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Alfie is 18.

And from Clitheroe.

Entrepreneurialism.

If (the right kind of) entrepreneurialism is (at least in part) about self belief, working really hard, vision, likability, straightforwardness, kindness, managing fear, tenacity, trying the impossible (for example, a settee (see the link)), doing things your way, overcoming barriers and operating outside your apparent authority (for example, potholes (see the link)).

Plus a big dose of not giving a shit what other people think or say.

Then Alfie.

Who is all of those things .

Is the most entrepreneurial guy I have ever come across.

Alfie.

Even if you’ve seen this before.

It is definitely worth another 8 minutes of your time.

It’ll set you up for the week: https://www.50odd.co.uk/alfie/.

I met a guy from IBM this week.

Quite a senior guy.

Clever.

Challenging in his approach.

A team leader.

A man keen to push, push, push his teams to the absolute limit.

A man keen get the most out of his people.

Tactic. 

He revealed to me and to the other people in the room.

The most important thing he did with every single team member.

Every single week.

In order to wring every last drop out of them as team members.

This is what he did.

He emptied half a day of all of their diaries each week.

And sent them out of the office.

Out of Office. 

He sent them to a hotel.

Or a cafe.

With no phones.

And no computers.

And no tablets.

Just each other.

He encouraged them to talk to each other about what they’d experienced in the other four and a half days of the week.

To digest it.

Together.

To describe how they saw it.

To help each other.

To explore how they were actually going to apply what they’d learned that week.

And that was that.

Downtime.

The right kind of downtime.

Even at work.

Is important.

Time to pause.

And think.

And digest.

Or you just end up consuming.

Doing.

Gorging.

Packing all this stuff into your hours and your minutes and your seconds.

Not tasting anything properly.

Not processing anything properly.

Not thinking about anything properly.

Not pausing to work out what’s good so you can do the good things more.

And not pausing to work out what’s bad so you stop doing them.

And this is all wrong.

Pause.

So pause.

Pause in a fixed pattern like the guys at IBM do.

Make the right kind of downtime a habit.

You – and your uptime – will be better for it.

Not a lot of people know this.

But there is something (so I am told) very, very unusual about Always Wear Red.

I never anticipated it happening.

But I’m endlessly flattered that it has.

(I’ll let you know what it is in 30 seconds.

It’s to do with just one particular Always Wear Red Baker Boy Cap, pictured here: https://www.50odd.co.uk/the-three-rs/

So keep reading).

The Three R’s

Always Wear Red is a D2C (direct to consumer) brand.

That way, I can operate at lower margins and pass as much value and quality to the client as possible.

Because no one between me and them takes a cut.

(It’s Always Wear Red.

Then it’s you. 

And that’s it).

However.

Even with this simple model.

The shadow of The Three R’s still frightens me.

  • Returns.
  • Rejection.
  • Rethinking (changing your mind).

Returns. Rejection. Rethinking.

The cost of things coming back to a business can be catastrophic.

And it can happen for many reasons.

I think that reasons include:

  • The customer not knowing about and caring about the brand and the change it is trying to make.
  • The customer not knowing about and (to some degree at least) caring about the people behind the brand.
  • Crap product quality.
  • Crap packaging and point of sale materials.
  • The customer being generally underwhelmed by, and indifferent about, the whole experience.
  • Ordinariness.
  • An uninteresting experience.
  • Carelessly processed and executed packaging, so there is clearly no consideration of the unboxing or gifting experience.
  • The customer being made to feel that once the sale has taken place, the brand does not give a shit about them any more.
  • The product not delivering on the quality promise that was made at the online store.
  • The product and the brand not making me feel how I thought it would make me feel.
  • The brand not saying thank you to me – personally and sincerely – for me choosing them.

There will be more.

The Always Wear Red Baker Boy Cap.

OK.

So now to this one particular Always Wear Red Baker Boy Cap.

Pictured here: https://www.50odd.co.uk/the-three-rs/.

What’s so special about it?

After around 1,000 individual relationships with Always Wear Red customers.

Why is the customer relationship around this one particular Always Wear Red Baker Boy Cap so significant?

Well – it’s because it was returned.

And more specifically because it’s the only piece that has ever been returned to Always Wear Red since we launched on Valentine’s Day 2016.

Our returns rate is 1.

Not 1%.

1 piece.

And it’s this, one, Always Wear Red Baker Boy Cap.

(The average returns rate for an e-commerce business is 30%.

And it’s 9% in a bricks and mortar store).

First Time. Every Time.

Always Wear Red is imperfect.

I work hard to be better tomorrow than I am today.

It’s because I want to be extraordinary in everything I do.

First time.

Every time.

For just one reason.

It’s because if I don’t aim for extraordinary.

There is only one other description for me.

And no one but no one should ever, ever be comfortable being called that.

Your category.

The segment within which your business trades.

Or the segment within which your employer trades.

How are you taking your category forward?

