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Here’s a second and final part of my Mick Hucknall binge.

This funny-faced ginger manc…

(I say that affectionately.

As I’m all three of these things as well).

… is quite a talent.

Talent. 

Talent is best assessed, I think, when exposed.

When raw.

No faff.

No bullshit.

No brand.

No marketing.

Pure.

So here you are.

Assess away: https://www.50odd.co.uk/mick-2/

(He wrote it too).

Do you take your business, your brand and the growth of your business seriously?

Or – really – are you just pissing about?

I asked someone these exact questions last week.

(I’ll tell you who I asked later).

I asked this person if they actually knew what they were doing.

Or if they were just smiling through the big, shiny, artificially whitened teeth of a well constructed and presented but wafer thin brand.

A brand that, behind the scenes, didn’t really have a clue how to grow.

A brand that, behind the scenes, was scared to ask for proper help.

Because, (they thought) asking for help would make them look silly.

You.

If you want, you can ask yourself the same Entry Level questions that I asked, below.

The same questions that I asked this person.

To find out if YOU are taking your business, your brand and the growth of your business seriously.

Or – really – if are YOU just pissing about.

Just as I asked the person I was talking to last week.

Entry Level. 

Entry Level for any business are these rudimentary questions, studies, touchstones, documents and frameworks:

  • Organisational objectives. What do you and yours actually want from this venture? And when do they want it? You, your family and fellow shareholders.
  • Customer Avatars. Who will buy from you? How well do you actually know them?  How do they live their lives and how do they actually behave? As people and as consumers. How are  you going to get them to notice you, buy into you and buy from you? (And then buy from you again). How are you going to get under their skin? So that they become fans and tell others.
  • The Competitive Environment. Do you understand how readily your target customers can get the same benefits that you are offering from elsewhere? Have you developed strategies to corral competitor audiences to defect to you? To become your customers instead of their customers? Have you developed a circle of brands with whom you should be associated, so that their audience can be encouraged – by you – to become your audience and customers as well?
  • A Brand Strategy. What do you stand for? What is the change you want to make? What is your distinct, ownable, memorable, compelling and motivating reason for being? What is your purpose? And who gives a shit about all of that? (If it isn’t your customer avatar – you really are screwed). And how do you propose to embed all of this into the fabric of your organisation (even if it’s only you) and into the minds of your segmented marketplace? How are you going to find and engage with those that believe what you believe? Do you even understand how you are different and better? And is this point of difference something you can own?
  • A Marketing Strategy. What will you say, to whom, when, why and how? What combination and schedule of marketing tactics is best? And how do you know and review this? What five different strategies do you have in place for your five different kinds of customer (there are only ever five kinds of customer. In any business).
  • A Messaging Framework. What will your brand actually say? What are the actual words? What is your leading edge proposition and that are your trailing edge propositions? Those things that focus on customer acquisition. And those that will consolidate a sale and build loyalty, repeat business and reputation. So you will be remembered.
  • Sales Strategy. What are your routes/channels to market? How does your selling machine actually work? What do you do when? Who else is involved? How can you ensure that intermediaries can sell as well as you can? What are your sales targets?
  • Organisation. How does all of this work and fit together? Who do you need and who do you have to make all of this work?
  • Money. Profit targets and margins. Reserves levels. Are the key ratios correct. Does your pricing policy allow you to flourish in the channels you have chosen? Or are you restricted? How are you in the context of industry norms? Is cash flow OK? Are you planning for organic growth or step change…

If you are good with 80% of this, go for it.

If you’re not, get help.

Immediately.

Get someone that will help you then hold you to account over time so you don’t drift.

Conversation.

This stuff is hard.

It’s thorough.

And when you’re on it, and if you address all of this properly, it’s great fun.

Honestly, it’s ace.

I told this – in no uncertain terms – to the person I was giving a fucking good talking to last week.

Asking them every single one of these questions – and more.

