself. One day, they may be important.
Two stories now:
Dietrich Mateschitz went on holiday to Thailand and spotted lots of people drinking a native drink called Krating Daeng . He wasnâ€™t the only person to visit Thailand. The answer was available to anyone who wanted to ask the right questions. But he was the only one who took it back and then went on to start Red Bull. His radar was on. He asked the question about a new odd behaviour he saw: â€œWhat does that mean?â€ His radar was on.
James Dyson wasnâ€™t the only person to walk past a sawmill and see the extractor fan at the top. The answer was available to anyone who asked the right question. But he was the only one to go and make vacuum cleaners using that technology. Yes, he took him 5 years and over 5,000 iterations. He didnâ€™t invent the idea. He took an idea from another industry to vacuum cleaners. He made it work. Dietrich Mateschitz didnâ€™t invent Red Bull. It already existed. He took something he saw on holiday and turned it into a whole new category.
So how do you train your mind to always having your radar on? For me, I keep scrapbooks. If I see something interesting, I tear it out. And put in one of my scrapbooks. My rule for a paper of magazine is I have to tear one thing out. I have draws full of clippings as I am a little behind. But none of it is lost. Those random pieces of information may help me one day, and I donâ€™t know how quite yet.
Being a good observer has helped me a lot. If I were you I would buy a scrapbook and train your brain to switch your radar on. It will help you to tune into ideas/trends etc. Thatâ€™s interesting. Thatâ€™s odd. Thatâ€™s different. Thatâ€™s new. Scrapbook them
During the banking crisis, we all felt vulnerable. We no longer trusted the banking industry, with good reason. And we knew we didnâ€™t make as much as we should, and we didnâ€™t grow as much as we used to. After the banking crisis, we collectively knew we had to change that. So we are growing more vegetables than we have done for a long time, we are more interested in local ingredients. We are more interested in their providence. Big events change how we think and they change behaviours.
When I was looking at The 25 Mile, if I took aside my love of great food and local ingredients, I was looking at the trend. I kept tearing out articles about the shortages of allotments, the seed companies were having record years, and even knitting clubs were popping up as people wanted to make things again. The rise of artisan bread and in America the rise of microbreweries.
I came to the conclusion that the zeitgeist was all about local. And so even starting a pub was a dumb idea. Doing a pub all about local food was a smart idea. And something I could believe in. And eat at.
11.30am â€“ Coffee/Tea/Bread/Cake
5, Change Something
Is your idea going to change anything?
This is the first page from a user manual from an axe company called Gransfors:
Responsibility for the total. What we take, how and what we make, what we waste, is in fact a question of ethics. We have an unlimited responsibility for the Total. A responsibility which we try to take, but do not always succeed in. One part of this responsibility is the quality of the products and how many years the product will maintain its durability.â€¨To make a high quality product is a way to pay respect and responsibility to the customer and the user of the product. A high quality product, in the hands of those who have learned how to use it and how to look after it, will very likely be more durable. This is good for the owner, the user. But this is good as well as part of a greater whole: increased durability means that we take less (decreased consumption of material and energy), that we need to produce less (gives us more time to do other things we think are important or enjoyable), destroy less (less waste).â€¨One of the goals for GrÃ¤nsfors Bruks is to make high quality durable products. As proof of this goal, and to show that we have a responsibility for the product, GrÃ¤nsfors Bruks gives a 20 Year Product Guarantee. An “AXE-GUARANTEE-CARD” is included in the AXE-BOOK which comes with every axe. A qualification for the guarantee is that the advice in the AXE-BOOK is followed.
They know why they are in business: To make axes that last. They want to change a society that thinks throwing away stuff is ok. Gransfor understand the why of their business.
Most companies do not. This may sound odd but most people have forgotten why they are in business. The founders are dead. The purpose is no longer there. They think it is just to make money. But making money is a result. It is not the purpose. For me, a business that has a purpose is much more energised. It is the wind for the sailboat. It pushes you and the team on. It is the fuel for the journey ahead.
A lot of businesses fail because they give up. They give up because they never had a purpose so when things get tough, they quit. I would say 90% of businesses havenâ€™t worked out why they are in business. I think itâ€™s vital to do so. Itâ€™s important to do so because it gives you great motivation. Understand the why. Itâ€™s pivotal to your success. Your team needs to understand it. And sooner or later your customer will get what you are about too.
The best example of communicating this is a guy called Simon Sinek. I am trying to get him to come over to The Do lectures. He really gets it. Watch this.
Video about why?
Simon is right. All businesses understand what they do. But not all of them understand why they are doing it. But people buy why you do something and not what you do.
