He offers great insight (so wise). I’m grateful for these thoughts because if there’s one thing for sure, it’s that when you make the decision to take the plunge, you have all of these feelings. Feelings like, “I’m an idiot.” Or, “I’m crazy.” Or, “I’m crazy and I’m an idiot.” You’re leaping out into The Great Unknown. There’s no one there holding your hand. You’re swimming solo. And you’ve never done this before. It feels scary and it feels lonely. And it’s one of the best feelings, ever.
Hugh’s book, by the way, is wonderful and it is one of a few that has had a hand in changing my life. Check it out: http://gapingvoid.com/books/
And if you like that one (and by the way, my guess is that you wouldn’t be on this page if you didn’t share in these hopes and dreams), here’s a few more for you to check out:
If you’re as geeky as I am, you will find parts of these books that will make you cry as you read. So, even if you never truly become your own boss, at least you will have had a good cry or two.
Here are some of Hugh MacLeod’s thoughts regarding entrepreneurship, followed by my comments (for whatever they’re worth):
1. Everything takes three times longer than it should. Especially the money part.
Thank God I’m not the only one who feels this way. And please, God, would you send me a bit more money, a decent video camera or two, a new Mac, fully loaded with Adobe CS4, Final Cut Pro, etc, etc, an art director, a video crew, an editor, a producer, some advertisers, a SEO expert, an affiliate manager… hmm, what else? Oh, yeah, an accountant… and maybe an extra writer or two. Oh, and about a million or so followers? …Thanks!
12. It’s easier to turn an ally into a customer than vice versa.
This one made me think of something one of my best customers once said to me when I sold software. I’ll never forget it. I made a mistake, and that was that I over-promised and under-delivered. The great rule of sales and service is just the opposite. What he said was, “Trish, I’m going to teach you something: there’s an old saying that goes like this: ‘It takes years to win a customer and seconds to lose one.'” Original thought or no, he was right. I felt awful, and that I had not only lost a customer, but a friend. I sent him a most sincere letter of apology, not expecting to regain his business. But guess what? A couple weeks later he called me again, and it was as though nothing had gone wrong. “Wow!” I thought. “I must be doing something right.” The funny thing was that when I told my boss about losing him, his response was more or less, “Oh, well.” He was the one that had instructed me to make the promise and take the order; i.e., the money. Never again, will I take an order from a client without being able to personally guarantee 100 percent that I can deliver on the product. I like having customers that like me, but more importantly, I need my customers to trust me. Whatever it is that you’re selling, your customer needs to feel satisfied with your product and the experience at the end of the day, if he is to return. And if he walks away delighted, he might just tell someone else. On the flip side, if he walks away angry, you can be sure he’ll tell someone else. It all boils down to earning trust. That is how you sell your product and that is how you win and keep customers. To hell with dog and pony shows. And thanks, Josh.
25. Bill Gates may have a million times more money than me, but he isn’t going to live a million times longer than me, watch a million times more sunsets than me, make love to a million times more women than me, drink a million times more fine wines than me, listen to a million times more Beethoven String Quartets than me, nor sire a million times more children than me. Human beings don’t scale.
Find a way to love what you do. Love your friends and loved ones well, and try to appreciate what you have. Life is short, and it’s easy to miss the little joys and wonderful moments that sometimes fall before us. One of my Russian friends once said to me, “There is a Russian saying: ‘It’s better to have a hundred friends than a hundred dollars.'” I told another friend who said, “That sounds like a Russian saying.” Maybe so, but I like it. Not that I would turn away a hundred dollars.
And on that note, Creative Beasts, I bid you adieu. Keep dreaming, keep building on your dreams and as always, Seize The Prey. Here’s Barenaked Ladies with If I had a Million Dollars. Bein’ geeky and keepin’ it real.
The meek may inherit the Earth, but meanwhile, "The Determined" are gonna get theirs.
