Category

BUSINESS

Category

In a recent post we chatted about businesses that care.

I suggested that businesses have a responsibility to not only work towards satisfying what customers care about.

I suggested they should also educate markets to care about what matters to all of us.

Here is that story: https://www.50odd.co.uk/care/

Part 2

This little story follows on.

So; if you do build a business that cares about something lovely and worthwhile, you also have to be amazing at what you do, of course.

First.

Because you can’t hide a crap product or service behind a worthy cause.

Motivation v Gratification.

Please remember this.

Because it will help your business to matter more and to last longer.

The Motivation behind someone choosing you is linked to you being truly excellent, and telling your story well.

The Gratification they feel about having made the purchase is born, at least in part, from the greater good you do.

Your purpose, if you like.

A coffee brand that is nice to rainforests only works if the coffee is great.

Great coffee first…

…then add in something people should care about.

To build the brand, consolidate the purchase and build the community.

If you tick both of these boxes – Motivation and Gratification (and get them the right way round) you could do really well.

If you run a businesses, it makes sense to build your brand around something people care about.

That means listening hard.

Because if you care about what they care about then, in theory at least, they’ll care about you.

Care.

But is it not also true that, as a businesses, you have a responsibility to make people care about what you care about?

Assuming the thing you care about is good for everyone.

The answer – is yes.

The Wrong Kind of Shareholder. 

Lots of businesses have the wrong kind of shareholder.

The shareholder that only cares about making money is the wrong kind of shareholder.

The shareholder that only cares about the short term is the wrong kind of shareholder.

The shareholders that pretends to care about something important because it gets them onto the latest marketing bandwagon is the wrong kind of shareholder.

The shareholder that does not see their and their teams talents as an opportunity to do something good for everyone is the wrong kind of shareholder.

And the Founder can of course be the biggest baddie of all.

Because it is she or he that let the shareholder in.

Responsibility.

There are lots of things that need care in the world.

Lots of people, too.

A great way to start a business, I think, is to pick up a cause or two that you care about and weave them into what you’re doing.

To find out what you’re great at, you have to do shit.

Not ‘do shit’ as in ‘do things badly’ you understand.

I mean you have to actually do things.

Rather than just talking about them.

Perfectionism.

Perfectionism is self-sabotage.

It just is.

Waiting around for that perfect opportunity.

Or that perfect moment.

The thing to know here is that, perfect opportunities do exist.

But you don’t know if they’re the real deal until you take the step and actually do them.

Because some things that you’d bet your life on being perfect – aren’t.

And some things that look imperfect – once you start them – turn out to be perfect.

Things People Say.

Ooh, I’m a perfectionist me.

So I’m not doing it until it is perfect.

Really means

I’m scared.

And that’s fine.

Doing any great thing has to be a bit scary.

Do Shit.

So, if you want to be shit hot.

Do shit.

Because – no shit – it’s the only way to know.

If you’re going to use Groupon or a similar platform, be aware that all you are doing is dropping a level.

Price-wise is what I am referring to of course.

You’re doing this so you can reach more people.

So more people more easily say ‘yes’.

So more people can experience what you have to offer.

Levels. 

But the message here for your business is that, if you do drop a level and sacrifice profit, it is just stupid if this is the full extent of your reach/business growth strategy.

I will illustrate.

Hair.

Lisa took a look at the open, non-Groupon(esque) marketplace in an attempt to decide where to go for a hair somethingorother.

There were various factors that influenced the buying decision.

Location.

Price.

Brand reputation.

Website.

Groupon.

Some of the people that Lisa looked at also chose to venture into the world of Groupon.

Here’s what they did in this new place…

They lowered their price.

That’s it.

Bugger all else.

Which is just fucking stupid.

All they did was create another level of ‘things’ to choose from, all with zero narrative about why they should be chosen over the competition.

Apart from price.

So they had differentiated themselves in one way I suppose.

They differentiated themselves from the ones that weren’t dumb enough to just sacrifice margin.

Think. 

All I am saying is, if you are going to drop a level – think!

Why should people chose you over the competition that now exists at this lower level?

You are not the only hairdresser on Groupon.

