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“If I Could Tell You Just One Thing”

by Alice Gallop

Richard Reed, the co-founder of Innocent Drinks, turned a festival smoothie stall into an invincible brand. Along the way, he met some of the world’s most successful and inspirational people and made a habit of asking them their best piece of advice. Speaking at the LSE recently, Reed drew together some patterns from the ‘chaos’ of advice he received, which he described as not quite an algorithm to success, but rather a few valuable lines of code.

Advice is a nutrient rich soup made from boiling down the bones of life and should not be underestimated, so we have picked out a few of the lessons that stuck out to us that we think would be beneficial if you harnessed on your entrepreneurial journey.

Keep the main thing the main thing.

Success starts with knowing what it is you want to do, and having the clarity of thought that it’s ‘this thing’ that is driving your journey. This laser light focus will help you marshal all your time, energy and resources behind serving that simple, single-minded objective. When you are focusing on just one thing, it becomes easier to have the strength and ambition to be the absolute best at that one thing.

One of the implications of this fanatical devotion to a single objective is saying ‘no’ on nine out of ten occasions. This religiously brutal focus was somewhat behind the success of the world’s most valuable company, Apple. According to Apple’s chief designer, Jony Ive, Steve Jobs would regularly ask Apple employees ‘what have you said no to this week?’ It is (somewhat) besides the point that creatively wired Jony Ive admits that he found himself making up products purely to satisfy Job’s obsession … but you get the gist.

Don’t wait to feel confident

I am not advising you to ‘fake it ’til you make it’ but success waits for no man, even if he is called ‘confidence’. No matter how accomplished a company, a product, or, indeed, a person may seem, nobody is infallibly confident. Even the businesses, products and people at the very top of their game are still slightly winging it. Success is about pushing boundaries, both personal and in terms of business. Confidence is a luxury, at least, in the early stages of starting a business.

Reed spoke about the rocky start that he experienced with his own company, Innocent. When he and his co-founders were initially trying to raise the funds to start, they didn’t even have enough money to make the smoothies for their investors to taste. So, in an extreme attempt at boundary-pushing, they bought smoothies from Boots, put them in their competitor’s bottles and stuck their own label with cellotape on the front. They had absolutely no idea whether it would work. But it did. And they got the investment. This isn’t to say that this is a completely fool proof method – almost the opposite in fact. However, it provides an example demonstrating that creativity + initiative + bravery = success.

Get on with it

It may sound obvious but all successful people have one basic thing in common; they all started and never stopped. They are not from a particular type of background or upbringing; some are posh, some are not, some finished school and some didn’t. The key similarity is that they all stuck at it. Founder of lastminute.com, Baroness Martha Lane Fox, advised exactly that; “you just have to be bold – what is going to go wrong if you try it? The only thing you’ve got to lose is reputation and who cares about that?” It is all about getting yourself in the game and never giving up.

Be unreasonable

You don’t have to take everything the way it’s served – you can question it. Successful people all seem to have a healthy disregard for the status quo, they don’t just take things as they come just because people say so.

Heston Blumenthal cultivated his entire career around the question: why? He questioned why ice cream should be sweet, why porridge shouldn’t contain snails and why your dessert shouldn’t be served on the wall.

If you don’t question things,  you won’t disrupt from the norm.

Katie Piper, CEO of the Katie Piper Foundation, author of five best selling books and successful television presenter lives by the motto that there are no barriers other than the ones that we tell ourselves. You have to fight the negativity and the sense that things can’t be done.

Never stop sharpening your sword

Successful people are generally not the most naturally talented or the most naturally gifted – instead, the people who are doggedly determined to keep going the hardest and the longest are the ones who tend to win out.

One of the UK’s greatest ever sportspeople, Andy Murray, religiously stands by this mantra. Of course Murray is tall and has good muscle mass but, more importantly, he just does not give up. Defeat after defeat, he went back, deconstructed his game, his diet and every single muscle in his body. This admirable determination meant that he came back to: win the Olympic gold; end the 77-year drought at Wimbledon once, then twice; and then, finally, took that highly sought-after title of world number one. Now everyone suddenly recognises him as British, rather than Scottish … what a coincidence.

Practice might make perfect but you have got to push yourself too. If you really want to shape the world and make a difference, you have got to give everything you have and then some. In the eloquent words of Stephen Fry ‘at the end of the day, you’ve just got to work your bloody bollocks off’.

If I could tell you just one more thing, pick up Richard Reed’s book ‘If I Could Tell You Just One Thing’ now.