Apple understands the importance of why. They started from a garage. Had little money. They had something more important than money. They had a desire to change something. They wanted to change the Status Quo.
This advert gave new life to Apple. Steve Jobs had just come back. And they were having a tough time. This advert didnâ€™t do anything except it told everyone they were back. And they still wanted to change the world. And once you tell the world that, you had better make sure you do. They did.
So ask yourself this. Why I am in business? What is that my brand is going to change?
Brands with a purpose have a real strength to them. They have a reason to exist.
Thatâ€™s important stuff. And customers know itâ€™s important stuff too.
They become fans as well as customers.
How to tell your story on a limited budget?
A great brand is a great story. Almost think of it as a film. Who are the lead characters? What is its struggle? Where is its setting? Once you think of your brand as a film, you start to give it human qualities. Thatâ€™s important. Us humans like human traits. We like David versus Goliaths. We like good versus evil. We like right over might.
So whatâ€™s your film?
Of course your job is to make a great product or service, but you have to tell your story. Telling your story is important these days. We are all storytellers now. The means of telling stories is much easier, much cheaper than at any other time in history. Itâ€™s the way for the small guys to stand out. Itâ€™s the way for you to win.
The advantage you have is you donâ€™t have to go through a committee to get your story approved, you donâ€™t have to check with legal, and you donâ€™t have to seek the boardâ€™s approval. You can be you. And no one can stop you.
So with the rise of new tools, mostly on the Internet, there has never been a better time or a cheaper time to start something. Big companies no longer have a huge advantage. Small is positively great.
Look at the tools at your disposal: Twitter, Stumble Upon, Skype, Instapaper. These are all free. A wordpress website can cost you as $9.99 a month. Digital cameras are getting cheaper every day. The downside to all this, itâ€™s free to everyone else too. The competition in the story telling business is pretty intense.
Look at the Hemingwayâ€™s 6-word story competition story winner: For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn. You have to tell your story well. The good thing is you know your story. But you have to make sure that people feel something. Your job is to make get on board with it. You need to build your followers. Why would I want to go and see your film?
The apple story was something like this: Underdog takes on IBM. Yup, Iâ€™d pay to see that film. Donâ€™t be afraid to open up, be emotional, be you, be scared, be the underdog, just donâ€™t be dull.
The good news these days is a great story travels. It travels fast. And these days it mostly travels for free. But average doesnâ€™t go anywhere. Average doesnâ€™t get passed on.
Tell your struggle.
Tell your pain.
Tell your lows as well as your highs.
Be humble with your successes.
Remember the struggle.
A corporation finds it hard to show its soul as it rarely has one.
The same goes for finding your voice, as a committee will never speak with just one voice.
Itâ€™s good to be small.
Your ability to make a great unique product or service will need to be matched by your ability to tell youâ€™re your story. Donâ€™t try to be someone else. Be you. Just try to be the best of you. Remember, humans like humans.
If you are small, find a big enemy. Thatâ€™s a good story. Everyone likes an underdog. Good versus Evil. Thatâ€™s a big story. Your brand is going to make the world better. Non-conformity. Thatâ€™s a big story. â€œIâ€™d rather be a pirate than join the navyâ€. Rags to riches. Thatâ€™s a good story. Fighting for your town. Thatâ€™s a good story. Taking a big corporation on. Thatâ€™s a big story.
Donâ€™t play small with your story.
As well as telling your story, you will have to make sure people find it.
The easy, free tools are available to everyone. So itâ€™s getting crowded out there. So you will have to be inventive in making sure you get heard.
(Hereâ€™s a story about one of internetâ€™s secret tools: Stumble Upon. And how you can use it to push your story out there)
All brands have a voice. Some are incredibly inspiring. Some are as dull as ditch water. Some are real. Some are fake. Some resonate with your inner soul. And some leave you as cold as an easterly winter wind.
A voice doesnâ€™t just come in the form of words or actions. It can be a smell. Walk into Abercrombie and Fitchâ€™s store, and that perfume is a voice. So is the overly loud music. Radiohead have a voice. Itâ€™s their ability to keep challenging themselves and their fans.
Patagonia has a voice. It speaks for the environment. Apple has a voice. It speaks about change.
The story I want to tell you now, I was told by Richard from Innocent. It demonstrates that even a feel can be your voice)
(A story of a Taxi Story â€“from Richard at Innocent)
The most important thing you have to remember is to be yourself. Donâ€™t try and copy a style because it seems to be popular. You have a real genuine advantage. Your voice is you. No committees. No one to contradict you. You is you. Warts and all.
