Its important to get inspiration from other people. If you are running a company its also important to get inspiration from other brands. These are some of the brands that inspire me the most:
Apple (apple.com) – I’m obviously inspired by Apple because I literally do all of my work on Apple products. Whether I’m in the office or working remotely from my phone I use an Apple product. I have no problem paying more for Apple’s products, because they just work better. Every minute that I am working is important, and its important that I’m using the most efficient machine in the world to get my work done.
I admire many things about Apple, but I think what every entrepreneur can learn from Apple is that they are the most valuable company in the world and they only make a few products. The lesson is that you don’t need to be like Virgin and create one hundred different products and services. You just need to choose what you do and do it perfectly. Apple is the most valuable company in the world, because they literally put billions of dollars of resources and tens of thousands of minds together to just build a few products; Mac, iPhone, iPad, software and a few accessories. They are pouring a huge amount of resources into a few products and the results show. Find out what you are good at and focus on that.
Nespresso (nespresso.com) – This is another product that I avidly use and their coffee provides the fuel to keep me motivated and working. Nespresso, Tesla and Apple are the only three stores that I have ever been to, that have such a keen sense of design that it leaves me inspired. The design of the Nespresso retail stores and their product are simply flawless.
When I first purchased my Nespresso machine I was excited by the fact that many other companies made coffee capsules for as low as half the price of Nespresso coffee capsules. I also read articles that were talking about the fact that 3rd party capsules were a thread to Nespresso’s business. However, after trying the capsules from other brands, I happily paid 25% to 50% more for Nespresso’s capsules.
These 3rd party capsules were nowhere near as good as Nespresso. Their coffee just didn’t taste good. The lesson is that competing on price is usually a bad strategy. Be the best at what you do, and compete on value, which of course includes selling your product at a reasonable price, but it also means having the best price when all factors are taken into consideration.
Tesla (tesla.com) – The CEO of Tesla is an inspiration to all. First of all Tesla is a beautiful car, and is an engineering and design masterpiece. Its one of the most elegant products in the world. Elon Musk the CEO of Tesla literally did the unthinkable. He created a start-up that directly competes with car brands that have decades of history and billions of dollars in capital. Elon of course had tens of millions of dollars, but he basically bootstrapped a car company, and became the first American car company to go public in decades.
Cheesecake Factory (cheesecakefactory.com) – I read an article about Cheesecake Factory and I will always remember this story, because it reminds me so much of my story. The CEO and Founder of Cheesecake factory had no experience with restaurants, so he made the deliberate decision to create a very extensive menu. He later found out that in the restaurant industry, this is a horrible business strategy, because it exponentially complicates the logistics around managing a kitchen.
However, its what made Cheesecake factory unique and successful. He lamented that when you are young and inexperienced you do things that are considered “stupid” but often times can be brilliant. Our ability to create such quick turnaround times for custom patches, or allow such low minimums for all of our products, including custom patches, woven labels, and caps, were all decisions based on my ignorance of the industry and doing business, but in the long run helped differentiate us from competitors.
Johnny Cupcakes (johnnycupcakes.com) – You probably never heard of this company and you probably think that they sell cupcakes. Actually they sell t-shirts. The founder of the company took a very weird idea, which was to integrate cupcakes into all of his t-shirts and it became a successful brand. Johnny Cupcakes now has half a dozen locations throughout the United States and even a store in London. He has created a cult following. I think people love the uniqueness of the brand, and the fact that the owner of the company took a wacky idea and just ran with it.
He calls all of his stores bakeries, and his creativity has allowed him to take a theme as simple as a cupcake and create a brand that has flourished for years. Sometimes I think we have a hard job manufacturing thousands of different custom patches, woven labels, caps, t-shirts and coins every month. However, this guy has 6 stores to support each month, and he needs to not only have his product manufactured, but he needs to constantly think of new good ideas. The minute he runs out of good ideas, his sales and stores could crumble in months.
On a side note I’m proud to say that Johnny Cupcakes actually chose our company to produce a custom embroidered patch for their apparel.
Mail Chimp (mailchimp.com) – Mail Chimp has a platform that allows companies to email their customer list. Sounds really boring right? Mail Chimp through their logo and amazing writing, have turned a very boring and technical product into an amazing and accessible brand.
Threadless (threadless.com) – This is another t-shirt company. I admire them because instead of just printing t-shirts, they created an entire community, which is the entire impetus for their success. Instead of having to think of new designs every month, Threadless just relies on the talent and creativity of thousands of artists that curate designs on their community platform. The community votes on their favorite t-shirt and Threadless simply produces them.