I thought you might benefit from listening in.

Because the person I was talking to.

Was me.

Image by Pete Zulu.

Markets (‘needs’ or positions/opportunities to sell into in business) are like icebergs.

At first, you see just a small indication of what might be possible.

Peeping above the surface of the water.

Then, when you investigate further you may find that the market – or the iceberg – is much bigger.

Below the surface.

This is great news.

Because you might just have found something around which to build a business.

However, there’s a downside to icebergs.

They melt.

Icebergs.

This is important to remember.

Over time.

That what worked ‘then’ may not work ‘now’.

Not in the exact same form, anyhow.

It is a well known fact (I say ‘fact’ because I value this next point way beyond mere ‘opinion’) that it is the brand who knows best how to evolve that lasts longest.

Indeed Darwin applies this theory to the survival of species.

Species.

Not mere businesses.

Timing. 

Markets evolve.

Trends come and go.

Consumers don’t necessarily want the same things tomorrow that they crave today.

They change their minds.

Or, more specifically these days with the proliferation of messaging (both real and fake) – their minds get changed for them.

Massive choice and messaging does that.

It distracts.

Outsiders. 

If you think that the iceberg upon which you built a business might be melting, there are a set of people that are worse than useless to you.

Here they are:

  • Friends.
  • Family.
  • Co-workers.
  • Co-Directors.
  • Existing ‘core customers’.

They won’t tell you the truth, you see.

Not because they are bad people.

It’s because they don’t know the truth.

They can only tell you their truth.

Which is a mixture of sincere love for what you do and who you are, nostalgia and a desire to see what you do endure.

They want you to be happy.

They want you to be alright.

And that’s why, perversely, they are worse than shite when it comes to feedback and advice at these tricky times.

They will get you to throw good money after bad.

They won’t tell you that you need to start again.

Or stop.

Or that you are becoming deluded.

Or that your silly, pointless, meddling step-change management approach is utter shit.

And that – instead – you must revolutionise all that you are and do to merely survive.

(If indeed there is anything to save).

And build from there.

And they certainly won’t tell you that your short-sightedness and internal pride is killing you.

Summary.

In summary, you need outsiders at important and tricky times in business.

Good outsiders, though.

Talented outsiders that can help you to regroup, regain perspective and become strong again.

You must choose them wisely and you must be prepared to listen.

Properly.

I have helped people in this way for years with ANGELFYSH of course.

But I only choose to help those that want to be helped these days.

Those that rock back in their chairs and have the bravery and the humility to admit – to themselves – that they might have stopped looking beneath the surface of the water.

That they are in trouble.

Those that admit that all they are looking at is the tiny percentage of the business that wooed them in the first place.

The once seductive tip of the iceberg.

Poking above the surface of the water.

The outsider will tell you how stupid this is.

And that they must stop.

And they must listen.

Because if they don’t, they will not be looking at just the tip of the iceberg because that’s where they choose to look.

They will be looking at just the tip of the iceberg because that is all that’s left.

A thought just arrived.

In my head.

As I looked down from the first floor of my house.

Out of the window.

And saw Lisa smiling.

And happy.

In our sunny garden.

Teaching Izobel about water bombs.

(Lisa will, of course, regret this at some point).

Happy. 

Anyhow, here’s the thought.

The one that arrived.

I thought back to when I was single.

And when I really wanted to be with someone.

I thought about when I used to say this to my friends.

And to myself:

I really want someone to make me happy.

Now that I am with someone I just wanted to point out that this is completely the wrong thing to say.

And to think.

And to want.

Because this was not what I wanted at all.

I wanted this:

I really want someone to make happy.

This is what makes me happy, you see.

Seeing Lisa happy.

No wonder I got it wrong for so very long.

There’s a lot to be said for doing nothing.

Even though you’re never really doing nothing, of course.

Theres always something going on.

In your head.

And more often than not – the something that goes on in your head when you’re doing nothing is really quite something!

