The arrival of spring means the “retirement” part of my semi-retired seasonal working pattern has once again commenced. The sun is shining, the birds are shagging, the flowers in Holland Park look spectacular… and moments after I packed away my heavy winter coat last weekend it inevitably started snowing!
My retirement meant I was home when my son had a few mates around after school. A few weeks ago the year 6 kids learned where they would be attending high school next year, so I asked them if they were happy with where they had ended up?
Alarmingly both the head girl and the smartest boy in the year will be attending an also-ran school, from which it is very difficult to make it to university. Such is life when your parents can’t afford to live within the catchment area of a stronger school, and your applications for scholarships were unsuccessful.
The head girl was disappointed, she was clinging to the hope of an in-year transfer to a better school when a waiting list place opens up.
The smart boy didn’t seem troubled at all. I asked him why, and he responded it didn’t matter where he went to school because he was going to become a professional vlogger on youtube.
I raised an eyebrow. Is that even a thing?
The kids assured me it was.
Career of choice for a new generation: vlogging and gaming
They showed me an article reporting vloggers who earned 8 figures in 2017, including a 6-year-old boy!
Next they showed me a report detailing how many views and subscribers the top channels had. In amongst the likes of Ed Sheeran and WWE wrestling were some vloggers with billions of views and tens of millions of subscribers.
Here is the scary bit. All the kids wanted to be vloggers or professional gamers. The head girl wanted to make youtube videos of her gaming, she said you make more money that way.
Apart from the head girl, none of the kids cared about making money. The important thing was the popularity that came from being a celebrity. They felt only famous people got listened to, plus they get given things like cars and clothes for free by sponsors.
None of the kids wanted to be professional sportspeople, actors, doctors, teachers, or business owners. Too much work! Instead they wanted to be Jake Paul, Kurt Hugo Schneider or Mr Stampy Cat.
Better to be famous than rich… WTF?
I challenged them.
Wouldn’t they rather own the engine?
Be the person who owned youtube? You make money off every video that way.
Write the computer game that the gamers play? You make money from every unit sold.
They were shocked at the notion.
Why would anyone want to do that? To be famous you had to be in front of the camera. Nobody cares about the person who owns the computer game!
“It is ok” they said, “you are old, and don’t understand how the world works today. Deep times.”
Sigh. One of us certainly doesn’t get it. I’m pretty I am right about this.
Challenge the premise
I’ve spent the winter helping a client figure out how to solve a fascinating problem. How do you preserve a long established ten figure revenue stream when a looming regulatory change will make your existing business model illegal overnight?
The easy answer would be to relocate, join the exodus of businesses who are migrating some or all their operations overseas. That certainly remains an option, though not a preferred one. Those in the C-suite enjoy their current lifestyles, their families are comfortably settled in schools, and so on.
It proved to be a brutal and at times attritional few months.
Challenging the client’s premise that the status quo must be maintained was certainly unpopular.
Own the engine
I made much the same argument to the client’s board that I had attempted with the kids.
You could continue to do the obvious thing.
You consider how the market actually works. How information flows. Where the money ultimatley ends up.
Would you rather pay to turn a handle, or own the engine that others pay to use?
This is hardly an original idea, is just an application of the old “give a person a fish, and you feed them for a meal. Teach a person to fish, and feed them for a lifetime” parable. There are numerous examples of this approach in action, such as Visa / Mastercard credit card settlements, or IMS Health’s pharmaceutical sales data.
This line of thinking allowed the client to introduce some long overdue innovation to their business model. The existing revenue stream was preserved, so the tricky problem was successfully solved.
In addition, the client is now positioned to grow their business over the next few years. As opposed to their current approach, which was fighting an ultimately doomed battle to jealously defend a shrinking market position.
A couple of those innovations won industry awards last week, which was lovely way to finish my winter working hibernation.
If only 11-year-olds were as easily convinced as C-suite executives!
- Financial freedom solves many problems, but understanding 11 year olds isn’t one of them.
- Check out the incredible stop motion video talents of Little Toys TV.
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