Iain Thackrah is a writer, a rider, and he had his own business. His business 3point175 aims to bring creatives together to be able to foster mentorship and coaching and lead us into creative being, creative entrepreneurs.
Jeanette: Today's guest is Iain Thackrah is a writer, a rider, and he has his own business. His business 3point175 aims to bring creatives together to be able to foster mentorship and coaching and lead us into creative entrepreneurs. He describes himself as a creative entrepreneur.
The purpose of the call is to have a chat about people's emotional states and how this puts a business at risk. So, Iain, thank you so much for joining us today.
Iain: Hi there.
Jeanette: How would you like to kick off our emotional state and how this affects our business?
Iain: Yeah, this has been a very difficult question that you've asked, our people emotional states put businesses at risk, and I think there's many ways to look at it in terms of how you put your business at risk, how you put other people's businesses at risk and also how other people put your business at risk based on their behavior. And so, I kind of wanted to start by digging into my role as a coach and the coaching relationship that exists between myself and my clients.
Jeanette: Brilliant so yeah, so that's an interesting combination because there's a combination of my and yours. Is it my emotion, your business and is it my business and my emotion so I think this is really an interesting way of looking at it and yes, the coaching relationship obviously you can tell us so much more about this because being a coach yourself, I wonder, I guess being a coach you need to add value. It's not just a matter of meeting people and just talking about business, it's more about guiding them and adding value to what they would like to do, and it's not necessarily. You have to be in the right. You don't have to always be right when you're doing this.
Iain from your experience how would you go about this addition of value?
Iain: Yes, I think to kind of understand the role of a coach, I think we almost have to go back to school and into the classroom. There are probably quite a few episodes for a podcast in here because there's quite a good reason that I'm not a teacher anymore, but I'll try and stick to the point today.
I think in a typical classroom, the game that we play is the is the game to be right. Effectively it's a game of catch and you play it with your teacher. Your teacher throws out a question and then the student responds by throwing back an answer. The better the answer, the more reward that student is given, and so you basically win and show how valuable that you are by being right, and so this is how formal education trains us and because we spend so long in this environment, we actually get quite good at this game of being right. So, if we kind of jump back into the coaching you will ask me a question, so I say, let's just talk about e-mail funnels and my instant reaction, my instant need is to be right and to provide an answer. My desire to be valuable is based on whether or not I can quickly give you the correct answer to that question. I think that kind of works for some very simple questions, some very basic questions like I don't know like how to set up an e-mail funnel but honestly you could probably Google the answer to that and so what we really want from a coaching role is that question like, should I set one up and, in this instance, I can't respond with an answer. I can't respond with that need to be right, despite my incredible kind of desire to give an answer to your question. I have to respond with a question, and this is the most valuable thing I can do and effectively what I need to do is I need to help you find your own answer to your own question. So, in that moment I have to make that choice. Should I be valuable, or should I be right? and I think this can be incredibly rewarding and also incredibly frustrating.
I did a call last week with a guy over in Australia. We spent 90 minutes on the phone together and at the end of the call, I honestly felt like I did nothing. I just let them talk through a problem with themselves. I mean; I was in the room, I was there, I was listening, I was engaging, I was occasionally adding another question to keep things moving forwards, but I didn't feel like I contributed to the question because all the knowledge that I had stayed with me. At the end of the call, they're incredibly grateful they're singing my praises, but I was incredibly frustrated because I didn't get to say something that I knew and I think that the call would have been less valuable if I tried to stop them in their conversation and try to actively help them by actively inserting my answer and my opinion into their kind of working out of this problem. And I think this can also be incredibly frustrating on the other side of things because people come to me for answers. They expect me to provide them and then I refuse to give them the answers that I'm qualified to give and so it can end up with a lot of frustration across both sides, so I'm frustrated because I can't share that information with you because it's not about me and me being right. It's about me being valuable and it's more valuable for me to withhold the information than it is for me to give it to you, but also, you're frustrated because you're effectively paying me to provide these answers that I'm then refusing to give you. So, you say like should I start an e-mail funnel and I'm like well what do you think, well, I don't know what I think. That's exactly why I've just asked you the question. Should I start a funnel and that's