Pigeons… gotta love ’em. The cooing, the nesting, the foraging… and of course, the “bombing.” My Norwegian (step) grandmother said that when a pigeon poops on you, it’s good luck (she stated this after my mom had just been hit with a love-bomb from a feathered friend from above). I haven’t yet been able to confirm whether this is a Norwegian belief or one from somewhere else. If anyone can help me out with this, give a shout. I was once struck on the head by a pigeon-bomb, in the middle of downtown Milwaukee. It was a dove, actually. I was on the phone with a friend. It was a warm, sunny, early evening and I was standing beneath a tiny tree–newly planted, in fact. I had paused to chat–apparently under this little tree–and splat! Right on top of my head. I was surprised, of course, and of course, I reached up to find out what had hit me. I yelled out in disgust, and then I believe I started to cry a little. “Ahhhnnnnn! Come get me!” (it was my boyfriend) I exclaimed into the phone, looking up into the little tree. “A dove just shat on me!” He laughed, but then fortunately, he did come to get me. And the dove? It sat in the tree, a couple feet above me, cooing softly. “Jerk!” I thought. That was a few years ago. I’m still hoping for that good luck to come, but in the meantime, I aim to “Crush It!”
It took me a little longer than I thought it would, but hey, interruptions happen. Anyway. Great book, I really enjoyed it. Gary Vee is not just entertaining, as it turns out, nor is he simply driven. He’s an inspiring, thoughtful businessman and marketing strategist who looks well into the future to anticipate trends; all the while, keeping his eye on the ball. So what is Gary’s #1 strategy? CARE. That’s right. Care. Care about what you do, be authentic, be passionate, and let these things be your guiding lights. Here’s a rather recent appearance Gary made on CNBC:
If you pay a visit to Gary @ http://garyvaynerchuk.com/ you’ll see that quite a few folks giggle and scoff at old anchor-dude Dennis Kneale, who calls Gary “corny.” I get why the fans giggle and scoff, and I’m pretty sure I get why Dennis Kneale called him “corny.” The fans… well, it’s a couple reasons: A) just because they’re fans, they will always stick up for their guy and B) If they really know where Gary is coming from, then they truly know that he means what he says, but also that he’s right. Now, why did Kneale call Gary Vaynerchuk “a little corny?” I think it’s because he must be thinking, “Oh, now isn’t this cute and clever. Here’s Mr. 35-year old millionaire entrepreneur, telling everybody that all they need to do is care.” Obviously, he hadn’t yet read the book, because if he had, I don’t think he would have made a silly comment like that. Here’s the deal: Gary can explain in his book, exactly what he means by “caring,” and the thing is that it really isn’t any different from the approach taken by good old-fashioned great brands, all over the world. It is one thing to say that you care, but it is an altogether different thing to actually live it. What are some of the great caring brands of our times? How about Nordstrom? How about McDonalds? How about Starbucks? He says it boils down to the quality of the communication, and he’s right. “It’s about listening.” You listen, you give it your all, and you make adjustments when you need to. In his book, he recounts a retail story of a woman–a customer in New York–who called to complain that she didn’t get her wine shipment on time. It was December 22nd, and it was an older lady who was not a regular customer, a major buyer–or anything else major. What made her special was that she was a customer, plain and simple, and Gary knew that if he let her down… if her holiday got spoiled because it was too late to make a promise from FedEx… he would be letting himself down–and his team. So what did he do? He grabbed her case of White Zinfandel, threw it in his car, and drove it through a blizzard for three hours to her doorstep in Westchester, New York. Crazy? Maybe. Awesome customer service? You bet. He set the tone for his company that day, and that’s what leaders do. That’s how good brands get built. Really smart people understand this. I don’t know if it is still this way, simply because I don’t have the chance to visit Nordstrom much anymore (we don’t have them here), but the way I remember it, their service is legendary. If you needed something tailored and their tailor was out, the associate would run it to the next local tailor to have it done–and have it ready for the customer in the same day. OK, I’m kind of making that up, but stuff like that. No kidding.
Here’s a quick brand comparison story: And first, let me just say that I have for the most part, really gotten away from fast food. But one day at work a couple of years ago, I ran out for a burger. I thought to myself, “Hmm. Flame-broiled Whopper, Jr…” It had been a while since I had patronized a Burger King, but I was in the mood and I was pressed for time, so… fast food. I pulled up to the drive, and a girl answered, “Uhhhh, just a minute…”
I thought, “OK. Well, that’s weird because I’m the only one here.” But I waited a couple of minutes. Then I thought, “Hell with this,” and I pulled around and parked and went inside. What I found was a young manager yelling at several employees sitting at a table, telling them it was time to get back to work because they had already had breaks. There was one girl at the counter. I approached the counter, and waited for someone to say hello. No one did. Finally, I said, “Can someone here take my order?”
