The problem with ‘How To’ advice

How to Advice

The internet is filled with How To advice. Which proves how important it is in building the life you want. But it has a simple flaw we ought remember:

How to advice is disposable.

How to’s are a set of tactics which need to change as the world around us changes. This means we need to constantly re-assess what we know, and ask if it is still relevant. With the pace of technological change today, this is a question we need at the top of our list.

This is why philosophy is always greater than tactics. Philosophy is enduring, and tactics and temporary. If we have a guiding philosophy on what we are doing and why, finding the best tactic for the day becomes infinitely easier.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

A tyre is only flat at the bottom

flat tyre

When I got my first car I once had a flat tyre and asked my dad if he could come out and help me change it, show me how to do it. And he said;

“I wouldn’t worry about it, it’s only flat at the bottom.”

A pretty funny dad joke. But a very good analogy for problems we face in business.

The entire business is running smoothly, except for some cultural problems in the warehouse.

The UX and product market fit of the app is great, the server is just a bit slow.

The retail store layout, the range and prices are all perfect, we just keep running out of stock.

Our startup is perfectly placed to disrupt this industry, it’s just there’s no way to scale it.

Our customers, supply chain and brand perception are as good as it gets, it’s just our margins are too small to make a reasonable profit.

While the tyre may only be flat at the bottom, it affects the entire operation.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

The 2 simple questions all successful startups have answered

Here’s two great questions to ask when starting a business endeavour:

  1. Is there a gap in the market?
  2. Is there a market in the gap?

Question 1 is about needs being unmet or not fully satisfied. In the realm of disruptive technology, you may be able to solve customers problems a better way. The gap in the market could even live at the emotional level – $200k Hermes handbag anyone?

Question 2 is about whether we can make money filling it. Until we have real revenue and real costs, outside of a VC funding cycle the question remains unanswered. Users alone, do not a market make – just ask Fab.com. The cool thing about being small is that previously unprofitable segments for big players can now become a super efficient money spinners. Legacy infrastructure is the enemy of today.

These questions are not new, but we’ve got new tools to ask them with. We can know about the market gaps quicker, and maybe even change what they answers are.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Why I already trust you

lost of faces

People often talk about earning someones trust. Which is a bit like saying, I think you’re a jerk until you prove otherwise. My approach is the opposite. I trust you from the outset. The moment we meet you have my trust. Occasionally this means I get burnt. Probably around 5% of the time, it turns out to be a bad policy. Which then gives you a clear indication of why I choose to trust first. Most humans are good, and will honour the trust given to them. Which means that 95% of the time it works out well.

The problem is that most companies make policies to account for the 5% of bad apples. The few that take advantage of things. They punish the majority to account for minority. A better option is to have a business model with the robustness to account for those we who do the wrong thing. By doing this we respect the humanity of our most important customers, the majority. They also happen to be the trustworthy ones.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

The simplest brand building tool of all

black mercedes

Building a brand with meaning is a difficult thing to do. But there is one hack which tells us more than any other signal, and it takes less than a second to give that signal.

The price.

If it’s super cheap or outrageously expensive, it tells a stronger story than any other feature immediately.

It tells us where it sits in the scheme of things, the consideration set of where I could cast my dollar votes. It tells me if this is option is in my range or not for me. Sometimes the price is most important feature, we want people to know how much we paid. The story I tell myself has already began. I make a decision based on the price which tells me I’m being smart and frugal, or I deserve this most expensive option. In some categories like apps and software, these days there’s an expectation of no price at all.

If our price stands out, then even before our product or service has been trialled we have a brand perception. The only challenge of course, is making sure that after consumption the experience lives up to what was expected.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Podcasts are a University on wheels

podcast head

After a false start in the mid 2000’s podcasting is back killing radio. For anyone who spends a fair amount of time driving, exercising, travelling or just existing as a human, it is the ultimate short cut to ‘get learned’ by some of the worlds best thinkers – University on Wheels say some.

So here are some great podcasts I literally rub my ear balls in whenever I am on the move.

My top 7 Podcasts:

  1. EconTalk with Russ Roberts – Not as highbrow as it sounds. An incredible array of topics related to business, culture and sociology. The most insightful look into our economic lives you’ll ever listen to.
  2. The James Alticher show – Mostly about entrepreneurship, technology and financial independence. He interrupts the guests a bit much, but with good thoughts & questions. Has great guests on the show.
  3. Crap Hound with Cory Doctorow – Mostly about cyber security, IoT, income disparity, privacy & surveilance, Gov policy regarding digital rights, and other important digital issues around control and the world you’re about to live in. Eye opening view of the future. One the globes sharpest minds.
  4. HBR Idea cast – Podcasts of around 20 mins. Perfect for short trips. Covers topical issues in business and management. Gets to the critical issues quickly.
  5. The Long Now with Stuart Brand – Seminars about long terms thinking. Generally a long 1 hour plus podcasts which are from Keynote speeches from the Long Now Foundation. Has the world best thinkers on key topics regarding the long term survival of humanity. Kinda heavy I know – but the topics are more ‘human and now’ than you’d expect. Everything from why stories last to can we live on Mars to the long arc of moral progress.
  6. Planet Money NPR – Great stories about all things money and finance. Super interesting stories with insights you’d never expect. Totally entertaining on the usually boring topic finance. Short podcasts too around 20 mins.
  7. Here’s the thing with Alec Baldwin – Has a great range of guests with entertaining content regarding creative and business pursuits. Lots of laughs and relaxing.

If you like hearing me rabbit on, then you can always check out the #BBB podcast (Beers Blokes and Business) which I appear on and I recent recording I did for the newly launched Future Sandwich podcast.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why podcasting has made such a massive comeback in the past couple of years, there’s probably a myriad of reasons. But here are two that spring to mind. (1) We’ve had a couple of super ‘hit’ podcasts to put it on the agenda like ‘Serial‘ and (2) I think the increased data most people now get on their phones these days removes the download it now and listen barrier. No need to plan and download at home.

Startup blog says – let your ears do the reading.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

The only way you can compete on price

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 11.52.46 AM

My favourite blogger Seth Godin talks about competing on price as being a race to the bottom. I couldn’t agree more. Yet, it can be a valid business strategy, and here is the only time when competing on price is a smart thing to do:

When everything the customer does not see is focused on price.

If you want to compete on price, then the price tag itself is the least important part of the ‘low pricing strategy’. It’s the back end, and every single thought and action in your business needs to be about efficiency and reducing cost, all day, everyday.

If we can manage to do this, then we can win on price. But we should always remember a price sensitive customer is always the least loyal.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.