5 things I learned yesterday

11 Nov , 2015  


Yesterday, I attended Rogers Talks in Toronto and listened to a number of very interesting speakers. Joseph Mimran and Peter van Stolk were two of the dynamic, inspirational powerhouse’s who reinforced what it takes to be successful in business, whether you are an entrepreneur, whether you work for someone else or whether you are just trying to get ahead personally.

Joseph Mimran began his career as an accountant and moved into the world of fashion creating success for Alfred Sung through Club Monaco and launched Joe Fresh Canada’s The line is available at over 300 Canadian supermarkets and superstores, in addition to standalone locations.

Marketing maverick Peter van Stolk founded the Jones Soda Company in 1987 and served as CEO and chairman of the board for 20 years. His unique marketing approach, that included interacting online with consumers and customized packaging, brought Jones Soda phenomenal success in the crowded beverage industry. Van Stolk launched a multitude of new product lines, including non-carbonated juice, tea, and energy drinks, successfully competing against the global multi-billion-dollar soda giants and earning brand loyalty among consumers – all on a shoestring budget.


Know thyself

Each of these men exudes confidence. Mimran told a story about his youth when his mother, a seamstress, stitched in a mohair sweater that he proudly wore to school. From that time on he was fearless in pursuing his fashion interests. From the beginning he enjoyed challenging the status quo. If what he wanted wasn’t available, he created it.

They understand their strengths and built teams around them that shored up what they weren’t good at, a lesson that we all need to pay attention to. We can’t possibly be good at everything, so determine what you are great at and exploit the heck out of that. Get help where and when you need it.


Know thy customer

Peter van Stolk is a master at knowing his customer. He built Jones Soda by forming an intense relationship with his customers. Way before it was popular; he was using the internet to link to his consumers. Plus, Van Stolk slapped photos of his customers onto bottles. “If I think like our competitors,” he told People magazine in 1998, “I’m dead.”

Your customer does not have to be an external customer; they can be your boss, your colleagues or other stakeholders. A solid relationship and understanding who they are and what motivates them is an imperative. As was mentioned during Rogers Talks yesterday, our inter-connection is deepening, insights are clearer.


Be aware

Another story that Mimran told was his story that launched Club Monaco. In a rush one day, he was unable to find an ordinary, plain white shirt in any of the top locations where you would think that you would be easily able to locate a reasonably well priced, good quality staple. The need was obvious; a minimalist focused wardrobe concept was born.
Mimran is a great example of how we should all just be aware. The lesson is simple; lift your eyes up off your desk and look around, see the need and you will likely see either an opportunity to launch a business or to push the business that you are already working on, forward .

Anyone of us could do this if we just disciplined ourselves to look around on a regular basis. It can only help us get ahead. If you look at today’s most used innovations inevitably the same history applies. Mark Zuckerberg saw an opportunity of connection while still attending classes at Harvard. Bill Gates also saw a need he was concerned about the amount of time it took to process work through a computer. Sometimes we skip right over the obvious and can be very innovative if we just looked took the time to just look around.

Innovation has not stopped and is a constant result of needs. Our innovations don’t necessarily have to rock the world but they can help let’s move our personal lives and businesses forward.

Here is an example of an innovation for tomorrow that is still on its way::

“In February, Chaotic Moon Labs began testing the robotic shopping cart that acts a bit like a mind-reading butler. To start it up, you can text message the cart’s built-in tablet computer. Now it knows who you are and what you need for dinner. The cart uses Microsoft’s kinetic motion sensor technology to track and follow you through the store, pointing you in a synthy voice reminiscent of a G.P.S navigator towards products on your list. The system will also warn you if you added something that violates your dietary restrictions. Still only a prototype, the cart isn’t nearly as simple as its human powered cousin, but it does have one main advantage; items you add to the cart can be automatically scanned, and you can finalize your purchase from the device, skipping the checkout line entirely.” Farhad Manjoo – New York Times June 1, 2012


Don’t be afraid to fail

It’s the important leaps forward that synthesize lots of ideas, and it’s the out and out failures that teach us what to do.

Minram ended up opening physical Club Monaco locations because he had taken a flyer and ordered so much product that he had been sure stores would snap up.

Even the unique engaging Jones soda company fell flat for a while as a result of expansion too quickly into markets without having enough distributors lined up. It’s back. Van Stolk has risen again though with now thriving in 6 markets.

It’s hard to believe that one of the most recognizable names in online publications was once rejected by three dozen major publishers. Arianna Huffington’s second book, which she tried to publish long before she created the now ubiquitously recognizable Huffington Post empire, was rejected 36 times before it was eventually accepted for publication.


Question everything

Curiosity did not kill the cat. If one does not question or explore, there will be no future. Joseph Mimran just asked “Where do I find a white shirt?” and built an empire on the quest. Our questions may not lead to millions but they could lead us down a very interesting road. Never stop asking.

All are good lessons for each of us, even if we do these five things in our own small way. It can mean success.

by Julie Murphy

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