The girl at the counter said, “Just a second.”
I lost it. “You people are pathetic,” I said. “I went to the drive-thru and no one could help me. Now I’m inside and no one can help me. And there’s NOBODY f***ing here!” Yes, I said “f***ing.” Sorry I was foul-mouthed, but I was really amazed. They just stood there with their mouths open. I left, and went to McDonalds.
At the drive-thru speaker, the first thing the girl said was, “Thank you for waiting, can I take your order?” I was already thrilled. I ordered, and a couple of minutes later I was at the window receiving my meal. “Sorry about the wait!” She said with a smile.
“What wait?” I smiled back and thanked her and drove away. Fast and friendly service, napkins, ketchup, a sandwich, fries and a beverage with a straw–all the right temperatures and freshness… the birds were singing and weaving a happy little bird-dance around my car (just kidding)… I was a happy lass.
Looking back, I might have chosen a kinder way of addressing things with the folks at Burger King–I work at not getting upset these days, but anyway, it sure was an interesting juxtaposition of brands… To me, employees that give great customer service appear to be happy because they are happy. Generally, I look at this as a sign that they are treated well, but additionally, they are following good examples. They are taking ownership. These are all signs of a business that is being run properly and smartly.
Incidentally, I have worked at different companies throughout the years. I have worked at places who understand that good brands start from the top, but then are built from the bottom up (Starbucks is one of them), and then I’ve worked at companies that have had a different approach. The different approach was one that was unfortunately centered around money and the making of it. There was nothing wrong with the initial idea: sell a commodity–something everybody needs. (Heck, that’s what Starbucks does–well, OK, so we don’t actually need coffee, but you understand.) The problems began when corners got cut, and to what extent and how often. I am here to say that that is no way to run a business. If all you care about is money, I can just about guarantee that no matter how much you have, you will never be happy… Did I mention I watched it grow from a three person company to a 40 million-dollar operation in about six years? In Crush It, Gary refers to something he calls “reactionary business.” What he’s talking about is having the ability to anticipate change and adapt. I’m not sure I would call that “reactionary.” I would call that “being proactive.” To me, “reactionary” was watching the flames get higher when things started to smoke and burn because the only solution “leadership” had was to throw on more coals. That was due to a couple of things 1) a president who didn’t want to listen to his employees and 2) a sheer lack of anticipating change and lack of planning for it. But there was another attitude problem that inevitably led to the company’s demise… arrogance. The owner had it in his head that if a customer was lost, there was always another one around the “virtual” corner. I think he ultimately felt that it didn’t matter if customers left unhappy because it was an online business. Wrong. There are only so many chances to reinvent yourself, and it’s much harder now than it was then. Those company doors closed in 2007, and Twitter was only a year old. If you want to start a business, have it be something that you want your name on. Be proud of it. That’s another thing Gary Vaynerchuk talks about: legacy. By the way, if you ever work somewhere at which the owner of the business isn’t willing to publicly admit ownership, let that be a warning to you. That is not a good sign.
OK. So. Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Crush It!: I say buy it if you’re just starting a business, and buy it if you’re a six-or-more-figure salaried CEO. Gary’s messages are pretty simple and straight forward: Care. Work your butt off. Listen. Adapt. Anticipate. Be aware of what’s going on around you. Build your personal brand. Care. He breaks it down much further, but I don’t need to repeat the entire book, as short and sweet as it is. His messages are in many ways, not new, and in fact, in some ways they are old-fashioned. So what? They work. My concern that I mentioned in my earlier post before I read the book was that it might be too schmaltzy. Too much of a “just believe in yourself”-type book. While there is some of that, he explains why he believes it is actually possible to follow your dreams at this point in time. Gary is a good coach. He doesn’t tell you how to do everything, but he gives recommendations on tools to use, strategies and approaches. He also talks about DNA and how it plays a part. I tend to think that many immigrants in general, have a much better idea about how to succeed than (non-immigrant) Americans. They tend not to take things for granted and they really know how to hustle. I realize that’s a sweeping generalization, but just look around you and see for yourself. I’ll be bold and make another sweeping generalization: Gary is from Belarus, and I don’t care who says what, but many of the folks from that part of the world are great mathematicians, some of the world’s greatest composers and musicians, scientists… and chess players. Gary is an excellent strategist. Just sayin’. Until next time, Creative Beasts… Seize the Prey! Or, as Gary says, “Crush it!”