this training kicking in it. It's this education kicking in because in the same way that I'm trained to throw the answers out, you're also trained to look at the teacher, the consultant, the coach, the mentor in the room, and see them as that sage on a stage is that's what we call it. Basically, I'm the guy at the front who knows all the answers. Everybody looks at me. You have a question, you ask it. I fire back with the answer. I look great. We all move on. And I think this combination is basically if we can't navigate this problem this this conflict of interest, this conflict of desires we get we get in a whole lot of trouble. Effectively I put your business at risk If I give you my answer to your question because it's more valuable for you to come up with your own. You put your business at risk by letting someone else take charge of your own business without working it through yourself. You just do what I tell you, you're letting me decide the future of your business and the fate of your business. You're not taking that responsibility yourself, and then ultimately, and this is where it kind of comes full circle, you put my business at risk because you're not going to get real value from me because this relationship isn't working, so you won't remain a client. Not only that, you won't tell your friends about me either, so word of mouth referrals won't come from this relationship and ultimately, like even if you do tell someone about me, you're probably not going to talk about me in a very positive light, and you might even warn me or warn people away from me rather than tell me to go and see me because I'm the guy who paid a lot of money, he wouldn't give you the answer that you were looking for and I think this all comes from the fact that we've kind of set this relationship up. We've been taught this relationship in the wrong way and unless we can get over that and move past that and understand how this relationship should work, it's a very tricky one to navigate.
Jeanette: It feels like a ‘Catch 22’ really. Wherever you go there's always no right answer and you brought back memories from childhood we've always been as you're right, you know we've always been looking for you know the reward and possibly even the reverse doing something right or to avoid punishment so and this really illustrates the reward versus punishment kind of thing, because depending on which point of view you're seeing it, if someone is not giving you the answer that you would like, then you're going to be seeing it as a form of punishment whereas it should be seen from a different perspective. Yeah, it's brought back some really interesting dynamics there.
Iain: It brought back some memories from my childhood as well. I have a very strong memory of asking one of my teachers for an answer to a question and him saying what do you think? And I remember saying can't you just tell me? And it actually got me really angry. I mean, I was probably 13, 14 at the time, but I remember getting thrown out of class because I refused to accept the fact that they wouldn't give me the answers. So, I get it from the other side and only now, like, however many years later, you start to realize that actually, what they were doing, they were doing the right thing by irritating but me by frustrating me by annoying me because it would have worked out better in the long run, but in the moment, I couldn't see it and that's again the difficulties. You can't see the value as it's being given to you because again, we measure that value as the input that comes from that from that coach from that consultant.
Luis: Yeah, I think at the end because it happened to me as well. I will not accept that just because I don't want to be wrong. That is why I'm looking for that specific answer.
Iain: Yeah, and I think this comes down to a bit about the kind of the whole concept of risk in general, in the, most of the things we are doing is not trying to seek out gain. What we're trying to do is we're trying to mitigate risk, so the first thing we do is avoid risk, and then the second thing that we look for is to achieve a gain and being wrong is risky and being wrong is risky. Because first thing it does is it makes you look bad. Like you look foolish, and I mean we don't like nobody actually looks foolish, but we just feel we look foolish and then and then, if we put the wrong thing into action, it actually has negative consequences, and so we're trying to avoid that risk and having someone else tell us what to do. Having someone else lead us makes us far more comfortable taking the risk because then we can put the responsibility onto someone else and we could get stuck into kind of deep philosophical concepts here about kind of Søren Kierkegaard and existentialism but ultimately that's not a way to live a good life is to put your life, your future, your fate, your destiny into the hands of somebody else into somebody else's answers and just take them on faith because you know you can then pass responsibility onto them. You need to take responsibility for yourself and that's one of the things that I suppose comes core into business coaching is that concept of the CEO, the founder taking responsibility of the business for themselves.
Jeanette: Yeah, this really is really driving the point home that we can't isolate our emotions from whatever we do. And obviously it's going to have a very direct impact on our personal life and our business life. So really, and I think I'm possibly quoting you here when you say that business is a direct reflection of your character. I don't know whether there is anything that you can expand on the on this point.
