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27Jun

Making Your Small Business WORK

Hopefully what we’ve shared the past few weeks has helped inspire you to truly think like an entrepreneur about your business. If you’ve been too busy to read these recent insights, you may want to take some time to go back and check them out — it could save you from the many well-intentioned but disastrous practices that cause many overwhelmed small business owners to burn out and ultimately close their doors.

I really want the story to end well for you, so let’s wrap up this E-Myth series on a very practical note. If you’re ready to WORK ON your business and experience more growth and freedom, what do you do now?

Here are 7 Steps to launch your business development program:

1. Your Primary Aim

It actually starts with you, not the business. What are you hoping to accomplish? Are you looking to increase your income, or have more free time? What do you value most? Answering these questions will drive everything you do with purpose and energy.

2. Strategic Objective

This is a very clear statement of what your business has to do in order for you to achieve that primary aim. It’s a vision of the finished product that your business will become.

3. Organizational Strategy

The key here is to build around function. Instead of just hiring random people, define responsibilities through a “position contract” – a summary of the result to be achieved by each position in the company, and the work that each occupant of that position is accountable for.

4. Management Strategy

More than amazingly competent people, you need a management system designed to get you a marketing result. The more automatic the system, the more effective your prototype will be.

5. People Strategy

You can’t just expect people to do what you want. Create a place of community that has purpose and order that inspires them into action.

6. Marketing Strategy

At the end of the day, it’s all about the customer. Visualize the people you’re serving – their demographics, and especially their needs they have that you are helping to solve.

7. Systems Strategy

There are three types of systems in your business: Hard systems (like computers), soft systems (like your people and ideas), and information systems (which tell you how these are both interacting – and what needs to change). Create the system that lets them work in harmony.

One final thought: after creating this incredible, detailed, creative, and robust system that anyone can do, are people even valued? Will they even need special skills for the job? The truth is, it’s not that people are unimportant – quite the contrary. People bring systems to life. 

Great businesses are not built by extraordinary people, they are built by ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to support you in this – I believe in you!

22Jun

The Magic Of Turning Systems Into Checklists

Our little family of four has been going to the same dentist for the last 15 years. They know us by name and know all the little intricate details about us. They knew when my daughter was running for student council; they knew when my son was getting his driver’s license; they knew I started growing my hair long and they knew when we were celebrating our anniversary (and all the suffering my wife has endured….hahaha). Do you know how I know that they know? Because every time we come in for an appointment, they follow up on what we shared from our previous visit. Did she win the student council? Did he get his license? How’s your big anniversary celebration? Oh, I see you finally got a haircut, looks much better. 

They created this simple checklist:

  1. Casually and naturally ask questions that they care about
  2. Note the answers
  3. Review the answers right before the next appointment
  4. Ask specific questions about what was shared last time
  5. Ask new questions

This made us feel like they cared. And honestly, I think they truly did care and really enjoyed our visits. I believe that was their intention.

I love the idea of systems. As we talked about last time, the goal of an entrepreneur is to create systems that can be duplicated anywhere by anyone. It can transform our day-to-day operations, creating efficiency so the business can scale. Also, it ensures we’re delivering the same service, same product, with the same quality, and the same experience every time.

I am going to leave you with this one last story from the book E-Myth written by Michael Gerber. The story is called “A Match, a Mint, a Cup of Coffee, and a Newspaper,” and I hope it inspires you as it inspired me to continue to create systems in your business with checklists for all to follow and be accountable for. 

The surprising result of all this structure: it actually allows us to be more relational as we serve customers and clients, giving them amazing experiences over and over and over again. 
 

A Match, a Mint, a Cup of Coffee, and a Newspaper 
(Michael Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited)

The first time it was an accident; that is, an accident for me. I hadn’t planned to go there. 

I’d been driving for seven hours, and, tired of the road, decided to stop for the night before going on to San Francisco. 

The hotel was located in a redwood grove overlooking the Pacific. 

