Legends & Losers w/Christopher Lochhead

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179: John McDonald - Semi-Handmade

John McDonald was once a struggling screenwriter and actor who niched down and became known for Semihandmade. He opened himself up to a career and entrepreneurial opportunity, seizing it and making a name for it. In today's episode, John talks openness to opportunities and vulnerability with Christopher Lochhead.

"If you're willing to be vulnerable, anything is possible." - John McDonald

Three Things We Learned

  • There's no rush to figure things out

They say that life begins at 40. When he was 40, John was struggling to penetrate the woodwork industry. The road that led to the decision to give woodwork a shot was long, involving forays into screenwriting and waiting tables as the angriest waiter in Hollywood.

  • Opening yourself to vulnerability will open doors

John came to Los Angeles with a vague notion of wanting to be part of the film industry. He ended up assisting in production and writing scripts to the side, but even then he didn't feel happy. Several rejections and failures later, he was finally able to become the rockstar, go-to guy for designing custom doors.

  • Success is found everywhere

When he first ventured into Hollywood, John knew he wanted to be rich and famous. Writing didn't hand him these successes, but woodwork was the stepping stone. By not limiting himself to something he wasn't fully committed to and didn't give him the satisfaction he needed, John was able to become legendary.

Some of us spend our whole lives trying to find success in what we think we like to do and in things we think we're good at. But success is ultimately self-determined and can be found anywhere if we only try to look more closely and elsewhere. John is a testament to that, and we can all be legendary if we want to be.

Bio / Story:
In 2002, at the age of 34, John McDonald traded screenwriting for custom cabinetry. He launched Semihandmade in 2011 using IKEA cabinets as a base for handmade craftsmanship at a competitive price.  
 The concept is simple: when purchasing kitchens and other cabinets, IKEA gives customers the flexibility of not buying doors. That’s the after-market space Semihandmade fills. Offerings include doors for both the new Sektion and recently-discontinued Akurum kitchens, as well as several IKEA bathroom, closet and media systems. 
 In five years, Los Angeles-based Semihandmade has grown to over 40 employees and 17000 SF of manufacturing space. Showrooms include Palm Springs and Burbank, CA. Doors ship throughout the Continental US and Canada, with clients that range from homeowners and designers to contractors, architects and commercial builders. Over 1300 Semihandmade projects were completed in 2015. Also in 2015, Semihandmade made Inc. Magazine's list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in the US.
 Sequence-matched Walnut, Teak and Mahogany veneer doors are the company’s signature look. More exotic selections include Reclaimed Lumber, Rosewood and Zebrawood, as well as collaborations with companies like Art of Board (recycled skateboards) and Stikwood (reclaimed lumber). 
IKEA-priced styles such as paintable Shaker and Slab, textured melamine, and colored thermofoil complete the Semihandmade selection.  
 In April 2016, Semihandmade will launch its PRINT line of IKEA doors in collaboration with artists Rex Ray, Lisa Congdon, Erik Abel, Eloise Renouf, Elizabeth Olwen and others. Also this Spring, Semihandmade will open a third showroom inside shared-space WeWork Grant Park Chicago in preparation for the launch of a private-label line of bathroom, media and storage cabinets at NeoCon in June. 
Additional WeWork openings planned for 2016 include Brooklyn, Austin and Seattle.  
Links for show notes:

178 Niche Down Launch - Christopher Lochhead, Heather Clancy and Jaime Jay

In today's special episode, two guests join Christopher Lochhead to talk about the most-awaited book that will help you become legendary by being different, Niche Down. Heather Clancy, co-author of the book and Jaime Jay, co-producer of Legends&Losers podcast sit down to discuss the stories and inspirations behind Niche Down, which launches today.

"Follow your soul. I've always believed that your heart will tell you what you need to do." - Heather Clancy

Three Things We Learned

  • To Niche Down is to do things your way
A classic, family-run deli in Montreal where both Heather and Christopher came from is the embodiment of niching down. While smoked meat is a big deal in the municipality, their specific manner of preparing their sandwiches has helped them become their own niche. They have distinguished themselves among the others, and this is the very embodiment of the concept of finding a way to do things differently and rising above others in doing so.

