It’s raining. And howling.
I’m sitting in an airbnb in Coogee, up for the week in Sydney with my son, who has a “meetup” with a few of his flipping idols. That’s trampolining. It’s a whole thing. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him so excited. He just ran past me on his way to the toilet screaming “only eighteen hours until the meetup!”.
He feels part of something. Makes me smile, bless his beautiful flipping heart.
I, too, am excited, though not in such a delightfully rabid way.
I have a day booked this week, here in Sydney, with a new “client”. (lord, I hate that word. Partner? I haven’t solved that one yet. Feel free to suggest something non-corporate, non-agency, clear and simple and not naff or overly googley)
I’ve known them for a while, even used their product. The founder (I’ll share more openly once we’re into the project, I promise, with their permission) called my up after reading the first story I posted, and I loved what he said:
“I’m proud of what we’ve built. I’m proud of the company, but I’m not proud of the brand. I want to change that. I want to fall in love with our brand.”
There’s a lot to be excited about, actually, since last I wrote. My week last week kind of exploded with potential.
Two hours in a café in Adelaide and the brand new CEO of a thirty-five year old company and I manifested a vision for their future that is really something quite beautiful and harmonious and worth having in the world, and – in his words – banished the fears he had about his new role, and the enormity of the endeavour. It was the kind of meeting that left us both a little dazed and giddy, and wondering what the catch was.
The catch is, of course, that it’ll take three years to execute on, but it’s a beautiful thing, and I’m so excited to get working on it.
Interestingly, this person was the first person I met with after leaving Vinomofo. I was feeling pretty fragile, I remember, moreso than I let on, and we caught up for a coffee, and I told him about my idea to create an agency. He said “mate, everyone will want to work with you.”
He would have had no idea just how much I needed those words, at that time.
I had a call with the founder of another potential (something), a great business that has grown like crazy and just raised a bunch of capital. He contacted me after a talk I gave for twenty five entrepreneurs that was basically about all my failures, and what I’d learned from them, and the fears and doubts that constantly eat at your dreams.
“I feel that fear,” he said to me, “all the time. I don’t know if I know what I’m doing.”
He does. It’s a cracking business, and he’s executing it well. But I like that it was specifically that connection we had that led to us in all likelihood working together. What a wonderfully human beginning.
In one day last week I was offered three jobs, all paying very well plus equity. I declined each, but will be working with a couple of them through the agency. Another handful of good companies are waiting on proposals from me, as I dive into their sites, learning and experiencing what I can as a user, ideas blooming.
I know this all sounds a bit self-congratulatory, and I don’t mean it to be. It was just such an exhilarating week. That’s exactly how I felt. Exhilarated, purely and delightfully.
This was the week that turned Cult Tribal from an idea into a business.
Amidst the meetings and phone calls with potential clients/partners/(help!) I also got a crash-course in Xero by Kim from Business One Group (her own business), who is going to look after my “books”. Kim was recommended by Marty from Ocean Labs, who is looking after IT for me, and is a good person.
Nick and Andrew from Lynx Digital, who work about four desks away from me at The Commons in Collingwood, helped get my culttribal.com site up and live in under a day, so I could post my first story the week before last. I’m sure I annoyed the hell out of them, being able to simply walk up to their desks and interrupt them with a hundred demands like “do you think we could move the signup field below the articles?”
One of the things I was afraid of was feeling alone. Feeling like I was in this on my own.
I don’t feel that. I feel perhaps more connected, more supported, than I ever have, and I want to say thank you to everyone who is part of this story – not only for helping me build this agency, but for helping me feel like I’m part of something bigger than just me.
One meeting I had was particularly inspiring. I was over at another space, speaking with their community lead, Al Jeffrey (hope you don’t mind being named, Al), about doing some entrepreneur-in-residence stuff with them next year.
I really liked Al, and could have talked about tribes and connection for hours. I was telling him about the way I believed a brand had to be connected with purpose, had to stand for something, and took him through the process I was working on to help brands connect with that.
He told me to check out the Community Canvas – an open source framework for building communities, put together and shared by some very clever people from around the world.
I went back to my desk after the meeting and looked it up – wow. It was virtually play by play, piece by piece, what I’d been working on. A wave of relief washed over me – this made sense, this thinking.
I’m not building a brand agency – I’m building an agency that helps brands unite tribes.
That was a moment of blazing clarity. Thank you Al.
Four days later, I was already questioning it. Not because it might be wrong, but because after another inspiring conversation later in the week, which presented not a brand transformation challenge, but a cultural one. One that also needed an operational transformation, I realised that I’m creating a transformation agency.
I think I’m connecting with the possibility that this agency can, in time, help transform not only brands, cultures, human customer experiences, but can lead social, political, and environmental change.
I know that sounds rah-rah, but it’s igniting me. It’s like it’s all coming together, all the strands, the possibilities.
Even the brand transformations I’m working on now, I’m thinking about them in a way that is bigger, purer, because of this vision that is forming in my future.
I sat down and decided to put myself through the process I was building out for the agency, and I’ll share that with you before I get back to “work”.
I started with one simple question…
“André, WHY are you doing this?”
And this is the honest, unmanufactured answer that came…
“I want businesses to do things right.
“Offer something that betters the world. Stand for something. Treat people right. Be aware of their impact on the world. Care more. Be honest. Be human.”
“And what does that do?”
“It creates trust. And sadly, it’s remarkably different, and will get talked about. That, in of itself, attracts people.
“Start with that at the core of your values, and live them.
“I believe in their hearts, people want permission to do things right, but they’re afraid that will be too naive, or too hard, or will conflict with doing things “smart”, or will conflict with profitability.
“Create a brand that stands for something, and you can be a movement. And attract like-minded people who care. That’s a tribe.”
“So what’s my purpose?”
“To help people do things right.”
“What do I stand for?”
Doing things right. Or perhaps “doing things good.”
“So what is it that will connect MY tribe?”
“People who want to do things right, and believe that this would make for a better fucking world. People who think “oh, thank Christ someone’s doing it. I want to do it too”. This is the movement.”
And this is what I wrote down, and then turned into something of a “logo in progress”, as befits my “agency in progress”:
Culture | Brand | Tribe
“Do Things Good”
“Alright then, go get on with it!”