Mar 13

Connection Changes Everything

I’ve just had an amazing, inspiring, conversation with two friends over a beer. Nothing usual there then. Except it wasn’t your average Monday night pub chat.

The three of us were separated by thousands of miles. So far, in fact, that Google maps can’t calculate directions to them. A little searching reveals one is 426 miles north of me, the other 4,708 miles south west.

We have met only once in real life.

Yet these people get me. They get what I do, what I want to do, and why I do it. They push me to do things I don’t think I’m capable of. They tell me how it is. They spot the things I cant see. They don’t mind the fact that I can’t type or spell, or that I was eating a burger through much of our chat!

But enough of how great my friends are – that isn’t really the point of this post. What I’m trying to demonstrate is that people like this are out there. People that think like you think. People that want what you want. That are going through what you are.

We have an amazing privilege that would have been unthinkable two decades ago. We can connect with anyone in the world, for a few pounds per month spent on an internet connection.

We no longer have to select our friends from those who live in the same post code, city, country or even continent. The world can connect with us. Our team can be a tiny tiny slice of the whole f-ing planet’s population. That’s 2.4 billion people you can reach.

Your team is out there. It’s negligent not to connect with them.

It might seem like you’re trying to find a needle in a haystack though – how do you find the people out there, since there are so many possible connections? Here are 5 great options:

1 – Twitter

The conversation you want to join is almost certainly already happening on twitter. Use the search facility, follow a few hashtags, strike up a conversation with someone who seems interesting by just saying hi and introducing yourself. Linda describes Twitter as a virtual cocktail party, to which you’re invited – treat it like this and you’ll find your circle in no time.

2 – Blogs

This might sound obvious, but have you done it? You read blogs about your chosen subject right? Have you connected with the author of your favourite blog? Have you followed the links to the sites of a few of the people who’ve commented? These folks are clearly into what you are, and in my experience, will welcome the chance to interact with a cool, like-minded person like you. I met Sarah by commenting on her blog. I then happened to sit next to a close friend of hers on a plane, before meeting her two days later. Connection eh?

3 – Conferences

Again obvious, but I’ve found them the most successful place of all for meeting cool people. Pick an event that looks interesting and sign up. These things are often about the people you meet more than the content. If you can meet one or two of your team there, not only will they be great allies in your endeavours, they can probably introduce you to another few people in your niche. There’s nothing like a personal introduction, even in the days of mass open social networks. If you do go down this route, don’t try to meet everyone. A few deeper connections are worth many superficial ones.

4 – Meetup / Eventbrite

Can’t afford to attend a big name conference? Have a look on these sites for what’s happening in your town. They’re full of small sessions which cover many many topics. There’s probably something out there near you for cheap or free, and the value of a real life interaction is huge. Dont know where to start? How about this worldwide series?

5 – Create your own event

If all else fails – or actually even if it doesn’t, the tools above give you the opportunity to create and organise your own meet up that’s entirely what you want it to be. You might not be organising the next SXSW any time soon, but remember, the inspiring conversation that started this post happened between three of us. It’s about quality not quantity in our connections. If you can find one person who you can help on their way as they help you, then you’ll be infinitely more likely to succeed. Want some tips on how to go about it? This free book from Michelle will have you hosting beautifully in no time.

So what are you waiting for? Go. Connect.

Go. Go. Go!

Mar 13

The Hundred Dollar Club – My Journey So Far – Part Three

I’ve talked about lessons I’ve learned, and projects which we’ve started but this short post is about my personal journey.

It’s hard to attribute all of the changes to me over the past six months to one thing. I’d like to think that I’m growing all of the time, but I think five things have really been influenced by The Hundred Dollar Club.

I’m braver

It took a lot of courage for me to write the first post starting THDC, but looking back on it now, It doesn’t seem that brave. Fear of doing things has gradually subsided.

I’ve never been particularly scared of anything, but I was (am) excellent at rationalising why not doing something is a good idea.  I’ve been shaken out of that a little and I’m far more inclined to do, not plan now. Once you end up speaking on stage at a Seth Godin gig, then most things look a lot less scary!

I’m more open

More open to others’ feedback, to new opportunities and to making new connections. I’ve seen what having a great team can do, and I’m more determined than ever to surround myself with people who get it. This is probably the number one good thing that THDC has done for me – connecting with the right group changes everything.

