I’ve never seen a book signing at an NRF event turn out like what happened when Life is good co-founder Bert Jacobs finished his presentation today at NRF’s members’ only luncheon. The throngs of people – and I do not use that word lightly – stood patiently, waiting for an opportunity to have a moment with a person who so inspired them. People were stretched back 400 feet and went through hundreds of books in about 20 minutes of sales.
I’ve always loved Life is good, ever since I was introduced to the company when a reporter asked me about them in 2002. Since then, I haven’t been able to get enough of the company’s inspiring message, and I frequently visit their store in Old Town, Alexandria. (Side note: The first time I was walking by, I was with another person. Since I had my dog, my shopping companion walked in without me and I waited outside. Imagine my surprise when a friendly salesperson flung the door open and invited both me – and the dog – inside. Let’s just say the company has an impressive line of dog products. And I’ve now purchased most of them.)
At any rate, Jacobs’ session today did not disappoint. He spent the first half talking about how the company began (selling t-shirts with his brother out of a van they named “the enterprise”) and the second half highlighting the lessons business leaders could take away from the company’s book, “Life is good: Lessons from Jake and Rocket.”
Of the dozens of suggestions, here are five, straight from Bert:
1. “Cut some things out of your schedule next week. Take some things off your desk and do the other things better.”
2. “There are people in your life that have nothing to do with your business, but you love them. Take them with you. Those are the most important things in your life. When you go to do a project, have them with you. Make them proud of you. It works. Those people have the most influence. Why wouldn’t you bring them along when you’re working on something important?”
3. “When you’re working with employees and staff, you can’t always know everything. Right now I think the most important thing is to listen to the youngest people in our companies. This entire information age is run by younger people. It’s ok to ask questions and listen. It’s ok to not know where you’re going. It’s ok to have people who have been there for six months make leader-like decisions. I ask questions and then I shut my mouth. I don’t need to do it. It’s not about me. Your business shouldn’t be about you. Your business should be about whoever has the best ideas.”
4. “It’s so easy for people to point the finger and blame. It’s my boss. It’s the politicians. In retail, nine of ten people will tell you, “it doesn’t matter what we do for merchandising, there’s no foot traffic.” One in ten people will say, “I have a good idea for how you can drive foot traffic.” Find solutions, talk about them, and your business will grow.”
5. “A lot of times people approach my brother and me and say, ‘I wish I thought of that.’ The only difference between those people and us, is that we wrote it down. We jotted a sketch down and followed through on it. Everyone in this room has had ideas that would change this industry. Take some of these ideas. There’s a lot of brilliance here. Write those things down. Review them. Nine might look ridiculous. One will change the industry.”
The book, of which all proceeds benefit the company’s charity, sells for $20, and I collected more $20 bills from eager retailers today in exchange for one of these books than I could track. We’re talking fistfuls of cash.
As I write this, I hear Jacobs is still sitting in a chair outside of our Super Session hall – two HOURS after his session ended – signing away. And each person – still in line, two hours later, is likely waiting their turn, thinking about his message of optimism and hope. And that really is good.