Thatcher, Reagan, Princess Di, Gorbachev, Scargill, Lech Walesa, Madonna, Michael Jordan.
Growing up in suburban England, these people only existed in the TV for me.
Television was different then. We had four channels. Two with adverts, two without. A captive audience which today’s TV ad men would die for.
From an early age I was interested in advertisements, particularly the slogans. “Just one Cornetto”, “For Mash Get Smash”, and my personal favourite: “Look at that saddle – be like sitting on a razor blade.” Yellow Pages…remember them?
But one ad, one slogan, and one larger-than-life personality stood out for me. I don’t know why. He just did.
Before researching this post, all I remembered was a perma-tanned, grey-haired, smiling character with a strong American accent. He said something along the lines of: “I liked the shaver so much I bought the company.”
I remembered his name – Victor Kiam – and had seen him interviewed on a TV chatshow, Wogan perhaps. But it was the advert that stuck with me.
I knew he’d developed another product too called the Remington Fuzz Away. I assumed this was a sister device to the electric shaver, designed to remove unsightly nasal hair.
I was almost right. It was something to take the bobbles off sweaters.
While by no means perfect, it turns out Victor Kiam was a talented entrepreneur. Of his time, certainly, but someone who can teach today’s businesspeople a thing or two. Here are seven things you and I can learn from Victor Kiam.
All the best-marketed businesses have a catchphrase, a value proposition. Evernote: “Remember everything.” Google: “Don’t Be Evil.” Liverpool Football Club: “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Nike: “Just Do It.”
Victor, like Richard Branson, built his brand around himself. And if good ol’ Victor was so convinced his shaver was the best that he invested millions of his own money in it…it was good enough for men the world over.
Why’s a motto so important and what makes one work over another? Why would people buy you over anyone else? This takes a lot of research, soul searching, competitor analysis and process. But there’s no point having a weighty business plan if you can’t distill it into one short, snappy sentence.
I’m not asking you to head up the Charge of the Light Brigade. It’s about putting yourself on the line, saying what you believe in, and setting an example.
Whether you own a startup Glasgow PR company like me, are the MD of your own SME, lead a big corporate, or head up a charity. It doesn’t matter, the principle is the same. Old Victor was so committed to his company that he tied his personal reputation to its success or failure. That takes guts.
Kiam bought Remington through a then uncommon leveraged buyout. But first he did his research.
When it became known the company wanted to sell, he drove to the company’s offices and removed their accounts books, before any rival could get their hands on them. He also, at the urging of his wife, tried out all the electric shavers on the market and happily reported that Remington’s was best.
Every business person knows there’s a fine line between doing your research and procrastination. BUT Kiam’s approach to business teaches us that no major decision should be made without exhaustive analysis.
Like many big personalities of the 1980s, Kiam worked hard. He clocked 12 hour days, six days a week (Thatcher famously slept for only four hours nightly, much to the horror of her civil servants no doubt). Work ethic is important as a business leader. Asked what he put his success down to, Victor replied: “I think, hard work.”
“Procrastination is opportunity’s natural assassin,” and: “Even if you fall on your face you’re still moving forward.” Victor Kiam. As business owners, leaders, managers we have to be brave. Sometimes you just have to make a decision. What’s the worst that can happen. We Brits could learn a lot from our American cousins in this respect. Stop worrying what people think and get on with it.
“What’s really important in life? Sitting on a beach? Looking at television eight hours a day? I think we have to appreciate that we’re alive for only a limited period of time, and we’ll spend most of our lives working.” The man’s got a point. Couldn’t have put it better myself Victor.
You spend too much of your time during the week working to be stuck in a job you don’t enjoy. Carpe diem.
“Entrepreneurs are risk takers, willing to roll the dice with their money or reputation on the line in support of an idea or enterprise. They willingly assume responsibility for the success or failure of a venture and are answerable for all its facets. The buck not only stops at their desks, it starts there too.” Or as Victor was fond of saying: “Just go for it.”
When Victor died, The Times newspaper quoted one of his business associates in later years, Jonathan Lyons, as saying that he was: “A truly remarkable entrepreneur of the old kind – the kind they simply don’t make any more.”
True. Victor was a product of his era. A time before the Internet. A time when we got excited when a fourth channel appeared on the television. A time when choice was limited, American influence on British culture was at its height, and the owner of a fairly obscure US company could make a big impact through TV advertising.
A big personality of the 1980s, from whom we could all learn something.
Are you an 80s child? Which “TV” personalities influenced your life?
My name’s Dave @zudepr I’m a multi-award-winning Glasgow PR guy providing media relations, content marketing, social media, and SEO services to clients across the UK. Call me on +44 (0) 141 569 0342 for a free consultation or subscribe to my weekly newsletter