Harry Cresswell

The Challenger’s Almanac

Thought’s and notes from The Challenger’s Almanac by Mark Anderson.

Thoughts #

I hate to admit it — I had this book on my shelf for a few years before I finally came to read it. Wish i’d picked it up sooner.

If you’re anything like me then the stories in this book will make a lot of sense to you.

If you believe in quality over quantity. If you consider yourself a creative thinker — an artist, a maker or an entrepreneur of sorts — with a tendency to challenge the way things are done, then you’ll have a lot of time for this book.

Most of the companies featured were started by people questioning the way things are done. Using lateral thinking as their weapon, they’ve made it their mission in life to solve problems personally faced. Problems they are passionate about trying to fix — and not just for the money — but because they genuinely want to do good in the world.

The book is also packed full of related reading and recommended talks.

Notes #

Challenger brands are businesses with purpose. Businesses who are prepared to break the rules. Businesses that manage to blend having a positive impact on the world with being financially successful.

Often naivety leads companies to new and creative ways of working.

Most challenger companies begin life as side projects, created through passion.

They lack experience and a natural right to create. “We’re not experts but why should that matter”.

All successful people fail.

Transparent sense of purpose and a force of good challenging ethics and ideology.

Solving problems. Seeing something that needs to be done better.

Proof of concept“I started telling people my idea as if it already existed. I had customers. I had a business”. Reminds me of Buffer’s landing page POC.

Ask for help — you can’t do it alone. Passion and excitement is a great bargaining tool.

You need a purpose — that you love and others can believe in — and an idea to make something better.

Procrastiwork — work you do when you are putting off other work. “The work you do when you’re procrastinating is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life”.

Let tiny victories pave your path. By doing so your path will present itself. Don’t set overly ambitious goals.

Procrastiwork can help you maintain momentum with client work as you switch from project to project to keep excitement high.

Take time to understand what you love about the work your doing.

The Holstee Mainifesto – a company should be built around a lifestyle rather than the other way around.

Seeing business as a way to make an impact on the world and contribute to a cause you feel strongly about.

The only person you should listen to is the customer.

“Ask for advise from other companies and people that inspire you. You’ll be surprised at how much people are willing to share about what they have learnt and the mistakes they’ve made.”

Figure out your message and put your energy into getting it across.

“The most satisfying thing is knowing your business is a force of good and can make a difference to a cause you feel strongly about.”

Find a mentor — someone who has been there before and can stear you in the right direction.

On public speaking — understand your audience so you can get an idea of what they want to know.

10,000 hours — in order to be an expert you have to spend 10,000 hours (approx. 10 years) practicing it. An idea taken from Outliers by Malcom Gladwell.

“Trust your own judgement. Have faith in your decisions. Take advise from people you respect an be prepared to act on it.”

Behind most Challenger brands there is usually someone on a mission to solve a problem they have encountered in their lives.

“Challengers change the way we think, act, feel, see and behave using design to express their vision.”

It’s not about building it fast, but building it right.

“It’s not the government who is going to solve our environmental issues, it’s business.”

“Everytime I’ve done the right thing for the environment, i’ve made a profit” — Yvon Chouinard.

“Business is the most powerful man-made force on the planet, so it is important for businesses to use that power to do the most good. It doesn’t matter if a business is the biggest. It doesn’t matter if it’s the fastest growing. It matters if a business is the best in the world at being the best for the world.”

“What matters most is not simply the ability to make money, but the ability of a business to create value for its customers, employees, community, the environment and other stakeholders.”

Share your mission with your employees. This creates more engaged employees and spurs innovative thinking.

Expand your network. Share your results. Put your practices and policies into writing, this helps everyone adhere to goals as the company grows.

The Anyone Paradigm“We are full service, and or company will serve anyone”. Don’t try and serve everyone, this approach isn’t strategic enough. Focus on serving quality customers, not a quantity of customers. It’s better to know who you will not serve, and what services you will not perform.

A company can become strategic by narrowly defining who it is they serve best.

Recognising you have limitations is strategic, not weak.

“Business strategy is to know your greatest skill, and offer the world only that.”

The “what we believe” in document — helps to keep the wrong customers out. If they do not align with your beliefs, they might not be the best fit for your company. A good way to find the right clients. Alignment is key.

The goal of enterprise is to produce value for customers.

If you care more about customers than profit, then you can take a limited number of clients.

Be honest.

Make products that last — simple sustainable design. Design that matters.

People remember good stories.

Learn the rules in order to break them.

Pursue passion projects.

The most valuable currency is time not money. Don’t strive for the biggest profits but instead find the time for things that matter to you.

Pursue and develop creative ideas. “Creativity is our currency; something we promise and our clients expect”. Get away from you desk if you want this to work.

“We all need time and space to experiment and cultivate creativity if our ideas are really going to be fresh”.

“Allowing time and space for incidental thoughts, ideas, conversations that you only get from actually meeting someone really does reap rewards and nurture lasting, valuable relationships.”

Profit with principles. It’s not just economic profit, but a positive social and environmental impact.

Have a vision. Consider the type of Culture you want to create.

Don’t command but collaborate.

Nurture and develop individuals.

Make money not your only priority.

Be honest and transparent with your communication.

Without purpose you have no meaning.

Great achievement is talent plus preparation.

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good” - Malcolm Gladwell.

Don’t be afraid to prototype in public- “put yourself out there and see where the velcro sticks”.

“A brand is not a logo, or a pantone colour. A brand ius a promise.”

“How much can I give, rather than How much can I take.”

“Know what it is you’re trying to say, say clearly, and then do what you said you were going to do, when you said you were going to do it. That is the rule for business.”

“They [Entrepreneurs] are not just risk takers, they are believers in the unproven, untested, and the unlikely”

“A misconception of business is that you need bags of experience to start.”

Naïve Optimism: To not get sidetracked by what can’t be done. There are no rules. Only opportunities.

“All too often, leaders of companies are willing to Sacrifice people to save the numbers, rather than sacrificing the numbers to save the people.”

“Leadership is the choice to offer protection to those in our care. It’s simply, ‘I will risk my life for the good of my people’. That’s why you own the title of leader.”

“The genius of one never sold anything. As human beings, we’re better together.”

“Why you do what you do, not what you do. That’s a good place to start.”

*“We all have to question, and be willing to break the rules.”

“If you want to remain number 1 you have to think like number 2.”

“Fear regret, not failure.”

”..find your ‘why’, identify your mission, define your belief, write your manifesto. Do all these things, and then build upon them.”

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