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April 2024

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There’s a long list of problems that I cause for myself. And on that list is this. I sometimes think I have it all worked out.

Not always. But sometimes. And each time I do (I am increasingly realising), doors close. I stop learning. I stop absorbing. I shrink.

It’s such a danger to me. Imagining that I have it all worked out.

So what happened from 11pm last night, as I sat down to watch the first episode of Baby Reindeer, was really useful for me. Even though I’m quite tired today. Because four hours later. At 3am in the morning. I’d watched all seven episodes.

Watching Baby Reindeer was really useful because – as a story and as a piece of work – it is braver and better than anything I’ve ever done or (worse still) it is braver and better than anything I’ve ever thought about doing.

It left me with a wonderful thought. A useful thought. For me. It made me wonder, do we live the life we really could? Or do we live the life we think we deserve?

And it also made me think about if and how my writing makes others think. Because Baby Reindeer – as a story and as a piece of work – is braver and better than anything I’ve ever done or (worse still) it is braver and better than anything I’ve ever thought about doing.

It’s such a danger to me, imagining that I have it all worked out.

Someone I now know quite well, wrote something inside my trousers about 20 years before I met him. I sometimes recall what he wrote, and the brand he and his wife created, when sat on the toilet.

The reason I mention this, is to illustrate something important about my business and yours… If you want your business to be remembered, do something memorable.*

Howies was created in 1995 by Clare and David Hieatt. I bought their jeans. And written inside the back of the waistline, upside down (I think) was, “When did you last change your underpants?”

In a world of so much choice, please remember it’s better to be different than it is to be better. If you want to stand out, that is. So if you want your business to be remembered, do something memorable. Like writing inside their trousers. When nobody else is.

*This neat sentence is easy to read. But very hard to do consistently and well. Read it again and ask yourself if you could do loads more to make your business more memorable.**

**The answer is ‘yes’.

First to pull up a chair, at the head of Board Table, is the Managing Director. The tight-necked, moody, multitasking visionary.

Then the Finance Director sits down. Primed to spotlight and timidly advise on the business’s too much and too littles, as well as the unignorable financial red flags as they peep over the horizon.

The next chair to scrape backwards, made-ready for bottom accommodation, belongs to the Operations Director. Their management skills tessellating perfectly with the leadership skills of the MD.

Fourth to sit, always much later than is sensible, is the Marketing Director. Developing, delivering and measuring multiple strategies, tactics, messaging and creative execution by segment, territory and more.

One bottom may of course deliver on more than one role, especially in the very early days of a business.

Other chairs may house bottoms belonging to those focussed on HR, Sales, Sustainability and – super, super-rarely – Brand.

The Brand Director’s bottom sits directly between the MD and the Marketing Director, doing all she or he can to chisel and hone differentiated, distinctive and ultimately – owned – perceptions in the minds of segmented consumers. They make the brand so compelling and motivating as to affect consumer opinion and behaviour, aligned to the clearly defined, timed, granular organisational objectives of the business.

Except, none of this happens as it should.
Because there is no Brand Director’s chair.
And no bottom.

I’ve never, ever walked into a business with a Brand Director operating and thinking as I describe here. A Brand Director that understands exactly how they, and everybody else, fits – and purrs – together, for the benefit of the business.

I’m lucky though. Because I work in precisely that way with a small number of brilliant businesses in the role of Associate Brand Director. And later in 2024 and 2025, I’d like to work with two more. So if, in the next 24 months or so, a my-bottom-shaped-chair appears around your board table, please let me know.

PS. Sometimes, people tell me they print off things I write. They stick them on the wall (thank you). This two-minute read may be useful to early-growth businesses as your board table’s bottoms build and blossom.

Good luck.

Yesterday, I listened to YouTube relaxy piano music as I was writing. I don’t know what it was. I don’t know composers. If ever I reference classical music, all I’m capable of is shouting what it advertises.

“Those babies. Shitting. You know. The nappies one. You’ve seen it. Dut du du durrr duuuurr…” Etcetera.

