Companies Are A Bit Like People
In people, character is the most important thing, if you’ve got good character you’ll attract good friends. You’re not necessarily going to earn the most money or have the nicest car, but you’re going to live a full life. Companies are a bit like people, we like the ones with good character, not necessarily the biggest ones or the ones with the nicest cars.
Introducing Hiut Denim Co. They’re set up by husband and wife duo Claire and David Hieatt. Their tagline is “do one thing well” and that’s what they do, they make jeans well. They make their jeans (rather ironically) in a small town called Cardigan in Wales. People in Cardigan used to make jeans, but one day their factory closed. So Hiut decided to bring manufacturing back to Cardigan, to show their talent to the world. Their ‘Grand Masters’, as they affectionately call them, can only produce 200 pairs of jeans a week and that’s part of what makes them special, true quality takes time.
That’s their story, but what I really want to show you is a few excerpts from a document they wrote, which is perhaps overlooked, it's called their "user manual". It’s the document they sent to their shareholders to explain why they were setting up the company, values that I think apply not just to business but to how we live our lives as well.
P O I N T N U M B E R 1.
Make us all proud of the company we own.
We measure things mostly in numbers. But there are other important ways to measure how well a business is doing. These are things like ‘Are we proud of it?’, ‘Is it loved?, Is it insanely creative?
But these are just as important as ‘Are we growing?’ ‘Are the margins good?’ ‘Are the customers happy?’
If we build something we are incredibly proud of, that is loved, that is insanely creative, you can be sure that it will also be a great business too.
I love that they measure success not just on numbers but on other important factors too, I think we could all learn to measure success a little differently in our lives.
P O I N T N U M B E R 2.
Judge the business over the long-term. The early years are never easy.
It takes time to build a business. The first couple of years are inevitably tricky. The basic systems and the infrastructure all have to be built up from scratch, the customer will have to be found, and the product refined. It is a time when the business is both time and cash hungry.
But we should not be quick to judge the business. It should be given time to grow slowly. Patience is what will be needed. Hard work takes time to show the fruits of all that labour.
We should view a young business as we would a young child. It needs love, time and a set of rules to adhere to. It will make mistakes, it will fall and it will need the parents to be there for it as it grows and becomes its own person. We should not make too many demands on it when it is young, let the child play for a while.
It will grow up before we know it.
Perhaps this feels particularly relevant to me as a small business owner. If I was to judge on the short-term, there would have been weeks where I’d have quit. But good things take time and instead of giving up I have watched the business grow. So let’s learn not to judge on the short-term. If you’ve just started learning the piano, don’t judge yourself on the first year. It’s a long-term game. Most things worthwhile are.
P O I N T N U M B E R 3.
Stay independent. Stay in control.
It is important to be in control of your own destiny. William Blake said it best “you need to create your own system or be enslaved by another man’s”.
The reason our independence is important for us is that it allows us to shape the business by what we feel is right, it can grow at a pace that the company feels comfortable with, it can make decisions for the long term, it can do things that make no sense to the bottom line at the time, but may well do in the future.
This may mean that our company will not be the biggest, but it should ensure the company stays true, creative and loved. And, importantly, that it will keep making jeans in this town when there will always be cheaper places to make them.
I will settle for being great at this thing over being big at this thing.
I love that last point, “I will settle for being great at this thing over being big at this thing”. Excellence is of more value than quantity. Let’s not aim to just be the biggest and loudest but be the most excellent we can be.
Maybe one day we’ll stock Hiut at Found Hea, but for now, we will continue to be inspired by how they run their business and hope you can learn from them, just like we have. You can read the rest of Hiut’s "user manual" here.
Photo credit: Hiut Denim Co.