Stories, ideas and tips to help women build fabulous businesses and to help you build your best business.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Paper planes

I have been making lots and lots of paper planes.

My middle son got a paper plane kit for his birthday. Well it’s probably a complete exaggeration to call it a kit – it’s actually just 40 pieces of same-sized coloured paper and a how-to-make-paper-planes booklet.

But it is brilliant.

You see, somehow I had managed to get to this point in my life without mastering the how-to turn-paper-rectangle-into-flying-object skill. And this is despite six years of trying. Seriously my boys had even taken to asking God for a mother who could make a paper plane that did anything other than plummet like a stone.

God is off the hook now. One birthday present, a few simple instructions and a diagram later and I am mistress of the skies. My planes fly fast, travel long distance, sky dive and (applause please) loop the loop.

My nibble is this: there are things which you feel you should just have been born knowing how to do. But if you didn’t inherit the know-how gene don’t waste time – just get help.

And I have another nibble too: isn’t the paper plane kit a great example of a simple idea elegantly executed?

The only issue I have now is that my son wants his present back…

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Breakfast, lunch and dinner at Tiffany's

There was a time when a Tiffany Celebration ring would have been more than enough.

Nestled in an eggshell-blue box tied up with a white bow, a platinum band sprinkled with diamonds was the once-in-a lifetime gift to celebrate a most important moment.

And then Tiffany came along and told us we had got it all wrong.

We weren’t celebrating enough.

There are lots of times to celebrate; they said “Maybe there's a baby. Maybe it's your anniversary. Maybe just because. Capture your life's important moments. For all time”

“Good point” we thought, “we can’t let life’s important moments pass by unrecognized” but what should we do, we couldn’t mark them with a Tiffany Celebration Ring because we already had one.

Build a stack” they suggested.

“A stack?” We replied

“Yes, a stack of rings” they cried “Each of life’s important moments turned into stunning brilliance”.

And so ring by diamond ring, Tiffany achieved stunning brilliance themselves. For they found a way to sell the same thing to the same people time after time after time.

My nibble is this: Getting a new customer is costly. Developing new product lines is costly. So how can you take a diamond out of Tiffany’s book and work on increasing your sales of current product lines to existing customers?

Oh and if my husband is reading this it’s Mothers Day on Sunday. I think that counts as one of life’s important moments…

Monday, May 5, 2008

When is BIG too big?

I have been reading Cathie Black’s book “Basic Black”. Cathie is the president of Hearst Magazines and the book is really just a collection of career lessons. I don’t agree with all of it – in fact I felt quite irritated when she wrote about dressing for work and stated “when in doubt wear black” – but some of the stuff is great, especially the stories.

One of the most illuminating tales is Cathie’s take on the rise and fall of Talk Magazine.

If you aren’t familiar with Talk; it was a magazine launched by Hearst in 1999 amidst a buzz of enormous expectation and dribbled to a close just over two years later.

Cathie mentions a number of reasons that Talk failed but one in particular stands out:

The first edition of the magazine carried an interview with Hillary Clinton in which she spoke for the first time about her husband’s infidelities.

This spectacular interview set the expectations of its readers at an impossibly high level which it just couldn’t meet, let alone exceed, issue after issue. The magazine’s fans felt let down, subscriber numbers fell, the advertising dried up and the magazine closed.

Seth Godin says in has blog today “Make BIG promises; overdeliver”. Talk magazine’s mistake was making the BIG promise so big that it couldn’t over deliver.
So my nibble is this: If you are starting a business make sure you don’t make your BIG promise too big. Better to overdeliver on a smaller promise.
There’s nothing worse than setting off with a big bang and running out of ammunition. Well, maybe there is. Wearing a colour other than black.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

What Kitchen Table Tycoons can learn from Chanel

The Chanel label is nearly 100 years old. The man at the helm is the 70 –something Karl Lagerfeld and he has been there for some 25 years. Put like that it’s hard to imagine cashed-up gen-Y-ers loving the label. Yet they do. Passionately.

The reason that he can design stuff so appealing to his young worshippers is in his choice of muses - Lindsay Lohan, Amy Winehouse ,Irina Lazareanu, Cat Power and muse-to-be Frances Bean.

His muses are cashed-up fashion-leading gen-Y-ers, and his market is cashed-up fashion-leading gen-Y-ers.

So while the label may be old, and the leader long in the tooth, the source of his inspiration is still young and fresh.

My nibble is this: all businesses need a muse.

Your business needs a source of inspiration as much as an artist does. And like an artist your business needs a real person as its muse. So real that you know where she lives and what she buys, know what she listens to and eats, know where she works and what she wears, and know who she dates and who she hates. You will have a picture of her on your office wall and her number on speed dial.

Just check in with her first. You don’t want to be accused of being a stalker.