Standing out in a crowd

Miles Templeman was our Chairman for some years at YO! Sushi and during difficult times I learned a great deal about leadership from his encouraging and mediating style, oiled by a gentle sense of humour and fun.

He went on to be the Director General of the Institute of Directors and invited me to speak at London’s Albert Hall to a capacity crowd of five thousand leaders of industry.

Earlier in the day Gerald Ratner had spoken for the first time since his famous 1991 speech in which he said that his jewellery company sold earrings for less than the cost of a prawn sandwich.  Why? He was asked. “Because they’re crap,” he said. (That’s shit in American.) His company lost five hundred million overnight. 

A warning to all. But he was warmly received at this comeback.

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Terry Leahy, the man who put Tesco on the map, was the speaker before me and as he came off stage he wished me luck as I passed him running forwards, playing air guitar to the Easy Rider seminal recording of “Born to be Wild.”

As the music came to a close I paused and declared “Business is the new Rock and Roll.”  It was the early 2000’s and the timing was just right – the audience could be seen pulling off their ties and for the most part never putting them back on again.

A good teacher, like a good entertainer, first must hold his audience’s attention, then he can teach his lesson

John Henrik Clarke

To get attention today you need to stand on a box above the crowd and wave a red flag.

Where John Henrik Clarke is spot-on is that your product in this competitive world has to be great, great, great for the customer as well as for you.

That’s why I say be careful what you spend on marketing in the early days. It’s a tempting trap to use marketing as a crutch when the real problem is that your product is not spreading organically. Make sure you spend as much as possible to delight your customers.