I take my own medicine

I’m held to account to do what I say I will now, and that’s fantastic. I’ve always believed that doing is the way to learn things, but now I am even more convinced. The THDC team won’t have it any other way.

I know there is another way

I’ve seen the changes real people have made, through applying effort and thinking differently. I know that almost anything can be done.  There really is no substitute for live examples of success to make you certain that it’s possible. Seeing other people succeed is an amazing motivator to do more yourself too.


I’m sure I’ve changed in lots and lots of other ways, but there wouldn’t be anything left for the end of year round up if I went into them now!

No more THDC updates for a while here now, but the group marches on. If you’re interested in reaping some of the benefits associated by belonging to a group of like minded folks, get in touch and lets discuss how to make it happen.


Feb 13

The Hundred Dollar Club Update – Part Two

Part two of the THDC update is probably more important than what I learned. It’s all about what the club members have been up to.

This is a very difficult post to write, as I could go on for ever about how great the projects are that people are working on. I’m not totally sure that I would do justice to the achievements, so I’ll go for simple list and some observations.

I can’t claim that THDC is in any way responsible for the success of these ventures – that is entirely down to the individuals concerned, but I’d like to think that each person has been helped in some way.

What’s amazed me the most about the group is the diversity in both location and type. We have businesses from photography to food and copywriting to composting. They’re based in the UK, USA, Germany, Netherlands, Malaysia and Cambodia.

It’s a diverse bunch and the collective experience which the members bring probably couldn’t be bought from a consultancy at any price.

So what have THDCers started?

Lindy has finally quit the job she didn’t like and has started not one but two businesses. English Without Prejudice is a conversational English Class based in her home of Kuala Lumpur, and Lindy Siu Inc is already working on communications and marketing for clients.

Gretchen was already free from corporate life, but has set up her site which combines her passion for great design with the experience of creating business strategy from the corporate world

Oliver became an Amazon #1 ranked Kindle Author with his first book 44 Steps to Natural Health and Fitness. Doubly amazing when you consider it’s not even written in his first Language.

Sonya also quit her job, and moved from Australia to Cambodia. Urban Forage runs street food tasting tours, a great blog and is planning it’s first “Beaches and Islands” retreat.

Karen is another to have escaped the world of working for the man. Her unique style has seen her land copy writing clients all over the internet, and her newly launched Untamed Writing site has even more queueing up.

Thad is still working in engineering, but has rediscovered his passion for writing. Learn. Write. Repeat. always brings a new perspective to subjects you wouldn’t expect, but I for one am really looking forward to seeing some of Thad’s fiction work get out into the wild. Hint hint.

Donna is a mainstay of THDC. She has words of encouragement for all, no matter what her personal circumstances. We’ve encouraged her to close down A Zenful Life for the time being whilst she devotes all of her her energy to battling a serious illness which she was diagnosed with at Christmas. Wish her well on facebook if you have time.

Richard is the final THDCer to turn his back on corporate work. He has more ideas for Black Pixel Photography than the rest of us put together, but I for one can vouch for the brilliance of his photography workshop. If you live anywhere nearby and want to improve your pictures, you couldn’t invest your money in any better way.

Nathan has now finished selling most of his stuff on eBay, and is preparing to bring that minimalist style to the world through Koko and Roy. Patty is still running Minimal Switch and is working on a new top secret project with her $100.

Jill is still creating a worm empire, and helping people grow their plants as she grows her business, and Kathryn has a newly found determination to take Malamalma to the next level

So this is clearly a long list, but I’m very proud of what every one of us has achieved. I say us deliberately there, because I’ve changed significantly over the past 6 months and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of this great team. More on my personal journey next week in part 3.

Here’s to the next 6 months of THDC and sharing our stories at WDS 2013.

Feb 13

Six lessons From Six Months Of The Hundred Dollar Club – Part One

Back in July, I was given $100 with the instructions

       Start a project, surprise someone, or do something entirely different.

With it, on August 1st I started The Hundred Dollar Club.  Just over 6 months on, I think it’s time to review some outputs to date. What have I learned? What has THDC achieved? How have I changed?

I’m going to do this in three parts, of which this is the first: What I’ve learned about Running a community?

1 – One size does not fit all

We’re a diverse group of folks, which is what makes our community great. But it also means that one schedule for everyone doesnt work.

