So what did Bert Jacobs say?!
First of all, I was really nervous taking the call. I really wanted to make the most of our phone call and not squander the opportunity, so I took furious notes.
My nervousness was unfounded. Bert began by saying, "Good job for starting Montana Bones". He went on, "Starting is hard." Loads of folks want to get going, but don't for a variety of reasons. He cited Inc. Magazine which caters to folks just starting or longing to start. The start is hard, but Bert began by giving kudos for "going for it" and told me to "enjoy the ride."
Secondly, he told me to do the work, and take real time to understand that business is a tool and to ask myself, "What is the motivation to have your business?" Dig deep and ask, "Why am I doing this? Does it serve the values of my life?"
Once you ask the "why" and if it makes sense to go forward, work on vision, mission and values. Bert segued to talking specifically about the vision, mission and values of his company. As I've now read up more on the company, their vision, mission and values are an authentic strength for the company. He encouraged me to develop these, and then to be transparent about them and to actively communicate about them. So stayed tuned for Montana Bones work on this! (See the end of blog post for Life is Good's mission and values.)
He urged me not to mess with the vision--it needs to be the ultimate best of what I am going for. Theirs is to spread the positive community of optimism. That has powerfully invited their customers into their brand, and has also been good business for them financially.
Then our conversation went to practical day to day advice. He urged me to source out what I am not not good at and don't enjoy doing. Zeroing in on my strengths and total joys will bring strength to the whole endeavor. Coming from someone who had to "do it all" for a long time, has real weight.
His guidance continued to be helpful. He said that entrepreneurs are often idealists, and want to get it right 99% of the time. But he encouraged me to think in a 80%/20% mindsetIf you are authentic and have a good product, good enough is good enough to get going. Your brand's authenticity will carry the day.
Here's where Bert's counsel got extra potent: you need an emotional connection with your customer. Strive very hard to stay in touch with your customer, tailor your designs to your customer, and remember that the relationship with your customer is what matters. Give your audience a real way to give feedback, and truly listen to it. Not just from your fans, but the naysayers too. Hear and think deeply about their feedback. There's loads of people who "make stuff", but the smart ones know about the emotional connection to the customer.
Montana Bones has gotten a lot of feedback, asking for a dinosaur design. We are happy to report that we are currently working on it! It will be a delightful image that will be fun to he present to our customers.
Bert urged Montana Bones to know who we are, and say it! And so we are rewriting our "About" section on the web site, and giving more personal details.
While Bert went on to give me more pointers about our tag line, seasoned advice about inventory and how the clothing industry is changing, my two big take aways from this experience were:
1. It is wonderful to see the "Good guy win". All too often the news of the day is how the big guy clobbered the little guy--not so with the Life is Good Company. They are humble, have worked hard, and they are rocking it in tee shirts and loads of other products
2. Go for it. If our friend Dan Stevens hadn't been bold and chased down this opportunity for me, it would NOT have happened. So often I look at other lovely products and entrepreneurs and think, no way do we have what it takes. But we DO and little by little, we are expanding and gaining real ground.
So what did Bert say? Be the real deal is a great take home message. What's next? We'll be working on our mission, vision and values, and test driving ways to better connect with customers. We'll also be saying, Montana Bones--the real deal as our tag line. What do you like it? Tell us what you think! Thanks in advance for your feedback!
LIFE IS GOOD: Mission: To spread the power of optimism
Values (they call them superpowers): 1. Gratitude 2. Creativity 3. Authenticity 4. Love 5. Courage 6. Compassion 7. Humor 8. Fun 9. Simplicity 10. Openness