By the time I walked into the lobby, the sun was setting and the grove had turned dark as pitch. 

Instantly something told me that I was in a special place. The lobby was warmly lighted. Redwood paneling reflected the red glow of the light onto beige overstuffed couches that hugged the three walls surrounding the reception desk. A long, dark wood table faced the front door through which I had just entered. On the table rested a huge woven Indian basket overflowing with fresh fruit. Beside the basket stood a massive bronze lamp, its deepest burnished light bouncing off the fruit, adding a festive look to the room. Running the full length of the table and falling down on either end almost to the floor was an intricately crocheted linen cloth, its bright, exotic pattern accentuating the colors of the fruit, the bronze of the lamp, and the deep red ochre of the walls. 

At the far side of the table, against the far wall, in a massive fieldstone fireplace, a roaring fire filled the room with the cheerful crackling of its furiously burning oak logs. 

Even if I hadn’t been so tired, the contrast between the heat of the flames on my face and the cold of the night at my back would have been enough to attract me to the room. As it was, I practically melted with delight. 

Behind the reception desk a woman appeared dressed in a freshly starched red, green, and white gingham blouse and a deep red ochre skirt. A pin with the logo of the hotel atop a red ochre ribbon decorated her blouse like a badge of honor. A matching ribbon held her hair back from a glowing face. 

“Welcome to Venetia,” she smiled warmly. 

It took no more than three minutes from the moment she spoke that greeting to the time the bellboy ushered me into my room, despite the fact that I had no reservation. I couldn’t believe the ease with which it all happened. 

And the room! The overall impression was one of understated opulence—thick, muted pastel wall-to-wall carpeting; a four-poster, king-size white pine bed covered by a magnificent, impeccably clean, white-on white quilt; original graphics depicting scenes and birds of the Pacific Northwest gracing the rough-hewn elegance of the natural cedar walls; a stone fireplace with oak logs already prepared and waiting on the grate for the fire someone knew I would appreciate, paper rolled ceremoniously beneath the grate, and an elegant oversized match lying diagonally across the hearth, waiting to be struck. 

Delighted with my good fortune, I changed for dinner; the woman at the desk had made my reservation when she checked me in! I walked out into the night to find the restaurant. A sign by a path outside of my room pointed me down another well-lit path through the dark redwood grove. 

The night air was still and clear. 

In the distance I could hear the hushed, rhythmic patter of the Pacific Ocean surf. Or was it my imagination? It scarcely mattered; an aura of magic surrounded the place. 

The restaurant stood on a knoll overlooking the hotel and the ocean. Until I went inside, I hadn’t seen another person, but the restaurant was crowded. 

I gave the maitre d’ my name and he immediately showed me to a table, despite the fact that other people were waiting. Evidently, reservations meant something in this restaurant! 

The meal was as delightful as everything I had experienced before it, the food attractively prepared, the service attentive yet unobtrusive. I lingered over a glass of brandy while enjoying a classical guitarist who played a selection of Bach fugues for the dinner guests. 

I signed the check and returned to my room, noting on the way that the lights had been turned up on the path apparently to compensate for the growing darkness. 

By the time I arrived at my room, the night had become chilly. I was looking forward to a fire and possibly another brandy before going to bed. 

Somebody had beaten me to it! 

A brisk fire was burning in the fireplace. The quilt was turned down on the bed. The pillows were plumped up, a mint resting on each one. 

On one of the night tables beside the bed stood a glass of brandy and a card. I picked up the card and read: 

Welcome to your first stay at Venetia. I hope it has been enjoyable. If there is anything I can do for you, day or night, please don’t hesitate to call. 

    – Kathi 

As I drifted to sleep that evening, I felt very well taken care of. 

The following morning I awoke to a strange bubbling sound in the bathroom. I arose to investigate. 

A pot of coffee, turned on by an automatic timer, was merrily perking away on the sink counter. A card resting against the pot said: 

Your brand of coffee. Enjoy! K. 

