“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.” Joseph Campbell
It’s every teenager’s quest to find the meaning of life and they expend all their energy searching the world to find themselves but as we “grown-ups” discover everything we need to know lies within us. So, first, we need to spend a while looking at what makes us tick!
In making our internal voyage of discovery we’ll look at some great real-world examples and we’ll investigate some great methods of making the voyage useful and practical.
I love a good story so let’s begin with one and see where it takes us. But before I do, I want to check a few things and get to know you a little better.
Do you sometimes feel like a square peg in a round hole, kind of out of step with the rest of the world?
Do you keep getting great ideas, sometimes several a day?
Is there an itch you just can’t reach to scratch?
Do you always see new and better ways to do things?
Do you feel like you want to share all this great stuff with the world?
If that’s you, then you need to start a business, grow your business or maybe re-invent your business and begin the process right now.
The more you procrastinate the more time, energy and you’ll waste before you find your captivating vision.
So, its decision time! But how do you make the right decision?
On with the story……
The most important story, of course, is yours, no matter where you are in your career nor your particular circumstances. You might not yet have your first Big Idea or started a business. You might be the CEO of a multi-national, it doesn’t matter. Kick back, grab a coffee and relax as I tell you Joy Mangano’s story of adversity and success. All the stages in a business’s creation and development lie here.
As you read, compare her story with where you are in your business journey.
I should make it clear at this point, I’ve never met Joy, and what I’ll describe is publicly available. Of course, I’d like to have the chance to interview Joy in the future and find out more of what happened. But that’s for another day.
Today Joy says of herself -
“I’m an inventor. When I’m designing a product, everything in my mind is about, how is it going to make your life simpler and better? I guess that’s just how I look at things.”
As I tell you what I know of Joy’s story you’ll see it’s so much more than that……
Today Joy runs a massively successful company that invents and markets household and fashion goods, like the biggest ever selling memory foam pillow, Forever Fragrant room fresheners, and of course her first off-the block invention, The Miracle Mop.
Just like any highly successful business owner, if you didn’t already know about Joy’s story, and only saw her as she is today, you’d view her as a highly successful and wealthy businesswoman and leader but you’d miss out on all the drama and excitement of her journey as an entrepreneur.
As I describe her journey (in italics), I’ll occasionally step aside and comment on what I see as her main personal characteristics underpinning her success at each stage. I’ll also highlight some of her business decisions and the lessons we can all learn from them. Your part of the bargain is to compare her gradually evolving awareness with yours.
So, let me take you back to Joy in 1990 -
Joy’s a single mother of three and working as a domestic cleaner to pay her household bills and feed and clothe her family. There are absolutely no frills to her life!
Despite the mundane work, she’s always curious about getting her work done quicker and easier. She had an idea she invented the first practical super-absorbent cotton mop that would be self- wringing. It meant she didn’t have to touch the dirty water with her hands when wringing it out into a bucket.
When I look at this, I recognize that moment, when for no reason, in particular, an idea seems to pop into our head, sometimes it’s almost fully formed, whilst some are hazy and need a lot more work.
I’ll be dealing with creativity and idea generation in a future chapter but it often stems from the balance between a powerful need and the freedom to ask, “What if”.
For many people, new ideas spring from frustration. It can be the absence of a thing or service to simplify or speed up a task. It could be you’re stuck in a company who simply won’t listen to your great ideas. For some of us there comes a point where frustration overcomes our fear of failure, and BOOM we have an idea and we jump!
Back to 1990,
It’s not that long ago and just like Joy you’d have thought multiple, self-wringing mops would be on the market, but NO! It didn’t exist, and Joy was convinced it should.
She knew it would matter to women, who also felt they didn’t have enough time in the day to take care of their homes and families. They were real women just like her, and potentially in their millions!
So, where was she now?
