To describe one of my first loves as a ‘big bag’ might be a little misleading, but it is quite true.
Like any other 16 year-old, relationships were important to me. I wasn’t necessarily looking for it and back then didn’t realise that teenage love can fire the entrepreneurial spirit. But 30 years later the hairs on my neck still stand on end when I think of that memorable first encounter. It was like this…
I’m in the city centre. It’s a busy autumn Saturday afternoon. The light is fading. Wandering through the last shop before catching the number 72 double-decker bus home, my gaze suddenly fell on this most beautiful of creations. Emotion swept through me and all logical reasoning went to pieces. I knew we were destined to be together and nothing was going to get in my way.
Unfortunately, the male shop assistant (he wasn’t the apple of my eye) prevented the relationship from flourishing. He told me that if I wanted to take my new love, literally from off the floor where it sat, I would have to part with £39.95. For in 1982, this was the price of a brand new Karrimor Jaguar 4 KS100 rucksack.
Everything about the rucksack’s style and appearance was stunning. Electric blue in colour, the imperious size and rounded shape oozed confidence and authority. Teenage love can fire the entrepreneurial spirit.
Gone was the traditional clunky metal frame; built into this revolutionary leader of a pack was an internal figure-hugging system that redefined comfort. Attention to design detail was everywhere; even the thickly padded hip belt included a quick release buckle. And of course, according to it’s large laminated label, Karrimor’s space age ‘KS100’ material was ‘100% waterproof’. In truth, the fabric was so impenetrable, it would have probably stopped bullets.
I was able to save and make enough money to buy the ‘Jag’ rucksack 6 weeks later. It then became my hitchhiking companion for over 12 years and travelled thousands of miles with me. But there is a much more important point to this story for marketeers and entrepreneurs.
Walt Isaacson’s brilliant biography of Steve Jobs, describes very succinctly how the founder of Apple learnt how to market products successfully. On page 78, the book summarises the three principles Jobs learnt as a young man, to apply to all future products. The three points are:
Focus | Empathy | Impute
Being focused is a very important business mindset. Understanding your customer is vital in order to be able to supply goods that people need and want. The word ‘impute‘ is all about the fact that customers do judge a book by its cover and make decisions on what they see. If the whole message being received is liked and consistent, the customer becomes compelled to purchase very quickly.
Apple now has a reported 150 billion dollars in its bank account. The iPad and iPhone are not cheap but just like my experience with a rucksack, people all over the world have fallen in love with the products because of their design, performance and image. Later on in Isaacson’s book he describes the lengths that Jobs went to in order to make Apple’s hardware and software perfect.
For Steve Jobs, 99.9% just wasn’t good enough. For reference, his hunger and desire to make the very most of his visionary talents is best revealed in this short TED film entitled ‘How to live before you die’.
As entrepreneurs we can learn so much from the Apple revolution and Steve Jobs’ passion for innovation and design perfection. If we think about products or services that we love to purchase and then apply the principles of craftsmanship to our own work, why can’t we make a dent in the universe too?
So teenage love can fire the entrepreneurial spirit. Memories of my Jaguar Rucksack are still very strong. Doubtless my experience has a very positive effect on anything else I see that carries the Karrimor badge.
Key Learning Points: Long-term business success is built on the creation of services and products that fully resonate with the customer. Being ‘average’ or even ‘good’ is not enough. Pay attention to every detail and seek to be different by being brilliant. Achieve this result and you’ll have a very strong and lasting business.