Is being the hero leading your business really a solo role?
We do tend to think of heroes as solo champions who save the world.
But no hero (or business leader) is an island.
Even the iconic hero, Superman, relied on Lois and Jimmy to get him out of tight scrapes when the likes of Lex Luther weakened our superhero with Kryptonite.
In this episode, we reflect on what historical stories about heroes and leaders on the battlefield can realistically teach us about how to lead, relate to, and appreciate the people around us.
Plus, we urge you to celebrate your quirks!
Talking About Marketing podcast episode notes with timecodes
01:26 Person This segment focusses on you, the person, because we believe business is personal.
Celebrate Your Quirks
Stanley Kubrick was auditioning for the air steward for 2001 Space Odyssey, and the woman who got the part had arrived at the audition having just come from a dentist appointment.
She was disoriented by the drugs and couldn’t walk properly.
As history reveals, Kubrick loved her tentative walking; it evoked images of moving in weightlessness. She got the part.
The moral of the story is even if you're not you're 100% ready, do it anyway.
This is especially so when pitching for business because you never know if there’s something about your quirk or your flaw that is exactly what the other party is looking for.
07:31 Principles This segment focusses principles you can apply in your business today.
Belonging To The Brand
David is halfway through listening to Christian Cameron’s series, The Long War, which is centred around the exploits of Arimnestos of Plataea during the protracted conflict between the ancient Greeks and Persians.
The first three novels in the series already inspired him to think about leadership in a more integrated way than he had considered until now, as well as motivating him to comprehensively situate leadership within the broader contexts of the rule of law and what makes a good life.
"Over my years of lecturing and consulting, I have listened to more books about leadership, virtue ethics, and what makes a good life than I can remember. Even though I can remember quite a bit, and can tell you something useful about every book in my nineteen page recommended reading list, a lot of the pieces don’t fit together in a cohesive and immediately relatable way. After reading three of the six books in The Long War series, I recommend that you should listen to/read Christian Cameron’s novels next time you want to reflect on, and learn something new about, leadership."
Arimnestos is a complex, sometimes noble, and regularly flawed character, making his way through a brutal and beautiful world, which is simultaneously familiar and alien.
He very quickly becomes a dangerous man on the battlefield (a “killer” in the parlance of the series), and learns that a hero can change the course of a battle, but cannot win it on their own. This lesson is reinforced when Arimnestos becomes a leader in war.
Leaders/heroes can do things that their followers can’t, but without disciplined, well trained followers to fill the space they cut, and to walk the path they forge, heroic actions frequently only result in tragic stories of what might have been.
15:55 Problems This segment answers questions we've received from clients or listeners.
Steve is working with a lovely woman who is creating a social enterprise, so he's particularly conscious of helping her save money wherever possible.
During troublesheeting a premium plugin that is a key part of her new site, the tech support people needed some specifications from her webhosting.
Not rocket science level information, just information that would take a little time and chatting with the webhost to access.
Steve was able to arm Donna with the exact wording she needed to ask and she was able to get this information herself, and in the process she stretched her budget just that little bit further.
Depending on your interests and time and budget, it's always worth checking with contractors about any aspects of the "grunt work" they're doing for you could be done in house.
It is a balancing act because there's no enduring value in learning how to do something you'll only do once, but in some situations it might just be a smart way to stretch your budget further and even move things forward a little quicker.
17:54 Perspicacity This segment is designed to sharpen our thinking by reflecting on a case stude from the past.
Le Specs, Le Tough
Ever broken an expensive pair of sunglasses?
Steve has. Too often.
He made a decision years ago to stop wasting money and stick to good but practical glasses.
He's gone back to taking a chance with more premium sunglasses again, thanks to needing prescriptions, but there was a time in the 80s where a pair of Le Specs actually lived up to their promise and withstood his punishment.
David and Steve discuss the Le Specs, Le Tough campaign and ask, would it work today.
We think it would. Listen to the interview to find out why.
TRANSCRIPT This is a transcript of the episode. Please note, although checked briefly, this was crafted by an AI tool and will contain errors. For quoting purposes, always check against the original audio.
