Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Lessons From A One Man Factory

I'm always keen on exploring non obvious places for stories that can inspire us in business. Before I met the musician Dave Stewart I did not see him as an obvious business role model but it’s clear his success as an entrepreneur provides lots of lessons in business. Dave describes his business as his very own ‘ideas factory’, and recently I spent an hour in the studio of another creative who turns raw materials into ideas: potter, Richard Baxter. Richard's an original sole trader; he’s never been on a payroll, instead monetising his talents to create pieces of pottery for nearly thirty years: “I’m going from a real raw material dug out of the ground ... through to totally finished material. I’m a one man industry”.

Here are five lessons from Richard's story for sole traders and micro entrepreneurs:

  1. MOTIVATION. Richard told me he’s motivated by passion not money, and that has driven his success.
  2. PUT THE HOURS IN. Malcolm Gladwell famously said you need to invest 10,000 hours to be good at something. Richard reckons he’s produced 90,000 thousand pieces of pottery over his career, which reminds us you can’t be an overnight expert.
  3. MONETISE YOUR TALENTS. Richard’s story is a reminder of the real basics of what enterprise is all about. He takes raw materials (in this case clay) and turns them into functional pots and pieces of art that he makes a living from. And it doesn’t get much more basic than that.
  4. PLOUGH A NICHE. In order to get a reputation and stand out from the crowd, you need to plough a niche. As the first in his field to go online with a website, Richard has really benefited from the web, using it as a shop window to win high-profile commissions from clients like BBC TV and Stella McCartney.
  5. BE MULTI-DIMENSIONAL. Richard’s talents do not stop by the pottery wheel. He’s also an accomplished musician, playing in two bands The Famous Potatoes and Arcadian Driftwood. He gigs, teaches and also helps organise a local art festival. His work life is a reflection of his multi-dimensional talents and passions.
Here’s a brief video excerpt of me talking with Richard:

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