Stories, Simplicity and Parties


I am indebted to my wife for many things – this week, it’s the idea for the blog. Dav sent me a link to a speech by Michael Acton Smith – one of the rock star entrepreneurs of the web.

The speech was reported as ‘10 top killer tips for start-ups’ and they’ll take you less than a minute to read. But let me comment on three of the tips in a little more depth – because I think they apply to established businesses every bit as much as start-ups. What’s more, I absolutely guarantee that you’ll agree with the last one I’ve chosen!

Tell your story

We do business with people we know, like and trust. But increasingly, business and relationships are online. How do we like someone we’ve never met?

As I’ve said previously, tell your story. Whether it’s on your website, through social media or in your company brochure, don’t ever be afraid to open up and tell potential customers and clients why you do what you do and what drives you.

But don’t say ‘we’re passionate about widgets.’ Being ‘passionate’ about something is fast becoming the biggest cliché in business. Tell the story of how you got into the widget business; of how something you did made a real difference to a customer.

Human beings react to and relate to stories. For most of human history, stories were how we shared knowledge and taught our children. So don’t be afraid to tell yours: clients and customers want to hear it and – increasingly – so does the Google algorithm.

Keep it simple

This may seem like the most unoriginal advice I’ve ever put in this blog. We all learn KISS within about five seconds of getting our first job: but it still bears repeating. In fact, there seems to be an increasing trend towards simplification: simple websites with simple messages and – especially online – businesses opting to concentrate on their core range and products. My old pal, the fitness coach for pregnant women in Knightsbridge, is in his element.

Business owners used to worry that a simple message and an equally simple product range might mean their business wasn’t viable. ‘Are there really enough people in York who want what I’m offering?’

But today your market doesn’t stop at York. It doesn’t even stop at New York. One of the most exciting trends for me this year has been the way so many Board members have started to develop their businesses internationally. The market out there is huge – which in turn means you can afford to keep it simple. To return to Make Good Art and the speech by Neil Gaiman – increasingly you can afford to concentrate on what it is that only you do best.

Say yes to parties

What more sensible advice could there be with December less than a weekend away? But the point that Michael Acton Smith makes is simple: you never meet anyone new sitting at your desk. By and large, your office is not the place where you’re exposed to new ideas or where your way of looking at the world is challenged.

So get out there and meet some new people. Expose yourself to the risk of someone saying, ‘Why not…’

It’s too easy to say, ‘there’s no point going because it’ll just be the same old people saying the same old things.’ Fifty percent of the time it will be: but the other fifty per cent of the time it won’t; there’ll be a potential new client, a new idea or a new business opportunity. The trouble is that you don’t know which fifty per cent it will be: the only way to find out is to go.

But hey – it’s December! If you can’t go to a party now, when can you go? And if that’s what you’re doing this weekend, have a brilliant time. And if you’re marching round Monks Cross instead with your children’s Christmas list in your pocket – that makes two of us…

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