Archives for posts with tag: Founders legend

“I didn’t know what the hell I was gonna do. My dad’s a scientist, but I didn’t have that skill set. My mother’s an urban planner, and I’d always liked buildings and thinking about how a city works, so I tried urban planning. I worked a couple of years doing both things, City Hall during the day, then at night with my girlfriend, now wife, packing boxes and doing customer service. I’d take boxes on the train in the morning, go to the post office, then go to work.”

That was 7 years ago, says the founder of a company that now has $200 million in revenue per year.

Give this little nugget a read in Fast Company

~Christopher Smith


In a rather brilliant Harvard Business Review article “Steve Jobs and the Eureka Myth, Adrian Slywotzky argues that there’s a gap between the founder’s legend of Apple ( “…a small bunch of geniuses that “Think Different”) and the reality of how effin’ hard Apple designers work to make their products.

Here’s the table of Myth vs.  Reality that Slywotzky uses:

eureka jobs.jpg

He says: “Apple would love us to believe it’s all “Eureka.” But Apple produces 10 pixel-perfect prototypes for each feature. They compete — and are winnowed down to three, then one, resulting in a highly evolved winner. Because Apple knows the more you compete inside, the less you’ll have to compete outside.”

I’ve written here about the Founder’s Legends that breathe life into the cultures of Nike, Patagonia, HP and Ann Sloane. I am a big believer in this valuable piece of storytelling.

But is the Founders Legend supposed to be absolutely factual?

Hello? It’s a legend…

But that’s not the point of the Founders Legend. The Legend is inspirational, aspirational, and motivational.

But let’s be clear: your legend won’t make you competitive.

“The glitter you see [as Apple launches its ‘miracle’ products] is not the explanation; look carefully, and the inspiration/perspiration ratio is where it should be. Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple has done 10 times the amount of relevant homework of most companies — internal competitions, supply chain training, endless deal-making, endless recruiting, training, and generating and sustaining employee excitement that you just can’t fake. If others emulated that, all of that, their results would be a lot more like Apple’s. And our economy would start really humming again.”

The lesson here is, build a great legend. But what you say is only a small part of your success. You’ll have to work your ass off to make anyone notice you in the first place.

Yvon Chouinard didn’t like the quality of the climbing hardware he had to use, so he started making his own – which eventually led to one of the most innovative clothing companies in the world, Patagonia. Steve Jobs didn’t like the beige boxes available in personal computing (or BASIC), so he and Steve Wozniak designed their own computers and operating system – and founded the world’s most valuable company, Apple. Bill Bowerman wanted a lighter, more grippy sole for running shoes, and so he poured rubber in his wife’s waffle iron to make the first Blue Ribbon Sports running shoes, which became Nike. Ginger Smith was driving elderly people to their medical appointments (because there wasn’t a service that did this in Nashville until she started one), and noticed that all wheelchairs look the same – so she formed Ann Sloane to design wheelchair covers that could be personalized, as well as handbags for walkers, which make these elderly people happy. Now she’s making them for Veterans, cancer patients and wheelchair athletes, too.

The Founder’s Legend can be one of the most powerful assets you have to differentiate yourself and your company from the rest. The Legend shows your knowledge of an industry or product, your insight into what could make it better, and your drive to share that knowledge with the world.

In my humble opinion, ALL businesses need a Founders Legend. What’s yours?


~ Christopher Smith