Somethings from Nothing

The excellent Somethings from Nothing that happen in my head when I am doing nothing include:

  • Bad ideas.
  • Good ideas.
  • Remembering to call someone that I said I’d call. Then calling.
  • Actually fucking reading one or two of those emails I’ve saved in my inbox to read. That I don’t read.
  • Doing a favour for someone, unprompted. And without expecting thanks.
  • Remembering something funny about something that happened within the last week or so. And laughing.
  • Thinking about how boring and shit certain corners of my life are, wondering why the hell I am doing them in the first place, and deciding therefore to stop doing them.
  • Remembering how lucky I am.
  • Identifying toxins in my life and frowning and silently shaking my head at how stupid I am to binge. (Alcohol. Netflix. Crisps. Looking at websites that force me to then try to remember where the bloody ‘Clear Browsing History’ thing is).
  • Looking at the most important things in the whole world and being thankful. Trees. Rain. Animals. People. Fresh air. My education and freedom. I could go on and on and on (and so could you, of course).

And so it is that I have a new slogan for life.

It is:

‘Nothing is the new Something’.

I thought of it just now.

When I was doing nothing.

Bad.

Was never so good.

Live Aid.

Where were you on Saturday 13th July 1985?

33 years ago.

I was 17.

Working selling carpets in the Co-op in Derby.

It was my Saturday job.

I got paid £7.

And I was dying to leave early.

To catch Live Aid.

Anyhow, try to look past Paul Hewson’s rubbish boots and dead skunk hair.

And listen to how he holds notes at 3.19 and then up another level at 3.37.

This man can sing.

Go here: https://www.50odd.co.uk/bad/ 

When you are walking towards someone in the street.

Looking at them.

And that someone is walking towards you.

Looking at you.

And that someone is trying to work out whether you are going to side-step left or right.

And you are trying to work out if they are going to side-step right or left.

You are going to bump into each other.

Reacting verses Acting.

It’s because you are both reacting, not acting.

You are paying too much attention to what another person is doing or might do.

Instead of just putting your head down and getting on with where you are going.

And there is a life lesson in this.

The Test.

But before we come to that, try this test.

Next time you have a potential for this silly dance, just look down.

Concentrate determinedly on only where you are going.

Striding confidently.

Not looking where they’re looking.

And – honestly – they will get out of your way.

And they won’t mind a bit.

Because they have avoided the silly dance too.

They will smile and get on with their day.

They will forget you.

And the non-incident.

In seconds.

Because you will have encouraged them to just glance.

Note.

React.

And not faff on and worry about what you’re going to do.

Assert.

People like assertive people.

So try this.

It works.

Life.

And this applies to life also.

Not just walking down the street towards a stranger.

This advice helps you to also live a more productive, better, happier, carefree, pressure less, fun, more worry-free and uplifting life.

For ever.

For good.

Really!

It is because if you live your life not looking at what other people are doing.

Not wondering what they might be thinking about you.

Not wondering about what they are saying about you or how they might react to something you might say or do.

Life is better.

Concentrate.

So just concentrate on where you are going.

Don’t be being drawn in to distraction.

Don’t compare.

Don’t worry about how people might react to you and your dreams.

Just get on with it.

And believe me.

They will get out of your way.

I was born in Manchester in 1968.

In a small village called Haughton Green.

In Denton.

Someone else that was born there.

8 years before me.

In 1960.

Is Mick Hucknall.

Mick Hucknall.

In his early career.

People that heard his voice before seeing him, apparently, thought he was black.

Saying that so much soul and tone could only come from a black guy.

I get that.

Anyhow, when he was in his mid to late 20’s and I was, I suppose, in my late teens.

I remember reading a magazine interview with him.

And in amongst the copy Mick Hucknall asked (something like),

Who do you know that is as good a singer as me?

That quote was on the cover.

It’s why I bought the magazine.

Because I really liked the confidence.

