And my favourite businesses are…

September 16, 2011Post by Laura Humphreys

I see many different businesses through my line of work, mostly are owner operators building businesses they hope one day to exit, either by selling it or creating leverage to enable the business to continue without them being there.  Moving past the owner operator stage can be tricky, especially if you have built a business based on your own particular experience and skill set.  My work with liber8yourbusiness is all about helping owner operators re-engineer their business so that it will ultimately thrive without the owner and feed them long term wealth at the same time.

Naturally I think about business a lot.  I love business and I watch the truly elite business models out there with interest, always looking for the aspects of these businesses that make them so brilliant.  As I turned the light off last night I found myself asking myself which would be my favourite 5 businesses in the world and why.  Great questions for me to think about as I went to sleep.

The first three came fast and easily, I rattled them off in my head before my eyes closed… here they are:

1.  Xero.  I love this business model.  Take one of the most frustrating aspects of small business, make it easier, make it approachable, accessible and take it to market with a perfectly formed brand.  With its cloud based, super-user friendly accounting package, Xero exemplifies Marketing 101… start with a frustration then offer the best solution, get the pricing right and find the most leveraged (and cost effective) channel possible.  By partnering with as many accounting firms around the world as it can, Xero lets the accountants sell the product for them.  Add to all of this, Xero has in Rod Drury an experienced, proven, dynamic and credible leader.  A CEO who has built a number of businesses in the technology space before, all with successful exits created for him and his business partners. A CEO who understands all the complexities of business, is passionate about the offering and the company, has the right connections to make things happen and is also a down to earth good guy.  Fab!

2.  Apple.  Well, what can I say.  From famously humble beginnings with two geeks in a garage, to arguably the most successful business on the planet.   Unlike Facebook, which continues to defy all reason with its purported valuation in the billions, Apple is a classic business in every sense.  Until recently it had a passionate and inspirational leader in its founder Steve Jobs, it is a beautiful brand that has turned a piece of fruit into a symbol for paradigm breaking brilliance.  When you think Apple, what do you ask yourself?  If you are like me you are asking ‘what’s next?’.  What new world of communication will they catapault us into next?  It all started with a funny looking little computer that looked a bit like a small screen tv on a tardis.  Apple was about computers.   Then it was about music as the iPod and iTunes captured our imaginations.  Then phones as the iPhone transformed that gadget in our hand into the most handy thing you can carry with you next to a swiss army knife.  Surely even Bear Grills has swapped his compass for  a map app and is grateful for his torch app when the moon isn’t out.  Now there’s the iPad with the book and game industry also part of the Apple world.   All of this held together by the most consistent pioneering brand.  Just look at the original Apple logo… with Newton discovering new horizons.  The brand essence has never changed.  But the value of the company certainly has!

3.  The Body Shop.  My love for business really started when I read Anita Roddick’s book, Body and Soul.  I was captivated by the story of a woman who started a shop selling beauty products based on ethical production methods, just because she couldn’t find these products  in the market.  She was a child of the 60’s, fiercely anti animal testing, use of chemicals and abuse of the environment… all of which feature highly in the mainstream beauty industry.  Once again you hear the story from humble beginnings, as Anita got turned away from bank after bank and opened a shop with a small handful of hand made products struggling to fill the shelves, to a global company which made her one of the richest women in the world.  Along the way, Anita helped save native tribes in places such as the Amazon, tribes on the verge of distinction, by allowing them to build cottage industries producing the ingredients for her products.  She made a massive difference on this planet.  Sadly she passed away some years ago, but boy, what a legacy she left.  I love this business because it ticks all those classic good business 101 boxes – products designed to solve a frustration in the market, a passionate, determined leader who wouldn’t take no for an answer, brilliant marketing using planet friendly messages to drive a loyal following, a strong and clearly defined culture which enabled seamless global expansion, plus… and this is a big plus for me, a higher purpose that meant this business has changed the face of business, saved lives and allowed people everywhere to take a stand against animal testing.   The concept of ethical business really came about, I believe as a result of Anita’s legacy.

Phew!  So those are my top 3.  The no brainers for me.  I didn’t have to think about these.  I have since come up with another two to complete my top 5 favourite business list.  But I will save those for another blog.  In the meantime, what’s your favourite business and why?