This week, I will have the absolute privilege and pleasure to interview the wonderful Lisa Messenger at her very special event: In Conversation with Lisa Messenger. Today’s post is part in readiness for that event; but also to provide a shining example on someone who was not given a silver spoon, but has been an extraordinary disruptor her whole life.
From the low benchmark of ‘Veggie English’ at a school in Coolah, NSW, to a successful author (14 books and counting). From a script reading, paralysed, petrified public speaker (who once was not invited back to her own National breakfast keynote series) to one of Australia’s most sought-out keynotes. From a successful intrapreneur within corporate (sponsorship, conference and event management etc.) to going solo and setting up the Messenger Group (an integrated, sponsor-hungry, marketing services firm), in the midst of 9/11. From setting up a book publishing company on the back of writing her first book in 2004, Happiness Is… (leading to 400+ titles for other entrepreneurs) to setting up a global magazine business (Collective Hub is now in over 37 countries) with no print experience in an industry that people said was either dead or dying.
Collective Hub has since grown into an international multimedia business and lifestyle platform with multiple verticals across print, digital, events and, more recently, co-working spaces – all of which serve to ignite human potential. Amongst the many books that Lisa has written, we will also be delving into her latest book, Purpose. Lisa is a true disruptor and more importantly a beautiful soul.
1. Know Your Why
Lisa’s lifestyle is purposefully big. It is not an accident. It is designed for purpose. Having a ‘why’. As the former US President John F. Kennedy once said: “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” When it comes to purpose, it’s important to consider your values, as things can quickly deteriorate if you don’t.
The two times that Lisa has felt totally aligned was when she wrote her first book (ironically when initially very unhappy) and when she launched The Collective (nearly a decade apart). After ‘10 years of therapy’, Lisa’s purpose is to ignite human potential and she does this by being an entrepreneur for entrepreneurs. Every decision, every action must resonate with this purpose. Accordingly, Lisa has built a community of like-minded people who are clever, informed, creative and world changing. It has led to a magazine that is sold in 37 countries (and half a million copies per month). Knowing intimately her ‘why’ has meant that Lisa has been able to morph, adapt, pivot and change numerous times.
2. Fail Fast
“Allow people to refute you, but never allow them to dismiss you. Look at failure as education.” Lisa maintains that you need to move quickly, adapt, think on your feet, be proactive and fail fast. “If I am going to fail, then I want to do it well – fast and with minimum risk.” This differs to the traditional mindset that writes laborious business plans, a zillion focus groups, with every conceivable box ticked. To take that approach, there is a huge investment of time, resources and money required, and you have to go deep into the project’s lifestyle before you even know if someone is going to buy what you are selling. And by the time you launch, you’ve perfected your idea to within an inch of its life, so when the market gives you feedback, it’s often too late to change, move and adapt.
With Collective Hub magazine, Lisa didn’t do any business plans and only a little market research. Once she confirmed there was nothing like it, Lisa kicked into high gear and began taking action towards making the magazine a reality. As Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk…In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
3. Leverage it All
Lisa is all about creating and facilitating value exchange (her favourite two words). Money is not the only currency. This unique way of building connection was born from her days working for a sponsorship agency where Lisa had to broker deals (where strategic alliances and ‘non monetary’ deals were just as important as money). In Lisa’s view, negotiating beneficial value exchanges is at the core of every successful enterprise.
These partnerships are particularly relevant for businesses and start up that don’t have resources of its competitors. As a result, they simply must do more with less. It means that they are able to play in the same field, but a different game. It means that at times, you need to become a master of leverage, which is simply the art of doing more with less (“you scratch my back, I will scratch….”). Rather than have thousands of touch points, it makes sense to have one, where possible.
Saying that, value exchange is not just limited to start ups. One of the best ‘brand partnerships’ was when Coke Zero partnered with James Cameron’s film Avatar. No money was exchanged yet enormous value was exchanged. Coke benefited from the association with ‘augmented reality’ and a new way for its target market to interact. Avatar received serious word of mouth prior to release.
In Lisa’s world, value exchange can be brand alignment, media opportunities, exposure, access to customers, access to data, in-kind support and so forth. The value comes from the benefit that both parties can derive. Within her book business, Lisa pre-sold titles in the thousands to corporates and organisations who were looking for a product to align with, or who simply wanted a quality product they could give away to clients, customers and staff – something more meaningful than a hat or a branded stress ball. As for the magazine, its success – and the reason for its rapid global expansion – has been built on a plethora of deals structured in just about every way possible, always with like-minded, non -competing parties. Lessons learnt in publishing, leveraged for Lisa’s foray into magazines. And for being platform agnostic.
“You are the person who jumps off a cliff and learns to fly on the way down.” Whilst this shouldn’t be confused with someone who is reckless, it is an apt phrase to describe disruptors such as Lisa. A ‘leap first, think later’ attitude can also complement one that is a careful planner and strategic as it is all about taking calculated risks.
A disruptor can also be one who thrives in corporate. The rise of the ‘intrapreneur’ is a direct response to individuals who have the desire to upstart the status quo and have the resources of ‘big brother’ to bring it to fruition. More so, savvy companies are providing the environment for these revolutionaries to flourish.
Disruptors are successful because they are not afraid of change. They are not so embedded in an industry that they can only see one way of doing things. They are forward thinking and open-minded and often start moving well before they fully understand the market they’re entering or trying to change. When you’ve been in an industry for a while, it’s easy to think you know it all, have seen it all and have tried it all. Disruptors disagree. There’s always another way, another approach, something untried may just work.
Lisa has been a disruptor in the book publishing industry (authors actually make money) and most definitely in the magazine space (where she, nor her staff had any previous experience). In both instances, she entered an age-old industry (her preference), flipped it on its head and implemented a plan that is what is totally counterintuitive to what is expected. This is where most entrepreneurs thrive: looking at industries that are stuffy, struggling, conservative or old hat and throwing a dose of business mojo their way. Kickstarter, Spotify and Airbnb are just three emerging tech titans who have approached business in the same way.
They are as Lisa’s mentor Richard Branson says, the ones who “passionately believe it is possible to change the industry, to turn it on its head, to make sure that it will never be the same again.”
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Join us in Melbourne October 12 for In Conversation with Lisa Messenger. Buy your ticket today.