Posted: Wed 30th May 2018
Channelled in the right way, a dose of rage can be useful when setting up or reviving a business. Simon Lamey, Enterprise Nation adviser member and co-founder of The Big Apricot, shows that finding what makes you angry and standing for something injects gusto, determination and focus into a business.
Last week my wife had to sit on the 'naughty step'.
We've been teaching my two-year-old that hitting someone is not acceptable. One day, however, it was my wife who thumped me on the arm because I was winding her up. My daughter saw it happen, so my wife had to apologise and sit on the naughty step for two minutes.
Despite her best efforts, a dose of rage had got the better of her.
But a bit of anger can actually be useful in business. If you feel angry about something, it usually means you want to do something to change it. Anger fires you up. It puts you on a mission. It gives you a purpose and gets your feet out of bed every morning.
Sometimes businesses can get stale, however.
They can become stale to us and stale to our customers. And this staleness doesn't necessarily creep in after years. It can happen after only a few months of starting up. It's easy to get stale and tired from working long hours with little reward.
Channelled in the right way, a dose of rage can be our best friend.
Rage can inject gusto, determination and focus into our work and set us on entrepreneurial feats of derring-do. It can infiltrate the words on our homepage, and ideas for new products and services. Rage and standing for something is also a customer magnet.
So how do we find our rage? What if we don't have it already?
One place to start is to ask ourselves: 'What angers me about the way things are done in the industry that I work in? What's got to change?'.
Let me explain.
When I was setting up my business, I wondered, 'Why am I doing this?'
There are so many marketing businesses out there, why would mine be any different? At that time, I was making 50 mile journeys to a consultancy project, and it was during these journeys that I would think over and over about how to be different.
Then a thought struck me.
Instead of thinking, 'How can I be different?', I should think, 'What angers me about the way things are currently done by my competitors? What's got to change?'.
And this was my dose of rage.
To rally against the excessive low-quality, over-priced marketing advice from 'gurus' and their claims of 'Here's your path to a million Facebook followers in one day!' Yada yada.
And what about other businesses who have asked themselves: 'What's got to change?'
Anita Roddick set up the Body Shop as a backlash against unethical consumerism.
TOMS Shoes started out from the founder seeing children in Argentina unable to attend school because they had no shoes.
Scottish beer brand Brewdog stood against all the bland, mass-market beers and was instrumental in kick-starting the craft beer trend.
Steve Jobs raged against a cock-sure Microsoft exec who was bragging about Microsoft's plans for a tablet (disclosed here).
It was this bragging that made Jobs want to beat Microsoft. And what was born out of that rage? The iPhone.
Why is it so important to ask ourselves 'what's got to change?'
Because answering this question fires up our inner fuel about what we want to focus on. It inspires us to be different and to do better. And what inspires you will inspire others; notably your customers.
I've spent so many hours in meetings trying to work out a brand's purpose by way of clever-looking diagrams such as 'brand pyramids', 'brand ladders' or 'brand onions'.
But many of them don't end up being useful because they're so confusing. Surely a much simpler way to find your 'how to be different' is just to ask: 'What's got to change?'.
Let's look at other companies who have used rage to their advantage.
There's Abel&Cole, the ethical and organic food delivery service who use as little packaging as possible, Ecotricity (the 100% green electricity provider), Onnit.com (a no-junk supplements brand which stands for'Total Human Optimization').
Charities are prime examples of raging for or against something, whether it's fighting poverty or stopping cruelty to animals.
But what if you sell printer cartridges or shipping containers? How do you find your rage?
No problem, because there's always a way of doing something better, however seemingly 'unsexy' your line of business.
You're the one who knows your business inside out.
You're the one who will see how you can be unique or different from the competition. You know what is good and what isn't.
When you see services or products done badly, it touches a nerve - a bit like anger acupuncture - and you won't let it go until you have 'righted that wrong'.
So if you and your business are feeling stale, go for some anger acupuncture.
Ask yourself: 'What's got to change?'. Get scribbling on a piece of paper. Circle the bits that excite you. Form them into a simple paragraph that outlines:
What does the competition or your industry do that angers you?
What's got to change?
How am I going to change it?
Put it on your homepage or 'About' page, in emails, and in the words that you use when you talk with your customers.
Once you have identified and channelled your rage, and you'll have a more exciting business that you'll enjoy running and customers will enjoy buying from. If that's not a reason to get out of bed each morning, I don't know what is.
Just don't overdo the rage and end up sitting on the naughty step ;)