business advice

12 Lessons in Entrepreneurship From the Underground

What's up Rebels! We've got some crazy knowledge to share with ya'll. 

When we launched Rebel Radio, we knew we were going to have interesting conversations with incredibly creative people who have built great careers by doing what they love. We knew we'd learn a lot about the inner game of making art for a living, about the music business, the art world, and probably share a few laughs with listeners.

But we didn’t realize we’d stumble across so many insights that are relevant not just to DJs and creatives, but to anyone trying to lead a creative life and build a career based on passion. 

We’re excited to share a small sample of those insights here, collected from our first 12 interviews. There are many more to discover if you listen to the full episodes. Let us know if you enjoy these and we’ll keep posting them as we go. 

Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe to the Rebel Radio show here: http://j.mp/RebelRadioItunes, and subscribe to our email list for updates on new episodes, giveaways, and other fun stuff: bit.ly/ContactSignature

 

Why Jeff Bezos Buying the Washington Post is a Good Thing

You might have read the news this week that Amazon's Jeff Bezos is buying the Washington Post. You probably didn't read that in a newspaper.

Jeff Bezos has built possibly the most important company of our time. Amazon is fundamentally changing the way the world shops. And after all, shopping is the heart of business. If anyone is going to figure out how to build a thriving media company out of something like the Washington Post, it's someone like him. No disrespect to the geniuses who have been shepherding print media's graceful decline into irrelevance, but it's safe to say that they aren't the ones to figure out the new model.

This deal matters because it's an important bridge between new media and old. So far the model hasn't been very productive:

  • New media or technology disrupts an old, staid, and marginally troubled industry, sending it into a downward spiral (music, news, retail)
  • Most of the new companies have no real business models, no idea of how to build brands, and generally terrible leadership, so they go out of business or at least struggle to become relevant from an economic perspective (anything from pets.com to MySpace, and thousands in between)
  • We, the buying public, are left without any leadership, and no idea how to make the best use of the new tools available to us. So we collectively lose millions of hours of what could be productive lives, and our trust in marketing, and the companies behind it, continues to diminish.
  • The cycle continues

I'm sure you can see that this isn't good for anyone. So, let's take this opportunity to learn a few lessons from the guy who might be able to lead us to greener pastures, especially if he can figure out how to keep my hands from getting all inky.

In the back of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s audiobook Delivering Happiness (Zappos is an Amazon company, and so is Audible, where I bought the book) is a speech Jeff Bezos made to Zappos employees shortly after the purchase. He offers the following five lessons:

  • Obsess over customers. He says he doesn’t worry about competitors, even though he’s in one of the most competitive industries. Instead he worries constantly about keeping customers happy. The competition takes care of itself.
  • Invent. Bezos says you can invent your way out of any box if you believe that you can. At Rebel, we have four rules that push us in this direction:
    1. Be tenacious. Never stop finding better solutions.
    2. Ask more questions. People will often give you the answers you need if you just keep asking questions.
    3. Learn every day. Don’t wait for an annual review to find out how you’re doing. Don’t wait until the project is completed to figure out what went wrong. Take a few minutes every day to examine what is working and what isn’t and make adjustments in real time.
    4. Win as a team. Leverage the collective wisdom of other Rebels, vendors, partners, clients. And while you’re doing that, don’t just cover your own ass, but make sure you have their backs as well.
  • Invent on behalf of customers. Don’t expect them to tell you what they want. I had a client recently suggest that asking the brand’s Facebook fans “What do you want from us?” would be a good way to develop a marketing strategy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Customers pay you to figure it out so they don’t have to.
  • Think long term. Quick fixes probably don’t work, and too many companies are in a perpetual cycle of fixing their quick fixes. Be willing to be misunderstood and stick with what you know. That will create long term value for your customers and your brand.
  • It’s always Day 1. Don’t let the mistakes of the past become the mistakes of the future. Put another way: It ain’t where you’re from; it ain’t where you’re at. It’s where you’re going.

Walking the Path

William Ury: The walk from "no" to "yes"

William Ury is a very smart guy. His book Getting To Yes is among the most successful guides to negotiation.

His TED talk is about what he calls the third side in any negotiation. It's about getting out of your own head and out into the world where both you and your opponent have to live.

In many ways, marketing is like negotiation, and your target customer is like your opponent. In this model, the third side is the community that your customer belongs to. From the beginning, Rebel has advised clients that understanding the demographics and psycho-graphics of consumers is not nearly enough. You have to understand the community — how it functions, what it values, the ways that influence moves throughout.

You won't get this from research reports. You get it by walking the path. You get it by physically walking through the community, virtually visiting the websites and Facebook groups, reading the magazines, listening to the music. You get it by talking to people.

If you aren't willing to do that, you're not ready to negotiate with people to earn their attention, much less their hard-earned dollars.

 

How to Handle Bad News

I had a tough call the other day.

We've been handling trade show activation for one of our clients. It's a pretty sizable account for us. Last week, the client called to say that although she and her bosses are very happy with the work we've done for them, they have decided to change strategic directions and forego any trade shows for the immediate future. That last sentence cost us multiple six figures.

She explained the rationale and it made perfect sense. If it was my money, I would have made the same decision.

I let her know that I agree with the decision. To be clear, she didn’t need me to agree, and it wasn't even her decision. But I saw the opportunity to continue to be on the client’s side and at the same time demonstrate that we think like they think. My intention was to give my client more confidence that she has the right partner when the next opportunity presents itself.

Rebel's core values include being Of Service. I saw this moment of adversity a perfect opportunity to put that to work.

 

Rework

Rework by Fried & Hansson, photo by Emily Norton What are you reading? You should be reading Rework by Jason Fried from 37Signals. His company makes a ton of money by selling software and has very little infrastructure and the typical corporate bullshit that weighs down too many companies. No offense, of course, to all of the companies weighed down by the typical corporate bullshit. If you're not ready to get the book, you can see an excerpt here at Change This. My favorite bit:

Start making something We all have that one friend who says, “I had the idea for eBay. If only I had acted on it, I’d be a billionaire!” That logic is pathetic and delusional. Having the idea for eBay has nothing to do with actually creating eBay. What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan. Think your ideas that valuable? Then go try to sell it and see what you get for it. Not much is probably the answer. Until you actually start making something, your brilliant idea is just that— an idea. And everyone’s got one of those. Stanley Kubrick gave this advice to aspiring filmmakers: “Get hold of a camera and some film and make a movie of any kind at all.” Kubrick knew that when you’re new at something, you need to start creating. The most important thing is to begin. So get a camera, hit record, and start shooting. Ideas are cheap and plentiful. The original pitch idea is such a small part of a business that it’s almost negligible. The real question is how well you execute. Embrace constraints “I don’t have enough time/money/people/experience.” Stop whining. Less is a good thing. Constraints are advantages in disguise. Limited resources force you to make do with what you’ve got. There’s no room for waste. And that forces you to be creative. Ever seen the weapons that prisoners make out of soap and other everyday items? They make do with what they’ve got. Now we’re not saying you should go out and shank somebody—but get creative and you’ll be amazed at what you can make with just a little.

But seriously, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments.