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Pie-oneers – how breakthrough thinking can earn you a crust

October 7, 2013

The cult television comedy The Inbetweeners raised laughs up and down the country, following the fortunes of four socially awkward sixth-formers and their escapades, and it became a hit film at the cinema too.  The story, which follows the boys on their first lads holiday abroad to Malia, Crete, sees main character Will McKenzie in the opening scene on a coach getting frustrated by the boisterous singing of Burnley FC fans. Genuine Burnley FC fans filmed the scene on location in Magaluf, Majorca – check out the Your Tube clip here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laaZOm163Vg

Now Burnley fans are again in the limelight, thanks to a piece of inspired technical innovation from the football club. With fans obviously having better things to do than wait for three minutes while their half-time pies are nuked by the staff at the refreshments kiosk, Burnley have launched a mobile app which allows supporters to place online orders for their pies in advance.

Developed alongside tech firm Preoday, the i-Pie online ordering app was produced to help increase food and drink sales and reduce queues during the traditionally frantic half-time service. Nice business case!

With the app you can place your order wherever and whenever you like. At half-time, look for the designated service point. Take your phone with you to collect your order, show the service staff the verification code on the phone. They will have your order ready for you, and of course there’s no need for payment at the till as its pre-paid on credit card.

The app is free and easily downloadable from Apple’s App Store and/or the Google Play Store, it’s simply called “Burnley FC”.

Truly heady days at Turf Moor as we sit at the top of the table – in both Championship and innovation leagues – as Manchester United, Liverpool and Spurs all turned down the i-Pie app. With 4,000 pies typically sold at a home Burnley game – that’s about one in every three spectators purchasing, the days of queuing are numbered. http://www.burnleyfo…813-996581.aspx

So, Pie-oneers. Of course in business terms, the birthplace of the modern co-operative movement on 21 December 1844 at 31 Toad Lane, Rochdale, by the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society, opening their store selling pure food at fair prices and honest weights and measures, were the first ‘pioneers’. The business revolution started there, alongside the Industrial Revolution in Lancashire.

The Rochdale Pioneers were local working men. More than half were involved in the textile trade. Initially there were 28 Pioneers, most of them were relatively well paid skilled artisans and some were in business on their own account. It was their idealism and vision of a better social order than inspired them to form the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society – the fore runner of the Co-Operative Society.

Stop dreaming. Be a Pioneer. I’ve always been fascinated by people who made their mark, and as the title of this blog shows, those who have been involved in Lighthouses have been particularly interesting.

Even in these days of automation and satellite navigation, the draw of a lighthouse is as strong and as romantic as ever for me. That the buildings exist at all is testament to the skill and determination of individuals, as many of these early lighthouses were constructed in some of the most inhospitable places imaginable. It is humbling to think that the towers, often more than 100ft tall to withstand the ferocious storms and mountainous waves, were built before the internal combustion engine was invented and the aid of none of the modern machinery taken for granted today.

The invention of the Fresnel lens in 1822 by French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel, revolutionised lighthouses, focusing 85% of a lamp’s light versus the 20% focused with the parabolic reflectors of the time. Its design enabled construction of lenses of large size and short focal length without the weight and volume of material in conventional lens designs.

In the UK, the first Eddystone Lighthouse was lit in 1698, though its third incarnation was the most enduring, designed by John Smeaton. Britain became the dominant sea power, but it’s the Stevenson family (Robert, Alan, David, Thomas, David Allan and Charles) who made lighthouse building a three generation profession in Scotland, who were the true pioneers.

The Lighthouse Stevensons over the course of generations from the late 1700s to the early 1900s, created lighthouses on some of the most storm-lashed and inaccessible outcrops of Scotland imaginable. They were responsible for a slew of inventions in both construction and optics. Stunning aerial photography of many of the locations demonstrates that creating these buildings would be a difficult job now, never mind then.

The family tradition was started with Edinburgh man Thomas Smith, who installed his first light on Kinnaird Castle, near Fraserburgh, in 1787. He passed the baton on to his son-in-law (and stepson) Robert Stevenson, who founded a dynasty of lighthouse engineers including sons, Allan, David and Thomas (father of Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Jekyll & Hyde), and in turn David’s four sons. Whenever I smell salt water, I know that I am not far from one of the works of my ancestors, wrote Robert Louis Stevenson in 1880. When the lights come out at sundown along the shores of Scotland, I am proud to think they burn more brightly for the genius of my father.