The market does not want a haircut from anyone so daft that they think simply dropping the price is a shortcut to long term success and an ongoing relationship.

They won’t be able to come back soon anyway.

Because you’ll be out of business.

Endnote.

As I mentioned in my earlier Groupon post, silly price wars are – ultimately – good for no one.

Build your brand.

Make me love you.

That way you’ll matter more and last longer.

And if you don’t know how to do this – find someone that does.

One Friday in the summer of 2009, at about 2pm, I received a telephone call.

I was at work at the time, leading the biggest business (to date) that I have created.

It was called onebestway.

A Creative Agency.

The telephone call went something like this:

Hello, onebestway, Mike here. How can we help?

Hi, can I speak to the owner please?

Yep; that’s me. How can I help?

I’m calling from Virgin 1. The digital TV station. We’re looking for a team to take part in a television programme. We’ve researched you a little. Can I explore this with you?

Sure. Go ahead.

We’re relaunching the channel. This summer. And the flagship show for the launch is called The Naked Office. Basically we are looking to place a psychologist with a team. He will bond them so closely that, after a week, they’ll all be comfortable coming to work together – naked.

I paused.

It was a Friday as I say.

So this was a mate being silly right?

No.

It was a producer from a production company called Shine .

And the invitation was real.

Moments.

So this was one of those defining moments.

We all get them.

Maybe not exactly like this.

But we get them.

I had already said yes in my mind.

But I had to ask the team.

All but one said yes.

So we did it.

The Naked Office. 

The Naked Office aired in the autumn of 2009.

About 5 million people saw it in the UK after the repeats and the interviews.

Globally it was more.

Adventure.

It was great fun.

An adventure.

Some of our industry thought we were brave and ballsy.

Some thought we were sensationalist and crackers.

Both were right.

David Taylor.

David Taylor was the psychologist in the television programme.

David has authored 5 books now.

And David and his wife Rosalind became good friends of mine.

Here they are.

Saying yes. 

Anyhow, do I regret it?

100% no.

Would I have regretted it had I not done it?

100% yes.

When In Doubt.

So.

My advice when faced with whatever weird and wonderful opportunities might arrive in this too-short life of ours.

When in doubt…

Say yes.

If you are reading this story in your email, there’s a photo you might want to see with today’s story at 50odd.co.uk.

But then again…!

David Taylor (nice chap): www.nakedleader.com.

I am the Co-founder and majority shareholder of a clothing brand called Always Wear Red.

The other shareholder is Ralf Little.

Ralf is the actor/writer that played (amongst other roles) Antony, the son in The Royle Family.

Colin.

In mid 2015 I was in London with my dog, Colin.

I was sat outside a restaurant waiting for the lady I was meeting.

I wanted a wee and as dogs weren’t allowed in the restaurant, I asked a guy on the next table to look after Colin as I went inside.

When I returned, I looked more closely at the helpful stranger.

It was Ralf Little.

He too was waiting for someone so I chatted to him about my clothing brand concept.

Decisions.

After chatting with Ralf for a minute or two, I made a decision.

I decided that I wanted him to own my business with me.

Ralf is smart.

Clever.

Attractive.

And was one of the main characters in one of the UK’s best ever sitcoms.

I imagined he was rather well connected.

And I was genuinely interested in what he could bring to the business.

My decision was made.

Zoe.

After 10 minutes, he was sat next to the lady he’d been waiting for.

Zoe Rocha, daughter of fashion designer John Rocha and sister of Simone Rocha.

Zoe is super impressive.

And at one time was the COO of Stephen Fry’s Production Company, Sprout Productions.

So I made another decision.

I decided that I wanted Zoe to become a shareholder too.

6 months. 

6 months later, Always Wear Red was owned by 3 people.

Me, Zoe and Ralf.

Decision Precision.

There are two important things here.

First, the precision of the decisions I made.

I decided what I wanted.

Second, it is important to note what I did to make it happen.

I treated Ralf and Zoe with the respect that people of such calibre deserve.

I tried my very best to help them understand my vision.

What they’d get from our journey together.

And I listened hard.

I tried to work out how my dreams dovetailed with theirs.