Initially I set out some weekly “tasks” which were great when they applied to everyone [Such as introduce yourself, describe your idea etc] but just don’t work when people are at different stages of their journey.

People who want to break out of a day job and into their own gig seemed to respond well to structure, accountability and deadlines. This doesn’t seem to work as well for those who have already “escaped”. Perhaps no surprise, but the idea of a structured escape plan is an interesting one which I’d like to revisit in the future.

If everyone were doing the same thing – say it was a group of people all starting a blog from scratch, I think a set curriculum would be perfect, but this community needs more freedom than that.

2 – Everyone can learn from everyone else

This possibly shouldn’t be a surprise, but frankly I’m amazed at the insight that comes from unexpected places. It can be too easy to listen to the “gurus” in your industry or niche, and miss an idea that seems obvious to someone with another background. Creating a hugely diverse group really brings new perspectives to a problem.

3 – Activity happens in peaks and troughs

Participants feed off each others enthusiasm and energy, and want to help each other. When there is a problem to solve or question to answer, THDC members are there. Part of leading a community seem to be encouraging these topics to emerge, not pushing every topic yourself.

4 – There is always a drop out rate

I can only say that I suspect this, having run only this one community, but I see consistent feedback from other groups, and it seems logical.

We started with 22 members, about 18 posted their bio update in the first week, and after 6 months we have 13 active members.

I think there are two learnings from this. The first is that numbers don’t mean everything in this space – a smaller more focussed group seems to be working well for us, and the “drop out” rate of 40% doesn’t matter a jot in terms of usefulness of the group.

The second learning is it’s OK not to be for everybody – what we do works for those who it works for, and if it doesn’t for others, that’s OK.

5 – Starting from scratch is a good thing

When people are introduced to the group at the same time, I think it’s easier to participate. People can be more open when they are all “new” at the same time and there aren’t any established figures. Ongoing forums or groups tend to have their long standing members, who are very well established, and know exactly how it works. This can be great, but can also be a little intimidating for new members. Having everyone start at the same time seems to be a good leveller, and allow everyone’s voice to be heard.

6 – You don’t run a community, you can only contribute and lead

The members of THDC don’t need someone to “run” the community. They don’t need rules and moderation, they just want a place to interact, and some topics to interact around.

I set up the place, and I’ve then learned that it’s my job to lead with interaction if needed, not drive the topic of every conversation.

There is definitely a balance to be struck between providing a framework then getting out of the way, and being there to help things along when needed.

I haven’t always got this right, but we’re learning to do this as group, and guess what – it seems to be working!

Look out for part two next week: What The Hundred Dollar Club Members Have Achieved So Far…

Sign up so you don’t miss it!

Feb 13

You Can’t Add Remarkable

I was brainstorming with a friend last week about how his company could become more remarkable. We threw around a few ideas and but moved on fairly quickly to the next topic of conversation.

I didn’t think much of this until my way home from the meeting, when I realised: Truly remarkable is not something you can add. It has to be built within your business or yourself from the ground up.

You can add noticeable, and possibly even memorable. These can both be a good thing, and can make you stand out in a crowded marketplace. They can open the door to the first conversation and get people talking.

But they don’t make you remarkable. The things that make you remarkable start with what you’re going to do to serve your customers better.  Just ask “How will that help my customer?” If there’s not a clear answer, it’s probably not right.

Things that don’t start with your customer, can’t make you truly remarkable. It should start with them, not you or your business.


Feb 13

Now – The Time For Entrepreneurship

I spoke at an event last week for small businesses, and those who are interested in starting their own business. This presentation is based on what I said, exploring 3 simple themes

  • Entrepreneurship is no longer an option, but an imperative in the modern work climate.
  • This imperative combines with the best time ever to be an entrepreneur.
  • There is nothing stopping you except yourself.

It’s quick to flick through, I’d love to know what you think.

Violent disagreement? Quiet nod? Anything in between?

Jan 13

Do You Need a Plan?

It’s no secret, I love a plan. I’m slightly strange in that I get enjoyment out of creating them.

But sometimes, a plan is the last thing you need. Sometimes you need to let events take you on a journey and see where it leads.

These need not be opposing theories – it depends on where you’re headed.
If you’re sure of the outcome you want, and you can see some concrete steps to get there, then having a plan is best.

