And a letterbox. And email. Just get in touch and ask them to be your mentor. Remember, they once asked for someone’s help. If you tell them what you are trying to change, and it is important to them too, the chances are they will help you.
Read their books, listens to their talks, read their blogs. They have found a way of making a business out of the thing they love doing. You can learn from them. Suck it all up.
Kevin Spacey was helped at school by the actor Jack Lemmon and told he would make a great actor one day. When Spacey was asked why he plays small theatres, he replied that it was his duty to send the lift back down to help others.
A great mentor can really help you. Aim high.
They have customers. They have the past.
They have an old business model. They’re a commodity. They have to be cheaper. They are the status quo. In recessions, their customers leave and go to the even cheaper. They have changed very little and can’t remember why they started.
They have fans. They have the future. They
have a new business model. They are special. They can charge a premium. They are respected. Their fans love them. They are proud of them. In recessions, their fans stick with them. They are changing what they set out to.
THE COMPETITION HAVE MORE OF EVERYTHING THAN YOU.
More staff. More history. More distribution. More patents. More sales. More infrastructure. More contacts. More marketing. More money. (And they can raise plenty more.)
More followers on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Medium and Google Plus than you. They spend more on R&D than you turn over as a company. Their coffee budget is bigger than your marketing budget. They never run out of staples, they always have enough photocopier paper, their CEO doesn’t have to put the bins out as well as lead the company.
Who would be crazy enough to try and take on a Goliath?
THE COMPETITION HAVE MORE OF EVERYTHING THAN YOU.
More meetings. More committees. More red tape. More politics. More internal fighting. More rules. More regulations. More ideas being killed by research than you.
More out-dated business models. More de-motivated staff than you. More people wondering ‘What is this company all about?’ than you.
And then there is their legal department: The graveyard of humour, and anything else vaguely interesting or pioneering. Who cares if they never run out of staples or photocopier paper? There has never been a better time to be a small company. Don’t worry about what they have. You have it all. You have something you want to change.
It doesn’t have to be another company. Maybe you need a bigger enemy than just another brand. It can be bad design. It can be time. It can be pollution. It can be ugliness. It can be bad service. It can be landfill. It can be complexity.
This will be your driver so pick your enemy well. This will become your purpose. Your fuel when you’re tired out. Your reason to keep going when others call it a day. It will be why your customer prefers you over all the others. This is your purpose. The thing that separates you from all the others.
The companies that you love today started out with no more money than others, they just had more energy*. Their energy came from how much they wanted to change things. They knew well from day one what their enemy was.
What is your enemy?
*Purpose is the multiplier of energy.
This is the first page from a user manual from an axe company called Gransfors. 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.
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. 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).’
Reproduced by kind permission of Daniel Brånby, owner, Gränsfors Bruk.
Your beliefs have to show up in your product not just in your advertising. If your marketing is where your beliefs are at their strongest, then you are kidding yourself, and more importantly, your customer.
There are lots of companies who fake it. They put some solar panels on their HQ roof, and ‘boom’ they call themselves a green company. Greenwash is common. Authenticity is not. Companies who stay true, who keep to their word, are rare. And that’s why we love them.
They are lunatics. They fight each day to keep doing business their way. They make sure their product is where their beliefs live. It is their beliefs in a physical form.
They don’t require advertising to convince you of their purpose, they use their product to do that.
Products with a purpose satisfy more than just its utility. They make us feel good about ourselves too.
“There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price alone are that person’s lawful prey. It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money — that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot — it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”
John Ruskin (1819 – 1900)
I think it’s helpful to understand passion. Because purpose driven companies are mostly built with it.
I believe there are two types of passion. One is ‘hot passion’. 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 ‘cold passion’ is calm, considered and long lasting. Both the brain and the heart are working together. Emotions have been taken out of decision-making. And decisions are given time, looked at from all angles. Cold passion is much more effective at getting results. Cold passion is like a lifelong love. Once decided upon, it’s almost impossible to stop loving.
It’s good to be aware of the difference between the two. To be successful, you will need to learn the art of cold passion. You will need to create a discipline where head and the heart can both be involved in the decisions that you will have to make. Taking the emotion out of something you feel very passionate about is far from easy. But easy don’t build great.
Before you spend the next 10 years running a company, spend 10 minutes doing this.
Draw three circles with following tiltes:
Circle one: My Love
Circle two: My Skill
Circle three: The Zeitgeist
Where these three circles overlap, is where you’re most alive. If I were you, I would start a company that lives in this intersection. Because the chances of success are greater there. The chances of it making real change are greater. And the chance of it being more fun are greater there too.
Does it matter to you? Have you shown an interest in it from an early age?
What is it I am good at? And will this startup use my skills fully?
What have you seen before all the others?
Note: A trend is the latest fashion, but it may just fade away. A zeitgeist is a shift that will stay shifted.
Starting a business is hard. You’ll work like a crazy thing and have to sustain that over a long period of time. Poor pay. Terrible hours. Tons of stress. Any normal, rational person would quit. And that’s what happens. When things get tough, and there will be a point when they do, sane people quit.
But entrepreneurs are different. They fall in love with the change they are making, so have to find a way to make it work. Their love stops them quitting. Love makes them persevere. Love blinkers them to all the worry and stress. And it’s their purpose that fuels that love.