And it was my brand of coffee! 

How in the world could they have known that? 

And then I remembered. At the restaurant the night before they had asked me what brand of coffee I preferred. And here it was! 

Just as I caught on to what they had done, there was a polite knock at the door. 

I went to the door and opened it. Nobody. But there on the mat was a newspaper. My newspaper, the New York Times. 

How in the world did they know that? 

And then I remembered. When I checked in the night before the receptionist had asked me the newspaper I preferred. I hadn’t given it another thought. Until now. And there it was! 

And exactly the same scenario has occurred each and every time I’ve returned. 

But after the first time I was never asked my preferences again. 

I had become a part of the hotel’s Management System. 

And never once has it let me down. 

The system knows what I like and makes certain that I get it, in exactly the same way, at exactly the same time. 

What exactly had the System provided? A match, a mint, a cup of coffee, and a newspaper! 

But it wasn’t the match, the mint, the cup of coffee, or the newspaper that did it. It was that somebody had heard me. 

And they heard me every single time! 

The moment I walked into the room and felt the fire, I knew that someone had thought about me. Had thought about what I wanted. 

I hadn’t said a word, and yet they had heard me. 

The moment I saw the mints on the pillows, the turned down quilt, and the brandy on the table, I knew that someone had thought about me. Had thought about what I wanted. 

I hadn’t said a word and yet they had heard me. 

The moment I heard the coffee pot perking in the bathroom and saw the card that identified it as my brand, I remembered that someone had asked for my preference. 

And they had heard my answer. 

The instant I saw the newspaper and recognized it as my newspaper, I remembered that someone had asked. 

And they had heard my answer. 

And it was totally automatic! 

Every single element was an orchestrated solution designed to produce a marketing result, and integrated component of the hotel’s Management System. 

After my third visit to the hotel, I asked to speak with the Manager. 

I wanted to find out how he was able to produce the identical results for me every single time. 

How could he make certain that someone would ask the right questions so as to ensure the correct results for each and every guest? 

Was it because he hired extremely competent people? 

Were the employees owners? 

Was it some kind of special incentive system? 

The Manager was a young man of twenty-nine. He invited me into his office to talk. It was well-lit, modest in size, and overlooked the redwood grove I had walked through to get to the restaurant. His desk was clean and neatly organized, not a loose paper in sight. 

“This is very orderly young man,” I thought to myself. 

“Perhaps he’s the reason the hotel works so well.” 

The young Manager obviously enjoyed his job, because he warmed immediately to the conversation about his work and the task of producing the results for which he was held accountable by the hotel’s owner. 

“You know,” he said, smiling self-consciously, “it’s funny sitting here talking to you about what we do here at the hotel. Because until five months ago, the only experience I had in the hotel business was as a guest for two nights at a Holiday Inn in Fresno three years ago. 

“In fact,” he continued, “before this job I was working as a short-order cook at a restaurant nearby. The owner and I got to know each other. He asked if I’d like to learn the hotel business, and before I knew it, he hired me. Everything I know about the hotel business I’ve learned here. 

“Here, let me show you.” 

He reached behind his desk for a red binder. Printed on the spine were the initials OM and the logo of the hotel. 

“What we do here is simple. Anyone can do it.” 

He opened the binder to the table of contents. 

“This is our Operations Manual. As you can see, it’s nothing but a series of checklists. This one is a checklist for setting up a room.” He opened the book to a yellow page. 

“This group of pages is yellow. Everything in the Manual is color coded. Yellow has to do with Room Setup. Blue, with Guest Support Services. For instance, when we light your fire at night, put the mints on your pillow, and so on. 

“Each checklist itemizes the specific steps each Room Support Person must take to do his or her job. 

There are eight packages of checklists for each Room Support Person waiting in their mailbox when they come in every day. Each package of checklists is used for one of the eight rooms the Room Support Person is accountable for. 