If you’re not sure exactly where you want to end up, then creating a plan will be hard, and you’re likely to miss the best opportunities by sticking to the wrong plan.

It’s a case of balance. Spend all your time working to a schedule, and you’ll be burned out pretty soon. Spend your life wandering and you might never achieve what you want to.

Choose consciously. Is this time for a journey, or to reach a destination quickly?

My Friend Paula introduced me to a great balance of the two, which she called the “strike zone” approach. My summary of it is: Define a space in which actions are likely to move you in the general direction you want to travel. Only do things that fall within this space.

Very simple. Very Powerful.

Are you a planner or a wanderer or both?

Jan 13

How I Spoke On The Same Stage As Seth Godin.

Or How Small Steps Can Take You To Big Places.

In January 2012 I decided to do a small thing, and conduct a personal annual review. I scribbled a few things I’d like to achieve on a piece of paper. It was an easy, small thing.

One of those goals was to attend a conference. Simple as that. It gave me a lot of scope to succeed.

The conference I chose was the World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon. Booking that was easy too. A few clicks of a mouse, and a few hundred dollars. Not insignificant, but the consequences of not following through were low.

Getting there was a slightly bigger deal, as it involved flying from the UK to the US, but really, that was another easy thing. Get on a plane and go – something I’ve done hundreds of times before.

Getting given $100 was in some ways huge, but in others, still a small thing. I spent a lot more than $100 dollars attending the conference, so financially it made no difference. I could also have given it to charity and still been happy that it was put to good use.

Deciding to do more than that, and publishing the post about The Hundred Dollar Club felt huge – but in reality it was small. The consequences were nothing. I could take it down in the worst case.

When people responded, that was great, and unexpected and probably the biggest element in this story, But we’re talking about a response from 22 people, not a huge army of followers. Another relatively small thing.

After that I didn’t post here for two months. The next small thing was to write for 15 minutes, and not even publish it.  A tiny thing, which led to getting regular posts flowing again, and great feedback from people reading.

Speaking for 140 seconds at the London Icarus session seemed bigger, and I was nervous. But it was tiny. There were only 30 people there, they were all friendly and my talk was less than two minutes long.

Answering the request for people to speak at Seth’s event in London was easy. A simple form to fill in, took only a few minutes.

Getting an email saying Seth would like me to speak – daunting, but small.

So this puts us at Last Thursday night. Me speaking on the same stage as Seth Godin in front of 600 people. Something which I wouldn’t have thought possible this time last year.

Something that happened so gradually I didn’t really notice.

Don’t get me wrong, this is also small. 140 seconds of talking is not exactly giving a TED talk. But, this is another step along the journey.

Me of a year ago would not have been able to do it. I might have thought I could, but I would have found a way to make it not happen. Some other commitment that took priority, or another plausible, but not real excuse to myself.

The difference from last year? Accepting that things might not work, but giving them a go anyway.

I’m now wondering where else things might flow from here, and hoping that this will seem another small step when I look back.

What small steps are you taking this week?


If you’re interested in hearing my 140 seconds, you can find it from around 6:45 here. I’m not sure how authorised this recording is, but I’m glad it was taken of my part anyway.


Jan 13

Ten Things I Learned From Starting My First Small Business

I started my first on-line business with my wife in 2007. Divide and Conker started whilst we were doing a ski season in New Zealand.  Whilst this isn’t the business that keeps us fed and watered today, it was a profitable venture, and the lessons we learned are priceless.  Here are a few of our favourite ones for free!

1 – It’s Possible – anything can be done

We went from nothing at all to selling things to real customers within 6 months. That included designing our range of merino base layers and having them made to our specifications and building an on-line shop from scratch.

2 – It doesn’t have to be full time

We also went snowboarding a lot, travelled around New Zealand and Australia and took it fairly easy during this time. You could do it a lot quicker. We didn’t even have our own laptop. This means you can definitely do it whilst working full time.

3 – You don’t need perfection to start

In fact, you can never have perfection before you test it out. What seems perfect to you is probably not to your customers. Waiting to have everything just so in your eyes is pointless. Pushing yourself to launch before polishing is a huge advantage. Not only do you get to launch quicker, you will be less emotionally attached to the thing you’ve built that doesn’t work, and more able to change it.