The thing to avoid is the â€œTo whom it may concernâ€¦.â€ person appearing. Itâ€™s amazing how many people when they sit down to write down something become someone else. The â€œTo whom it may concernâ€ person suddenly appears. You donâ€™t talk like that. So donâ€™t speak like that. Make sure that you can see you in your brand.
So to help, find some companies that strike a chord with you. Ask yourself why that resonates. Why that makes you feel something. And make you feel something is kinda important. Us humans like to have feelings.
Study the brands you think do it well. Ask and keep asking why that works for you. If you a quirky sense of humour, lets see it. If you like to inspire, letâ€™s see it.
Just remember one rule: BU.
Â 10 Tips to Finding your Voice
1, Be Clear
Define the purpose of your company. Do this alone. Do not consult anyone but yourself. One sentence should do it. Write it on a paper napkin and pin it to the wall. Once decided upon, you cannot change it. Make sure that you are excited by it. Make sure you are willing to spend the rest of your life working towards it. Make sure it is your real purpose and not just what other people want to hear. Make sure it lives in your head and, as importantly, in your heart.
2, Be Focused
Define your product and itâ€™s purpose. And stick to it. Stop making product that is not consistent with your definition of where you sit in this world. Even if it makes money, stop making it. Do not dilute the company focus. There is more money to be made from being focused than from trying to be everything to everybody. Narrow the focus. Google achieved more by offering less than its competitor. Rather than closing down opportunities, going narrower opens them up. Those who spend their days trying to be all things to all people rarely have time to change the world.
3, Be yourself
Donâ€™t try to be like others. Donâ€™t follow or mimic. Donâ€™t pretend. You can tell when someone doesnâ€™t mean something just by how they say it.Â A voice doesnâ€™t come from a meeting or a committee. Or from the latest trend or for that matter the latest piece of research. It comes from one man. It comes from the books he has read. The conversations he has had, the experiences he has endured, and the family he has been raised by. There is no manual to read. The voice is fragile in the wrong hands. Be careful whom you give the task to. The strength of Nike was that Dan Wieden got inside the head of Phil Knight. He understood that he was a super competitive sports nut who wanted to crush the competition. And he kept relaying that to his customers. Year after year. Come rain. Come shine.
4, Be emotional
You have to make your customers feel something. Understand what is in their hearts. Logic is a blunt tool in this regard, my friend. It makes perfect sense, it ticks all the boxes, but it changes very little. And guess what, intelligence is no better; it is overrated in its ability to either change things or behaviour. You need a different set of tools. Those tools will comprise of music, pictures, words that when shaken up by your author and put back in the right order will leave your customers inspired, stirred, awoken. Oh, by the way, this is not easy to do. Give them meaning by all means, but donâ€™t give them ads. Bare your soul. Tell your struggle. Tell your pain. Tell your lows. A corporation finds it hard to show its soul as it rarely has one. Be vulnerable. Be honest. But most of all, be you.
5, Be instinctive.
Research nothing. Listen to what you feel. If you are in doubt, ask your wife. If you are still in doubt, ask your kids. Go no further than the circle that you trust. Ever.
6, Be Useful.
Make products for a purpose. Be useful. Make products that chase a function and not a fashion. Invent for a need. Focus on your customers needs. Small needs can become big business. If you suddenly become fashionable, it is because you have chased being useful. Donâ€™t build your business around being fashionable; it will go away as quickly as it came. Customers can decode real from fake in a blink of an eye. If you try to be of a moment, you will die in the moment, once it has had its time. Instead, carry on making products that have a use. Be authentic. If you can say that, you are on solid ground. Donâ€™t get sidetracked by chasing fashion.
7, Be the change.
To support your purpose, you need more than just words. You have to change your industry; you have to show another way. And you have to communicate that change in the most inspiring way that a human can imagine. Look at how well Apple communicates change. Every revolution needs an enemy. Challenge design, challenge pollution, challenge landfill, challenge peoples â€˜buy and throw cultureâ€™. Now that you can make anything, what does your company want to make? And what does it want to change?
8, Be consistent
A worthwhile business has to be built over time. A companyâ€™s product, its purpose and how it speaks to the world needs to be consistent if it wants to be all things that it hopes to be. Do not blow with the wind. Do not chase a bandwagon. Stay true. Patience is required in a world that doesnâ€™t always understand the value of it. It is easy to make small little changes in a busy day and think they do not matter. But there is a big-ness to small decisions. The financial world fully understands the concept of compound interest and how a small change can make a big difference. Similarly, a small tweak here, a small compromise there, can accumulate over time to change the very soul of a business. The rule of consistent product and service is easy to get. But the same rule needs to be applied to a companyâ€™s voice. Nike has talked with the same voice for a couple of decades now. A signature seems to run through it. And because it is so consistent, each communication seems to build on top of the last one. They have gained compound interest of voice thanks to their consistency of voice.