Iain: Yeah, I think this, that's a good quote said by a very, a very wise person. I'm pretty sure I've plagiarized that from somewhere else. So yes, I do use it, but I I'm confident I'm not the original source of that of that piece of material, but I think this this takes us down an incredible rabbit hole specifically within the creative industry. So, like as a creative, there's a certain personality type that comes with it. There's a certain type of person that is drawn into the creative world and there's a certain type of person that's also grown within the creative world. So, if you weren't that way when you started, being a creative, molds you into a certain way of thinking and you pick up certain habits or you've come into the creative world because you already display those character traits and those habits, and that's where you naturally fit.
But as creatives, one of the things that we really struggle is to solve the same problem twice. So, we crave new. We crave the unexplored. We crave the novel we run away from things that are old and boring and predictable because we kind of see them as that's not really the work of a creative is to do something that's done before, so we're forever starting things we're never really finishing things but the kind of the awkward truth of this is that most successful businesses are built on repetition and so by doing the reps and solving the same problem over and over again, we get really good at something and we kind of switched from that how can I do something to how well does my business do that something and the ultimate goal of most businesses is just to do one thing well. So, if you look at a company like Moleskin, they just make journals, field notes. They just make journals. Blackwing pencils. They just make pencils. One specific kind of pencil. Hiut Denim. They just make jeans. But they're built on that, making one thing incredibly well. But as creators, we don't like that. We're kind of afraid of closing the doors if we only make genes. That means we can't make something else. If we only make pencils, that means we can't make something and because we don't want to close the doors to opportunity and to our own creativity, what we end up doing is we end up not getting very good at something or not getting good enough at something that people start to take notice of what we do and notice of our business. So, our businesses struggle because of our creative personality.
I think the other side of that kind of creative personality comes in that we're also really afraid of asking for help. And again, this this probably comes from the classroom. It comes from our upbringing. It comes from the quiet, creative working in a corner on something incredible by themselves. There's not much kind of group projects going on in creative processes in education, but we often see in the creative world and kind of double down in the in the entrepreneurship world is that asking for help is an admission of weakness. So, we kind of come back to this desire like we need to solve every problem ourselves, but ultimately, what we need to do for our business is we need to focus our energy on where we can have the biggest impact and let someone else do the rest. Kind of get a bit more concrete with an example. I've just enlisted the help of a copywriter. Now, can I write, yes! I like to think I can write quite well actually, so could I do all my writing or my emails or my social media or my newsletters? Could I do them myself? The answer is yes. But I was too busy writing to effectively lead my company, so I had to ask for help and let go and my business has got a lot better. It's grown faster, it's now got more secure foundations because I wasn't busy trying to do everything myself. I was busy focusing my energy on the things that that matter, and they might not be the things that I kind of love. When you introduce me, you introduce me with three things, I ride my bike, I write and I run my own business and effectively I've had to say that it's not in my business best interest for me to continue writing and I need help with and that was very difficult, and it is really difficult for an entrepreneur to say that it's even more difficult for a creative entrepreneur to say that and I think we can kind of keep going and going down this like I could just keep listing those character traits off but it does come back to what you kind of introduced this section with like my business is a direct reflection of my character and so if you really want to understand why a business is the way it is, you need to look at the founder, the owner or the CEO and look at how they respond to situations because that's also how the business will respond to those situations.
And so, like first thing, we kind of look at in any coaching relationship like if you're really serious about fixing your business the first thing you need to do is to work on yourself, because you are your business. Your business is you, so one cannot change without the other changing because it will always revert back to the character of the founder and that's hard work like that's tough to accept that you need to change. It's easy to accept that your business needs to change. It's very difficult to accept that it's your fault, it's the way it is, and you need to change.
Jeanette: Yeah, it's a very rude awakening when you realize that, and I have to say. I mean, I'm in a lucky position that I am both in architecture and in engineering, so, I kind of see the best and the worst of both creative worlds, because I'd like to think that engineers are always so creative in their way and their practice really hit home when you said that it is very difficult for people to ask for help and I think it happened because we're human. You know the myth busting I think it's 10,000 hours for you to repeat to repeat something to become an expert and I'm not sure whether it's actually true or not, but yes, it takes some time and the repetition takes some time and the more we do it, the more perfect it becomes, but we have to strike a balance between it becoming too mechanical and devoid of creativity although we can do it very quickly then, so yeah, it's it just depends on completely on us as humans and the way that we're going to be driving our business.