4 – People do not behave as you expect them to

Test things in the real world. You are not your customer. They will behave differently to how you expect. Try things out, test, evaluate regularly. Surveys and market research can lie about what customers want. Customers’ money doesn’t.

We sold absolutely loads of merino beanie hats. They were an afterthought and we didn’t think anyone would be interested at the price we chose. We couldn’t have been more wrong, and they became a best seller.

5 – Getting the message out is everything

All on-line businesses work on a very simple formula: Visitors times conversion. If you have a 2% conversion rate and you have 1000 visitors, you have 20 customers.

You can only improve your conversion rate by trying things out on real visitors. So visitors, or traffic, is everything in the beginning. It feels wrong to work on attracting visitors when you might not think everything is perfect where you’re sending them, but it’s exactly what you’ve got to do.

I spent a long time learning to code a website from scratch, then a long time learning about Google Adwords. I should have absolutely done that the other way around. In 2013, with the widespread availability of e-Commerce software for free or cheap, it’s not worth spending any time building your shop, when you could be attracting the right customers to it.

6 – The relationship with your customer is hugely important

Think about how your product and overall experience can create a long term relationship. Can you can provide more than one thing which customers need, or something they’ll need regularly? Being able to serve a loyal set of customers well, is often easier than attracting the right number of new customers to keep your business going.

Listen to what your customers tell you, but not all of them. You can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t try to. Delighting some is better than being so-so for everyone. Figure out who your real customers are work to serve them.

7 – You can be honest about size

Professional doesn’t have to mean big. When we started out, most of the advice was to give the illusion of size.  I don’t think that’s good advice any more. Small businesses can do things big ones can’t. Take advantage and give exceptional, personal service wherever you can. Customers don’t care how big you are if you meet their needs perfectly.

8 – You need to understand SKUs if you plan to sell physical things

A SKU is a Stock-Keeping Unit – an unique type of item which you sell. This is very detailed, and only significant if you want to sell physical goods, however, it can make the difference between roaring success and expensive failure. We thought we’d have a small range of goods to begin with. We started with 5 different items of clothing, which we thought was small, but comprehensive.

  • Then we realised:  5 for men, 5 for women = 10 different things.
  • 5 Different sizes for each and we were at 50.
  • 2 different colours = 100 different unique items which we needed to keep in stock.

Predicting how much of each to buy is incredibly hard, and when you sell out of something, you’re excluding a section of your customer bed on their gender or size. Not cool for them or your profits.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t sell physical things, but be aware of the challenge. Some are more tricky than others. I have a draft post in the works about choosing physical products to sell. Let me know if you want me to move it up the pile.

9 – It’s hard to sustain things you don’t have passion for

The process of setting up the business, which we found exciting and fun, was very different to the daily picking and packing, which we were definitely less keen on.  We had a clear plan for the set-up, but didn’t set out the ongoing goals well enough.

10 – You will never know if you don’t try…

And you never know where it will lead. Our first business wasn’t our long term venture, but we learned so much that it has lead us into places we could never have gone before starting. Keep the financial stakes as low as possible and look at your first business as a learning experience not just a money making opportunity. Do it this way and you can’t lose.


I’ll be speaking about some of these lessons, plus a whole host of others, at an Entrepreneur Roadshow next week.  It’s in Hampshire in the UK, so it won’t suit everyone, but if you happen to be in the area I strongly suggest checking it out the event. If you’re coming let me know – it would be great to say hi.

Jan 13

What Should You Be Worrrying About?

“Don’t worry about it, worrying is a waste of time” is something we hear often.

I’m not so dismissive. Worrying is too close to caring to be entirely ignored. Focussed on the right things it can be a force for good.

Things we worry about fall into different categories.

Firstly, there is a difference between things we can influence or control and those we can’t.

If you’re worrying about something you can control, that’s caring. To cease the worrying, do something! If you do the best job you can then there’s no need to worry. If you’ve worrying because you haven’t done yourself justice, then try to rectify that. If you can’t, then learn for next time, but let go.

Then come things outside of out control. Worrying about things you can’t influence is a waste of energy. In these cases you can choose to:

  • Take control of the thing you’re worried about directly
  • Mitigate the outcome of what you’re worried about in some way
  • Leave it to chance and go along for the ride

In other words, use the fact that you care to put your energy into something constructive, or let it go entirely.

Sounds simple, but next time you’re worried, think through which of these categories the object of your worry falls into.


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