“As a Room Support Person goes about the process of taking care of his or her eight rooms, a checklist is completed to confirm that the work was performed according to the standards. As you can see, here at the bottom of the checklist is a place for the RSP to sign, indicating that he or she did the prescribed work. 

“To sign and not to have done the work is grounds for instant dismissal. 

“But there’s another part of the system that really makes it work. 

“On the back of each checklist is a drawing of the specific room that identifies each task to be completed, and the order in which it has to be done. The drawing takes the RSP through the routine, and, as they complete each task, they check off the corresponding part of the drawing to show that it was done. 

“With the drawing we can train new people almost instantly and have them producing a result identical to that of a person who’s been with us for quite some time. 

“As added insurance, my RSP Supervisors run spot checks every day to make certain that any errors are caught in time.” 

He paused and smiled. “But there are rarely any errors. They system works like a charm. 

“There’s an equally effective system for everything we do here. The fact is, the owner worked it all out in advance. The lighting, the sauna, and the pool are timed electronically and synchronized with the seasons, so that they deliver a predictable result to the guests. For example, you might have noticed that at night the outdoor lights increase in intensity as it gets darker. That’s done automatically. No one has to think about it. 

“I could give you lots of other examples, but I think you get the point. The whole thing was put together in a way the owner believed would make a positive impression on our guests. You’d be amazed at how many people come up to me after staying here just to thank me for how well they were treated. 

“But it’s not the big things they talk about; it’s always the little things.” 

I could understand and believe all he had said, but still I asked, “How do you get your RSP’s to use the checklists? How do you get them to use the system? Don’t they get tired of the routine? Doesn’t it get boring for them?” 

“Ah,” said my willing host. “That’s where we really shine.” 

13Jun

Putting Systems To Work For You

Confession.

McDonald’s Fries are better than In-n-Out. I don’t care how for 75 years, their potatoes are shipped right from the farm, individually cut in their stores, and then cooked in 100% sunflower oil. And I don’t care that they’ve never been frozen. I prefer double fried in lard straight from the freezer with a pound of salt dumped on it…just how I like it. Mmmmmm…  

In fact, did you know that I can go to any one of 120 countries in the world, walk into a McDonald’s, order my extra-large fries and it will taste exactly the same as the one I always get 5 minutes from my house in California? 

How is this possible? It’s not like they hire the top chefs from all over the world and do intense training along with rigorous quality assurance inspection to ensure every fry tastes the same wherever the extra-large fries are served. In fact, it was probably prepared by an unskilled, fresh new rookie during his/her first night shift on the job. So again, how is this possible?

Systems. 

Let’s recap our series and walk through how we can build a business according to E-Myth. 

  • Don’t be a technician, be an entrepreneur – More Info
  • Don’t work in your business, work on your business – More Info

Our third concept is this: Create systems that can be duplicated anywhere and followed and executed perfectly by anyone. 

This is what separates the true entrepreneurs from the technicians. It makes the difference between experiencing growth and freedom in your work instead of feeling overwhelmed by all the tasks that depend on you. Systems are the secret – here’s why:

Systems are automatic. Picture all the work you do translated into a series of checklists. Every single element is orchestrated to produce a result as one component of the overall system. There is no guess work in what everyone’s supposed to do – it’s a matter of checking every detail of this list, step by step, every time.

Systems are consistent. Like America’s favorite fries, systems produce identical results every single time, no matter who is doing it. It’s not based on the brilliance of your employees – once your system has been clearly defined, everyone’s job actually becomes extremely simple.

Systems don’t depend on you. Your most important work is done in advance – thinking through every detail, then creating the operations manual for others to follow. Once every element of your business is translated into a system, you’re free.

That’s the real challenge though – before you get to freedom, the biggest work of your life depends entirely on you: the creation of the system itself. It might seem daunting, and we’ll constantly be tempted to say, “it’s easier to just do this myself.” That all depends on what you mean by “easier.” Handing off a binder full of simple steps that anyone can do and letting the system work for you sure seems easy to me.