But you mentioned something really interesting about the brands about doing one thing only and then the definition of brand, let's say when it comes to and here, Luis, please correct me if I'm leading this incorrectly, but Martin Neumeier defines brand as the people gut feeling about a product, a company, an organization so really depends on how people are perceiving you. What about the other way around? Could customers actually speak for your company? Could there be a, you know a kind of a mix of a communication both ways?
Iain: Yeah, I think you've kind of touched on two things there. One kind of runs back to what we were just talking about, and you just mentioned that something gets so mechanical that the creativity kind of gets taken out of it. Actually, I kind of think that's again, it's a bit of a myth that we've been taught is that creativity comes from freedom, the freedom to do whatever you want. Actually, I feel that like creativity comes from your freedom within a constraint, and it's only when you add in a constraint does creativity really come to the fore. So actually, some of those companies that are doing that one thing really well are some of the most creative companies because they have to find ways to be creative within the constraint of, they can do whatever they want as long as it's making jeans. So, you can and as soon as you add that little caveat in there in the corner, the creativity comes through.
So, let's say you can spend the rest of your day doing whatever you want, it's very difficult to actually come up with something to do. It's very difficult to think of something because that it's limitless. It's boundless. Ok, you can do whatever you want, but it has to be within one mile of your house. All of a sudden now your brain has just kicked up or not, because we've placed a constraint on it, and so there's one thing well companies, they really are at tend to be at the forefront of creativity because Blackwing can only make pencil. So, they can't go, oh, let's be creative and make a journal. Let's be creative and make a magazine. Let's be creative we'll make some scarves like I don't know what they'll make, but they can't. What they have to do is they have to find the best thing they can do with a pencil and what they do with a pencil is they do a limited-edition pencil that comes in a test tube that it's sealed, and they are, yeah, they're limited run, there's the subscription pricing. They come with gifts and artifacts and beautiful boxes and actually what their creativity has allowed them to do is elevate their company to a level that is way higher than any other kind of pencil manufacturer, because they just put that limit in. They can only make pencils. And I think running onto your, it's a little bit of a tangent there, running onto the second point about the customers versus brands I've definitely I've definitely been part of this. Yes, so I ride a bike. So, I am a cyclist, and I am specifically a Rapha cyclist. Now if you know what that means, you already know what that means. If you don't know what that means, I will explain it, but there's something about saying I'm a Rapha cyclist that's very important. It's very significant within the Cycling World. So, Rapha is a brand. It was set up in 2000 and something by a guy in the UK called Simon Mottram and effectively he found a gap in the market. The company that he really wanted to see exist didn't exist and that was a company that treated cycling as an aspirational identity as an aspirational activity up until then, basically, like you're a bit weird if you cycled, it was a really kind of oddball sport. There was dreadful fashion. There was like not much in the way of innovation it was very European. It was very hidden and, in the UK, especially the only reason why you'd ever ride a bike would be to go to the shops. And you'd only ride the bike because you couldn't afford a car to do it. So, he was looking at the sport that he loved, and it just wasn’t that thing. So, he created Rapha and he also created the Rapha Cycling Club.