And because, actually, I agreed with the sentiment.

Talent.

I think talent should be celebrated.

And I think that showing off, with a wry smile so as not to be too much of an arse, is good.

Life’s short.

If you have something to show off about…

Show off.

Much rather that than your talent remaining unseen.

Or unnoticed.

Here’s Mick.

Singing a song: https://www.50odd.co.uk/mick/.

Here is a useful tool for you.

If you run a business and you work with, or you have hired, creative people.

This is particularly poignant if you are working with external creative people that you are paying money to.

For creative solutions.

It’s called:

The Crap Creative Reality Check.

Creativity in Life.

Creatives are, really, the best people in the world.

And they will become increasingly valuable.

Because pure creativity is gold.

No amount of Artificial Intelligence, robotics, mechanisation or automation can, nor ever will, duplicate the purest and most magical creativity of the human mind.

So nurture it in your children.

Nurture it in yourself.

Today.

No matter how old you are.

Think back to how you were at aged 3 or 4 (if you can remember).

Or look at how children you know about that age create – now.

It’s incredible.

Pure.

Fearless.

Weird (weird is good, remember).

And powerful.

Creativity in Business.

Creativity in business is so, so important also.

It will make you different.

Because pure creativity does not follow.

It leads.

It takes risks.

It is pioneering.

It stands out.

It is memorable because it is different and it is fun!

It makes us feel good.

And so many business leaders are DULL…

…AS…

…SHIT…

…when it comes to being creative.

So thank goodness for creatives in business!

The Crap Creative Reality Check.

However.

Creatives in business needs to be checked and managed.

So that’s why I have invented (drum roll):

The Crap Creative Reality Check.

This tool will stop you and your business getting carried away with crap creative ideas.

And crap creative people.

Once you open yourself up to creativity, your business can fly!

But if you do it wrong – you’re screwed.

It’ll cost you a lot of time and money.

For nothing.

Beware.

Beware ideas that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside but – commercially – do absolutely fuck  all.

They will eat your marketing budget and contribute nothing to your brand.

Leaving you frustrated, annoyed and confused.

This applies to all business communications including adverts, blogs, presentations, creative copy, social posts, brochures and more.

So, here is…

The Crap Creative Reality Check.

5 things to ask yourself BEFORE you invest in developing creative notions through to creative content.

1. What’s the one message I want people to remember?
2. Is the message about our brand, or our category as a whole?
3. Is the work coherent? Does it ‘fit’ with our wider business communications, both tactically and strategically? (Both where it is now and where it’s going).
4. Could the message, and/or the method by which we are communicating it, be simpler?
5. If this media was seen without our logo, would people still know it was us?

Ask yourself these things and you may be OK.

Warning Signs. 

The warning signs of a crap creative are as follows.

Imagine in your mind that you are getting married.

And you are working with the most gesticulating, loud, frilly shirted, sweet smelling, bouncy and annoying Wedding Planner on the planet.

He (and it is a ‘he’ in my imagination) calls you and your wife/husband/whatever ‘dahing’ and holds you by the upper arms a lot and stares you in the eye.

Telling you why his ideas are, ‘just perfect’.

And what it is going to cost you.

He’s forgotten that its your wedding and not just his opportunity spend shitloads of YOUR money on an experience he wants, of course.

And – you just know – that if the big day is a shit day, it will be everyone else’s fault but his.

The worlds shittest wedding planner is like the world’s shittest creative in your business.

They don’t care about the 5 things in my ‘Crap Creative Reality Check’.

And they don’t care about you.

So get rid!

I was looking through books online this week.

One evening.

On goodreads.com there are some great books.

And some even better reviews.

Here is my favourite review so far.

It’s two short sentences and I reckon you’ll know the book just from the review.

Let’s see:

There is nothing I want more than to be able to reach downstairs for a biscuit whilst in bed.

Lucky bastard.

Heartfelt!

And funny.