Make Your Mark is a business book for creatives, telling them how to get started on turning their creative energy into a profitable business with simple, actionable ideas taken from 20 leading entrepreneurs and designers, who lead successful creative businesses.
Jocelyn K. Glei co-founded 99U, a blog venture started by huge design portfolio platform Bēhance to help creatives actually execute their ideas, and not just sit on them.
She writes about creativity and work and co-authored 3 books on those subjects together with 99U, where she draws on the advice of successful creatives and entrepreneurs she’s reached out to.
Make Your Mark is the latest one, published in late 2014, and while it’s once again hard to pick just 3 things from it to share with you, here we are:
Success starts with one product. Just one.
Do things that don’t scale.
Always be fully transparent.
Want to unleash your creative potential? Let’s go!
Lesson 1: Success starts with one product. Just one.
When Steve Jobs started Apple, how many lines of computers did he and Steve Wozniak build? Zero! They built one single unit of their first computer – the Apple I.
Then they released it and started collecting feedback so they could improve it. Once it began to sell well and they were seeing some profits, then, and only then, did they begin working on the Apple II.
Jocelyn says that’s exactly how it works. You don’t need 100 ideas. You need one, and only one (although it might take you 100 ideas to come up with one good one).
Then it’s your turn to execute on that idea like a madman, make it great and develop it as far as you possibly can.
Spreading yourself too thin will only lead you to a ton of “nearly there products”, which consumed a lot of time, attention, energy and potentially even money, but never made it to the finish line.
Take Bonobos, for example. They offer a wide range of clothing for men, including golf pants, swimming shorts, sweat pants, chinos, shirts and suits.
But they started with a single pair of pants, which had a great fit. They only sold those in several colors for the first year, until they reached $2 million in sales.
That’s when they slowly started thinking about other products.
Lesson 2: Do things that don’t scale whenever you can.
The reason you won’t have enough time to work on 10 products at once is because you’ll be so busy going above and beyond for your first customers – if you’re building a great company, that is.
You know what makes a mark? Doing things that don’t scale.
For example, how can you top a personal video message from the company founder to Joe, customer number 23? You can’t.
Because it’s more custom-tailored than even the best pair of pants. When you go all out to make a difference in a single person’s life, and you do that for your first, second, third, and the next 100 customers, people will tell the world about you.
When AirBnB started, people were skeptic about having strangers sleep in their home.
So the founders organized meet ups, answered questions and even stayed with their customers during their trip – now that’s commitment!
And if you want to see another example of someone who does things that don’t scale, just look at what Gary Vaynerchuk’s doing.
He’s living proof that this works.
Lesson 3: Always be fully transparent to everyone.
The way Gary does it is by
a) sending a shit ton of tweets, snaps, waves, and what other possible forms of short messages there are these days, directly to his fans
b) being ultra transparent.
Seriously, I’m talking see-through.
Just like him, Buffer also has a brutally transparent company culture – and it pays off.
You can check out their salaries, revenues, pricing policy and core values at any time. They even have public email, meaning all employee emails are seen by all employees.
Being so transparent is so powerful because it creates massive amounts of trust.
Trust is the deciding factor in how fast you can innovate, how honestly you communicate ideas and feedback, and whether people feel involved or cheated, for example because they didn’t have access to certain information (like how much their co-workers make).
The only way to maximize innovation and collaboration in your company is to maximize them in the people that work for you and that you best achieve by being 100% transparent and building a great level of trust.
My personal take-aways
This book summary on Blinkist was really a surprise hit for me, I just discovered it trough the platform and gave it a go, but it turned out to be really helpful.
Creatives aren’t managers for a reason, but nowadays, we all have to be, to some extent, even if it’s just to manage our own, personal brand. This book will help you close the gap.
Starting with valuable tips around finding a purpose, that reminded me of Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, Jocelyn then shares how to build a company that’s lean (small meetings, fast decisions), focused (start with one product only) and goes the extra mile for its customers.
Lots of examples, lots of great people to learn from, I think I’ll stick with the summary for now, but might get the book for more case studies down the road. I encourage you to do the same.