When Mark Parker became CEO of Nike in 2006, he asked Steve Jobs for advice. Apple’s founding genius didn’t mince his words, telling Parker: “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”
“I do not think that I know what I do not know.” Socrates said that. The great Greek philosopher does not normally feature in any of those greatest management gurus of alltime lists, but maybe he should.
“A good website is not just a marketing tool to drive people to your products.” This was the first thing the speaker, at a seminar on digital business in a hotel in the Midlands, had said that caught my attention. The woman in front of me must have been impressed too - for the first time that morning, she made a note on her yellow pad and underlined it.
If I have one wish for 2018, it is that, after a year in which the entire world seems to have dumbed down, it gets a bit smarter again. I’m not holding out a lot of hope but as the owner of a decent-sized company such as Mole Graphics, you must always - as that giant of 20th century philosophy Eric Idle put it - look on the bright side.
“How much time do you spend networking?” It’s a question an old university friend, now working as a HR consultant, asked me the other day. I immediately got defensive because a non-executive director had told me, at our last board meeting, that we didn’t do enough off it.
Do print buyers care about social media? If I was to answer that question honestly, I’d have to say “I hope not”. I’d like to say we are conspicuous by our absence but that’s wrong – we’re not there and very few people, let alone clients, have noticed.
Every so often I’m reminded why I loathe marketing departments. This is an unhealthy state of mind, I know, as they are Mole Graphics’ principal customers, but they always seem to have a high horse in the vicinity to climb onto whenever you’ve made a mistake or, worse, they’ve made a mistake and want to blame someone.
There's an awful lot ducks can reach us about teamwork. I like the way they sleep in the open, in a row - hence the expression "ducks in a row" - and the duck on both ends of the row sleeps with one eye open so they can spot any hazards. If their sleep is disrupted, the ducks reshuffle so the ones who were keeping watch move to the middle of the row and get some kip.
The other day I asked my sales director to name his favourite book on sales. "Influence by Robert Cialdini", he replied. When I asked him why it was his favourite, he laughed and said: "Because it's the only one I've ever read."
Ever have one of those days at work where you get on everyone’s nerves - including your own. I had one recently and I still don’t know why. Granted, I dropped my iPhone, cracking the screen so badly that even those nice people at Timsons couldn’t replace it. Later, I discovered that we were mysteriously - and worryingly - behind schedule on a major job. And at lunchtime, I was invited by LinkedIn to congratulate someone I’d never heard of on their new job.
Virtual reality makes me sick. And I mean that quite literally. I tried it the other day, courtesy of a friend of a friend, and felt a bit groggy. That isn’t uncommon. The human lab rats who have been pioneering this technology in various R&D experiments talk of getting their “VR legs” just as sailors discuss their “sea legs”.
The late Leonard Cohen still makes me smile. On my favourite of his albums, ‘I’m Your Man’, is a song in which he grumbles “Now I’m in trouble with the jazz police.” It’s a daft song, not one of his greatest, but it resonates with me because I often find myself in trouble with the brand police.
Comedian Rufus Hound said 2016 was the answer to the question: what’s the worst that can happen? It can feel like that. The words ‘President Trump’ still sit oddly on the tongue. Every time I see him, I wonder, as somebody said of John Major, “If you were a self-made man, would you make yourself like that?” Presumably, the Pentagon people aren’t dumb enough to give him the real nuclear codes.
I don’t want to be the next Steve Jobs, Richard Branson or Alan Sugar. Just thought I’d put that out there because, after attending a seminar the other day, I learned something - but what I learned was the exact opposite of the lesson the seminar was supposed to teach us.