This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Christopher Lochhead. Chris is a retired, 3-time CMO, entrepreneur, and co-author of Play Bigger and his latest book, Niche Down. He started his first business at 18 and has been called a “Human Exclamation Point” by Fast Company and “Off-putting to some” by The Economist. He is a keynote speaker, a blogger, and is a founding board member of the non-profit, 1 Life Fully Lived. One of the things he is best known for these days is being the host of the highly popular Legends and Losers podcast.
As he says, “I’m a dyslexic paperboy from Montreal with Scottish roots. Over thirty years in business I earned a PhD from the school of hard knocks, drank a lot of whiskey, experienced the bliss of winning, the pain of failure and learned how to laugh about the whole thing.
One thing about Chris is that he doesn’t mince words, he’s direct, and doesn’t put up with any BS, but man can he teach you a lot about how to succeed in business and in life.
Chris grew up in Montreal, Canada in what he calls a “struggling, but loving family.” He got thrown out of school at 18 and found out he is dyslexic as 21. He went on the find out that he has a lot of “learning differences.” At 18 years old, he didn’t have a ton of choices, but one of them was to start his own business – no so much as a way up, but a way out. By the time he 28, he had sold his companies to groups in Silicon Valley and came to live there full time. He went on to become the CMO of 3 publicly traded companies, the last one, Mercury Interactive, which was sold to HP for $4.5 billion.
Since then he has done advisory work for venture back startups, wrote Play Bigger, and for the last few years, he has been focused on the Legends and Losers Podcast and writing his latest book, Niche Down.
Most important lessons about life and business you’ve learned to this point?
- We get tricked in life to thinking the pathway to success is about fitting in when in truth it is not true.
- Legendary people, the Misfit Entrepreneurs are original, unique, they take new ground, and they are different.
- In a world that teaches us to fit in, highly successful people make their place in the world – not find their place in the world.
- Life works best for us when we are being us – not trying to be or fit into something we are not.
How have you learned to unleash your Inner Misfit, your genius, over the years?
- “Follow your passion” and “Hustle, Hustle, Hustle” are some of the dumbest pieces of advice given to people.
- Having the courage to stand out, follow your difference and use it to create the life you want is hard for people to do – but it is what they need to do.
- Mercenaries vs. Missionaries: When things get really tough, Mercenaries tap out, but Missionaries will crawl through whatever is needed to reach their goal.
- Work on big problems that you care about and that really make a difference in the world.
“If you can create or design yourself to be the person or entrepreneur you want to be, by definition you are going to be painting your own painting.”
- The reason “Follow your passion” is such stupid advice is that is can send you down this path of what is my passion instead of asking “How can I truly make a difference…”
- Also, if you follow your passion in something everyone else is following, then you most likely won’t be able to stand out.
At the 11:40 mark, Chris gives an example of what this means and why niching down is so lucrative in today’s world.
- “Hustle, Hustle, Hustle” is idiotic because as an entrepreneur or innovator, if you need to be told that it will take hustle or grit, you are already in trouble.
- It is a pre-requisite to be able to hustle
It is the person who designs and ultimately dominates that niche who become successful.
- The big mind-twist is that it is niche that makes the brand. It’s the niche that makes the company. It’s the category that makes the person – not the other way around.
- If you are hustling in a niche that is already being dominated by someone else – you are hustling in a niche that someone else owns, will always be compared to them, and be at a strategic disadvantage. You are playing their game and competing for at best, a piece of the economics.
- You must “hustle” in a niche that you can design and dominate
At the 19 min mark, Chris answers the question, What are the most important things you have found about how to niche down?
- What creates a new niche is either taking an existing problem and redesigning or reimagining it or looking at a problem that nobody really thought of…
- Example of an existing problem is AirBnb redesigning where we stay when we travel, and an example of a new problem is a “Sushirito” to the problem of being able to have Sushi on the go.
“We are at the beginning of a niche-nado”
Is there a set of steps that someone can take to find their niche?
- Chris makes note of a book called “Thinking Wrong,” and uses the idea of it to look at the opposite of everything you know about a business/product/service, etc. to blow open new thinking. For example, create a bike that doesn’t work in any way. Start by doing this.
- In a way, we are living in the 1800’s when it comes to boom in technology that we are about to go through. Today’s solutions will cause tomorrow’s problems. Ask yourself, “Of all this cool new stuff, what problems will this create that can be solved?”
Points from Play Bigger that are relevant to entrepreneurs?
- Design your own category. Most entrepreneurs focus on designing a product and business around it instead of designing the category.
- The Magic Triangle is when you get product, company, and category design to come together. This is where the magic happens and you get an AirBnb.
- On average, the category leader earns 70% of the market cap in a category.
- Go after being a “Big E” entrepreneur
Can you go deeper on the Magic Triangle?
- As entrepreneurs, we fall in love with our product or solutions. But people don’t want to buy solutions, they want to buy problems (really the removal of them – so their focus is on the problem.
- Great category designers are evangelists, but not for their product, but for their category.
- Using Salesforce.com as example. First design a new type of product. In Salesforce’s case, it was CRM
- Second, build and design a new type of company. Salesforce started the idea of SAAS or subscription.
- Third, teach the world to think in a new way. Salesforce showed the world a new way to think about software. It was a complete 180.
- The big AHA is to fall in love with the problem and not the solution.
What else is important from a marketing standpoint to help businesses standout?
- Over 90% of the work done on branding is a waste of time
- At its core, branding is all about yelling and screaming about who I am or what I am.
- We get thousands of marketing messages a day and we don’t have a context for it, it doesn’t matter to it.
- The way the brain works is category first, brand second
- At the 44 min mark, Chris gives an example of how you fix the brand first problem.
You’ve got a keynote on how to create a Legendary Life. Can you give us a little taste of how to do that?
- First, you must make a decision about who you are going to be in your life
- You can design your life and create it. If you don’t believe that, then you live legendary.
- The biggest way to have a legendary life is to co-create the life with those that you want to partner with to do so.
- The greatest reward in life is to co-design the life with the ones you love and then live out that design.
Who has been the most surprising guest on Legends and Losers and why?
- Entrepreneur, Author, and Speaker, Will Little, who is also a convicted killer. Chris never thought that he could be friends with a convicted killer. But, it is who Will became in jail and since coming out being a force for good that makes him so unique.
- Bill Walton, one of the greatest basketball players of all time. A conversation with him is unlike any other.
- David Saxe – Co-founder of PayPal and Yammer. Incredible insight into how to sell a company. He unpacks the difference between a product hook and a value proposition.
Best Quote: “We become known for the niche that we own…”
Chris's Misfit 3:
- Follow your different...
- The #1 thing people say they are afraid of in life and business is public failure. There will be a ton of it. It’s called “Losery.” Embrace the Losery…
- The most legendary people have the most courage. Tap into yours.