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Archive for May, 2008

I watched the best part of the 11th hour (Leonardo Di Caprio) film over the weekend and have renewed admiration for the ‘actor’ who’s followed his conscience in talking about the inconvenient truth of climate change. How many people around the world have seen this shocking documentary style film and the more poignant question, how many people around the world have heard its message?

‘Padling our canoe’ as I’ve previously described our intention to change the bottled water market away from its blind acceptance of polluting oil based plastic bottles and seriously carbon intensive glass bottles, to a more sensible and ecologically pragmatic paper carton (AQUAPAX), is a challenging task – but nothing compared to the mantle young Leonardo has raised his game to take on.

Admitted he’s a touch more famous than me, but hats off to the boy, he’s opted for the proverbial ‘road less travelled’ and he’s making a cracking job of it.

Pondering on the very real ‘ecological awareness’ message getting through, I met with Phil over at Impression Sailing & Events today and while I didn’t ask if he’d seen the film, his honest understanding of what we’re doing as a business and his sincere readiness to support an initiative he believes in, irrespective of its direct commercial return to his thriving business, shows true leadership in his field. Interestingly, ‘Impression Events’ have no grandiose environmental statements, nor ethical statements or privacy statements designed to satisfy the need for politically correct benchmarks, yet they walk the walk. That counts a great deal in my book and I’m proud to put a link to their site from our links page. Besides that, their pure passion for what they do is a pleasure to read and I urge anyone looking to ‘go sailing’ to look them up beforehand.

Regular readers of my blog will know I’ve previously cited the example of Enrons 64 page code of ethics document and what a mockery that company made of the whole subject. That’s not to say the rank and file Enron employees didn’t believe, but it sure as heck shows their board hadn’t bothered to read what they signed up to. Funnily enough, I’ve met with a few other companies this month and a similar thought crossed my mind regarding how much of their own words their representatives have read and/or believe in.

Employing public facing staff – now that’s a real 11th hour decision for any growing business (sorry Leonardo) – no intention to trivialise the important subject I started on, but representing a business is clearly about more than words on a website and businesses need to be more consistent about using words they believe in, and/or employing staff who speak of things as they really are…

Stay positive – I know there’s still a lot of good people out there – I met a number of them on Friday doing a demo at the John Lewis food hall in Oxford Street – but that’s a blog for another day!

N

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Not a subject line you’d initially think of as being a problem, but the opportunities to help others seems to be taking up an inordinate amount of time lately…

It’s currently gone midnight and I’ve just finished reading the YE (young enterprise) submissions I’m helping judge tomorrow evening over in East Grinstead. The YE scheme is absolutely great at encouraging young people to look at business in a slightly different way and I commend HSBC for their involvement and commitment to this noble CSR initiative; it’s only when you’ve experienced something that you’re actually ‘qualified’ to comment on it and YE allows students to understand a little more about how business and an economy works – or doesn’t work as the case may be.

I’m still following up on the opportunities uncovered Monday during my customer tasting session at Planet Organic in Torrington Place. It was the first time I’d been there during their busy lunch time rush and I do mean ‘rush’. There seemed to be lots of connections though and encouraging e-mails always make positive reading. I’ve another demo at their store in Westbourne Grove on Friday, so it will be interesting to compare the customer responses from the different parts of town.

Today has been pretty encouraging all round really, as it started with a positive meeting with our Brighton distributor Infinity Foods, followed by a session with the Sussex University School of Engineering and Design. The second year students are working on a fresh feel for Aquapax, following customer feedback that the eco-credentials of our paper carton aren’t immediately obvious to people seeing an Aquapax for the first time.

It’s interesting how people either get it and love it, or put up real resistance and want to share their reasons why they’re resistant. In a sales context, this is great, as people are mostly engaging with us at one of the two levels. It’s the customers who listen to the proposition, ask the questions and then buy the cheap bottled water full of nitrates that confuse me – I question the rationale of buying ‘organic food’ because it hasn’t been contaminated by pesticides, only to buy bottled water which declares their presence on the label.  Remember ‘think inside the box’ – or at least try to.

Back to the student designs earlier – some of them show real design promise and you can see they’re in their correct profession already – one had a great big picture of a baby on the front – to signifiy Aquapax mineral water is suitable for babies. Everyone laughed initially, but the more I think about its beautiful simplicity, the more appealing it becomes. I am too close though, so I’m hoping to work with one of the supermarket buyers to refine the next iteration Aquapax design before moving to a production version.

A quick glance at e-mails and the website before bed shows we’ve had a few rather nice enquiries in today which I probably would have been better off concentrating on this evening rather than ploughing my way through the student reports. Life is like this sometimes; the opportunity to help others doesn’t present itself every day – it just seems to happen at the busy times, when there’s also lots of opportunities to help yourself pulling at your energy reserves…  Good idea to get some sleep now though – at least I can tackle my own opportunities in the morning.  Sleep tight (whatever that means)…zzz

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Kevin Roberts gave a barn storming speech at the IOD annual conference last week and re-iterated for me why he’s such a legend in ad-land. The man retains his capacity for original thought; despite all his exposure to so many different ways of doing and thinking things. He remains true to himself and that’s cool by me.

Of course he pushes his ‘lovemarks’ theme constantly, but listening to what he says makes so much sense; he’s a speaker well worth making it along to listen to if you get the chance & it’s quite fun trying to place his accent, as it seems to change from ‘Kiwi’ to ‘Yank’ to ‘Manc’ all within a half hour…

The ‘I have a dream’ reference is in the context of ‘Dr.King’ being a ‘lovemark’ who never suggested he had a Mission Statement or a Strategy to discuss. I love the fact that this connection with the passion of one of history’s greatest speakers (Dr. King, not KR). It made so much sense to me sitting in the audience of the Royal Albert Hall, it was as inspirational for me as it must have been to those 1/4 million people who marched in peace back in ’63.

As an entrepreneur, ‘I have a dream’ is what gets me out of bed every morning; it’s what drove me from the comfort of corporate life, away from the assurance of the kind of pension that some people work their whole lives for in unfulfilled misery…

‘I have a dream’ is a more important reality than any business plan mandated by unimaginative investors, who diligently read columns of hypothetical balance sheets making sure everything adds up in a world that hasn’t come about yet.

Having a dream and living it is where any ambitious venture has got to start – without a dream, it’s too controlled and restricted by the elements which can be guaranteed. It becomes a plan to eliminate the potential things that might create failure, rather than a dream to capture the imagination and acceptance of a market and in so doing become a ‘lovemark’.

Thank you KR – I really enjoyed your inspirational talk. Now to work some of the ‘Aquapax love’ into words for those who seek the kind of assurances in a business plan that are impossible to guarantee. The same potential investors who don’t have a ‘feel’ for what their money is actually being used for, providing it makes their notion of a ‘return’. – I wonder if and what they dream of?
🙂

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