1740 words, 6 minute read

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I is for Iterate.

  • Want to do a big event? Do a small one first and iterate on it.
  • Want to bring out a suite of business services? Start with one service and iterate.
  • Want to make an app? Why not start with a simple website and iterate into an app.

Everything I do today with my business is because of smaller things I’ve done in the past. Sometimes tiny individual things that then build and attach to each other until you get something like the Sockies that saw 650 people turn up in the RDS Concert Hall.

This year at the SME Awards, most of the crowd never had been to the other awards shows we did and were expecting something entirely more formal. When the sweets started to be fired at their heads by Rick O’Shea, they realised this was not the usual awards show. We started giving out sweets years back at our events as a “fuck you” to more formal events and in a way as a bribe for the crowd to like us. We learned that this also really makes a crowd relax and we don’t have the budget to pump relaxing gases out of the air ducts.

Startups iterate. The youngfella that started Snapchat might have been green when he started but years later and many iterations of Snapchat later, we have a billion dollar company. You can be sure he has people around him that have a wealth of experience too.

David Hieatt and Hiut Denim have a mantra of “Do One Thing Well” and boy do they. Companies should work on something and do it well. Be comfortable with all the elements that ensures it’s done well and then maybe expand out or up.

When I first discovered the web in 95/96, there was Geocities. I started making my own awful websites back then based on copying the code from other shitty Geocities sites and amending them. You can learn a programming language by going through a text book with code snippets and do academically well but going through code made by others and seeing a subtle philosophy in code can be far more valuable. The dirty hacks in code that make it do what the textbooks say can’t be done or should not be done.

Take something, make changes and improvements and eventually what you’ll have is something entirely different to what you started with.

I watched an interview with Eric Clapton years ago (can’t find the link) and he went through blues song after blues song and showed how he picked bits a la carte from the songs and made his own songs from them. Legendary Clapton songs.

Layla’s famous guitar riff is from this song by Albert King called “As The Years Go Passing By”, it’s a sped up version of a riff in this track, it’s hard to spot without being told. Clapton points it out here.

Bruce Springsteen’s keynote at SXSW a few years back was an excellent piece on influences and iterations. In this clip he talks about The Animals being a massive influence. Commenting on their song “We gotta get out of this place” “That’s every song I’ve ever written. That’s all of them. I’m not kidding, either. That’s “Born To Run,” ”Born in the USA,” everything I’ve done for the past 40 years.”

Apple is all about iterations

Apple learned from what they did in the Mac. Good UI, good hardware, they make the iPod. Learn from the iMac and the iPod, make the iPhone. Take some of these learnings for the Macbook Air. Make the iPod Touch a testing ground for iPhone stuff. The iPad is an iteration of the iPhone and other product elements. They also iterated on products made by others but did them better.

The Apple Watch while a different form factor is an iteration of all the elements up to now. Chips, software, glass. Apple is not afraid too to cannibalise their own successful products. The iPod is becoming a product no longer in demand as the iPhone does it all. Same possible for the iPad with the bigger iPhones. The Apple Watch will eventually kill the iPhone and Apple will have no problem with that.

And remember, people always say the 3rd version of an Apple product is the one where everything is just right. That’s because Apple gets stuff out, learns from real world use and actual mass production and then … iterates.

Mulley Comms

Swallowed a spider to catch the fly, swallowed a bird to catch the spider…

Mulley Comms is all about iterations. The company started with me being asked to give tech talks and I’d mention Google Docs, Google Alerts to see who talked about your company online, using blogging software to run your website and way back then I’d mention this social network called Facebook that had 8000 users in Ireland who were college students.
From these tech talks, a few brave organisations asked me to come in and give training on blogging. The first few scared the shit out of me. I’d never done something as formal as these. From those, I covered other elements and as digital and social became more used expanded out the training offerings.

Take what I do, add something new to it. Run with it, perfect it. I don’t cover blogging as much now given social networks are also popular for businesses to use for marketing. My Lead Generation workshops are bits from other talks, split into new areas.
Social Media Crisis Comms workshop is based on other elements and other talks. I’ll probably be doing training on Snapchat in a few years.

Mulley Comms Events

The SME Awards is the latest awards show that I run. The SME Awards came from the Web Awards and the Social Media Awards. I noticed a big increase in the number of SMEs entering these awards and looked at what other business shows were offering and brought out a better, cheaper and fairer offering. The SMEs would not happen without the Sockies, which would not have happened without the Webs.

The Web Awards came about from my frustration at the “sponsors win prizes” awards shows that are so common in Ireland. Sponsor a category, you win in another. These sponsor win prizes events also charged a pretty sharp sum to enter them. Not everyone that has a great site can afford more money to enter these shows. So the Web Awards were started. While the Web Awards will have 600 people at it this year, it started small enough. The Sockies had 650 this year. Next year the Web Awards will be split into two events

The Webs of course were able to be smoothly run from the experience (sometimes very negative experience) of running the Irish Blog Awards. The Blog Awards were nice and comfortably small when they started off with around 100 people. Towards the end we were seeing 450 people turn up. Nobody in their various clones of the Blog Awards every matched that and good luck trying to make money from passionate amateurs!

Dealing with people, dealing with judging, dealing with venues, dealing with estimating numbers was all learned from the blog awards. When I started it, I’d never considered a Web Awards or Sockies or SME Awards. Now from the SME Awards and Sockies, there are about 5 additional events I want to do per year.

A huge value of starting small and iterating up or out is it’s easy. The barrier to entry on doing something small isn’t that difficult. If I wanted to do a big ballsy Sockies from the start I wouldn’t know what to do and I wouldn’t have gotten the audience.

The same thing works in procrastination which I’ve blogged about before (Google it. not bothering to link). Chop a task into smaller pieces and get the smallest done. That stimulates the brain in nice ways and pushes you to tackle bigger bits.

Want to do a big event?

Do a small one first and iterate on it. Why not do a free event. Rent a room upstairs in a bar with the condition people will come along and buy drinks. Have someone speak at it for 30 minutes, maybe it’s you. Invite 100 people to it but your objective secretly is to get 20 to come along. 20 is good if that many turn up. Use Eventbrite to ticket the event which is free to use for free events too. Eventbrite also allows you to export the details of those that booked a ticket so you can follow up with them for other events. The dozens of free talks I did were the things that iterated into becoming the conference.

Want to bring out a suite of business services?

Start with one service and iterate. Bring out a service and start selling that service. Get real clients, paying ones. Learn about the right pricing for it, how to support it, what parts of it piss you off or your clients. What can be removed from it to make it more profitable or more efficient from people. From there you might start to see other areas aligned to this offering that clients might avail of.

Want to make an app?

Why not start with a simple website and iterate into an app. Buy a domain, get cheap hosting, use WordPress to run it. Learn SEO and a little bit of HTML. Have an offering that is given once people hand over some contact details or join a mailing list. Learn to deal with the public, talk to them about what interests them, what they’d pay for.

Learn how to work with developers and refine your design language so you can efficiently tell them what you’d need. Then maybe work on that app.

This post is an iteration

This post is all about iterations. It started with an idea of iterations. Remembering what Bruce Springsteen said at SXSW was the first thing written down. Then the backstory of the Web Awards, then Mulley Comms. The bits at the top were nearly the last things done. Iterations!

Tiny iterates to small that iterates to medium that iterates to …

Sources I stole from:

Austin Kleon

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