How are you progressing it?

How are you changing your entire category for the better?

What is it you’re doing that makes the rest of the category sit up and listen?

What are you doing that makes the rest of the category feel like they have to ‘keep an eye on you’?

Impressed by your foresight and your endeavour.

My Brands.

For the avoidance of doubt.

Here are examples of categories.

My categories.

Always Wear Red is in an existing category called Premium Hand Knitted Jumpers.

ANGELFYSH is in an existing category called Brand Communications.

50odd is in an existing category called Personal Blogging.

(I state ‘existing’ because categories can be created. 

But you need an entirely different approach to, well, virtually everything if you create a category.

That’s another story).

Pioneering.

There is a reason that I am asking you about how you are taking your category forward.

It is because someone or maybe a few people will be being pioneering in your category.

Right now.

I say a few people because categories can be progressed in several ways at the same time.

More than just one person in a category can be hungry to change the category.

And I was just wondering whether one of those people was you?

And how you articulate, and work to deliver on, the change that you want to make?

Take It Forward. 

I am taking the Premium Hand Knit Jumper category forward by changing the relationship people have with the clothing they buy and wear.

I am taking the Brand Communications category forward by behaving like an un-agency. I am doing the opposite of what most agencies do. Flushing out bad and outdated practices where the client loses.

I am taking the Personal Blogging category forward by leading by example. Blogging to as high a standard as I can. Every single day. Telling my story. So others are encouraged to tell their story too.

Passion Plus. 

When you know how you are taking your category forward.

It feels like ‘passion-plus’.

It feels like a moral responsibility.

You look people in the eye when you articulate the change you’re trying to make.

And they are interested.

Because you are interesting.

You stand square-on as you talk to them.

You gesticulate.

Your eyes widen as you speak.

And you are consistent.

You are laser-like with your language.

You are bullet proof with your reasoning.

Because your planning is thorough.

And considered.

And professional.

And smart.

And complete.

Because you care.

Because the change you care about making matters to you.

And it matters to them.

Care.

So.

Your category.

Which category are you in, first of all?

And how are you taking it forward?

Over to you.

Forrest Gump said he started running,

…for no particular reason.

And that’s good enough for me.

Reasons.

A new ‘why’ does appear later in the film, actually.

When Tom Hank’s lovely character says,

You need to put the past behind you before you can move on.

That’s neater I suppose.

The idea that Forrest started to run because his mum had just died.

Or because Jenny had just left.

And as a consequence he was looking to put distance between then and now.

Nevertheless.

I prefer the first reason.

…for no particular reason.

Justification. 

Justification for decisions you make.

Sentences you feel you have to muster.

Sentences to quieten the frowners.

They are not necessary.

Honestly.

They aren’t.

For so many things in life.

There is no need for justification.

50odd.co.uk

You are reading this because I decided to write it.

I decided to write one story.

Every day.

For 10 years.

So I’m a bit like Forrest, I suppose.

Only he ran.

And I write.

A Thing.

And so here’s a final note about doing a thing.

Any thing.

And your reasons for doing a thing.

Basically, some people will understand the reasons why you’re doing a thing in a heartbeat.

And some people will never, ever understand the reasons why you’re doing a thing.

But the most important thing to remember about peoples understanding or misunderstanding of your reasons for doing a thing.

Is that neither opinion matters, really.

Because such reasons are personal.

Because you’re doing it for you.

People don’t look.

They don’t look freely, I mean.

And they don’t talk.

They don’t talk freely I mean.

And it’s a bloody shame.

Looking & Talking. 

People don’t look freely because they’re not interested enough.

Or imaginative and hungry enough.

Or wide-eyed and adventurous enough.

And people don’t talk freely enough because they are worried what people will say about what they say.

They are worried about being judged.

Or laughed at.

Or being ridiculed.

And that’s so restricting!

You. 

By the way.

Unfortunately.

I am probably talking about you.

Because you probably don’t look freely.

And you probably don’t talk freely.

And you should.

Just like Freddy Anzures.

He looks freely.

And talks freely.

Toilet.

Freddy looked freely when he went to the toilet on an aeroplane.

And he talked freely about what he saw there when he got back to work.

At Apple HQ.

And because he looked freely and talked freely.

What Freddy saw in that toilet is now in the pockets of about 1.4 billion people.

iPhone.

A work problem that Freddy had to solve was how to lock the iPhone.

In such a way that the phone wouldn’t trigger accidentally.

He saw the answer in the toilet.

Click here so you can see it too: https://www.50odd.co.uk/looking-talking/

When I ask a potential ANGELFYSH Brand Communication client this question

I invariably get a funny look.

Which I always find odd.

Because I ask almost every potential ANGELFYSH client the same thing. 

Ask.

If a client comes to ANGELFYSH with a whole load of questions.

And they, of course, normally do.

I normally ask this:

So.

These exact questions you are asking me today.