Caitlin Davis: [00:00:00] Talking about marketing is a podcast for business owners and leaders, produced by my dad, Steve Davis, and his colleague at Talked About Marketing, David Olney, in which they explore marketing through the lens of their own four P's, person, principles, problems, and perspicacity. Yes, you heard that correctly.
Apart from their love of words, they really love helping people. So they hope this podcast will become a trusted companion on your journey in business.
Steve Davis: David, when I see you, you have sunglasses on, and you've explained in this podcast why it's a nice way to protect your eyes when you can't see what might be coming at you. But I have a question. What sunglasses would heroes wear?
David Olney: Ah, they would have to wear le specs, le tough.
Steve Davis: Alright, well there's the [00:01:00] idea.
Let's see if we can flesh that out as we go through this episode of Talking About Marketing.
Caitlin Davis: Our four P's. Number one, Person. The aim of life is self development. To realise one's nature perfectly. That is what each of us is here for. Oscar Wilde.
Steve Davis: For the person segment, something a little bit different now and if it's not too personal, I want you to just reflect on yourself. Do you have? A chink in your armor. Do you have something about yourself that makes you go a little bit weak, self conscious, you don't like it. It's something you try to hide or diminish or downplay.
Now that could be happening at a personal level, it could be something about The way your business operates. And I just want to share a little reflection on a story that I heard recently in [00:02:00] one of my favorite podcasts, which is Very Bad Wizards. Please do not ever listen to that podcast in a work or family environment.
They were talking at deep about Stanley Kubrick and the 2001 movie, 2001 A Space Odyssey, which i, I love, I think it's a fascinating piece of cinema, but in it. If you recall there is a space, one of the earliest scenes of the spaceship is a hostess, I'm using gender specific language there, a hostess walking along within the spaceship with the passengers, a bit like an airline hostess again, and she has this strange walk.
She carefully and deliberately puts one foot Above the other, and she's just a little bit wonky, and it's just part of what became synonymous with this movie that is very [00:03:00] recognizable, and there's an interesting story about how that actor got that role.
Podcast: This transition now, when we go into the, the flight and the flight attendant is walking is on Velcro Velcro and never fails to just, it's like about the happiest moment for me in the whole movie. Yeah, it's like blue Danube wilds. So it's like this. Perfect, like, elegant, civilized, like, kind of a symbol of By the way, the, the flight attendant, I heard a hilarious story, said that, you know this woman, you know, I think she might've been a model or something.
She went sort of on a lark because everybody was going, but she She had just gotten a dental procedure and was heavily on painkillers. And so when it came time for her to, to do, he's like, okay, walk from here to here, she was actually kind of off balance. And he thought that was perfect. [00:04:00] Cause all the other, you know, models were walking like, you know, like they can like straight like models and he, he loved it.
And so she was walking in zero gravity, she was, she was, she was floating he was very much someone who would use happy accidents.
Steve Davis: Well, I just think for, for this particular segment, there's a little thing. It's a bit like that saying, feel the fear and do it anyway. It's not so much that the fact that she still went through to the audition in that state is not so much feeling the fear and doing it anyway. It's just, just not giving up, just still taking an opportunity because of this thing called happenstance.
If we don't do something, we know the results, nothing's going to happen. But if we do try, we just don't know. And sometimes it can be what you're expecting. Sometimes it can be something, well, it can be a negative, but more often than not, I have found that if we're open, [00:05:00] We will see a new opportunity or a door that we were hoping would open would actually open as well.
David, what do you make of this particular story?
David Olney: I think a really important thing is that we do respond positively to the unexpected. Because often if the day is the same as it was yesterday, we just go ho hum. Where something about this person turning up to audition was very different and it meant the movie would be very different.
And not different in a deliberate look at me. kind of performative way, but just in a, this is not what you would expect, but it's also something you might just see walking down the street. Someone walking out of a dentist surgery, someone walking out of a doctor's surgery may not move in the way you expect.