06Jun

I Became My Own Bottleneck

I started my business designing and developing websites because that’s what I knew how to do. I was pretty good at it, and I also enjoyed it. I come from a few generations of artists in our family, so I think I might have inherited an eye for design. Also, I studied engineering so I love technology and I geek out on the technical part of development. It was a perfect combination for building websites. So, that’s what I did.

A few years into running my own company, I also became a pretty savvy salesperson…this skill set was a must to gain more clients. Then, I needed to do accounting…money was coming in and going out and I needed to manage it all. Then, I started to juggle many projects at once, and my organization and management of these projects were getting a bit out of control. I couldn’t keep my deadlines. 

Eventually, I became my own bottleneck. I couldn’t grow anymore because there are only 24 hours in a day and only one employee doing everything….me. I became the poster child of what the book E-Myth I referenced last week is talking about. I desperately needed a change. A mindset change and an operational change. This is where  one phrase from the book finally hit home for me:

“Work ON your business, not IN your business.”

What does that mean?

I realized I had started my business as what they call “a technician” – relying on my own effort to get results. No matter how capable I was at the job, and how hard I worked, every aspect of the business was still dependent on me.

But this is NOT the entrepreneurial mindset – it’s literally the e-myth. According to the Chairman of the E-Myth Board, a true entrepreneur has to be able to think differently:

“To the Entrepreneur, the business operates without them. 
     To the Technician, the business operates because of them.
To the Entrepreneur, the business is the product.
     To the Technician, the business is a place to go to work every day.”

Working ON your business means imagining your business as something completely separate from you. Ask yourself: How would your business have to operate if it couldn’t depend on you to personally produce results? What would it mean to re-imagine every system your team would need to effectively deliver the ideal customer experience—without you?

On the most basic level, what ultimately saved my life and business was a fundamental shift in what it actually means to work.

If you’re overwhelmed right now, I want you to know: there is another way. Imagine a business that operates consistently, profitably and self-sufficiently that doesn’t rely on you… where instead of drowning in tasks, you enjoy freedom as you work and grow your business.

This really is possible – can’t wait to talk about it more next week!

25May

How to Make Your Dreams NOT Come True

A long, long time ago when I would dream about someday starting my own business, I wanted to do some research to make sure I knew what I was getting into. I was told by many people and by my awesome mentor (Google) that I should read this book called E-Myth. What kind of weird title is that?

I found out that the “E” stood for “Entrepreneur,” and the book was about this “Myth” people believe that most businesses are started by those with awesome business skills.

Well, they aren’t.

Most are started by someone who’s good at doing something (let’s call this person “a technician”) who knows nothing about running a business, and therefore, most businesses fail.

I was intrigued. So I read it. And to this day, I can honestly say, it’s one of the most influential business books I’ve ever read. So, I thought I would do a new series on some of my key takeaways from this book, and share how it shaped and re-shaped my perspective and strategy about business. Ready?

Well, I love stories, so I loved that this book started out with this story about his friend Sarah who learned how to bake pies from his dear aunt. She loved baking pies, and not only that…it wasn’t just a pie, it was the most amazing, unique, and delicious pie you would ever eat. Everyone who tried her pie said she should start doing something with this special talent and her secret recipe. That’s when she started dreaming of owning her own pie shop. And eventually, her dream came true.

I was hoping that the story just escalated from there – she would open another shop, and another, and eventually, a thousand more. Then she’d retire and live happily ever after. Well, that didn’t happen.

Three years into it, she found herself getting to the bakery at three in the morning to bake pies. She would then open the shop at 6am to take care of customers all day, then clean up, close up, do all the accounting, have dinner and get the pies ready to bake for the next morning. She did this 6 days a week, all year round. She found that the work she used to love more than anything else became work that she hated. She left her 9-5 job to buy herself a 12-15 hours a day, 6 days a week kinda job. On top of all that, she was struggling financially.

