Our business is painting a picture – in words – of what our future will be like. And getting there is going to be half the fun.
Businesses go through different phases – each has a distinct set of characteristics. Each cycle brings its own set of challenges about leadership style, cash flow, marketing activities, customer base, processes, systems etc.
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Over time the focus and importance on any given activity changes as the business matures. My time as CEO (chief experience officer) is 50% with customers, listening, learning and responding. The other part of my role is all about staying focused on the vision, delivering on our values and of course keeping everyone in the team and our supply community aligned with the plan.
In the early days – my job was survival… I had no customers for two months and four days which seemed like eternity (the longest 64 days of my life – ‘is this baby every going to fly?’). When we did make our first sale (order number 14) I had done 13 before and kept checking that the website worked.
I called our first customer Damien to ask how he experienced our website. The news was not good. He gave me some very frank feedback on how horrendous the website was to use. We are now on version six of the site… each enhancement carefully architected based on what we had learnt from our customers. Not all developments were a hit… hence the six versions. But it is a process of evolution.
My children regularly ask when we are travelling “are we there yet mum?” It is a standard family joke. I respond “it’s all about the journey – we might never get there”.
RedBalloon has come a long way from its very humble beginnings in the front room of my home, with me literally doing everything (except cutting code).
Now we have systems, processes and structures to support growth and fabulous people who are specialists in their field and committed to what we are up to. A customer base that gives us bucket loads of ideas.
My role now is about providing a guiding hand. I appointed general managers six months ago to run the business on a daily basis. Highly skilled individuals who are accountable for delivering their plans. As they say, “a founder needs to know when to get out of the way”.
We have a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) that 10% of the Australian population will have had a RedBalloon Day by 2015. And we are on target to achieve this, but we have a bigger purpose, which is to change gifting in Australia forever (so people reduce the clutter in their lives – no more stuff!).
But what I’m working on now is really fun. I’m painting a picture in words. Letting our imaginations run wild. Not limiting ourselves to the “how” will we get there. Just imagining what our world will be like when….
The painted picture document is only two years out. The end of the decade. It is all about enjoying the journey, every moment of it…. But having a clear understanding of what the destination could be like… if we create it. As Steve Jobs once said: “The best way to create the future is to invent it”, and we want to create our own destiny. It is a very valuable picture to allow all those in our organisation to share the journey equally.
Naomi Simson is the founder and CEO (Chief Experiences Officer) of RedBalloon Days, Naomi is passionate about pleasure! Backed by enthusiasm, energy and drive and recently named one of Australia’s best bosses (Australia’s Marketing Employer of Choice), the Entrepreneurs Organisation (Sydney Chapter) President 2007 – 2008 and mother of two, Naomi also inspires others as a regular speaker, writes a blog and has recently completed her first book. To read more Naomi Simson blogs, click here.