So again, I didn’t notice the composer. But I did notice a three word comment beneath the dreamy composition.

“I miss myself”.

The music was calm. Reflective. So such a comment is not surprising, I suppose. It’s short, personal tone made me pause.

“I miss myself”.

It made me think about different versions of me. Why each began. Why each ended. Then, I asked myself which ‘myself’ I missed most.

Just as interesting as exploring the me’s I missed, was recalling why they came and went. It was almost always because I allowed myself to be affected by what someone else did or didn’t do, say or turn out to be. (I’ve read that back. It’s right).

Life is better, I think, when I am my unaffected self. That’s the me I miss most.

Izobel and I went to see Portrait Artist of the Year being filmed this week.

Seven-year-old Iz was bored after an hour. The first hour was clapping and cheering three times on cue, as three surprise guests were revealed. Exciting! However, Stephen Mangan asking a seven year old to be ‘surprised again’ from a different camera angle, with the same three now very unsurprising guests, was not so.

Izobel smiled wide-and-white when I said we’d sneak out. And we did sneak out. Before the first brush touched the first canvas. Izobel was happy.

“If you’re happy…” I whispered as we slid silently behind a curtain . “…I’m happy.”

And straight after, Izobel made me think about something I hadn’t thought about quite so purely and simply for years.

Straight after my, “If you’re happy, I’m happy.” Izobel whispered back, her right hand holding my left forearm, her eyes looking up, fixed on my eyes, “If I’m happy, I’m happy.” She said. Then winked. Smiled. Nodded quickly. And off we slid.

I smiled too as we hit the mid-morning sunlight. Am I happy? I thought. Am I really happy? And as I looked down at Izobel holding my hand, skipping (her not me). I knew the answer was yes.

And off we skipped, together.

Lisa squeaks, squeals or ‘ouches’ out-loud half a dozen times each day. Nowadays, so often do these exaggerated responses to featherlight bumps, scrapes and scaldings occur, they are ignored by me, that other one that cried wolf (should he overhear), and everybody else.

Yesterday however, there was a shouted, relayed report from my 7 year old, Izobel, that her bare-footed mother had stood on a Leprechaun in the kitchen.

This, I didn’t ignore.

Life’s like that isn’t it? Dull repetitiveness is ignored. It’s boring. It just blends in. And that’s why LinkedIn is such a head-shaky place. Businesses merging into one as they speak in the same, ‘We are delighted to announce…’ tone of voice as each other. Telling us the same things over and over and over. God it’s dull!

Take a risk! Say something different! Say the unignorable! It’s not as hard as you think. Start by just not saying what they bloody well said. In the way they bloody well said it.

And that’s why, unlike Lisa’s other squeaks, squeals and ‘ouches’, I didn’t ignore her standing bare-footed on a Leprechaun in the kitchen. Izobel and Lisa caught my attention!

Even though, as it turned out, it was a peppercorn.

It’s never a good idea to put a kiss at the end of any message you send to anyone you know through work.

Because it triggers Kiss Anxiety.

If you don’t include a kiss with your first message, you think they think you’re cold. Especially if they then reply with a kiss. If they do reply with a kiss, you think they’re the kind of person that doesn’t get Kiss Anxiety and that makes your Kiss Anxiety much worse.

If you do include a kiss with your first message, and they don’t ‘kiss-back’, you think you’ve offended them and you think they think you’re creepy.

If you do include a kiss with your first message and they do kiss back, you then have to decide whether kisses are now the norm. Or just a nice part of the introduction bit.

If you decide that the first kiss was just a nice part of the introduction bit, and leave a kiss off the second message, you think they think you made a kiss-error with the first message. And because they kissed you back, you think they think you think they’re creepy because they kissed back as a result of your kiss-error.

However if you do do a second kiss, that’s it. You’re committed. You can’t then pretend that the first kiss was a kiss-error. And if they don’t kiss you back a second time after your second kiss to them, you think they think you’re creepy for presuming that kiss are the norm and not just a nice part of the introduction bit.

Shit!

‘Just checked my last few messages.

I’m going for a lie down.

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