Her idea was based on personal understanding as to the value it would bring, but it wasn’t a business vision yet. It was just a good idea, but it was based on a real need and she had a strong personal purpose? She had what most investors are looking for CONVICTION! A conviction that in the foreseeable future this new idea would become a real product, people would come to depend on them, and of course, buy them in their millions.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The First Miracle Mop is made
Joy had a prototype, but she now had to develop the capacity to make them in large numbers, and her family and connections stepped up with investment and effort. Now she had to lead and manage the company as well as sell. A very steep learning curve with many new skills to acquire or buy.
But the main question was, who was going to buy a Miracle Mop? No-one knew they even existed. Great ideas don’t sell without strong marketing. She had very limited resources so how could she show people the true value of the Miracle Mop?
At that time, all the “industry” people she met said it was too expensive, and that women didn’t need a better way to mop. I wonder how many of those were men who’d never picked up a mop but watched their wives do it!
But Joy thought a little differently, she’s always thought differently. It’s as if she sees the world out of the corner of her eye, seeing things that others can’t or won’t see.
So, she packed up her mop, a bucket and cut out a piece of her kitchen floor. Oh, and she packed up her children! She set out to show people what a mop was really like. She spoke with anyone who’d listen. She did the hard yards! She showed them it wasn’t just about keeping your hands clean it was also much better at picking up dirt because of its novel cotton head. She showed women they could change their world; she tapped into her pain, her need and her gain simultaneously.
This is when the three main elements of business success came fully into play, and they lie at the core of the message of The Vision Decision.
She first engaged her HEART in the form of her strong purpose, next came her HEAD through her creativity and finally, this firm foundation gave her GUT the courage and conviction to get out there and show people what her Miracle Mop could do. She had everything needed to overcome any, ill-informed criticism. She spoke to WOMEN, and only listened to their feedback because they were the market niche who had the need!
My niche is people starting or running values-based businesses who want to build their companies based on solid foundations. These foundations overcome the failure of a first concept and the ups and downs of normal business life. The world is changing so rapidly we can think of our “Adaptive Intelligence” (AQ) as our “operating system”, and all of the other business skills and systems we use are the Apps that work because of our AQ.
By 1996 Joy was flying!
She could’ve stayed just selling mops, and I’m sure she’d have done very well, but it seems to me that just wasn’t Joy. Oh No, she wasn’t satisfied with just mops. She had the taste for it now and her motivation and energy were multiplied by the fuel of success.
Her business vision was developing, and it wasn’t selling more, or even better mops, it was to “Make life easier and better” and could only spring from inventing and selling new products having the same value add as the Miracle Mop. If not, why bother?
Joy moved the company out of her father’s garage and into their very first office. And it seemed everywhere she looked she saw new ways to make real-life a little bit better.
You see, after 5 years her business VISION was taking over, it was so much bigger than an idea. Ideas were now the energy was driving the overall VISION.
She also had to make some big decisions, it’s not so clear at this stage exactly how she made her decisions, and I am sure that some of them didn’t work out as well as they might. But in the end, most of them seem wise enough to move her vision along to the next growth step.
I'm fascinated by the way that people make decisions. In business, as in life in general, if we can increase the wisdom of each decision we make, taken all together we increase the likelihood of success in our endeavours. If we then assist the people who work in our organisations to do the same the effect is enormous.
The amazing thing is that ALL of Joy’s new products went on to earn the Good Housekeeping Seal and sell fantastically well.
What we see here, is the importance of gaining External Validation early on, when your business is in its early stages. It’s especially important if you can get validation that’s aligned with your business vision. You can go for local business association competitions, seals of approval, trade badges, and of course testimonials.
Getting to a bigger audience
By 2000 Joy knew she needed to access a much bigger audience, and at this time before the full impact of social media was to be felt, this meant specialist cable television channels. So, she partnered with Barry DiIller owner of the Home Shopping Network, a relationship that still lasts to this day.
So, what was going on here? Whether by design or need, Joy realized it would take far too long to develop this kind of marketing capability in-house and collaboration with a “best-in-class partner” was the obvious next step in realizing her vision. She also managed to develop a massive win-win for HSN, as she rapidly became their biggest seller.
