I’ve had to pinch myself a few times to make sure this interview is real. Its not often you get to ask questions of the creative mind behind 3 (yes 3) billion dollar brands. Chris was Marketing Director at Virgin Atlantic before going on to do the same at Orange. Brands director at Lloyds as well as CEO of 118118 and Marketing Director at B&Q also jump out from his impressive resume. If you have any interest in marketing, creativity or in fact any aspect of business then you need to pull up a chair, get a cuppa and indulge yourself in the candidness of this interview.
Thank you Chris – you’re an inspiration.
1). Chris, you’ve been instrumental in taking three brands from start-up to 1 billion dollars. What’s the secret? 😉
Passion, People and Purpose. They seem like simple things but in my world great things happen when you combine these three.
You need to be passionate about the product (and that doesn’t always happen at the very start) but if you never get to be passionate about the product or service offered, then it’s just another job!
People make the difference. I rarely go to work just for the “sale or salary It’s the people, the team, the fun of making a difference that makes it worthwhile. And a great Team can move mountains.
But businesses without Purpose soon loose their momentum. So just making money is never enough for me. I love to change the world a little (or probably a lot given the chance). Find your real business purpose and everything changes. It’s like a piece of magic. It brings out passion and creates a real team.
2). You’re a huge advocate of creativity – tell us why it’s important in business and not just in marketing.
Most people see the world more or less the same way, Creativity can be described as seeing things differently. My beliefs is that Creating products where customers can “see” the difference makes it easier to purchase. Creativity is also about diversity, Creating the maximum positive differentiation possible.
3). You’ve worked with some amazing individuals. Do you notice similar traits in those people and if so would you share a couple with us?
Dyslexia and some of the other things that are seen as “Dis”abilities, are often a great help. Feeling how customers react is not something that is taught in business school, but most entrepreneurs have either great or terrible emotional intelligence.
Having a thin skin, and being unafraid to change your mind, or potentially seem a fool are all great traits. Using your three brains are key. Using your head, your heart and your gut are all very powerful.
4). What do you consider your biggest achievement?
In value, then Orange was greatest. In challenge then meeting BT in Telecomms 118 battle was fab especially as the incumbent had always kept 60% of the market. In fun then Virgin was best, especially when I did an April fool that fooled over a million people 24 hours before 1st April with a UFO over London. (See photo above). It was also the seed of Bransons Space Flights.
5). What was your favourite role?
The next one!
6). What time are you up in the morning and what time is lights out?
If it’s a good day and there are things happening then up at Dawn or before, and lights are out before midnight.
7). What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
I once did a mail shot and sent out 60,000 apples to Virgin Atlantic customers to celebrate two flights a day to the big apple. Sadly it wouldn’t fit through the letterbox, and one customer found it on his doorstep. He was a territorial Army Officer, and how was I to know that Semtex smells like Apples! The rest is history, and front page news!
8). How do you deal with failure and are there any in the past you look back on with hindsight fondly?
There are always failures, the best are when you pick yourself up and keep going. The best was when we launched 118118 and our finance department managed to infect our it system with a bug that crashed all our telecoms and switches. We told everyone that we were swamped with calls, which we were… but just couldn’t answer any of them for 24 hours!
9). How did you mitigate against future changes/trends during a project if you know it is a long process and therefore things might change?
I don’t think you can mitigate to much about the unknown, but you do have to plan about the future. There are plenty of facts around that focus and steer you towards a new dawn. When we launched Orange we did so knowing that the future was going to be very different. So we looked 10 years ahead and said let’s just imagine the future, then try and make it happen.
10). Do you set any sort of goals, personal or business?
I try to set goals, but get very easily distracted, I planned on doing this Blog 2 months ago!!!
11). How do you deal with your email inbox?
With difficulty, I try and delete as much as possible and force myself to remove my email from databases every 4 months. I spend a morning every 100 days or so just unsubscribing. I also don’t respond to all requests on Linked-in and will sometimes just delete my whole profile.
12). What’s your best tip for growing a successful business?
Passion, People and Purpose.
13). Do you manage to find a good work-life balance and has that always been the case?
It’s getting to be a better balance, but I was really bad to start with. Your kids grow up so quickly, don’t miss it. You can never buy that time back.
14). What would you tell your 21 year old self?
Life life every day: Get a Tattoo with “One life, Live it”
15). When do you know is the right time to quit something, or continue to hold on and persist?
Stop loss, use it well. I’ll try three times to get to someone, or something. But then I’m “3 strikes and your out”. If I have a great Idea that I’d like someone to see or hear, and they’re not interested, it’s going to be their loss not mine. Great ideas always find a home. And “Home is where the Heart is” !!!
Chris runs Mav3rick – Find out more here: https://www.mav3rick.com/