Media Reviews: Start Something That Matters
©2011 by Blake Mycoskie
Book review/summary by Dr. Denice Moffat
I remember an old story from years back where two shoe salesmen from two competing companies went to a third world country to check out marketing opportunities for their companies. The first man came back home and told his boss, “Forget that idea. We’ll go broke on the project. Nobody wears shoes there.” Blake Mycoskie must have been the second salesman. After returning from Argentina in 2002 he saw that nobody there wore shoes and decided there was a HUGE market. It dawned on him that this may be the way to make a positive difference in the world. So, he started a company to provide shoes for these people who didn’t have any and didn’t wear any. He created TOMS shoes, a “for profit” company that generates enough funds to give one pair of shoes away for each pair sold. One for one. Over a million shoes given away so far. What a concept.
Blake’s idea so infused his initial interns that many have become long-term very dedicated employees. To date, over one million pairs of shoes have been donated to the underprivileged.
But Blake has not stopped there. His first book just out, Start Something That Matters presents inspirational stories of TOMS and other companies who have also had wonderful ideas of how to make our world a better place. Blake is challenging his readers to create and start more things that matter.
So, how does a young inspired naïve gentleman who had never made a pair of shoes, attended fashion school or worked in retail create one of the fastest growing footwear companies in the world by giving shoes away? Incredible isn’t it? Well, Blake Mycoskie, owner and mastermind of TOMS shoes tells us how and gives examples.
The examples in the book talk frankly of the challenges Blake and other companies have overcome and of ideas on how to make it easier for the rest of us who also want to make a difference in our world. Here’s an overview of the book:
Some Components to Models of Success shared in Start Something That Matters:
Share a powerful story filled with wonderful mind pictures. For example, when Jared Fogle was desperate to lose weight a few years back he decided to only eat the lowest fat Subway sandwiches every day. Day after day. After losing 100# the news picked up the story and dubbed his process the Subway Sandwich Diet. It was an overnight success. People don’t remember facts and statistics. They remember the story. Share your story with everyone you can. Find people who also want to share your story.
Engage larger companies into partnering with your story. Big companies are always looking for human interest projects. Pick a project you are passionate about so that when the going gets tough you’ll have the extra shot of energy to keep going. Surround yourself with energetic people.
Make a good impression on the internet. Your online persona should represent what you stand for.
Face your fears. There IS no good time to start. Blake writes, “People tend to think that they should start something only when they are totally and completely knowledgeable about the field they want to enter.” But sometimes you just have to take the leap of faith and build your wings on the way down. No project is ever perfect from the beginning. The timing will never be perfect. There will always be trials, but life continues to move on, so just jump in and get your feet wet.
Live your story. If you can’t, then maybe it’s not the right story for you.
Be charitable: Making a profit is a great goal, but what if you could also accomplish a larger mission at the same time as you make a living? Get inspired. The businesses in Start Something That Matters are making a profit AND changing the world.
Start Something That Matters by starting small. Small improvements made daily lead to massive improvements within a very short time.
Seek as much advice as you can from a variety of people and sources. You’ll be surprised how many people will give freely of their time to help a new upstart if they feel the person is honest and sincere.
Imagination often trumps money. Use what resources you have. Be frugal. People who invest funds into a startup company may not appreciate you spending lavishly when you could be investing those funds into something inventive and more useful to the long term health of the business. Why purchase a 3-bin color copy machine when a one-bin black and white would do?
Develop a presence where it’s free. Use social media. Space matters but you often don’t need to have an office to start. Borrow some space (or their address in a ritzy part of town) from a friend or work out of your garage. Use business cards—if you don’t have any, then write on the back of somebody else’s (it helps of course if the person’s card is somebody that has a big name).
Keep things simple. Keep the work space and business models uncluttered. Specialize in a specific passion. Become a minimalist. Combine activities. Keep a schedule. Always carry a notebook to write down ideas on and minimize, cull or eliminate energy suckers that drag you down and keep you from experiencing your greater good.
Forget titles. Everyone is important when you’re developing a team. It’s hard to be a team player when egos take hold. Reward employees. In Start Something That Matters, Blake (the president of the company) does not call himself the president. He feels it’s possible to have every employee empowered. They make up funny titles there like “Shoe glue” for the office manager.
Build trust both inside and outside your company. “A leader can create a company, but a community creates a movement,” says Blake. So rectify your errors—if you have a product defect then make it right—even if it involves a recall of the product.
Have a zero-tolerance policy for badmouthing other employees. Eliminate the bad apples if they violate company trust—even if it means letting a very talented person go. The rest of the team will be more trusting, work harder and will develop a better bond.
Empower your employees. Mr. Mycoskie says that there is a direct correlation between job satisfaction and how empowered people are to fully execute their job without a micromanager hovering over them.
Be as transparent and open as possible. People donate more often if they know the money will go directly to what the project is all about. If you can, have individuals or organizations underwrite your operational costs so this can be done. Be frugal with your money. People don’t appreciate their donation going to fancy offices, high salaries and extravagant operational expenses.
Use your own products. If you don’t believe in your product and use it, why should others?
Be a giver. Giving makes it easier to attract both great employees and wonderful partners. Give more than dollars. Give of your talents. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with where to begin—there are so many things to donate to. When feeling that heaviness of not knowing where to put your time, talents, love or dollars, take a few minutes to refocus on just one project or even just one person to donate to.
Know your audience and ask questions. Really listen to the answers before tailoring the gift to make it most impactful. Craft your business to support those people you want to appeal to.
The most important thing though is to take the first step and just Start Something That Matters!
Blake’s’ ideas for free media exposure is worth twice the price of his book, but even so, purchasing his book supports a one-for-one book company that donates a new book to a child in need for every copy of Start Something That Matters sold. Blake has truly mastered a system that works.
Start something that matters today!
If you have ideas for us we’d love to share them.