Friday, November 12, 2010

8 Poo Bah Principles

Entrepreneurial Success

Richard Tait at NWEN Entrepreneur University
Richard Tait
Richard Tait, the one-time Grand Poo Bah of Cranium, was one of four keynote speakers today at the annual Entrepreneur University (EU) put on by the Northwest Entrepreneur Network (NWEN.) Tait is a highly engaging and entertaining speaker who presents startup business insights with flair and energy. Mostly abandoning the stage, he frequently strolled into the audience, establishing an intimate rapport and punctuating his observations with humor and humility.

His talk centered on eight principles for entrepreneurial success:

  1. Have a mission. This provides the big picture guide that informs everything you do and every decision you make.
  2. Change the rules. Tait related how at Cranium they missed the biggest national toy show, rolling the product out a few weeks too late. Sitting in a Starbucks, he hit on what became their winning go-to-market approach: becoming the first non-coffee product sold at the Mermaid. "We decided to take our games to where are customers are, rather than to toy stores."
  3. Know what you're good at. In a serendipitous slip, Tait originally wrote this as "know what you're god at." Same thing--focus where you can be world-class and commit to nothing less.
  4. Make hiring priority #1. Lagniappe: "Hire smarts and rent experience." (Several others including SparkBuy's Dan Shapiro made similar observations.) Also: "Hire for experience and fire for style" as good company culture matters: "We weren't a product company, we were a culture."
  5. Your customers are your sales force. Tait gave several anecdotes of how Cranium so delighted customers that they became "Craniacs" who passionately and broadly extolled the company.
  6. Avoid hairballs. Tait gives his highest recommendation to Gordon MacKenzie's book "Orbiting the Giant Hairball" which extols "being in the avoidance business, not the the reaction business."
  7. Do good as you do well.
  8. Lead with passion, a sense of discovery, and speed. "Speed is your friend."
Tait also mentioned that he gave a variation of this talk years ago at Key Arena as part of a series of business presentations Howard Schultz staged before home games of the Seattle Sonics. He spoke wryly of the challenge of being the third speaker after both Schultz and Magic Johnson. I was at the Key that day in 2004 and heard all three speak. Tait was the only one that said anything worth noting. I wrote the above list (which at the time was only 6 items and didn't include #6 and #8) and taped it up by my computer at Enerdyne Solutions. It helped guide our success and was the most useful and prescriptive advice I received as a new entrepreneur.

I expect Tait's new endeavor, Golazo Energy, will also be a creative and financial success.

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