How their creative path overlapped mine.

And, after a few months, I got what I’d decided I wanted.

Decide.

If there are things you want in your business.

Whether it’s something you are going to plan for.

Or if it is an opportunity that lands in front of you because you want a wee and need someone to look after your dog…

Make a proper, precise decision.

Then do every single thing that you possibly can to get what you’ve decided.

This is a story that explores why all 50-quids are not the same.

And why, most of the time, the most important things in business cost nothing at all.

Weekend Break.

I’m in Percy Cottage in Northumberland.

It’s right next door to The Percy Arms Pub.

When we arrived at the cottage, there was a hand written card from the owner, who we know.

She’s called Sand and the note included her personal mobile number.

We’re here for 3 nights.

Nice little place.

Matfen Hall.

Three months ago we were at Matfen Hall.

For the same number of nights.

3.

‘Nice, big place.

The Percy Arms.

Last night we went to the pub next door to our cottage, to The Percy Arms.

It’s small.

Friendly.

Busy.

Warm and cozy.

It had kids games too.

These games (and this is important) were clean.

And new.

And complete.

If you’re a parent of a small child you’ll be used to going to places that say they’re for kids, but they’re not really.

The toys are shitty and filthy and broken.

It’s not like that at The Percy Arms.

And when the young girl behind the bar serves you, she looks you in the eye, widens her own eyes, smiles broadly and calls you, ‘my darling’.

All good.

Matfen Hall (again).

When I arrived at Matfen Hall 3 months ago, it had been booked for me by the General Manager, who I know.

When I arrived, they didn’t know who I was at reception.

There was no note.

My friend was not there and there was no message from him.

The room was good!

But nothing special.

£50

OK so that’s the background to my story.

My ‘not all 50-quids are the same’ story.

£50 at Matfen Hall.

We spent £50 at Matfen Hall on the first night.

We spent it with a young girl behind the counter of the empty conservatory.

She was white shirted, pleasant enough and she called me sir.

She wasn’t looking me in the eye when she called me sir.

And, somehow, I’d rather she didn’t call me that, actually.

It was not natural for her.

And it was not natural for me.

We had two veggie burgers and a couple of drinks each.

I remember the floor was plasticky because Colin the dog kept clicking-and-clacking and skidding on it.

The service was plastic too.

And so was the burger.

But this is the important bit…

As each part of my ‘spend’ took place, I was doing a mental sum.

Inside, I was saying…

Fucking hell; £25 for this.

Then another round.

Fucking hell; £35 for this.

Then another round.

Fucking hell; £50 for this.

I resented spending £50.

I resented the whole experience.

£50 at The Percy Arms. 

We went in.

Drank.

Ate.

And 3 hours of indulgence, couldn’t-care-lessness and laughing later  – we’d spent £50.

It could have been £70.

£80.

More.

I wouldn’t have known.

And I wouldn’t have cared.

Big versus little.

If you’re a little business, you need to work out what you can learn from big ones.

And what to ignore.

Because littleness can be so charming and lovely.

Don’t lose that.

All of this is particularly important in markets where experience is important.

And – and this is the truth – I actually cannot think of ANY market where experience is not important.

Summary. 

Percy Cottage and The Percy Arms in Chatton are superb.

Human, honest, homely and wholesome.

Matfen Hall has fallen into the very same trap as so may of these larger venues where the venue itself is considered to be the jewel in their crown.

They think that the building is the most important thing in their offering.

It so, so isn’t.

All the building presents is an opportunity.

I want you to know my name.

To look me in the eye.

To make me feel that I am the most important guest you have ever had.

Relate to me, treat me like a flesh and blood  and – most important of all – think about the lasting memory you are going to leave me with.

Because that is what I am going to tell other people.

If it is part of Matfen Hall’s strategy that I tell others I was made to feel anonymous and unimportant, and that Matfen Hall deliver an experience so sterile that my brain drifts to how much margin they are making on my £50 – they are bang on.

If not, there is work to do.

Website.

The first sentence you see at the Matfen Hall website is:

NOT JUST ANOTHER STATELY HOME.

