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The Benefits Of Being 'A Slightly Disruptive Force'

Being disruptive in school is considered naughty, but being disruptive in business is what everyone is trying to achieve. We should encourage the disruptors, because they stand a better than average chance of becoming entrepreneurs.

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Being disruptive in school is considered naughty, but being disruptive in business is what everyone is trying to achieve. We should encourage the disruptors, because they stand a better than average chance of becoming entrepreneurs.

Opinions

The Benefits Of Being 'A Slightly Disruptive Force'

Being disruptive in school is considered naughty, but being disruptive in business is what everyone is trying to achieve. We should encourage the disruptors, because they stand a better than average chance of becoming entrepreneurs.

Share this article

School reports will tell you a lot about the journey you will go on. You won’t know it at the time. But it’s true. The signs are all there in black and white squiggles.

I say this because little did I know that being a ‘slightly disruptive force’ in maths and IT would get me to where I am now. But it turns out, Mr Davison, a stern figure as I recall, was right. In the end, I have unwittingly become a positive disruptor.

Numbers were boring. IT was boring, or at least the bit we were taught was boring. Like many a teenager I didn’t see the point.

How times change. Twenty years on from sitting my GCSEs, and I’m scaling up an online accountancy. I know everything there is to know about numbers, in meticulous detail, and how they fit into tax returns, balance sheets and cash flow forecasts. Not just for my business but for thousands of businesses.

The guys from school, often ask me how it happened. How did someone with a love of music and graphic design create a multi-million pound business that deals in figures kept in a ‘cloud’?

"When iPods launched, people fell in love with them and bought them in their millions. We all know they weren’t in the market for an MP3 player"

I come back to Mr Davison; I like to be disruptive, especially if I think something is broken or unnecessary. And that’s the key for so many businesses that have changed the face of the incumbent market.

There are examples through the decades. From Mini’s disruption of the car industry in the 60s, to Apple and computing, Innocent drinks and the fresh juice market, Dyson’s challenge to vacuum cleaners, to Uber and taxis today. Their founders and creators all thought there was a better way, be it ignited by affordability, efficiency, beautiful design, or more exciting flavours.

But what is it they have in common? What makes the people behind them the perfect outsider to try and shake it up?

They obsess over simplicity.

Take any one of these examples, and you’ll find that at the heart of the company ethos was a notion to obsess over a very simple idea. As a result, they had a very clear purpose. They answered that marketing utopia of ‘Why’ they existed so perfectly. In my experience, any inventor or founder that is clear on that will succeed because they are believed.

Look at Apple. It fixated over making technology beautiful and easy. When white iPods first were launched, people fell in love with them and they bought them in their millions. We all know they weren’t in the market for an MP3 player. They were hooked by desire.  Apple achieved its aim and as a result the money rolled in, and the product innovation and disruption continued.

iPod

No one really knew they needed an iPod until people started buying them

They obsess over finding the right answer.

If you are eaten up by the notion that there has to be a better way of doing something then you are invariably the right person to challenge it.

In my case it was knowledge. When you run your own business, knowledge is power and if the very basics, like where you stand financially, are fuzzy then you’ve no hope to succeed.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t know the first thing about accounting – I used a textbook and spreadsheets, and a lot of time trying to work out my exact position. But that changed when I realised I wasn’t alone in my quest for a better way. Knowing there’s a market makes you not only determined to find the answer, but find the perfect answer.

They obsess over making it happen.

It took James Dyson five years to find the perfect answer and more than 5,000 prototypes. Inspired by his experience of industrial engineering to fix a domestic problem he was relentless in getting it right. But it wasn’t the obsession to deliver the idea that is so inspiring. It’s the fact that he built a manufacturing plant, risking his house, to see it through.

That sort of tenacity and belief is often confused with madness. I can sympathise. It took three years to develop our product against a backdrop of industry experts telling me we were mad.

And I can tell you, putting your house on the line, or in my case moving to China to fund my dream, didn’t help to quash the ‘you’re mad’ tag either. But it also cements your resolve to make it happen.

inventor

Obsessives often get lumped in with madmen

They obsess over the important detail.

You have to be decisive to make something happen. If you’re looking in as an outsider, then you can invariably see the very specific things that need to change, especially if you are fuelled by the frustration of a status quo.

This is what makes disruptors stand apart from other entrepreneurs. They can single out the finer points and make them the main event, or eradicate them forever. And once they’ve achieved their goal, they become the ones to emulate.

They obsess over educating the market.

Some people don't know they need something different and your research, no matter how well executed, may suggest you have a flop on your hands.

This is the hard bit: is it really a potential flop or are you failing to get the point across? It can be really difficult to get the penny to drop with customers. This is especially true for low-cost products where people will search for 'the catch', and simplified products where people may complain about the absence of familiar yet rarely used features.

And the killer is low cost and simple. That’s doubly hard. People will naturally think "it's cheap because it doesn't do everything" versus the more desirable reaction of "it does just what I need, and it's incredible value". It’s a real skill to learn to manage this and nurture the little interest you have so it becomes a ground swell of confidence. But once you master it you start earning.

The final thing I’d say, is that if you look at the successful distruptors they usually have a partner in crime. Whether it’s behind the scenes or on equal footing, a spouse or a brother. There is someone who keeps them true and a realist.

It can be pretty lonely being a disruptor but it can also be very exciting and having someone to share the journey with can be the best asset of all.

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The Benefits Of Being 'A Slightly Disruptive Force'

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