Have you asked your current teams the same questions?

Before coming to me.

A person outside your business.

I mean – have you actually asked the people inside?

Properly?

Funny Looks.

Now, the reason I get funny looks.

Is because I am basically telling a prospect to go away.

To explore the challenge.

Even just for a little bit.

Without appointing me or paying me anything.

Better Beginnings.

This ‘Hello/Goodbye’ thing makes for better beginnings.

Because  90% of the time. 

If a potential client explores their issues with their teams before I get involved. 

They have a greater understanding of what’s really going on.

Which creates a better initial brief.

And saves the client paying me to ask what they could be asking themselves.

Hello/Goodbye.

So please don’t take it personally.

But before you say hello to ANGELFYSH.

Dig a little.

I can help you with how to do this if you like.

Free of charge (michael@angelfysh.com).

Then.

When you’re ready.

And you have explored the issue a little better with your people.

We’re here.

Sometimes.

The odds are stacked against you.

Not because anyone’s been nasty or purposefully horrid.

You just won’t win.

Because you can’t win.

Odds. 

It’s just the way it is.

You.

Will.

Fail.

And when you do it’s important that you just smile.

Maybe shake your head.

Maybe laugh.

Head down.

Eyes closed.

Because you have to get on with it.

You have work to do.

Magic Trick. 

Izobel had a magic trick to show me this morning.

‘Quite a simple trick.

And not really magic.

But as she’s 3.

I let that go.

Numbers.

Basically, she had a number in her head that I had to guess.

From just one clue.

So here’s how it went:

Daddy.

Listen to my magic trick.

It’s a number.

You have to guess.

And your clue is.

It starts with ‘fff’.

I bit.

Four!

I said.

Izobel laughed at me.

No!

It’s NOT four!

Silly.

Ffffffffffff.

So I guessed again.

Err.

Five!

Izobel laughed.

NO!

Silly.

She said.

So I gave in.

I was driving.

She was in the back.

And we were nearly at nursery.

Well what number are you thinking of then?

I asked.

And that’s when she told me.

In one of those, ‘how can you be that stupid?’ voices:

Free!

Odds.

Sometimes.

The odds are stacked against you.

Not because anyone’s been nasty or purposefully horrid.

You just won’t win.

Because you can’t win.

You don’t have to be a filmmaker to make a film.

You don’t have to be a singer to sing.

You don’t have to be an artist to make art.

You don’t have to be an illustrator to illustrate.

You don’t have to be a website designer and builder to design and build a website.

Adventure.

Life is an adventure.

A short adventure, unfortunately.

So if you want to do something.

Bloody well do it.

Don’t wait for the label you think you need.

Standards. 

There are, of course, standards.

But set your own.

Then work hard to understand what’s required so you can match or exceed them.

And sprinkle creativity and imagination on top.

You’ll be fine.

Proof.

If you want proof that this is true.

So that you actually do get off your backside.

Here it is.

The world contains a lot of (what some people would describe as) crap films, crap songs, crap art, crap illustrations, crap websites and more.

Many of which were created by people with the label of filmmaker, singer, artist, illustrator, web designer or something else.

Opinions.

So don’t wait for the label you think you need.

Block out opinion.

All except your own.

Be confident.

Be yourself.

Have fun.

And off you go.

I went to TEDx Newcastle last week.

And I heard some really clever people.

Talking about some really clever things.

Really simply.

Simplicity.

I have worked with brands that create Mission Statements and Value Statements and similar for years.

And they are always too complex.

So I always distil them down.

To scarily few words.

Maybe six words.

This is because people are more likely to remember simple things.

And if they are more likely to remember them.

They are more likely to do them.

The PCI Rule.

So.

Using this approach.

I’ve distilled a day long TEDx Newcastle event.

And event with 1,000 people milling about.

And 12 or so excellent speakers.

Into 3 letters.

They are PCI.

And I’ve turned these three letters into a rule.

A rule for me

Capacity.

I have done this because I’m quite tired at the moment.

I am allowing myself to be pulled from pillar to post with my work.

Which is taking me towards the edge of the cliff called ‘capacity’.

And that’s not a good place to be.

Not because I will fall of the cliff.

(That won’t happen).

But I will lose something as I approach the edge.

Focus.

Quality.

Reliability.

Clarity of thought.

Something will weaken.

So I have to be careful.

And my new rule is helping me.

The PCI Rule.

PCI stands for:

  • Positivity.
  • Creativity.
  • Imagination.

It was the chap from Twitter that mentioned these words.

He suggested that when we all get trapped in The Loop.

Doing  too much work.

Forgetting to be positive, creative and imaginative.

We are worse off.

We don’t grow.

And I totally agree.

So, my new rule.

Whenever I am feeling a bit shitty.

Or that I am not doing my work as well as I could.

I move into positive, creative and imaginative mode.

And it works!

I feel better.

And I do better.

Try it.

It might work for you too.