This must have taken real guts because the risk of going with the wrong partner was immense. Now Joy may or may not have had much choice, but I know that when I’ve been faced with choosing a partner, I do as much due diligence as I can. In the end, though I go with my gut and the rapport I build with the potential partner. If I can’t stand being in the room with them, I don’t care about their track record.
Have you had that honest bare-knuckle conversation with yourself yet? You know the one where you acknowledge your real strengths and weaknesses. Be tough but as non-judgemental as you can be, it pays off. Who has a mutual need and with complementary capabilities? In the best partnerships, no money changes hands, only knowhow and contribution, and the mutual benefit.
The Killer Step
Joy’s next killer growth step was to work with Givaudan, at that time the world’s largest flavour and fragrance house, to co-create Forever Fragrant room fresheners. These combined designer fragrances with a powerful odour elimination system lasting for up to 2 years. Joy’s Forever Fragrant products broke the all-time record for sales on HSN. Even outselling The Miracle Mop.
This was not only a collaboration of capabilities it was an example of a conscious co-operative invention. This product could not exist without inventive input from both partners.
Time for some brutal honesty again! Have you only got half a Big Idea, and to conquer the market you need the other half from an equally motivated co-operator? It takes guts to admit it and overcome our ego. After all, it might mean we have to share the rewards!
As long as you have all the intellectual property ownership issues nailed down and a great B2B contract in place before disclosure, you’re safe to take the risk! It’s better to have 50% of something great than 100% of nothing!
No rest yet
Did Joy take a rest now, sit back and spend her money on a lavish lifestyle? No, she was having far too much fun! Instead, Joy now invented the memory foam pillow, becoming the best-selling launch in the history of Joy’s career.
I feel we should all take careful notice of what was happening at this point in Joy's story. It’s often the case that entrepreneurs like Joy get to a point where the business is growing nicely, the money is rolling in, but the creative spark fizzles out under the burden of running the day to day business. What we see clearly with Joy is that somehow, she’s still curious about everything in her everyday life, she uses her fascination as the fuel for her ingenuity and vision.
Joy hits the big screen
On Christmas day 2015, Joy’s life is launched with public fanfare into the big wide world. A major motion picture JOY, starring Jennifer Lawrence hit the screens. Whilst it isn’t intended as a documentary it does to my mind captures her struggles and triumphs particularly well.
The project began nearly ten years earlier when a Hollywood producer met Joy; they had dinner, and after a while, he told her, “One day I’ll make your story into a movie”. She laughed and thanked him, thinking it was a very nice compliment but nothing more. Little did she know they would become the best of friends, and the idea at dinner would blossom into an inspirational tale for many budding entrepreneurs.
Whilst not everyone gets their movie, it’s often the case at some stage in an entrepreneur’s development they reach the point where they see at least part of their purpose is to pass on their experiences. Joy shared her vision with the world to make it possible for people to achieve their own.
So, is Joy Mangano someone special? When you look at her story in its entirety, it does seem like she’s very special, but when we boil it down, there are some key themes all of us can identify with, learn from and adapt for our business visions.
First, the Miracle Mop wasn’t her vision, it was just an idea that became a product. Essentially, it was the first of many physical expressions of her need to make her own life simpler and better. If it worked out that way, she would have more time for her kids and family. It wasn’t even a business idea to start with. She only thought of making money from it later.
She then did something really important in the development of any potentially big idea, she stepped back and connected all the dots. She realized if she needed this new mop to make her life easier, there must be other women just like her who also wanted the same thing. Basically, she saw the transferable value of her concept and identified and fully described her first discrete market niche.
Next, she knew to grow her business she had to collaborate with people and organisations who did things that she couldn’t or did them better and bigger. This was the fastest way to drive her business vision forward onto the greater things. She overcame her ego!
Even after building a hugely successful business, she continues to use her own life as the springboard for new ideas and products. She seems to be eternally curious about everything! Asking “what if”, what about, can that be done quicker and easier? And of course, if it can also be made colourful and stylish as well, all the better!
Finally, she came back to the early foundation of her vision, wanting to “make life simpler and better for people”. What better way to do that than sharing her journey in a movie?