As well as that being a silly thing for any marketing company to advise as a headline (because it doesn’t mean anything) it is particularly inappropriate for Matfen Hall.

Because the exact thing they say they are not – they are.

Increasingly – our minds crave food.

That’s one of the reasons Social Media is so prolific.

(Or do our minds increasingly crave food because Social Media is so prolific?)

Either way…

We get bored.

Toilet.

You’ve probably heard this joke doing the rounds:

I just went to toilet.

Without my phone.

There are 318 floor tiles in there don’t you know?

And there’s methylchlorozanoline in my shampoo.

Quite.

Social Media.

Almost all businesses can benefit from Social Media’s reach.

But it has to be done right.

Here’s a little something that you’ll benefit from remembering.

If you want to use social media platforms to tell your story.

Morning, Noon and Night.

Basically, minds are hungry for different kinds of food at different times.

MORNING POSTS:

Inspire your audience.

BOOST them!

FEED their minds with something fast, sparky and uplifting.

Something to make them BOUNCE into their day (and remind them about the benefits of using your brand if you can, too).

MIDDLE OF THE DAY POSTS:

Educate and inform your audience.

We get most bored in the middle of the day.

We’re primed for learning.

Nothing too heavy mind…

But do teach me a little something.

Something in or around your business (stay on brand!)

And I’ll love you for it.

EVENING POSTS:

Entertain me.

I’m in relaxed mode.

Now is the time to feed me the fun stuff.

Again, stay on brand though…

If you’re a Cat Sanctuary them maybe a kitten balancing a ball on it’s nose is cool!

But if you’re not… it’s not.

Summary.

MORNINGS: Inspire.

DAYTIME: Educate and Inform.

EVENING: Entertain.

Feed Me!

Feed my my mind with the right stuff – at the right time.

Endnote: If you feed educational and informative things out there in the middle of the day, recipients can (and very often do) save anything they want until the evening.

It’s impossible to start anything again.

Well, in  the way that most people think about this term, it is.

Experience. 

It’s because whenever you do anything, you change.

You’re changed by the experience of doing it.

Each time you do it.

So you’re never really doing the same thing again in exactly the same way more than once.

Relax.

This is useful to remember.

Because of those ‘Aargh!’ moments that we have.

When we feel we are doing pointless or annoying rework.

Relax.

You’re never really starting over.

Creativity.

I get this feeling a lot with some of the more creative areas of my day-to-day.

I try something.

It doesn’t work.

So I try it again.

And it does.

I am, consciously and subconsciously – learning.

As I do these ‘same things’ more than once.

Smiling. 

So if you are frustrated by the feeling that you are doing things over and over – try smiling instead.

Because you’re getting better.

When your child first stands, wobbles and begins to walk, there is a flush of pride.

When your child first draws something – that first incoherent squiggle half-on and half-off the page, there’s another flush.

Because she or he has held a crayon and made their mark.

And when your child starts to string sentences together, as clumsy as they are, we flush with pride once more.

All this pride.

For rubbish balance, rubbish drawings and incoherent mumbles.

Business.

In life, this is all fine.

And natural.

And beautiful.

It’s what parents do.

But it is often what business owners do too.

Business owner’s first attempts at doing what they do in business are very often pretty shite.

But because we are doing them for the first time, we’re proud.

And this can blind us to the truth.

Careful.

We have to be really careful with this in business.

It’s a real balance.

We must be brave enough to ‘just do’ and not wait for the perfect execution.

(Perfectionism is a form of self sabotage).

But we must also remember to benchmark.

To look across at what options the consumer has.

Be different, yes.

This is very important.

But be aware of the minimum quality requirements in your markets.

Your product or service offering, honestly, has to be shit-hot.

Firsts. 

Some of the things I did in the early days of Always Wear Red were not really good enough.

The quality was always there.

But whilst aspects of the brand (I’ve built brands for years) were amazing – aspects of the Collection’s design (I’m quite new to this) just weren’t good enough.

‘Firsts’ can deceive you.

The adrenaline and the dopamine kick you’re getting is because you are pioneering.

It’s not because you are excelling.

Learn the difference.

Before you hear it from your customers.