Upstairs is for thinking…


And downstairs is for dancing. And we need more of both, don’t you think? Did you dance at work today? Were you tempted?

One of the coolest things that can happen is when our work makes us want to dance. 

Where are the optimists?


A quick look at just about any news source covering the business world and you’re likely to be either frightened or depressed. Seems like everyone is a crook. What are these people thinking? African Bank, Fidentia, Leeman Brothers, Eurozone debt crisis, sub-prime mortgage crisis, Occupy Wall Street, Is capitalism doomed? Do we need a new system? Do we need to go back to socialism? 

Me, I’m betting on small companies.

Small companies are where the people doing the work are also making the decisions. I’m endlessly optimistic about the capacity for human beings to make money solving each others’ problems.

It’s only when we create a new sort of royalty, an unelected ruling class, that these companies seem to get into trouble.

Can’t wait to see the new stuff that’s getting invented in someone’s garage right now!


Ps: Capitalism fails to acknowledge that life is social and socialism fails to acknowledge that life is private.

Who Will Say “Go”?


Here’s a little-spoken truth I learned a while back:

Most people don’t believe they are capable of initiative. They rather follow than start. Initiating a project, a blog, a seminar, even a family trip. Initiating something even when you’re not deemed to be in charge.

At the same time, almost all people believe they are capable of editing, giving feedback, or merely criticising.

So finding people to fix your typos is easy.

A few people are vandals, happy to anonymously attack or add graffiti or useless noise.

If your project depends on having individuals step up and say, “This is what I believe, here is my plan, here is my original thought, here is my group, my tribe,” then you need to expect that most people will see that offer and decline to take it.

Most of the tweets among the billion that go by are reactions or possibly responses, not initiatives.

You can pretty easily find people who will work with you or for you or advise you if you tell them what you want to do, if you are the person who says, “let’s go.”

It turns out that finding the employee/partner/consultant who says, “this is what we should do, follow me,” is rare and precious. More valuable than just about anything that’s printed on a CV.

I have a controversial belief about this: I don’t think the problem has much to do with the innate ability to initiate, I believe everyone has the ability to initiate. I think the problem has to do with believing that its possible and acceptable for you to do it. Most people can initiate, but most people don’t believe they can initiate.

We have had the doors to initiate things open since 1994, these doors have been open for to us 20 years now, to start and initiate things.

However Most people have been brainwashed into believing that their job is to copyedit the world, not design it.

There is a huge shortage…. a shortage of people will say “go.” 

Go initiate something.

Choose your friends, choose your customers, choose your future

Choose Wisely


Entrepreneurs rarely think about choosing customers. 

Your customers define what you make, how you make it, where you sell it, what you charge, who you hire and even how you fund your business. If your customer base changes over time but you fail to make changes in the rest of your business, stress and failure will follow.

Sell to angry cheapskates and your business will reflect that. On the other hand, when you find great customers, they will eagerly co-create with you. They will engage and invent and spread the word.

It takes vision and guts to turn someone down and focus on a different segment, on people who might be more difficult to sell at first, but will lead you where you want to go over time.

When our parents were strict about our choice of friends, it was because they knew the influence our friends may have on us. Similarly, choose your customers carefully because they have the potential to influence your business.

Choosing your customers empowers you to decide the direction of your business. Choose your customers, choose your future.


Failure, success and neither


The math is magical: you can pile up lots of failures and still keep rolling, but you only need one juicy success to build a career.

The killer is the category called ‘neither’. If you spend your days avoiding failure by doing not much worth criticising, you’ll never have a shot at success. Avoiding the thing that’s easy to survive keeps you from encountering the very thing you’re after.

And yet we market and work and connect and create as if just one failure might be the end of us. One failure is not the end of us.

Why Bother Having a CV?


Last night I had meeting with an entrepreneneur. He wanted to chair the board of his small business. While I am humbled by the offer, this proposal got me thinking about how people get appointed.

When Carlos Alberto Parreira was about to be appointed the coach of Bafana Bafana (South African soccer squad) before the 2010 FIFA World Cup, SAFA wanted him to send his CV and to interview him. He was actually surprised by SAFA’s approach because he felt that being a World Cup winning coach, his track record spoke for itself. When Jose Mourinho was reappointed coach of Chelsea, I doubt Roman Abramovich wanted a CV and a formal interview to determined if he is fit for the job. I am sure brilliant actors don’t carry CV’s, their reputation precedes them.

This is controversial, but I will say it, here goes:

I think if you’re remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular, you probably shouldn’t have a CV at all.

Not just for the appointment of a chairperson of a small business, but in general. Great people shouldn’t have a CV.

Here’s why: A CV is an excuse to reject you. Once you send me your CV, I can say, “oh, they’re missing this or they’re missing that,” and boom, you’re out.

