The leadership secret no one ever talks about

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And it is this simple maxim:

If you want to be leader of many, then you must first be faithful with few.

One of the most important sentences I learned from the late great Jim Rohn. And it matters in all walks of life and business regardless of our ambitions. The picture above is from an after dinner talk I did recently at a local Rotary Club. One of the things I have done a lot lately is deliver speeches on the technology revolution we are all living through. This is mostly the result of my book. Sometimes I get lucky and get paid to do it at a conference. But often I am also asked by local community groups who are interested in some of my stories. Which is what happened with Essendon North Rotary. It’s events of this size where I first got asked to share a few ideas and learn the craft of public speaking. In the startup community many times I’ve shared some lessons with new entrepreneurs. For more than 10 years I did unpaid speaking with tiny audiences… that is, the few people who had enough faith in me to give me their time so we could both have a valuable exchange. If it wasn’t for this, then I’d never be able to present in larger audiences like this. But on the flip side, we should never forget the few, even if we have the attention of the many.

It raises a few question of how we might behave in a startup:

Do you love the customers you do have? Are you faithful with those who gave you a try before you have any scale? And if you have many followers, do you still take the time to reply to the few who reach out? Do you still support the low profile few who made what you do possible, or just gravitate to the high profile few who you now have access to?

An easy way to test this is to tweet a famous person or brand and see if they respond. If they don’t, then they should be clear they won’t on their profile. I’m not saying every web tool can scale, I’m just saying we should be clear with our audience on what to expect. If you think it isn’t possible, I can tell you that Seth Godin still answers every email himself (he doesn’t tweet). I can also tell you that Cory Doctorow advises in his twitter profile of better ways to reach him. I can also tell you that Skype answers every tweet you send to them.

In the end leadership is about giving thanks and paying homage to the trust you’ve been granted by those prepared to take the journey with you, from the start. But it’s also about not be too ‘big’ to engage with those who helped you get there once you’ve arrived. It’s not easy, but the real job of leaders in the pre and post success era is to bethink both the few, and the many.

One thing in tech every business or entrepreneur with global ambitions should remember

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While only 39% of the global population currently have access to the internet, 73% of the global population (5.2b people) are already mobile phone users.

This means that the majority of the adult population will never use a desktop computer. They may never use a laptop. And that their world will inevitably be a small screen, wireless one. With the law of accelerating returns on our side, we must assume that within probably 2 years, all of these phones will become smart phones, and the number of people with them over 90% of the population. Already, many mobile subscribers are still yet to have access to running water, indoor plumbing and other technologies we’d falsely assume ought to come first. The order of things in the past, is not always the order of things in the future.

If there was ever a case for a business strategy which is So Lo Mo Me…

Social / Local / Mobile /  Me (as in the end user)

… then that time is now. Add to this the change of the Google search algorithm to mobile friendly and the pattern is clear. The small screen rules, even if it seems to be growing!

If the aim in business is to go global, it’s more important than ever to be mobile oriented, as the developing markets we seek to enter know of no alternative. Mobile is not only first, it is the only. If you want to see the state of the internet which includes these stats and more, I can’t recommend highly enough the annual state of the internet report by Mary Meeker – here.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

This is still everyone’s favourite radio station

Ghetto Blaster

It’s not Rdio, Pandora, Spotify or iTunes – it’s still Wii-Fm.

What’s in it For Me?

I was reminded of this fact just the other week. I was talking to someone before I delivered a keynote speech. They told me they’d like to stay and listen as they needed a speaker for an upcoming event. We had a great chat, and exchanged details. After the talk I gave I never saw him, but to my surprise he sent me a text saying: ‘Great talk Steve, I’ll be in touch this week.’ A few weeks later I still haven’t heard from him. But because it was about me, it kept popping into my head every now and again. That’s cool, as we all know these type of conversations happen every day… we all have good intentions during such conversations but sometimes the day to day deadlines get in the way of opportunities.

I was clearly thinking about me. I was tuned into Wii-FM.

But just a few days ago, I was cleaning out my emails and I came across a number of things I’m yet to follow up on. Opportunities for others who are still waiting on me. So while I forget, I’m certain it pops into their mind and they’ll be saying – “Gee, Steve never got back to me on that. It’s a bit disappointing he has’t followed up.” It’s not that I don’t want to follow up, I just haven’t. And just like me, they’re also tuned into Wii-FM.

But have no doubt they are also are guilty of same thing. We all are. We all have our ‘oops forgot’ list. It’s no ones fault, we are all programmed to think about our world first, it’s a basic survival instinct.