Point of the story? Don’t be a technician. Be an entrepreneur. Don’t have a technician perspective in your business, have an entrepreneur perspective. Don’t work IN the business, work ON the business.

I will break down these points in detail next week to help us understand the difference. I hope it will enlighten you, challenge your perspective, and give you some reassurance as you create strategy for your business.

Thanks!!
31Jan

When You Have a Dream But the World Says “No”

Vicky Tsai is the founder of Tatcha, a line of Japanese beauty and skincare products.

She might be the most unlikely origin story that we’ve heard about this month, because from the very beginning she was told by everyone there was zero market for her. In the U.S., American retailers claimed they had no demand for Asian beauty supplies, and even in Japan the products were viewed as old-fashioned, like something your grandmother would use. All she heard was NO.

Undeterred, she trusted what she had – a skin-care miracle called “blotting papers.” They’d been used for centuries by geishas in Japan to remove oil from their faces before and after putting on makeup, and all the geishas she’d met had flawless skin. She tried them herself after years of suffering from dermatitis – in just a few weeks of using them and some other related products, her face was healed. Once she ran out of her own supply, she searched everywhere and discovered that Kyoto was the only place where you could find them, and they had no interest in exporting them. Already under a mountain of personal debt, she sold her engagement ring to purchase 10,000 packs of blotting paper and the company was born.

For the next several years, the debt only got worse, and the “no’s” only got louder. Unable to afford rent, she was forced to run the company out of her parents’ garage, and repeatedly had to borrow money just to make payroll. Finally in 20217, her perseverance paid off – following years of growth that everyone had said would never happen, she sold the company to Unilever for a reported $500 million.

A few things I take away from Vicky’s story:

First, no matter what business you’re in, the name of the game is solving a problem. Whether it’s a problem you have (like Vicky’s dermatitis) or a problem you see for others, the biggest question is: what problem are you helping solve?

Second, don’t underestimate the power of learning from someone who’s different from you. Our own perspective inevitably will have blind spots – what if traveling to another country or listening to another point of view holds the missing piece to your puzzle? In Japan, it was an old-fashioned idea that nobody wanted, a gold mine hiding in plain sight that just needed a rebrand. Could the key to your dream be waiting in some other cultural context that you’ve never explored before?

My favorite part of all is just her refusal to take No for an answer. Even when the odds weren’t in her favor, she just kept showing up and finding a way forward. Part of me wonders if it all traces back to one of her first jobs working for Starbucks Corporate – at one point she was the lead on a massive initiative to launch Starbucks in China, pouring her soul into the job to ensure the campaign was a huge success. At the end of that year during her annual review, the VP gave her an evaluation of “Meets Expectations;” shortly after, she was like, “Nope, I’m out of here.” Like she already knew there was something more in her, no matter what negativity she heard from others.

I love the quote from Vincent Van Gogh: “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” As we wrap up this origin story series, what voices are you listening to? If you’re hearing a no to your dream, or if someone is looking at your best efforts and saying it “Meets Expectations,” I hope this is the year you go out there and prove them wrong. 

25Jan

Vision For 2022, And A Hunger For BBQ

David Anderson is the founder of Famous Dave’s, one of the largest BBQ chains in the U.S., with over 125 restaurants across the country.

Like many of the companies we’ve been examining this month, Dave’s origin story has a humble beginning. School was a struggle for him growing up – he was failing all his classes. Then a teacher came along and changed everything.

You would think that it was some BBQ chef who showed up and gave him some secret recipe, but it was actually an art teacher who made the biggest impact. One day, he set Dave aside to talk about all his failing grades. He said, “Dude,” (I’m paraphrasing here) “I know you are no good at school (including art) lol, but you have a very unique perspective in life. You see things differently and that’s going to take you a long way.”

Have you ever had a teacher like that?

