We’ve been working with Elliot Brown Watches since the very beginning and have witnessed their beautiful, organic growth. It’s been a wonderful thing to behold. Owned and run by Ian Elliot and Alex Brown, everything about the brand is authentic, welcoming and engaging. Mind you, Ian’s got plenty of experience: he was co-founder of surf brand Animal and has successfully started and run four more companies to date! We caught up with him because, well, quite honestly, we like his vibe. We talked about how Elliot Brown’s weathering the current storm and he imparted his wisdom – 5 tips for entrepreneurs. Want to know his top tip? “Be like Tigger!” Read on.
You guys are doing some pretty cool things at the moment. Tell us about them!
When times are hard it can bring out the best in people. Whilst our business instantly shrank we still wanted to keep in touch with our audience in an upbeat manner. In fact we haven’t mentioned the C-word once! We got creative instead. First we started a weekly newsletter – our monthly newsletter is called News From The Yard as we work in a lovely boat yard on Poole Harbour – this one is called News From The Kitchen Table! In essence it’s a collection of interesting, creative and thought-provoking content – nothing to do with watches – wrapped in light hearted humour. It’s been fun putting it together and has received some lovely feedback.
We lost our trade business overnight but have long been supporters of high street retailers. So, we hatched a plan where we deliver income even when the retailer is closed but remains active on social and email channels. It’s nice to be nice.
Clapping with the nation every Thursday got us thinking. We’ve always wanted to make an Elliot Brown T-shirt – a collaboration with a cool garment brand – this was our chance. One Thursday we had the idea of a design competition for an EB/NHS t-shirt from which 100% of profits would go to the NHS. Within nine days we had taken orders for 330 t-shirts and raised £4290. The response was so lovely, it made us proud to have helped build this wonderful, powerful community. The T-shirts should be delivered next week and are made by the very ethical and environmentally aware Teemill on the Isle of Wight.
We’ve bought a t-shirt, can’t wait to get it. We’ll send you a selfie! Anyway, we’re a small business and we think we could learn a lot from you. Can you give us 5 tips on running a successful company?
Be like Tigger but with empathy
Knock backs, dead ends, failures, constant change, uncertainty, losing the will, fear of failure, let downs are your newfound friends right? How you cope with them is everything. Inner fire, drive, passion, courage, big kahunas and energy need to be near the surface no matter how stressful life sometimes feels so look after No.1. When you’re drained, try and rise above it, switch your mind to something more pleasurable, don’t take it out on business colleagues or the family and know when to switch off! When the wins eventually come, they feel good, really good. Make sure to celebrate.
I’m half Yorkshire, half Scottish so I’m naturally tight with money. Turns out to be a decent trait for an entrepreneur as it’s so easy to spend it and achieve very little. You’re small and your competition are large and powerful. You’re agile, imaginative and creative so it’s vital you don’t try and play the big guns at their own game. Instead make lots of little, creative bets that build. If your product and story is good enough, people will naturally want to talk about it. Give them reasons to and make that a ’thing” because word of mouth is incredible – it’s trusted, long term gold. Get the experts and people in authority talking your story. Give the editors newsworthy content and great images – make their lives easy. Get reviews, get ambassadors, collaborate with like-minded businesses who have a similar audience but don’t compete. Work with people who are willing to spread your word.
Employ naturally, passionate enthusiastic people who are better than you at what they do then trust them
The right person with the right personality for your business can be trained the skills they don’t have but the wrong personality will always be wrong and can easily affect more than just their own performance.
Business is like a big complicated recipe. Work out what your ingredients are
Then be careful because if you take one little thing like the salt out, it can taste crap. Keep considering and rounding up all the ingredients to see if improvement to taste can be made. Once you’ve got your recipe don’t deviate or be distracted by opportunities you can do but that will dilute your time and resources. Keep massively tight reigns on cash. If you need to grow by £10k, you’ll need to buy another £10k’s worth of product on top of normal trading. Make sure you have the means to afford your growth, get a supportive bank and shop around – most of the small business managers are crap at, erm, business… Go steady, be prepared to have deeper pockets than you ever imagined or launch on Kickstarter/Indiegogo so long as you’ve got a “what’s next” plan.
Understand the vibe and authenticity of your business and don’t do anything that’s not authentically “you”
Think long term, where do you want to be, is it money or the trip you’re on that’s important? Remember it’s nice to be nice. Once you’ve nailed your vibe and tone, stick to them like the recipe, be patient, put the effort in and people will come. Be humble, and authoritative and no matter how much money you make you’ll enjoy success more if you achieved it against the odds with a, canny, scrappy thinking mentality.
Wow! Now that’s some really thought-provoking advice. Thanks Ian!
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