Someone who injured himself playing sport on the weekend may not move the way you expect. And we're going to notice that and it's going to draw our attention. And I guess for a filmmaker, drawing attention in a way that it's not. Cheesy or [00:06:00] over set up is probably quite an amazing thing to find by accident.
Steve Davis: The big thing for me, just to finish this reflection on, is the other side of this approach. We're saying just do it anyway, but it is about quirks. Maybe this says to us, we should be less concerned about Disguising or averaging out our quirks and maybe be bold enough about celebrating them, making them a feature, because in fact, as we, I talk about a lot, the human brain has evolved to want to be in a default state most of the time, which means basically asleep.
A lot of messaging just swings by because it's what the brain expects it to be. So it's got no reason to turn on and pay attention. But a quirk. Something unexpected might actually just be that stickiness that makes someone, you know, not only pay attention in the first place, but then possibly want to [00:07:00] hover around you as you move forward.
I think that's an important thing that we take out of the 2001 A Space Odyssey. It could be our own personal branding odyssey.
Caitlin Davis: Our four Ps. Number two, Principles. You can never be overdressed or over educated. Oscar Wilde.
Steve Davis: Four Principles. 2001 A Space Odyssey is known for the greatest jump cut in cinematic history, which is where you've civilisation discovering... Weapons, and finally having war, and as a bone tosses up in the air, it cuts to a spaceship in the sky. It's just a mind blowing bit of cinema. But likewise, in our humble way, we're going to jump [00:08:00] cut from talking about that movie to the Long War series by Christian Cameron.
I think there's a tenuous link there, David. You're the one engrossed in these books. Can you tell us why we think we should reflect on them in a marketing podcast for people in small to medium enterprises?
David Olney: It's quite a leap, but I think there's good reasons for the leap. So, to give you context, listener, the Long War series is all about the very protracted war between ancient Greece and ancient Persia.
And the story is told from the perspective of Aramnestos of Plataea, who started as an amazing young warrior and ended up being a very important leader in reality. And Christian Cameron has sort of taken his love of history and his love of understanding how people lived and he's a reenactor so he loves learning to do all the things he writes about.
The Long War, series by Christian Cameron: I've been a historical reenactor since I was 13 years old [00:09:00] and I feel that An enormous amount of my writing is inspired by re enacting. It provides me with the sort of experience to make the experience of ancient warfare more real. Re enacting is not just the art of putting on a pretend battle. A good re enactment involves showing the everyday life, the culture, camping, how food was cooked.
What kind of food existed, dance, and every other aspect that goes into the sort of organic whole that is recreating history. And we're gonna try and put that together for Marathon. And it is, we're saying that it is that very experience of trying to create the organic whole that allows you to give depth to characters, so that all the characters aren't just kings and princes, princes, people about whom we know a great deal from history, but the life of farmers, the life of herdsmen, the life of...
A wine merchant, the life of everyone who is involved in creating the classical world.
David Olney: And the thing I took away from it [00:10:00] is that a hero in ancient Greece had a lot in common with someone in small business. They decided to do the hard thing. They don't stand in the shield wall protected by people around them with a clear sense of what they have to do and where they have to be and all they have to do is move with the people beside them.
The hero in Ancient Greece is out in front of the shield wall surrounded by everyone and unless they are very good at what they are doing they will be cut down and they will end up dead. And, you know, it's not like people end up dead in small business but there are so many ways a small business can go wrong.
And it's something I've noticed working with Steve, and that is that there comes a point in small business when you transition from being a one person operation and you need to start incorporating more people. And that transition is really difficult and can cause massive problems. And it's the same in the Long War series to the point where [00:11:00] Aram Nestos in the parlance of the book, you know, the book goes from being a killer of men to actually being a genuine leader.
As a killer of men, he just dances through the enemy with his sword or spear lashing out, killing people as fast as possible before they kill him. And there is always this immense risk that there will be no one behind him protecting his neck and the back of his knees or his kidneys. And that one stab and he'll be dead and that the big thing he realizes how many near misses he's had and that as he starts wanting to become a leader and realizing, yeah, it's, it's okay for him as a hero to take these chances of pushing ahead, but he needs people to fill the gaps he makes, he needs people to move at his back.