  • Heather is Christopher's hero
Heather was one of the few journalists that taught Chris the industry back when he was only getting started with his career. He would read her column religiously every single week, absorbing her articles like a sponge. When they finally met, it was like meeting a hero, and the rest was history.

  • Niche Down was born out of public demand
Christopher's friend Jason Maynard at Net Suite first planted the idea of writing a book for category design. Coupled with the clamor following Play Bigger, Christopher pitched the book project to Heather. Much to his surprise, she said yes, and after a long time since then, Niche Down is finally hitting the shelves.

The world is saturated with people wanting to become bigger and better than others. The secret to becoming the category king is to be different. And to be different is to become legendary.

"Have the courage to niche down." - Jaime Jay
Heather Clancy (Twitter: @greentechlady) 
Heather Clancy is an award-winning journalist specializing in transformative technology and innovation. She’s CoAuthor of Niche Down: How to Become Legendary by Being Different. 
Her articles have appeared in EntrepreneurFortuneThe International Herald Tribune and The New York Times.  
She was the launch editor for the Fortune Data Sheet, the magazine's newsletter dedicated to the business of technology.  
As editorial director for GreenBiz.com, Heather chronicles the role of technology in enabling clean energy, sustainable business strategy and the low-carbon economy.  
When she isn't writing, you can find Heather digging in her garden in Northern New Jersey, singing a cappella or scuba-diving with her husband. 
Christopher Lochhead (Twitter: @lochhead) 
The Marketing Journal calls Christopher Lochhead “one of the best minds in marketing.” Fast Company calls him a “human exclamation point.” NBA legend Bill Walton says he’s “a quasar.” 
And The Economist calls him “off -putting to some.” 
Lochhead hosts the acclaimed “dialogue podcast” “Legends & Losers”, Producer of the “6 Minutes of Legendary” podcast and is co-author with Heather Clancy of Niche Down: How to Become Legendary by Being Different and the Harper Collins “instant classic”: Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets.  
A former three-time, Silicon Valley public company CMO (Mercury Interactive, Scient and Vantive), he’s been called a “godfather of category design.”  
Christopher is living happily ever after in Santa Cruz, California, with a wonderful woman, six hens and two wild cats. He can often be found surfing, drinking whiskey or having a very good time. 
Jaime Jay (twitter: @heyjaimejay) 
Jaime Jay is Managing Director of Bottleneck Virtual Assistants, a Life & Business Coach, host of the popular, Stop Riding The Pine Podcast, and he’s the co-producer of “dialogue podcast” “Legends & Losers”. 

177 Niche Down - Hal Elrod

Hal Elrod is known as The Miracle Morning guy. Literally killed by a drunk driver, he suffered through the Great Recession and is now braving a rare form of life-threatening cancer. Despite everything that life has thrown at him, Hal continues to be the legendary person that he is.

His bestselling book series, The Miracle Morning, has now sold over half a million copies worldwide. He is also the host of the top podcast, "Achieve Your Goals".

“When things don’t go your way, you can feel bad about it, but for five minutes. If you can’t change it, move on.” - Hal Elrod

Hal Elrod - A Series of Horrific Events

In 1999, a car accident claimed Hal's life literally albeit briefly. A few years shy of a decade later, he went through a profoundly difficult financial crisis during the Great Recession. Currently, he is battling cancer.
A true survivor and fighter, Hal found inspiration in the series of mishaps that went his way throughout his entire life.  He transformed his life by niching down.

Reinventing Oneself

In a sea of thousands of authors, speakers and life coaches, Hal didn't stand out. There were many ex-sales folk who served the same tips as he wanted to. Even then, Hal didn't let it get him down.

In true spirit of the thesis underlying Niche Down, he began doing different and breaking ground. He wrote his book, The Miracle Morning, based on the many learnings he had from the unfortunate and life-altering events that tested his tenacity and will. 

Miracles in Mornings

Hal believes that what we do first thing in our day affects the whole day. If you can change your morning by getting up an hour earlier, the next twenty-three hours are profoundly affected. And if you can change your days, then you can surely change your entire life.