Â 9, Be relevant
Understand your customer. And make product that is relevant to their lives. Remember, the worse thing you can do for the environment is to make something that no one wants to buy. Speak to them in a way that connects with them and makes them feel something. The trick to this is give something of yourself. If you feel something, the chances are so will they. This is not rocket science. Itâ€™s just gut instinct. Its knowing what they are into because you are into it too.
10, Be Positive
If you want change to happen, you will have to inspire people. A fire needs wood to burn. It also needs a flame to start it. You need to be the flame. A business needs to do the numbers but it also needs a purpose to supply it the passion. If we listened to just our intellect, no one would fall in love. If we did not listen to our soul, no poetry would ever be written. To stir someone, you have find emotional ways to touch them. But first you have open up and let go of the worry about talking in more emotional terms. Only then will you start to connect with people. You have to stir yourself to stir others. Then you have to find the flame that inspires them. And be positive. Be the hope. Hope is more powerful. The cynic changes little or nothing. The optimist can and will. Spread wonder. Spread optimism. Itâ€™s good stuff.
8, Why 1000 true fans can make you successful.
Jeff Johnson was employee number 1 at a small running shoe company in Portland. He named the company. But even more importantly, he would write letters to runners telling them why their shoes were so much better than anyone elseâ€™s. He built the 1,000 true fans for that small running shoe company called Nike.
The strength of feeling within your 1,000 true fans for your brand will go a long way to determine your success. To build 1,000 true fans will take time, it will take a lot of personal attention. A lot of letters, a lot of phone calls. Responding to twitter mentions, likes on Google+. You have to show you care more, if they are to care more.
The first 2 years of howies, every t-shirt order had a letter go out with it. Handwritten to them. It was slow, it took ages, and it built a 1,000 true fans. I know many of their names to this day. They built howies, I know that. We showed them we cared, and they responded to a company that took time to do that. We stood out. If you want to have a big company one day, do lots of small things that most people think that donâ€™t matter. Except they really do.
The person who first articulated the notion of a 1,000 true fans was Kevin Kelly.
Itâ€™s worth a read. He wrote it with musicians in mind but it holds true for lots of small brands etc.
A quick synopsis:
A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, video maker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.
A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.
One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.
My view on the importance of a 1,000 true fans is not in just they help your sales, but for me itâ€™s bigger than that, these are the people who will tell your story for you. Social media is great but you canâ€™t spread the word on your own. They have signed up for the fight. They are on your side. They want your way to win. An army of 1,000 can fight better than an army of 1. Build your army.
Why bootstrap your business?
There is a simple rule here. The shares you sell at the beginning are the ones you get the least amount of money for but are the ones that cost you the most in terms of equity you have to give away. Itâ€™s better to build your business for a while before you start selling chunks of it.
This rule is different for those with a track record of a previous business. You will be able negotiate a better deal than a total start-up. Or your business idea is so compelling, you have several people who want to invest. You can negotiate better terms if you have lots of people who want in.
The internet start-ups have another way of looking at it: Raise lots of money so you get your idea out there first. That way, you grab the audience before a rival does. That is valid too. But there are those who value the lean start up here too:
This is worth a read for sure:
And silicon valley isnâ€™t having it all its own way. Things like Y combinatory are teaching the start ups the value of their ideas.
One thing to always to keep in mind is to keep control of your business. Otherwise you will end up working for someone else. And that sucks.
What is bootstrapping?
Bootstrapping is a way of starting a company so that it requires the minimum amount of investment. It uses its sales or monies from the founders to push it forward. It is helpful in the early days to find out if there is anything in it, to get some sales data, to find out what the customer thinks of the new product or service.
One way of bootstrapping your company is to keep your job, and start it part time. This allows it time to breathe, to find its feet. It is not forced into running faster than the business is ready for.
Â (I tell a story of Paul Smithâ€™s first shop)
(I tell the story of our first pay cheque at howies – 6 years after starting it)
(I tell the story of The Do lectures on how it got past the first 3 years of early struggle)
Â 10, Control
In the beginning it is very easy to give shares away here and there and think it doesnâ€™t matter. But if you believe in your brand you could be giving away a small fortune. And it might lead you to lose control of your company. Donâ€™t kid yourself it doesnâ€™t matter at this stage. It will.