Now this is for people who wanted to ride a bike like it was a challenge. Like every single kilometer. Every single mile you covered was a race. He wanted people to look stylish, people who wanted to spend money on cycling and so as a Rapha cyclist I address, I'd say very well, I probably wear kit that is too expensive for me. I ride a bike that is above my ability level and when I'm out on it I'm going as fast as humanly possible and that's the only thing that I'm really interested in, and that's what identifies a Rapha cyclist and when you bump into another Rapha cyclist, someone else wearing the Rapha gear, because it's very clear that who is who you instantly know that person is your kind of person because they're out there not to have a chat to have a gossip to make friends to, you know, grab a coffee somewhere. They are out there to ride very fast, very far and see what the limits of their own capabilities are on a bicycle, and that's cool from the inside. From the outside, we're not a fun group of people to be around because we we're not approachable. We're not friendly. We're not open to other people in the cycling community and actually Rapha struggled from this in, I suppose, probably 2012, 2016, when Rapha was getting big when we had the Olympics in the UK and Team Sky, who were kind of at the peak of their ability, were riding in Rapha gear at the moment the brand became successful and more people like me were bumping into more people who weren't like me we came off as elitist, unapproachable, unfriendly people, and there was a very big kind of divide between those people who were Rapha cyclists and those people who weren't Rapha cyclists and the marmite feeling you either love it or you hate it, and people really, really hate Rapha like it's very strange to meet someone on a bicycle who says mean things to you because of the clothes that you're wearing, but it's a real thing, especially in the north where I in north of England where I live you get away with a bit more in London or it's a bit more cosmopolitan, a bit more open, but in the north of England though, we're still, we're still not terribly popular people and that had a negative effect on the company, because all of a sudden you are closing the doors on a whole number of people. I mean, that's exactly what he was trying to do. He was trying to appeal to a specific niche, a specific market. Those people who understood it but the walls around it were getting thicker and stronger and it was getting harder and harder for new people to find their way in because of the press that they were getting because of the way the ambassadors of the sport whilst wearing the clothing were showcasing the company in the real world, and so they had to work really hard to kind of open it up, make it more friendly, soften the edges like bring it down a level or two and I don't think it was due to Simon Mottram's desire to make a company that was that closed off but the people who were buying his stuff had as brand representatives effectively made the company more closed off. And fortunately for Rapha and for me as a Rapha cyclist because I'm definitely more accepted these days. A lot of hard work went in the last kind of 5-10 years, and it has become more acceptable, more open. Although the prices of their clothing have not come down, they have actually gone up so.
Jeanette: This is possibly a very, one off example of what's Seth Godin called Tribe’s right. We know the Apple fans only by I products. You know the cars, the sunglasses everyone wants Ray-Bans or there are, you know groups of people that prefer one brand over another, and this really struck a chord with me when you said ambassador of a brand. It is really, you know, it is a strong word, but it really, truly defines what the brand is. The brand is not only the brand that you buy, but it's also the behavior of people using that, and I think the example you just gave is pretty much extreme, but really true.
Iain: Yeah, and I think it's far more common in kind of clothing companies, fashion companies, because it's much easier to see the effect. I mean it exists with all companies that have a tribe that all companies that have that kind of following, but because fashion is such an outward display, that identifier is far more visible. So, and Burberry may have had a problem with this. Addidas have had a problem with this and it's just the type of people who end up wearing your clothing dictates how people perceive your brand and for some of us, that's a deliberate choice in that I want these kind of people to wear my clothing because I want people to perceive my brand in a certain way, but for others it's accidental, and it's not in your control and if a group of people just start like wearing your brand you're instantly associated with those people, and there's very little you can do to change people perception of you because in order for them to do that, they need to change perception of the people who are wearing it, and they're probably not in a rush to do that and so it gets difficult to detach yourself from your customers.
Luis: Yeah, what I think is that companies are afraid because they can't control people's emotion and the reactions that are produced by those emotions. In fact, in order to change people's perceptions, we would have to go into topics such as culture and identities of those individuals. In the end, using Marty Neumeier's definition as Jeanette commented earlier that a brand is people's gut feeling about a product, organization or service, then we would be confirming that companies do not own the brand, but people do, and without a brand there are no companies. The company cannot impose its reputation or whatever thing they want to impose on its customers.
Iain: Yeah, there's some great examples of people getting it right. I mean obviously Nike have been, they've understood that from the very beginning, and they've been out in the community. They've got a group of people called Ekins, which is Nike spelled backwards who knows Nike in and out, and the theory is that they are ambassadors into the community, not to be ambassadors of Nike into the community, but to be ambassadors of the community back into Nike. So, they act as that kind of two way of information. Hey, this is what we're coming out with, but also what are you looking for us to come out with next? And they build that Brand around that two-way conversation and yeah, obviously there's that difference between marketing, advertising, PR and branding. And yeah, branding unfortunately or fortunately it's out of your control and I love that I love that phrase like you don't own your brand, your customers own your brand and so yeah, they get to do with it what they want. Whether you like it or not.
Jeanette: So, Iain as ambassador of 3point175, we I mean, we're ambassadors as well, to be honest, because we're part of the group and we can’t, you know how much we enjoy being part of this our extended family, so to speak. But perhaps if you could, you know, describe what we what we get up to.