Fast forward to today, and with a dose of curiosity, today’s pioneers are driven by entrepreneurship and technological innovation, seeking to create a disruptive invention and positively impact and overcome the greatest of challenges, leaving their mark.

There’s a tome of research on what makes an entrepreneur a pioneer in terms of attitude, behaviour and characteristics. One of my favourite, recent and very readable books on this is Kevin Johnson’s The Entrepreneur Mind: 100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics, and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs. It captures lots of anecdotes from his own experience as a serial entrepreneur. Here are some one-liners which capture the essence:

Think big: Failing to reach your potential is a lesser-understood type of business failure.

Create new markets: Studies have shown that ‘blue ocean’ businesses account for a disproportionate amount of the profits and revenues.

Work ‘on’ your business, not ‘in’ your business: Doing lots of operations work leads to early burnout, spend your time making plans for growth.

Ask for help: Don’t let your ego get in the way.

Do what’s most important first: Successful entrepreneurs prioritise the important tasks, even though they are harder and take longer.

The business plan is overrated: Before writing one, research the competition, talk to customers, and develop a prototype.

Move on fast from a bad business idea: Tenacity can help entrepreneurs, but not when it makes you stick with a bad idea for too long.

A bad economy is a great opportunity: Many great companies were founded during bad times, and great entrepreneurs are the ones who can stick it out.

Adopt new technology early, technology is an opportunity, not a cost or threat: It’s hard to imagine that the newest technologies will become widespread, but they do. Adopt them early.

Always follow up: Don’t let your fear of rejection, laziness, or misunderstanding of what is polite get in the way.

Failure doesn’t kill you: it makes you stronger. Learn, don’t sulk, from when things go wrong, or your mistakes.

An idea’s execution, not its uniqueness, yields success: Focus on speed and time to market, not ingenuity.

Find an enemy: Finding an enemy can motivate your team and give you a benchmark and challenge.

Put out customer fires quickly: For customer complaints, respond quickly and calmly; listen after apologising.

Have an exit strategy: It will help you make decisions along the way and recognise opportunities to exit.

Spend the majority of your time with people smarter than you: You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, you will pick up their habits and thoughts, and learn from them.

You need a buddy, a sidekick: Working with someone else can increase productivity by more than double.

Don’t manage people, manage expectations: Set expectations for deadlines rather than managing each step.

Fire unproductive people: Know what you’re looking for, don’t make rash hiring decisions, but don’t linger when you get it wrong.

Focus on building customers and revenue, not profit: profit is the applause, the reward not the purpose of a business.

You have sales before you have a business: That’s the sign of a promising idea – when money is paid for your product, you have a business.

Don’t waste time on people who can’t say yes: When building your business, ask who is responsible for making the final decision and target that person.

There’s no such thing as a cold call: Do research on prospects and their history, respect them, and they will respect you back

Sell the value of your products or services, and respect yourself: Ensure you have a value based pricing strategy, pick a price and stick to it, never price chip. Customers may say no, but they will respect you.

Act in spite of how you feel, push beyond fear: Don’t let your emotions or fatigue let you miss out on valuable opportunities, let your goals propel you.

Be a maverick: Lots of successful entrepreneurs are rebellious.

You have unbelievable endurance: Endurance is the most important trait for entrepreneurs.

Being successful is not the goal: Entrepreneurs should be motivated by creating a valuable product for customers, not success itself.

Be excited when Monday morning arrives: Entrepreneurs love Mondays because they get a fresh start with work, and the rest of the world is available to respond to them and move things along.

You sometimes get more resentment than respect: People are often jealous or can’t really understand what you do.

Some insightful stuff in that list, which when taken together, shows that pioneers make their dreams come true by being thoughtful, resolute and creative.

All pioneers want to make their mark, and of course, earn a decent crust along the way. Pie-oneers are no different, and just goes to show that some breakthrough thinking around how to wow your customers in a way they didn’t expect can create an opportunity that is hot, filling and tasty for your customers, and can put you on top of the pile ahead of all your rivals.

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