For every opportunity we are waiting on, there’s probably more we can follow up on. We shouldn’t be ashamed if what seems like too much time has passed to actually do it. It’s better than never doing it. Maybe we can start the belated conversation with this little story, admit we are all human and start afresh.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

Inverse goals & why you should set some


After about 15 years of doing work I liked in environments I didn’t like, I set myself some inverse goals. Inverse goals are the things we desire as a price of entry, as opposed to things we’ll acquire after the work is done. We might even call them unusual requirements for happiness regardless of monetary outcomes:

  • Not to have to shave everyday. (it really hurts my skin).
  • To be able to work when I feel like it, not 9-5 like the 200 year old industrial era said I should.
  • To wear whatever clothes I feel like, and not a uniform designed by someone else.
  • To be able to avoid peak hour traffic.
  • To be mobile and not stuck in the same location day in and day out.
  • To have my worked judged on its merits and not by my political performance.
  • To be able to actually read while working, without people judging this behaviour as flunking off.
  • To let the weather determine whether I work during the day or during the night.
  • To work in environments were I could be myself, and not a clone drone .

I literally tried to do work and be involved in businesses which would allow this kind of lifestyle. I feel like we often get things like this back to front. We aim for some kind of mythical economic success after which we’ll shape our lifestyle. But if we reverse the goals, we can have immediate success by first shaping our existence and then our economics around that. Life best lived, is life by design.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

The first question early stage startups should ask themselves

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When we being our journey into a new startup we get excited by the possibilities of what we are about to build. Especially when it comes to raising capital to support the project. But in the moment there’s one question we should not forget to ask ourselves:

Is this a technology push or a problem pull?

The answer to this question changes the direction of the entire project. It changes who will care about what we are building. If making money is the objective, it makes more sense to be in the problem pull space. If you want to change the world, Peter Thiel or Peter Diamandis style, then it pays to be in the technology push arena. Both can become commercial success stories, and one isn’t superior to other, it just depends on what we are chasing – it’s really about the ‘Why?’ The thing that really matters is not confusing which of the two our startup plays in and ensuring our expectations match the funding, timeline and outcome realities.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

How the technology works is irrelevant

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There are very few people in the world who know how the thing in the picture above actually works. Yet, there are also very few people in the developed world who have not been a major beneficiary, and even a driver of this complex technology. There is not generally a fear of the technology that makes cars do what they do. Instead we embrace the benefits they deliver and use them in every way we can. They changed where we live, how we travel, our leisure patterns, the structure of living spaces and cities, they changed the world more than anything that came before them. They totally transformed our culture.

And it is happening again. A new set of tech tools are providing both fear and opportunity. I wasn’t around when cars became common place, but I imagine there was as much fear of the unknown then, as there is now. There was probably talk of jobs evaporating and the end of economics as we know it. And yet, it was the bellwhether for the greatest period of prosperity in human history. While it’s impossible to know how most anything works these days (division of labour), it’s very easy get behind the power technology provides to win in business. In fact, it’s probably easier to win because fear of the technology is holding so many people back. We don’t need to know how something works, we just need to know that it does. And once we embrace that fact, it will reshape our perspective and quite possibly our fortune.

The culture of the power flip

upside down house Many of the economic ideologies we learned in business school are turning upside down. What once worked, now doesn’t. What was expensive, is now cheap. What was impossible, is now humdrum. But unless we stop, consider and look, we just might miss some of these changes in what is true. Capital used to be expensive, and labour used to be cheap. Now it’s moving in the opposite direction. We used to think that the accumulation of capital was the key to success. But we forget it was a substitute to try and uncover intrinsic value. Thankfully we are starting to remember money is a tool, and not an end. Creativity used to be chosen by gatekeepers, now it’s chosen by us through sharing. We got tricked into believing that we should leave creative pursuits to others in the media, in the movies, and to the rock bands with recording contracts. To those who got picked. But now we know that was just because they owned expensive tools and could afford to buy our attention. We’ve now proved there is no monopoly on art, we’re all artists. Technology used to be expensive, and walled behind industrial barriers. We could only experiment with it while ensconced in corporate quarters building things for them as employees. Now we have NASA in our Pocket, maker spaces and collaborative tools to make better tech than those who gave us the tools to do it. The best tech now comes from hacking entrepreneurs because it’s accessible to all now, at disposable price points. The challenge most established businesses face isn’t technology, or ideas but belief systems. They develop a culture that makes them fall in love with what made them successful. It’s why big business is being disrupted after years of relative stability. Sometimes the most important thing ‘Big Co’ can do is forget what they know, and maybe even burn the map that got them to their current destination. New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!