Painting a picture of our future
Back in the day, RedBalloon’s vision or Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), was for 10% of the Australian population to have had a RedBalloon day by 2015. We’re in 2017, and have provided 3.8 million experiences so far, I think we did pretty well!
The bigger purpose at RedBalloon was to change gifting in Australia forever (so people reduced the clutter in their lives – less stuff was a goal… and that was before minimalism became a ‘thing’).
And before I forget, if you don’t yet know about BHAGs, be sure to grab yourself this classic read from Jim Collins and Jerry Porras: Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies and start dreaming…
In the early days of RedBalloon – my job was survival. I had no customers for 2 months and 4 days, which seemed like an eternity (the longest 64 days of my life – ‘is this baby ever going to fly?’). When we did make our first sale (order number 14 – I had done 13 before to keep checking that the website worked), I called our first customer, Damian Chown 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 our umpteenth version of the site… with each enhancement carefully considered with the architecture based on what we learn from our customers. Not all developments have been a hit, but it is a process of evolution.
Since we formed The Big Red Group, we have given ourselves a pretty big BHAG — to help 10 million businesses be commercially successful by 2022.
The stages of a business
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. Over time, the focus and importance on any given activity changes as the business matures. Fifty per cent of my time as CEO (Chief Experience Officer) at RedBalloon was spent with customers, listening, learning and responding. The other part of the role was 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.
My children regularly asked when we were travelling ‘Are we there yet Mum?’ It’s a standard family joke. I still 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, not to mention a customer base that gives us bucket loads of ideas. My role now is about setting the vision and providing a guiding hand. I surround myself with highly skilled individuals who are accountable for delivering on the plans, because as they say ‘a founder needs to know when to get out of the way’.
Paint your own future
Painting the picture of your life and your business can really be a lot of fun. Paint the picture with our words. Let our imaginations run wild. Not limiting ourselves to the ‘how,’ will get us there and simply imagining what our world will be like when we do, makes all the difference.
As I embark on this next chapter in my own businesses within The Big Red Group, I have come to realise that it is all about enjoying the journey, every moment of it… but also 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 valuable to create a picture and allow all those in our organisation to share the journey equally.