Why you should take up the role of an industry thought-leader

Content marketing is all about sharing content with your potential customers that is useful, valuable and accurate. Not only does consistently sharing this type of information keep you front-of-mind when your customers are ready to buy, but it cements you and your business as an authority in the market. Bubble wrap, jacuzzi, yo-yo, onesie, super glue. What do all these words have in common? They are all brand names that have become generic terms for everyday items. The way to reach this height of true authority is to either be the first in the market, or if that’s not possible, be the best in the market. And have a kick-ass marketing campaign that puts your brand beyond anyone else's. With great power comes great responsibility Basically, you want your customers to see you and your business as a leader. This can be achieved by releasing [...]

The miracle morning routine myth

I’ve read a lot of articles recently about the miracle morning routines of successful people including prime ministers, CEOs, bloggers and even Gandhi himself. It normally goes something like this: It’s 4am and the alarm goes off, signalling the start of another wholesome and productive day. It’s nice and quiet, the perfect time to get things done before everyone else decides it’s time to drag themselves out of bed. No need for coffee or breakfast before heading out to the beach to catch some waves. It gets the heart pumping and the blood flowing through the veins. There’s no better way to chase off the last remnants of sleep. Not only is surfing good exercise but the sound of the waves also calms the mind. Afterwards is a good time to sit on the sand and let the wind dry your body while you meditate. [...]

We can’t all be leaders, we need a few managers too

We’ve all seen the memes. The manager administers; the leader innovates. Managers give answers; leaders ask questions. Managers focus on the bad; leaders emphasise the good.   The same old story – leaders are great, but managers are apparently terrible because they do this and that. The manager is a copy; the leader is an original. The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust. The manager maintains; the leader develops. But hold on a second! Can you imagine a company comprising nothing but these visionary, out-of-the-box, inquisitive, unconstrained leaders? Managers want credit; leaders credit their teams. Managers rarely praise; leaders reward even the smallest improvement. The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it. Let’s have a look at this status quo-challenging company: a self-sustainable geodesic dome full of shoeless geniuses, only emerging from their ergonomic bean bag pods to throw a few [...]

Email: you’re doing it wrong

I’ve seen a lot of blog posts recently about how companies are banning emails or only allowing employees to check them at certain times of the day because apparently they are a distraction and decrease productivity. The theory is that people spend too much time looking through the barrage of emails they receive and less time doing actual work. One article even called email a form of ‘knowledge pollution’. The thing is, if your email is distracting you to the point where it’s stopping you from working, maybe you’re doing it wrong. Or rather, you’re getting the wrong emails. Email is simply a communication tool, so if it’s becoming an issue then maybe it’s the content that’s the problem, not the tool itself. If you’re getting emails from customers repeating the same questions, clients making unreasonable requests, colleagues trying to dump their work on you, [...]

Taking life, and business, one quarter at a time

Some companies operate on the calendar year, some on the financial year, others again on different foreign financial calendars, but it seems at any one time, a good portion of the economy is paralysed by budget planning. I’ve lost count of the number of people who can’t make a decision, or plan something they want to do, because they’re waiting for the annual budget or other plan to be approved. This process often takes months. Of course there are certain taxes and legal requirements that require compliance on certain dates and annual reporting, but I think many businesses would benefit from moving away from arbitrary timelines and instead find a planning structure that suits their size and velocity. While operating on 12-monthly cycles may be necessary for some companies, it’s impossible for any lean and growing company to work this way. The problems are compounded [...]

How much ego is too much in business?

Just how much ego do you need in business? Do you need a sense of self the size of a small planet in order to succeed as a business leader, or is there some room for humility too? I think Rudyard Kipling said it best in his popular and inspirational poem If If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too;  The most successful business leaders are open to input and criticism, but they also have a rock-solid sense of themselves. They can stick to their guns when everyone else has a different view, they aren’t easily swayed by popular opinion or feeling. But they’re also not so crazy that they don’t stop to check themselves when they’re going in one direction and everyone else is going the other way. In most cases, for most people, it’s [...]

Project why?

We’ve all seen the slides on LinkedIn, the most dangerous words in business are, "but we’ve always done it that way". I’m sure anyone reading this would pride themselves on the fact that they’d never say this, but how many things are there in your business that you do subconsciously because they’ve always been done that way? Perhaps it’s time to stop and take stock of your procedures and ask why they exist at all. It’s time for Project Why. I’m reminded of Gibbon’s description in Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, of the way in the later Empire may of the institutions of the old republic were still followed in actions, but without the original intention. ‘The form was still the same, but the animating health and vigour were fled’. I’m amazed at how many companies are the same, carrying out empty rituals, no [...]

Truth can hurt, but denial will hurt you more

I’ve got some negative feedback in my time, and I can tell you I don’t enjoy it. I get that sick feeling as I read down the email that begins with “I was very disappointed…” or the phone call that begins with “I’m not happy…” Many entrepreneurs are in business, at least in part, because they want to make people happy. We get a certain satisfaction from creating a product that customers are pleased with. So a customer is unhappy, it can really hit where it hurts. We tried so hard to do the right thing, spent sleepless nights perfecting our product, and it still went wrong somehow. But, if you can handle it, bad feedback is actually one of the best things that can happen to you. Most unhappy customers won’t make the effort to let you know they are unhappy, they’ll just drop [...]

Stop chasing investors and start chasing customers

Having run a startup company of sorts the last few years, there’s still a whole startup world that’s completely alien to me. I had the good luck, and yes I do mean that, to start up a business with no funding. A lot of the blogs I read about entrepreneurs and start-ups seem to focus on this other world, with tips for attracting investors, managing their expectations and getting through to the next round of funding. I appreciate that some projects must have capital costs higher that what I’ve dealt with, but it also seems that this focus can distract you away from your far more important and ultimately the only source of funds that matters – your customers! In the end, start-up funding is a temporary situation to give a business sufficient time to test and perfect its business model. But there’s something refreshingly [...]

Growth is life

I was talking to another business friend recently, let’s call him Kevin, who, exhausted by a few years of successful growth, was looking to put a hold on growth for a while, just tread water and maintain position rather than pursue further growth. This got me thinking, can this be done? Can you choose not to grow and still expect to maintain your position? Unfortunately for Kevin, the answer seems to be ‘no’. It’s going to sound like an awful cliché, but if you’re standing still in business you’re actually going backwards. Growth is life, and just as a living organism can’t decide to take a break from growth, neither can a company. I think this applies to all industries, but particularly to fast changing industries like publishing and marketing. The reason you can’t just stop and stay still is simple: as Ovid wrote two [...]