And to send you off, here’s one of my favorite songs ever (definitely a T-Haus theme song) as well as a bit o’ CreativeBeasts.com inspiration–Hot Chocolate’s Every 1’s a Winner (and a random fan viddy):
Can an Amish guy sell furniture online? Sure. Why not? But then the questions become, “How will anyone find his shop? And even if they do… why this Amish guy?” And since the Amish have a reputation for being… well, rather “shy” in terms of connecting with people outside of their community, they need all the help they can get when it comes to spreading the word about what they do. So the guy making the furniture should basically stay busy doing what he does best–making furniture. But his distributor doesn’t have to be quite so shy about things. He can attest to the fact that every square inch of any piece–whether it’s a dining room table or an armoire–is lovingly hand-crafted by Elias and Friends. Work like this cannot be replicated because it comes from knowledge and traditions passed on from generation to generation–and is entirely custom crafted. So, what do we know about Amish furniture? In general, the consensus is that it is extremely well made, and there is, indeed, something very special about beautiful things made entirely by hand. When you own a piece of furniture by Elias, you will not simply enjoy using it; you will enjoy using it with the knowledge that your children will own it some day, and then perhaps your grandchildren. And with each generation, it will take on a new beauty. That’s the thing about quality: it retains its value, and gains in value.
“Why, oh why, are you now writing about Amish furniture, T-Haus?” You ask. Well, I’ll tell you. 1) It’s my site, and I’ll write about what I damn-well feel like (sorry, Amish people for saying “damn,” but you won’t read the blog anyway, and so what you don’t know won’t hurt you). 2) I think it’s a very interesting marketing/branding question: “How does an Amish furniture maker promote himself?” Maybe he’ll get lucky and CreativeBeasts.com will do a little plug (Can anyone get more lucky than that? Dear god, I hope so.). “…I know of this guy named Elias who makes damn-good furniture (and no, we are not related).” 3) I think it has a lot to do with the quest of CreativeBeasts: helping creative people from all walks of life to get a little closer to their goals… and discovering how the ones making it happen are getting it done. There’s the whole Field of Dreams notion… “Build it and they will come.” And if you build the best furniture in the world, a light will shine down upon your shop from the heavens; showing appreciators of artisanal work the way forth, right? Not exactly. If no one knows about it, no one can buy it… and no one will come. Sad, but true. Sooo–the word must be spread!
On a slightly different note (but not totally), I picked up Gary Vaynerchuk‘s new book Crush It! –Cash In On Your Passion, today.
I should be able to read it tonight (it’s not War and Peace). I’m excited, and I’m hoping it will offer some juicy secrets that I can apply towards getting my own show on the road. Stay tuned, for there will be comments. I’m seriously hoping it’s not just another “You-can-do-it-if-you-just-believe-in-yourself-hard-enough!” book. And I’m not at all knocking the “belief” end of things. You knows I’m alls about the faith. But Gary doesn’t seem like the bullshit type. We shall check it out. …I think I like you, Gary Vee, but I haven’t entirely made up my mind about you yet. I do like your passion. And now, speaking of Crushing It, I think I’m ready to go pick up a little vino, myself, and cook up some coq au vin tonight… maybe throw in some dried morels (that I picked myself), in my beloved
5 Quart Le Creuset French Oven... in Cobalt
Le Creuset Dutch oven (Oops–I mean “French…” the Le Creuset peeps call it a “French” oven–how very French of them), which I purchased from one of my all-time favorite stores, Williams-Sonoma. If you love to cook, but do not yet own a Le Creuset French oven, you should seriously consider making it a priority. Seriously. You will be so glad that you did.