Success is never inevitable. Success only seems assured in hindsight. Every successful person I know worked and struggled and failed and probably even despaired… until they took a chance and reinvented themselves and discovered their own path to success.
Cases in point: Steve Jobs, David Bowie, Victoria Beckham, and Ron Howard.
Here’s a guest post from Ed Reeves, the co-founder and director of Moneypenny, the market-leading provider of telephone-answering specialists, with offices in the U.S., U.K., and New Zealand. (Instead of having random people in a massive call center take your calls, Moneypenny assigns one person to your account.)
Imagine you turn on your TV and find Justin Bieber has decided to run for president. Or that Howard Stern is planning to become a UN peacekeeper. It would seem ridiculous, right? Well, maybe… but this is definitely a world where fact can be stranger than fiction.
Just look at Katy Perry. The daughter of two evangelical ministers, Perry was a Christian singer before discovering a love of suggestive pop songs. Arnold Schwarzenegger is another prime example; originally from Austria, the Hollywood actor dominated our screens in action movies during the 80s and 90s before becoming the 38th governor of California.
So how did they do it? The key lies in one word: reinvention.
In business terms this idea is equally powerful. Hewlett-Packard is a classic case, going from audio oscillators to calculators and then computers.
So who are the masters of reinvention? And what can we learn from them? Well, here are four people who nailed it, and the key insight that drove them.
1. Focus on what you want to achieve: Steve Jobs.
When the late, great Apple co-founder returned to the company in 1997, one of the first things he did was drastically reduce its number of core products. He reportedly drew a four-squared chart on a whiteboard and told staff to condense the firm’s broad range of around 40 computers to just four.
The controversial strategy paid off. Jobs’ decision allowed the company to focus on quality and innovation. Apple was reimagined as a tech leader, and this change paved the way for products like the iPod (2001), the iTunes Store (2003), the iPhone (2007), and the iPad (2010).
Jobs had a clear vision of what he wanted for the company, and he stuck to it.
Having this focus is essential. When we founded Moneypenny we knew what we wanted to offer; we were determined to provide small businesses with an answering service that provided a dedicated receptionist, someone who would work as if based in their office and deliver the same fantastic service that their larger competitors were able to provide.
At the time, no other companies on the market were doing this, and we were constantly told it couldn’t be done. Luckily, we stuck to our guns and our perseverance paid off.
2. Don’t be afraid to experiment: David Bowie.
If the secret to success is the ability to constantly evolve your identity, then Bowie is surely the master. From flamboyant star man to skinny soul artist, he sought change and loved it. And while most performers would be happy to kick back and relax once they reached his level of success, Bowie did the opposite.
The very best entrepreneurs are the same. Laurels are not to be rested on. The best entrepreneurs recognize it’s their job to push the limits of what is possible.
Creating one great product or finding one business model that works isn’t enough. Long-term success isn’t easy. It’s about diversifying, about being one step ahead of consumer demands, and about incorporating new technology.
Bowie was once quoted as saying: “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” As an entrepreneur, those are words that I can definitely identify with.
3. Ditch what isn’t working: Victoria Beckham
From pop star and soccer wife to the toast of New York Fashion Week, Victoria Beckham has more than a little experience when it comes to reinvention. Originally one-fifth of the Spice Girls, the singer could do no wrong during the band’s chart reign in the 90s. When the group announced their “indefinite hiatus” in 2000, however, her solo career didn’t quite hit the high notes she was hoping for.
So instead she turned her attention to fashion. A smart decision: already known for her love of clothes, it wasn’t long before the singer was being asked to model for designers like Maria Grachvogel. Sure, she wasn’t taken seriously by everyone when she first set out… but boy, did she prove the doubters wrong.
Now? She’s the owner of a multimillion dollar fashion empire. The lesson? If what you’re doing is not working, don’t be afraid to focus on something else. Your next breakthrough product or service could be just around the corner.
4. Surround yourself with brilliant people: Ron Howard
Now a movie industry titan, it’s hard to believe Ron Howard once starred as lovable Richie Cunningham in the 70s sitcom Happy Days.
So how did he make the leap from small-screen actor to Oscar-winning director? Partly with the help of Hollywood producer Roger Corman. After appearing in Corman’s 1976 film, Eat My Dust, the producer agreed to help Howard direct his first major movie.
The rest, as they say, is history. Howard went on to become one of the world’s most revered directors, racking up an impressive list of blockbusters.
In business terms, working with brilliant people is equally valuable. Make it your mission to surround yourself with the most awesome, talented team of people you can find. The same goes for your peers too. It’s only by doing this that you’ll be inspired — and inspiration inevitably leads to evolution.