Having a CV begs for you to go into that big machine that looks for relevant keywords, and begs for you to get a job as a cog in a giant machine. Just more fodder for the corporate behemoth. That might be fine for average folks looking for an average job, but is that what you deserve?

If you don’t have a CV, what must you have?

How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects?

Or manage your Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn is such a way that you will a great person to follow?

Or a sophisticated project they can see or touch?

Or a reputation that precedes you?

Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?

Some say, “well, that’s fine, but I don’t have those.”

Yeah, that’s my point. If you don’t have those, why do you think you are  remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular? It sounds to me like if you don’t have those, you’ve been brainwashed into acting like you’re sort of ordinary whiles you are extraordinary. 

Great jobs, world class jobs, jobs people kill for… those jobs don’t get filled by people emailing in CV’s. Ever.


Making and Breaking Habits


Habits are essential to your business, to marketing and to profits.

Coffee in the morning is a habit, which is good for Starbucks and other coffee shops. Vetkoek in winter is a habit, which is good business for mamas who sell them in the morning. So is having your law firm do a trademark search every time you invent a new name. Buying bottled water is a habit, but it didn’t used to be. Going to watch comedy shows every comedy night on Tuesdays is a habit, but it didn’t used to be. 

Making a habit is a lot easier than breaking one (ask a smoker) and habits often come in surprising ways.

If you want to grow your business, you’re either going to have to get more people to adopt your habit, (which might require breaking a different habit) or somehow increase habitual behavior among your happy customers.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Get your customers to get into the habit of repeatedly doing your products.

Everything You Do Communicates…


Every time you interact with a customer, you’re engaging in marketing. Doesn’t matter if you’re meeting them at the mall, asking them to send you some data, delivering an invoice… it’s all a marketing interaction.


When you bother 100 customers to get useful data from only 2, you just paid a marketing cost.

When you shout at a classroom full of kids because one kid misbehaved, that’s a marketing decision.

When you make 5,000 non-smugglers wait in a steaming hot customs hall at a foreign country, you may think you’re doing your job and collecting those little green forms, but what you’re really doing is marketing (negatively).


When you bring sweets (which weren’t required) with the bill (which was) you’re using the transaction as an opportunity to do positive marketing at your restaurant.

Here’s a little thought experiment that will show how your managers are misjudging these interactions: Go ask your front line staff what they’re doing when they’re doing what they think is their jobs. Like when they’re welcoming clients at reception or answering the phone or filling out a form with a customer. How many say, “I’m using this as an excuse to market to our best customers”?

Marketing doesn’t keep office hours. Everything you do communicates one time all the time. 


Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time 

Most PR firms do publicity, not PR.

Publicity is the act of getting ink. Publicity is getting unpaid media to pay attention, write you up, point to you, run a picture, make a commotion. Sometimes publicity is helpful, and good publicity is always good for your ego.

But it’s not PR.

PR is the strategic crafting of your story. It’s the focused examination of your interactions and tactics and products and pricing that, when combined, determine what and how people talk about you.

Regis McKenna was great at PR. Yes, he got Steve Jobs and the Mac on the cover of more than 30 magazines in the year it launched. That was just publicity.The real insight was crafting the story of the Mac (and yes, the story of Steve Jobs).

If you send out a boring press release, your publicity effort will probably fail, but your PR already has.

A publicity firm will tell you stories of how they got a client ink. A PR firm will talk about storytelling and being remarkable and spreading the word. They might even suggest you don’t bother getting ink or issuing press releases.

In my experience, a few people have a publicity problem, but almost everyone has a PR problem. You need to solve that one first. And you probably won’t accomplish that if you hire a publicity firm and don’t even give them the freedom and access they need to work with you on your story.

Publicity is about data, PR is about telling stories. Tell stories, people remember stories not data.

The Confrontation Waiting to Happen



It’s not between you and your boss, your critics, your editor, your competition, your spouse or some other outsider.

The essential confrontation, of course, is with yourself.

You are your own biggest critic.

And your own biggest competitor.

Now that it’s easier than ever to pick yourself, the question is, “why haven’t you?”

And now that it’s easier to ignore the competition and become a category of one, the question is the same, “why haven’t you?”

Our instinct is to externalise the forces that are holding us back, but in fact, that’s not the problem, is it? The problem is internal forces.

‘Category of One’ is a Choice

stand-out (1)

Fit in or stand out.

Do what works now or build what works later.

Avoid criticism or seek it out.

Follow the manual or write the manual.

Standing out makes you the category of one, Fitting in makes you the category of many. 

When you define the category, when the category is you and you alone, your marketing issues tend to disappear. At least they do if the category is one that enough of the right people want to engage with.

Faced with the opportunity to become the category of one, we almost always hesitate, almost always compromise, almost always dumb it down to play it a little bit safer.

You may very well become a category of one in a market that’s devoid of customers. But you will never become a category of one if you run with the pack.