For me, it was Mrs. Thomas my English teacher during my Freshman year. All of my teachers saw me as a troublemaker and a goofball who didn’t care much about anything. She thought I was actually funny and loved my writing. I was an energetic kid – and that energy expressed itself in other ways, like being the class clown. She just laughed along with the kids and allowed me to have my spotlight. She didn’t realize, I was already in training for all the relational connections through humor I would make through BOS Media! Who knew being funny would be an important characteristic in business?

That’s why I love Mrs. Thomas. Where other teachers saw a problem, she saw potential. The same qualities that I was using to disrupt class could also make me a leader.

It was a very similar shift in mindset that shaped Famous Dave’s life. For years, he tinkered with his own recipes for sauces and sides, before finally opening his first restaurant in the last place anyone would think to find a BBQ joint: Hayward, Wisconsin. But he trusted what he saw, and sure enough, the business started to grow.

Once the restaurant had become a success, Dave invested a lot of corporate money to train his employees – I’m sure he looked at them and saw himself at a younger age, just needing someone to believe in what they could become. His executive board was concerned about all this spending and confronted him, like “Hey, why are you training all these people? What if they take all this knowledge and LEAVE for a better job?” He chuckled and said, “But if we don’t train them, what if they don’t learn anything…and they STAY?” 

It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Robert Kennedy: “Some see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” What if we had that perspective about our own dreams for this year? Or more importantly, what if we had that perspective about the people around us? What might they become if we believed in them? 

Here’s to seeing differently. And as Dave says, “May you always be surrounded by good friends and great barbeque.”

18Jan

The Biggest Question To Ask When You Have A World-Changing Idea

James Park is the co-founder and CEO of Fitbit.

Once upon a time, he was enrolled at Harvard (his parents’ dream for his life), but he dropped out to start his own business. Some time later, he had what he described as a “lightning bolt moment” when he first played the Nintendo Wii. The way they used sensors to track motion made him wonder: how do we take this outside? We now know that question led to the “gamification of fitness,” and put him at the forefront of a multi-billion dollar industry.

We’re kicking off 2022 talking about the origin stories of some of the most successful companies in recent times. It makes me think of this, aka our official origin story theme song. Hopefully you feel inspired knowing that every great success had to start somewhere, usually with pretty humble beginnings. An idea most people wouldn’t have thought much of, but that in the case of Fitbit was ultimately sold to Google for over $2billion. 

I have a few thoughts on this…

First of all, how awesome that it all started while playing video games! It just shows, you never know when inspiration can strike. Next time someone gives you a hard time for playing video games, just tell them you’re looking for the next industry-revolutionizing idea.

Second, let’s talk about him dropping out of Harvard. Imagine how that conversation with his parents went. But to put it in perspective – they themselves had immigrated from Korea with the hope of finding new opportunities for their family. So you could argue, the risk they took was actually much greater than the one he took to drop out (let’s be honest though, I strongly doubt they appreciated that point). 

This made me think: what’s stopping us from pursuing our new ideas? I’m sure we could all come up with excuses – a list of responsibilities that keep us from venturing out and trying new things… seriously, who has time to play video games and have a dream? Has your daily work become a “Harvard” that you wouldn’t dare drop out of?

However, the biggest thing that stood out to me when I heard James Park’s story is one little word that you probably skipped over in the first paragraph above: that he’s the co-founder of Fitbit.

The key question we need to ask about our world-changing ideas is: WHO? Who are you going to do it with?

James would tell you, without Eric Friedman, there would be no Fitbit. I love hearing him talk about their relationship. How in the most stressful times, they were able to help pick each other up, and being thankful that even though there were low moments of feeling down, “luckily we weren’t down at the same time.” 

Do you have that person in your life? Maybe what’s really stalling your big idea is not a what, but a who. There might be a partner out there you could collaborate with who would turn your dream into reality. Who is your co-founder?

In the words of our origin story theme song, “We started from the bottom now the WHOLE TEAM here.” Here’s to dreaming big, together.