Use your suppliers to fund your company. Go and get orders. Give the factory your order and get better payment terms from them than you gave to your customers. That way you can fund the business. Use loans from family if possible.
It is better to delay any investment, unless you have a good track record, until you have some sales data. Some proof of demand. That way your hand is a stronger one.
One thing to consider when you are selling shares is to try and split them between voting and non voting. So that way you get some capital, but no matter what you keep control. Nike did it this way. And Phil Knight was an accountant. So
when your accountant says it canâ€™t be done, tell him it can.
when your accountant says it canâ€™t be done, tell him it can.
(A story about a phone call with Yvon- founder of Patagonia)
Â 11, Virtual team
How to build a great team without hiring anyone?
If you want to succeed, work with the best. I know what youâ€™re thinking. You canâ€™t afford the best. I will argue you canâ€™t afford to work with the best. I agree with the Real Madrid chairman: Expensive is cheap.
So how do you do it on a small budget. Easy. Just tell them your mission. And tell them how important it is that you work with them. Make sure what you say is honest and true. This has worked for me many more times than it has failed for me.
Recently I was working on my new Hiut Denim company. Nick Hand came in a book from a famous illustrator in New York. I loved his work. His work was already in my scrapbooks. â€œWe need to work with people as good as himâ€ said Nick. I was thinking, we need to work with him. So somehow I found out his email. And I told him my town was going to make jeans again. And if we wanted to give everybody their jobs back we would have to be brilliant. And that would mean working with people like him.
He wrote back and said yes.
You will be surprised who you can work with these days. You might not have the biggest budget, but you will give the most freedom. You will also make them feel good, as they will be excited about helping with the mission.
Also, try and get your brand to have mentors. Pick your heroes. Write them letters. Phone them up. You will be surprised. Hardly anyone does this.
Donâ€™t play small. Even if your budget is.
Look after yourself
A big part of managing a business is being able to manage yourself.
If you allow a business, it will run you.
Before we go into too far, lets ask some unusual questions. If you worry, then running a business maybe not the thing you should do. But assuming everyone worries, how can you cope with worry. If you are awake at 4 am in the morning, trust me, your business is running you and not the other way around.
So what are the tricks to stop worrying?
Firstly, write down on a plain piece of paper â€˜what is the worst that can possibly happen. Is it that I will lose this house? Is it loss of reputation? Is failure so bad? Before you start accept the worst that can happen, and if it does, then you have already dealt with it. You can go forward knowing you have accepted them. And if you fail, you have come to the terms of it.
Picture of boat (past, present, now)
Deal with each day. One day at a time. Donâ€™t dwell on the past. Donâ€™t live in the future. Keep working in the now. Head down. Working on thing that matters. Now.
Donâ€™t spend your time moaning, be thankful for each day. And enjoy the ride. Itâ€™s your ride. You are making the decisions. Get your mind looking for the positives and not the negatives. Surround yourself with people who are take you up and not bring you down.
How you manage this will determine how well you manage your business? We have a lot of distractions these days. Be disciplined. You can do a lot more in less time than you think. Just block out the distractions. You wont have to work longer, just be more focused. Also, spend your time on the things that make the difference. Work with great people takes less time than working with average people.
Quote on Time â€“ You can do anything, but not everything. David Allen
Balance â€“ Lots of people obsess over their business, but you will have to learn to switch off. Get a hobby and obsess over that. Take up golf, tool making, baking bread. While your obsessing over your hobby, you can take your mind off the business â€“ it will give you ideas that will help you.
Look after yourself.
Exercise is important. Getting to bed early is important too if you need your sleep. Not drinking too much. All these things add up. Learn to switch off. Find your distraction.
Try yoga. Try swimming. Try meditation. Whatever works for you, make it part of your regime.
(Story of the men putting weights on the train)
(Story of the power of the nap)
A lot of people depend on you or will depend on you, look after yourself. Youâ€™re are pretty important.
I have learnt a lot today. Thank you for your time.
12 Books to read:
1, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman
2, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Simon Sinek.
3, The Republic of Tea: The Story of the Creation of a Business, as Told Through the Personal Letters of Its Founders
4, Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson
5, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden
7, The Star Principle: How It Can Make You Rich â€“Richard Koch
8, Getting Things Done â€“ David Allen. Look at this rule: 80/20 rule. Richard Koch
9, 4 hour Work Week â€“ Tim Ferriss
10, How To Stop Worrying And Start Living â€“Dale Carnegie
11, Lean start up- Eric Ries
12, Be here now â€“ Ram Das