This radical idea was evangelized, eventually becoming the touchstone belief system of people who wished to be guided through all life phases and choices. The book has served people from all walks of life, and is changing one morning at a time.

Hal Elrod is the international bestselling author of The Miracle Morning series of motivational books and host of the “Achieve Your Goals” podcast.

176 John Warrillow Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You

Ever wondered how you could build a business that operates without you? Today we talk with John Warrilow about how to build a company that is worth buying, the importance of recurring revenue and how to build it, and more importantly, how to sell a company and live happily ever after.
If we want to scale up a business, it's all about the one thing whether it's payroll for nannies or Annieglass...and just keep doing that. As . an entrepreneur you may not thrive on repetition but the people working for you do. - John Warrillow

Three Things We Learned

We now live in a 'Subscription Economy'

Recurring revenue or subscription-based revenue is a key piece in today's business model. There's even a subscription service for Christopher's new favorite underwear and toothbrush replacement heads.  Recurring revenue is king. Buyers love it. Unilever acquired Dollar Shave Club for 5 times it's worth because of the recurring revenue and the beauty of it is the revenue will continue to recur without the original owner.

A big personality is unsellable

It was popular several years ago to have a personal brand. The founder needed to have a huge personality and usually, the company carried her or his name as well.  While this was great for top-line revenue growth, it's absolutely horrible for the value of the company.  That's the definition of an unsellable company. One way around this is to look for a product that they can start leading with.  Instead of Dr.'s Johnson and Johnson's company, they began leading with Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder. They were able to successfully separate themselves from the leaders of the company.

You've gotta niche down

Focus on selling one thing that you are truly a differentiator of. If you think of it from an acquirer's perspective, they are making a build versus buy decision. If your company is cross-selling and has a diverse line to sell and the prospective buyer could just lower their prices to compete, that's what they're gonna do. But if you've got one thing that is really tough to compete with, something that is unique, your business becomes really attractive. 

John Warrillow is the author of the celebrated, “Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You” and he is President of Warrillow & Co., a strategy and research firm that specializes in helping Fortune 500 companies get inside the head of small business owners. 
The firm counts twelve of the Fortune 100 and seven of the top ten business-to-business spenders in the United States as customers. 
Warrillow & Co.'s client list includes American Express, Bank of America, British Airways, Citibank, IBM, Microsoft, and Visa. 
John Warrillow studied at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and started Warrillow & Co. in Toronto, where he lives with his wife, Jennifer.

175 Gina Bianchini - Why Niche Networks Are Mighty

How does a future of online niches that feel like awesome parties sound? Gina Bianchini, CEO and founder of Mighty Networks, sits with Christopher Lochhead to talk about the importance of building digital communities founded on and maintaining actual human connections.

"I want to preserve and reserve 'community' for something very specific, which is a vibrant, connected, meaningful experience amongst people who truly treasure and value each other." - Gina Bianchini

Three Things We Learned

  • The present does not have to be the future
Gina feels extremely fortunate for being able to pick the line of niche networks. She's been able to imagine how social networks would evolve into a picture of the future that is different from what has actually happened. While present conditions and trends will most certainly predict what's yet to come, Gina believes that people hold the power to change and make better the future of online communities. 
  • It's only the beginning for the digital future
Facebook is fifteen years old, yes, and some people think that it's done. But this notion is actually silly and unnecessarily so. We have yet to figure out how to bring people down in the specific lifestyle that will trailblaze the future of online communities. And we're only at the beginning.
  • Some social networks fail to foster a true culture of community
A couple of years ago, Facebook began changing its algorithms with the intention of making better its users' community experience. Over time, this became detrimental because people are actually far more interesting than Facebook makes them out to be. This is how some social networking platforms actually fall short, limiting the chances of organic formation of communities that people actually seek.

The future of digital communities should reflect the wonderful, vibrant, and colorful world that we wake up to every single day. Digital realities need not be removed from what we experience in the real world. The same is true for communities and social networks that form within a virtual platform.