11Jan

Why I Love The Origin Story Of Audible

Don Katz is the founder and CEO of Audible. 

Now imagine him jogging back in the mid 1990’s listening to a book on cassette tape which was checked out from the library. He put the tape in a clunky Sony walkman, put his fuzzy headphones on and started to run. Now, picture him trying to flip the tape over after 30 minutes of listening to hear the rest of it…while still in motion. Not ideal…and he thought…”there has to be a better way.”

This led him to do some research and find that 93 million Americans drove to work alone every morning. He then extrapolated hundreds of hours of time that people sat in traffic, matched that number with the sociological data that showed the most frustrating and least valuable time of people’s day was…sitting in traffic. 

He thought, why don’t I create a device that would allow people to listen to the digital content they wanted, whenever they wanted. 

Running the numbers, he realized if he could just penetrate 9% of the people sitting in traffic alone every morning at $10/month for a service that would enrich their lives…how big could this business be? Let’s do the math: 

     9% of 93 million = 8.37 million 

     x $10 per person/month

     = $83.7 million dollars per month in subscription fees.

So at age 43, with a supportive wife and 3 kids, he decided to ditch his career as an accomplished author and a journalist (for Rolling Stone) and take a 85% pay cut to start his new adventure. 

It took Don another 10 plus years of barely surviving the dot-com bust until his luck finally changed with the release of the iPod and the timely partnership with Apple. Then in 2008, Amazon purchased Audible for $300 million. Ummmm….did you hear what I just said? $300 million? 

Everyone has a great idea…and that idea and inspiration to start a new business can last a few days, a few weeks, or sometimes even a few years. When asked what motivated him to leave the comforts of a financial safety net and persevere for another 10 years until he finally saw the fruits, he responded with these 3 points:

  • His loving father’s sudden passing at an early age marked his life in so many ways…and he sees a lot of patterns of fatherlessness in highly entrepreneurial people…whether from abandonment or early death which sometimes includes taking ridiculous risks. 
  • He thought it was so interesting that he would daydream more about this idea of digital audio content and player rather than daydreaming about the next paragraph that he was going to write. 
  • He kept talking and trying to get advice from people that he respected and they all thought he was crazy. This motivated him even more. 

What I personally love most about this story is that even after selling the company to Amazon for…$300 million dollars, he continues his duties as a CEO and just recently in 2020 assumed the position of Founder and Executive Chairman of Audible. To me that says a lot about what this work means to him – that it’s less about getting paid, and more about seeing the original idea that everyone said couldn’t happen becoming reality. It’s a different way to think about our work – instead of just making money, we can be making our masterpiece.

I hope that inspires you as we go into this year – maybe 2022 can be the beginning of your origin story as well! It all starts with an idea…

03Aug

Pick Up Line

“So… how you doin?”

If you watched the show Friends, you heard this line from Joey many times, and you saw how unsuccessful it was with the target audience.

But what if your company’s marketing is having the same effect?

As a business, we are often too worried about our own self-image, our own self-interest, and our own capabilities that we forget about what our clients really need.

The key question is you need to ask is, how ARE they doing?

Instead of looking at yourself, become a student of your client. Find out their wants, their needs, their hopes, their fears. Take the focus off you, and figure out how you can create solutions for them.

The irony of great marketing is: It’s not about you. When you do it right, you’re not trying to make yourself look good. You’re just the guide to help others achieve their goals and dreams.

It reminds me of the story that Gay Zenola MacLaren shared in her memoir, about a chance encounter with Mark Twain:

He opened the door for me himself. As we said good-bye, he put his fingers lightly under my chin and lifted my head up so that my eyes met his.

“Little girl,” he said earnestly, “keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

At BOS Media Group, we believe that’s how digital marketing should work – it’s about making others feel that they can achieve greatness.

Maybe it’s time to re-think marketing. Know your audience, position your company to serve those needs, and make them the hero.

Please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help you shine!

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