And as he learns more about being a leader, rather than a killer of men, he realizes he needs to spend his time training people so that when he pushes [00:12:00] forward, his chosen people are right behind him, watching his back, filling the gap, meaning that when he makes space, it gets filled by people who know what to do, stick together, look after each other, they don't ever have to be the hero he is.
But they have to be better than just being in the shield wall and moving in a group. They have to be able to move forward with him, support him, look after each other, help then the shield wall move forward behind them, so that the gains he makes become the gains they make, become the gains the shield wall can hold.
And that really this is what I'm seeing is the same thing in small business. That you as the people who started. Small businesses. You got used to doing things on your own. You got used to doing things your own way. You got used to pushing out in front to the point where one day you realize you need people to help you to maintain what you've achieved.
[00:13:00] They aren't going to be other heroes, or they're probably not going to be other heroes. And you need to pick people very carefully who can fill the gap. You need to train them not to be you. Because you don't just want more heroes creating chaos and mayhem. You want to hold and keep the ground. You want to build something solid on the risks you've taken.
You want people who are courageous enough to follow, but independent enough to get on with it while you push further out. And that in the case of small business, this means not trying to get everyone to do exactly what you want, because you can't be looking forward and back at the same time. You need to look forward and trust them to build something good, because you pick good people and you train them well, and you know that your expertise is in pushing forward.
Their expertise is in making something good in the new space. And that, that [00:14:00] then becomes a different thing where the relationship between you as the small business owner and the people you hire needs to be a positive relationship where you trust them and let them build something positive. It's your business, but it's them that make it work.
And that that can be a very difficult transition. And what I've already really seen in my two years of working with small and medium business is that this is the most likely point where everything will fail. Because the hero can't trust the people that come behind them and the people that come behind them don't feel trusted and therefore don't take responsibility for making it work.
Steve Davis: And I think there's a double sided coin here that we come across a lot. I mean, in business, it's easy, especially if you're, if it's your own to think that your customer is just like you, when often that's not the case. That's what we've spent a lot of time talking about. But the other thing is, and I've had to, I'm on that journey still.
I mean, I, I had to transition to start this company up after some [00:15:00] history. And because I do what I do, I just assumed the people around me would do the same thing. But what Christian brings to the fore through this story and your connecting of the dots is, you know what? You're not all in that leadership role.
It's not. Right to expect people to do, it's actually smarter to build the team that is doing the various bits that are needed so that everyone can find a happy space in which they love doing what they're doing that contribute to the whole. And it really is the sum of the parts becoming greater than the whole.
Caitlin Davis: Our four piece number three problems. I asked the question for the best reason possible. Simple curiosity.
Steve Davis: In the problems section this time, I just want to send a cheerio to Donna, one of our clients, [00:16:00] working through some pretty heavy technical challenges with some clever stuff we're doing on a website. The people who have crafted a premium service that we're using have been very good in some of their responses for the tech support, but come back with a few technical questions.
That can be gotten out of one's web hosting and I offered Donna the option that yes, we can go and do that or if she wanted to take control, she could do that bit herself and gave her some tips on how to talk to the Ventra IP people with a specific question so that she can then go back to her developers and do it that way in this particular case, I knew that would be Really enticing for her.
So she's fully engaged in the process and she can do things until it doesn't have to pay for other time. And she's done that. And this is one of the reasons why whenever we work with a client, we like you to have your own. Web hosting account, we can help set it up, but in your name that [00:17:00] you fully own so that you can, you know, swing the ropes when you need to.
And the other lingering question she said, is there anything else I can do whilst we're waiting for this to be done? And here's my answer to Donna and absolutely everybody, including ourselves, write blogs. There is never a moment when we can't be thinking about. A question that our potential audience would love to have us answer or lists we can compile.
There's never an excuse not to go ahead with something like that.
Caitlin Davis: Our four Ps, number four purse per Cassidy. The one duty Weta history is to rewrite it. Oscar Wild.