Gina Bianchini (twitter: @ginab) is an entrepreneur, investor and the CEO and founder of Mighty Networks a new type of social network platform for creating communities.
An early pioneer in social networking, she was CEO of Ning, which she co-founded with entrepreneur and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen
Prior to Ning, Bianchini was co-founder and president of Harmonic Communications which was acquired by Dentsu
She has also held positions at CKS Group and Goldman Sachs & Co.[6]
She graduated from Stanford University in 1994 and has been featured on the cover of Fortune magazine, on Charlie Rose and appeared in many top business publications.

174 Matt Cubbler - A Cop Who is Serving, Protecting and Creating

How does a series of events impacting both national and personal history shape a person's life? In today's episode, Matt Cubbler shares with Christopher Lochhead the story of how he became not only a decorated officer of the Army, a cop, a public speaker, but also a COO. By the end of their conversation, his tale of struggle and triumph will leave you changed.

"It will always be about working on the gray. You have to live in the gray. It can't be black and white." - Matt Cubbler on the paradoxical life of an officer

Three Things We Learned

  • Some naughty teenagers end up in service
Quite the entrepreneur back in high school, Matt used to profit off ghostwritten term papers on books his customers weren't aware he never read in full. He forged signatures of teachers for hall passes at two dollars apiece. Despite his budding skill set that is the completely removed from his eventual career path, service for the country called him and he even became an Air Marshal following the 9/11 terror.

  • Curiosity kills, satisfaction revives
His heart has always been in the right place, but Matt relished the insights he gained from his stints that capitalized on actively being part of "the other side." He wanted to know what it was like, what it felt like for people who conned and benefited financially from doing something that seemed so easy, repercussions notwithstanding. Getting arrested was the turning point, when the long-term "high" of wanting to do and doing good finally registered and became his purpose.

  • Our past actions don't have to become us
As if by some stroke of genius, fate laid the greatest irony in Matt's life by making his arresting officer the same person who would eventually help him land his first job as a law enforcer. This cop made him identify the good in him, and guided him to open up to it. By being under his tutelage, Matt was able to fully grasp the truth that his deeds back in high school will never become him.

Matt will have to swallow a lot more truth pills through the course of his life. But all these will be part of who he is at present, a man dedicated to service, to doing good, and inspiring others to become the legends they're meant to be.

Matt Cubbler

173 Kevin Maney Business Wars - How IBM Won The 1st Computer Category Battle

Kevin Maney is the co-author of Play Bigger and the go-to guy on IBM history. In this episode, they touch base to discuss how IBM won the first material category battle in the technology industry. They unearth lessons from the past and how studying IBM's journey can help in the future.

"He comes into his role as 'I'm here to completely alter IBM's trajectory and make it my own.'" - Kevin Maney on Thomas Watson, Jr.'s revolutionary succession

Three Things We Learned

  • A not so electrical start
The IBM built its company around electromechanical tabulating machines that weren't electronic at all. They were mechanical, exemplified by the use of punch cards to run processes. This was the cloud of the time, the platform of computing.
  • Vacuums began it all
During World War II, the government-funded research in the new field called electronics. Vacuum tubes were used in radios and guitar amplifiers. Pretty soon, the classified ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) followed, acknowledged as the first electronic computer used to compute trajectories of rockets.
  • IBM's father and son disagreed
Thomas Watson, Jr. came out of the second world war and immediately understood how technology was going to revolutionize the world. He clashed with his father who had dismissed newer technologies for forty years in favor of the classics pioneered by IBM. That didn't stop him from proving his point and highlighting the inevitability of the company going bankrupt if they were to go with the obsolete.

A rival's heavily publicized computer finally made Thomas Watson, Sr. see how they were losing this category battle. This spurred him on to embrace his son's ideology on innovation. Thus began IBM's long history and eventual win as category king.

Kevin Maney 

Category Design Advisors 
The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson, Sr. and the Making of IBM  
Business Wars Podcast on IBM  

172 Startup Crisis America Legends and Losers

Legends and Losers has been talking about the Startup Crisis in America for a long time and the new June 2018 report from the Brookings Institute 'The State of Competition and Dynamism' is worthy of unpacking. Christopher had the chance to read the entire report and today shares some key pieces of that report. 

