The eighth speaker at the Franklin, TN, Platform Conference was visionary entrepreneur John Saddington. John is the founder of 8Bit, a self-described band of digital rapscallions. One of their products is Standard Theme, a premium WordPress theme for publishers and photographers. If you like the layout of my blog then you like Standard Theme as it’s what I use. John spoke to us on ‘Finding Opportunity in the Ordinary’ and outlined a method for looking at the things around us that can help in giving direction on what our platform could be, focus if we already know it, and ideas if we are stuck.
As so many speakers had, John related his ‘story’ as he opened. He described being a student of engineering, breaking some rules, failing at engineering, taking two masters degrees at Dallas Theological Seminary. None of this speaks to the ‘normal’ path to net success. However, if you have been reading along on the 10 part series you will have discerned a subtle truism. There is no normal path. You have to be you, and you have to share a lot of you with others.
What is John’s ‘story’ now? Well, he described clarity in four areas of his life. Its a good list for life and it is clearly working for him. The four are:
- Family – His #1 priority. I suspect this is a bit wider than just spending time with the family, but probably speaks to shared experiences, spirituality, being there for the key life events.
- Investors – If you are investor you want to know what you are investing in. If you are an entrepreneur you want to get investment into your idea. You have to spend time with angel investors, venture capital firms, thought leaders who can propel your idea forward with multiplier effect.
- 8 Bit – His company needs and gets dedicated time from John. Your side project is important, but the existing company is probably the mechanism that is allowing you to do the side project. Don’t ignore the thing that is giving you the cash to do the next thing.
- Alone – John noted that he absolutely must have scheduled alone time to think, to map things out, to dump and organise all the ideas in his head. This is not I will hang out at home and chill this morning and see if something happens alone time. It is structured focus time to arrange and drive ideas forward. Its invaluable and most of us are probably not doing enough of it.
But what about how to find this reported opportunity in the ordinary? It happens when we SHIFT OUR PERSPECTIVE. In fact one of the best definitions I have ever heard of an entrepreneur was given by John. “ A shift in perspective radically changes the use of objects or ideas – that is entrepreneurship.” That is powerful to me. Thinking in the context of another – or asking others – creates the environment to repurpose things in ways that had not been thought of earlier, often to great economic benefit.
Five thoughts developing this idea of finding opportunities in our otherwise ordinary lives were outlined. They are:
- Be Uniquely You - We each have an upbringing, a profession, a set of life experiences that is unique to us. Our DNA as an earlier speaker called it. We are immersed in it and cannot think why this may be of interest to anyone else. It is exactly that ‘mundane’ that may be of great value to others. Figure out a way to share it with them.
- Mine Your Recreation – We each have hobbies and personal interests that we enjoy outside of work. Some of them we are really good at. The things we are food at tend to become routine. It is precisely here that you can find opportunity to share your passions and your interests. You will find that there is a tribe just waiting to learn from you about the niche that you took for granted.
- Consider the Cultural Context – We all face the world with the overlay of the culture we were raised or live in. This culture becomes a part of the background noise of our world. But others may have a great desire to learn about our culture or may have a different adaptation within their culture of the things we use a certain way in ours.
- Use By-Products – There are things we do in our daily lives that leave byproducts, leftovers. Take the time to look at these and imagine other uses for them, other applications, ways you can repurpose them. One of the most profound examples here is Henry Ford and the waste wood from the construction of early cars. Great piles of this collected and were dumped from Ford’s factories until the day the scrap was re-imagined as charcoal and a little company formed to make it. Today Kingsford commands over 80% of the market.
- Scratch Your Own Itch – John recounted that when he needed some specific analytics done and could not find just what he was looking for he wrote the code and scratched that itch. We all encounter challenges in our daily life. Start writing these down. What are ideas you have for making things work better. You don’t need to be a coder or an engineer. If you have a good idea and some drive you will find a way to get it done.
But merely having the ideas flow from these five methods is not enough. How do you actually go about capitalizing on the opportunity?
You must execute, deliver ,or ship your idea or it is worthless. Therein lies another truth in entrepreneurial leadership as presented by John. Most people will never execute on even the most simple of ideas that they have. If you do, or can find a way to do this, you are quite exceptional.
Now a warning! What is the cost of all this? We are not talking only of the cash cost which can be high as we delve into the execution phase of an idea. The danger here is that one can focus so much on building a platform that the priority list for our lives is put on hold. We can forget the other platforms in our real and on-line lives. These need constant nurturing also so a balance must be struck. The cost can manifest itself in other areas that can be terribly damaging, such as the money challenges many face, lost time for other activities, missing important life events, and marital or relationship stress.
The key is, as John so wisely put it, BUILD WISELY AND WITH RESPECT. When I re-read that last line a snippet of a song I learnt a long time ago popped into mind. It was, “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” I think that is the truth that we learnt in this session. Dabble. Develop on our ideas. Do new things. But ensure that we respect the other preexisting priorities in our life.
How do you develop new ideas? Do you have a structured way of keeping thinking time as described by John? How do you keep the balance between the ‘new thing’ and real life? I would love for you to comment here on the blog and I know your thought or question will help someone else.
Our next recap will be on Stu McLaren and is an outline on the development of membership sites and subscription levels. A really interesting life story and discussion that I hope you will return to read. Want to be notified when posts are published? Simply sign up in the subscriber tab.