Iain: Yeah, so I could definitely put you on the spot here, seeing as you've just mentioned that you own my brand as one of my mentees. As a member of the community. How about you tell me what you think of what we do, and then I'll tell you what I think of what we do.
Jeanette: Well, I go first and then I'll put Luis on the spot as well.
Luis: No pressure, no pressure.
Jeanette: Well, it's no secret. No pressure indeed, I think the pressure is on Iain and we might see him disappear of the podcast in a minute.
Uhm, but yeah, what I think and it's really resonating what we've just said it has helped me understand myself and therefore understand our business better and it couldn't have happened in the other way I tried, but I think this is where I had failed until I realized that there has been, there needed to be, some personal journey to take before I embarked on the business journey and the group is a safe environment where this communication can happen with like-minded people who are going or have gone through a similar experience and you, you know, depending on the journey that you're on, depending on where in the journey you are on then you can get other persons take on things they can suggest ways of doing stuff maybe rather than doing everything yourself by trial and error. They can tell you listen. This has not worked for me, but you know, why not go with a different direction. So that was for me you know the safety, the cocoon that helped me developed personally and obviously, then through several conversations with Luis. Perhaps you can fill us more about that, but yes, it has helped us understand ourselves better and really understand their emotional state better so that it can help you know, going back to the original topic that we're talking about our, our emotional state has helped us in our own business.
Luis: I think it's my turn now. I really think that Jeanette has mentioned everything, however, I feel that it has also been important for us to be able to have direct contact with you or Errol. Also, what Jeanette mentioned about having a safe place where we can have conversations is vital for us.
Iain: Yeah, thank you. So, I think that kind of echoes well with what I would, I'd say. So, I run 3point175. We provide creative entrepreneurs across the globe with the information and support they need to build an incredible business. And I think this again comes back to education but if you look at the journey of most creatives and of most entrepreneurs and how they got started, what they did was they got really good at something and then one day they got up and they thought you know what? I could make a living doing this and I could do it for myself. And so that leads you to launch that business and set out on your own. Like and that's great. However, we tend to be really, really good at that thing that got us into it. We tend to lack skills on the business side of things, and this makes building a business harder than it should be and to be honest, that is to be expected. Nobody taught us the things that we need. Nobody taught us these skills. We don't know how to do these things and so that's where that's where 3point175 come in. We run as you say, we run the coaching community, of which you are part of. We do private coaching, and we create workshops all to bridge that gap in your business skills so that as you can have the life you want, the business you imagined doing what you love specifically for yourself.
Jeanette: So, Iain, just to take this full cycle now we've said really interesting things and many things to take note of. But perhaps you could just pinpoint the really salient takeaways, just to continue thinking about them later on. Which points would you like to like to highlight?
Iain: Yeah, I think there's kind of three things that have come through today. I think the first one is, and this is a very important lesson, and ultimately this one, I think is responsible for me still having a company today. I think if I hadn't done this then I might not be in business right now, but I think whatever it is that you're doing you don't have to do it on your own and I think one of the most courageous acts that you can do is to ask for help. I think the other side of that comes from that recognition, then that you need to work on yourself as much as you want to work on your craft. We're all happy as graphic designers working on our design skills, but we spend far less time working on ourselves and there is a personal development and professional development and they need to be given equal weight in your time and they need to given equal amounts of attention when one of them exceeds the other, then things become very difficult. And I think the final thing comes back to that kind of coaching mentality and there's very little I can do to add value to somebody's life and to their business if they are not in the right frame of mind and in the right position to engage in that conversation. So, a lot of things are completely outside of my control, and I think it's worth remembering that very little of what goes on in the world is about you, and every conversation you go into if you go into it with that kind of thinking that this just isn't about me, you get far more out of it on the other side, and so does the other person who is in that conversation with you.
Jeanette: Well, there you go. Some deep thoughts about your emotional states but on that note, I'd like to thank you once again, Iain for accepting our invitation. It was lovely having you with us.
Iain: Thank you very much for having me.
Jeanette: This is Iain Thackrah and you are listening to The Human Agenda. Thank you so much for joining us in this episode.