They (Brookings Institute) paint a very very scary picture about the state of startups in the American ecosystem for entrepreneurship. - Christopher Lochhead

Three Things We Learned

Problems Facing the American Economy

Firms under the age of 10 made up just 19% of employment in 2015, down from 33% in 1987. The scary thing is, The Brookings Institute sees this as a long-term trend that the disappearance of startups is an ongoing trend and not primarily a cyclical phenomenon. 
The fall in startups since 2000 was particularly pronounced for high-tech firms. 

Winner Takes All

As Christopher talks about in his book, Play Bigger, we are living in an economy where the category queen/king economics is playing out. The report says that markets are more concentrated and less competitive than they were a few decades ago. From 1997 to 2012, revenues of the top four firms in any given industry rose from 24 percent to an astonishing 33 percent of total industry revenues. 

This data supports the idea that increased market concentration is making the environment for start-ups hostile. Potential entrepreneurs look at the marketplace and are faced with the question of 'how can I compete?'

Government subsidies are also deterring would be entrepreneurs. New businesses must compete with larger and established business that are receiving said incentives. Our government is creating an environment that is attractive and beneficial for big incumbents and hostile for start-ups. 

Access to Capital

Small entrepreneurs rely upon their savings, friends, family and banks which are currently not lending to start-ups - at almost record levels! Many also rely upon their home equity as a source of capital. The Brookings report states that, "Places with larger collapses in housing prices experienced larger reductions in high-propensity business applications, suggesting that home equity is an important source of capital.

“The State of Competition and Dynamism” 

Please down load it here: 

171: WTF is this? Introducing 6 Minutes of Legendary

When was the last time you heard something for the first time?
How Two Crazy Visionaries Created a New Category of Podcasting & Music featuring Christopher Locchead and Nick Kullin

6 Minutes of Legendary is a new category of audio experience that combines real conversations from the Legends and Losers Podcast, with special effects and powerful music in a way that moves people. You can’t really read about this. So we urge you to listen to the first 6 Minutes of episode zero.

After listening to 6 Minutes of Legendary, we'd like to invite you to subscribe to the show on iTunes.
Produced by Christopher Lochhead and Nick Kullin.
©2018 Legends and Losers Podcast

170 Isaac Morehouse - How To Have a Legendary Career

Today Isaac Morehouse, founder and chief executive of Praxis joins Christopher Lochhead to talk about the power and value of being an apprentice and why being your own credential is important. He also shares why it's seminal to build your own digital body of work.
"Don’t go buy a third-party credential. Be your own credential." - Isaac Morehouse
Three Things We Learned
  • Degrees are dead, you need experience
Getting out there in the world and learning by doing is the best way to launch an entrepreneurial career. College degrees can be attained by almost everyone, but the experience of the bigger world is what ultimately determines one's success. Seeing what business is like will help you execute your vision, whether you know what it is or not.
  • An apprenticeship will open your eyes
People who want to do business are sometimes downtrodden by the mere fact that they have no business idea to begin with. Isaac Morehouse says that this is where working alongside someone who has a vision that they are able to execute can become your greatest learning experience. By exposing yourself to the methods of a mentor and understanding the technical aspects of the business world from a practical perspective, you’ll start to find that unique intersection of things that you're good at, things that people value, and things that pay money.
  • Ability to create value and prove this to people matter
It doesn't matter if you're a genius who has come up with a life-altering epiphany. If nobody gets wind of your idea or anything that you produce, then it's practically devalued and good as non-existent.
Getting out in the world and becoming your own credential will guarantee a path to success. Experience is still the best teacher. You will have to acquire the skills by being exposed to the business world and exert effort to build the body of work that you'll be known for.
Isaac Morehouse is the CEO of Praxis. There’s nothing he loves more than seeing people break free of the conveyor belt and live life on their own terms (except maybe a Lions Super Bowl victory, but he’s not holding his breath on that one). Praxis is the incorporated version of his philosophy on life and education. He blogs at isaacmorehouse.com