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Idealog—in the ideas business

Wiggs’ Way

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Let Lance Wiggs help with your tricky business problems. Email him at

Easy, please

‘If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.’ I’m sick of hearing this! I’m a reasonably bright, charming guy, and easy money sounds all right to me—what are your picks for an easy-yet lucrative industry to get into? Should I start an ad agency? Become some sort of consultant? Get into software development?
Worker Bee

You want the easy money, but sadly there is no such thing, even for those who apparently find it. That overnight sensation grommed away for ten years learning the trade, while the teenage prodigy is, well, a prodigy, and the lotto winner was lucky (and not so smart to be squandering money each week).

The simple way to riches is to work hard and to work smart, and to do it in an area where others are not.

So, unless you are first, avoid the latest fads, be they Groupon clones or Twitter clients, or anything online at all. Avoid the passion-driven industries, such as advertising, news media or music, as people will work in these industries for next to nothing or free. Meanwhile consulting and advertising rely on people-hours, are not easily scalable and it’s hard to sustain a competitive advantage. Instead, get into something that the smarter set are not seeing.

I’m involved with a worksite safety-oriented start-up, millions have been made in rubbish disposal, and there is probably a world of opportunity in insurance. Or not. But do think ahead, and look at the long term trends, such as the rise of the internet and the increasing size of the post-65-year-old population. Sense anything yet? That’s right—insurance for internet-based garbage pickup services for retirement homes. Fortunes are to be made.

Working with someone is much better way to evaluate them as a potential partner than a quick beer and a leer at a bar. So go ahead: declare open season on your colleagues and classmates

Love on the clock

Lance, you seem like a man about town—what’s your take on office romances?
Working late

While Facebook and online dating help, it’s still clear that the easiest way to meet that special someone is to work alongside them. It’s a combination of the filtering process you both went through to get into the institution, of sharing the same work-based values, and being able to observe each other over time in good and bad situations. That’s a much better way to evaluate someone as a potential partner than a quick beer and a leer at a bar or nightclub. It’s the same at educational institutions, and so go ahead, and declare open season on your colleagues and classmates.

But wait—don’t move too quickly. Work is, after all, a professional environment, and not a bar or club. So be very careful about that first move and your reputation, play it really slowly as you get to know each other, and keep things quiet for as long as you can. You certainly don’t want to earn a reputation as a male or female Lothario, as others will use less flattering words to describe you.

Above all, avoid the boss-subordinate relationship, and if it does happen make sure you let the big bosses know, and change your relative roles quickly.

grey days

My staff are complaining about their office environs. They reckon it’s uninspiring and kills their creativity. Sure, it’s a bit grey, and stuffy, and noisy, and overcrowded, is badly lit and has no windows, but hell I’m not made of money. What do they want from me? Do creative types need ‘creative’ spaces?
Grey Power
Grey Lynn

Yes, they do. At Equip Design Integration we often give advice to ‘create a hothouse for design’, and there’s even one CEO who is destroying his own office to do so. A great creative space is a necessary condition for sustainable creative activity, but the absence of windows is not the problem here.

The solution is probably twofold. First, give permission and a small budget per week to the team, and require them to go wild with their space. Give them permission to decorate as they see fit, and while you’re at it, cram their desks together and crank the sounds up. Please don’t lock the ‘creatives’ away either—they should be mixed in with their end users, their internal customers and their bosses.

Second, fix the AC—stuffy is not fair.

Boss be gone

I’m the boss. I’ve built my company from next to nothing over nearly 20 years and have gathered a crack team. Do I need to keep working, to keep up morale and muck in with the others? If I ‘semi-retire’ and leave them to it, will it be the beginning of the end?

Well done—now, give someone else a shot and stop thinking that you need to be there. Your staff would love to see you move on as much as they would like you to stay. So why not fire yourself and appoint someone internally to take over your role? Elevate yourself to chairman and shareholder, but delegate everything else to the new CEO. There is probably someone inside your firm that is essentially ready to step into your shoes, and by being there you are preventing them from growing and learning.

Meanwhile, are you ready for your next challenge? Start another company, or extend the one you have into new markets and products. If that does not appeal, then begin another challenge away from the industry, but please, for goodness sake, don’t become a ‘professional director’—that’s certainly not something one should aspire to.

Originally published in Idealog #31, page 16

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Isn't Grey Power the same guy who wrote in last time complaining about all the perks his staff has? Or are there heaps of creative agencies in Grey Lynn run by numpties?

I know the guy and numpty is the word. Thinks paying staff on time and respecting the employment law and paying market rates is some kind of achievement. What a chump!

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