Steve Davis: I'm intrigued about our pers segment this time, David, because You reminded me of an ad that I hadn't seen for ages for [00:18:00] Lesbex, Le Dove, from back in, oh, when was this? Must have been the 80s when they were doing the rounds in particular. In fact, 1982. Did you ever have a pair of Lesbex?
David Olney: I didn't, but I always remember it as sort of, I imagine they tried to get the closest person to Jean Claude Van Damme they could to do the advert.
Whereas you end up with le spectre le taf, it was more like le spectre le taf. It was sort of about being iron made of granite. And these sunglasses can survive being put between two bits of granite.
Steve Davis: Exactly, or just under a bottom. One of the ads That could be made of granite too. Which could be. Nice tight buns.
And one of the ads they had, had people sitting down. Let's just listen to it and relive the spirit of Las Vegas La Derve.
I [00:19:00] wonder if any French people had any feedback on that ad.
David Olney: I imagine it would have been unpleasant if they did.
Steve Davis: However, it got the message across, didn't it? So part of this segment is to look back at campaigns that once were, and ask ourselves, would they work today? And when we were talking about this a few weeks ago, I think we came to the position that this probably would work.
Still work unlike many of the other rates we've talked about there are some core truths in which their messaging aligns with The product and the promise in a way that's pretty timeless David.
David Olney: I think so the fact that they didn't say these are the best you will never have better sunglasses It was just the specs the tough like these are tough enough for the normal things that are gonna happen Like sitting on them and that was kind of a nice level of Honesty and done in a cheeky way of having the advert of lots of [00:20:00] people sit in the same pair of sunglasses.
And all right, we might not be able to overtly get away with, you know, taking the fun out of the French in an advert, but maybe we could.
Steve Davis: And I remember buying some myself. I had similar specs and I don't remember them coming to grief in any way, shape or form, but they did. This is where I think it was a bit of masterful.
One of the things that stopped me after I lost a couple of expensive pairs of sunglasses in my younger years, and even again in my older years. Is I may, I said, I'm never going to spend a lot of money on sunglasses again because I lose them more than snap them and this just gave a little bit of a salve to that irritation.
If I was someone who was breaking them all the time, then it makes it a no brainer. Be kind of be better if I had a natural homing pigeon attached to them so that you'd never lose them. That would really get me over the wire.
David Olney: The interesting thing with them was they were [00:21:00] robust, but, you know, what were the lenses like?
Did they provide good levels of eye protection? Did we know in the early 80s? It would seem to me, from what I remember, that they were a very good price point. They were good enough. They were stylish enough. The people got a reasonable amount of bang for their buck, which seems to be a sort of gap in the sunglasses market today.
Steve Davis: Hmm. Yes. It's, it's quite polarized, so to speak between the trashy end and paying a lot of money for them. So interesting point. Maybe there is a, I'm not even sure if Lespex are still around today.
David Olney: How many million pairs are in the bottom of drawers, the boot of cars, underneath, you know, underneath the couch?
There must be, if they were that tough, there must be millions of pairs somewhere. Yeah.
Steve Davis: Well, they are still available. I just did a quick check Lespecs Paramount, Women's, etc. And they all sit somewhere between, from what I'm seeing, the 39 to 79 price point. [00:22:00] So,
David Olney: so they're still basically the same price point of above the cheap, you know, cheaper than anything expensive.
It's just, they don't have any advertising anymore.
Steve Davis: Okay. Well, there you go. So, yes. If you can find that core truth in some of your messaging and it just marries through and it marries with our experience, then there is something a little bit eternal about that. But for now, David, au revoir. Mon
Caitlin Davis: ami. Thank you for listening to Talking About Marketing.
If you enjoyed it, please leave a rating or a review podcast app. And if you found it helpful, please share it with others. Stephen David always welcome your comments and questions. So send them to podcast at talk about marketing. com. And finally, the last word to Oscar Wilde. There's only one thing worse than being talked about.
And that's not being talked about.[00:23:00]