Focus News Leadership

20 Lessons In 20 Minutes From 20 Years Experience

I was invited to speak at an online event, it was broad brush on what I would like to talk on.

As it was planned for a 20 minutes talk with a lot of Q&A, I created a 20:20:20 deck, 20 lessons in 20 minutes (around 20 slides) from my two decades of work.

The majority of lessons are those that I leverage through Focus but there are a few more specific Marketing and Growth lessons that go against the grain of “the standard” advice.

Here is the 20:20:20 deck, which you can download at the bottom of the post and I have broken down the advice below for slightly more context.

1/ Understand the unit economics

You hear this a lot but very few companies really understand it – especially if started off loosely.

For many businesses (even the likes of Apple who suggested they didn’t know how much the app store made) it can be difficult but if you run a business line or sell a number of product lines you should know as much detail as possible the numbers behind the business and how they impact you.

 Tip: Teach everyone to own and run a budget

2/ Be deliberate with EVERYTHING

  • Guidelines > Rules
    – rules are made to be broken for many.
  • Chaos happens in minutes
    – chaos can ensue within minutes without the right guideline and leadership  
  • More ambiguity = more confusion
    – many people need clarity and the steps to be successful, many cannot connect the dots themselves, this is something to be wary of and keep in mind with all comms and project
  • Have agreed principles
    – Road signs and warnings signs were built and are a common set of guidelines for people to follow, have these within your business
  • Always remember be clear with meetings:
    • Notes 📝
    • Decisions 💪
    • Actions 🎯

3/ Startups to big businesses job ratios

Start up to Large Organisation Shifts

  • 4:1 – You do 4 jobs 👍
    – your team will happily take on more work within startup and upstarts, but not in large orgs
  • 2:1 – Maturing business 👥
    – once the business matures you take on fewer roles and find out what your job is
  • 1:1 – This is my job 👈
    – this is where you find your role, you become more senior and you take on more responsibility or in large companies, you take on one role and manage it
  • 1:2 – This is not my job ❌
    – Often this happens at startups and in bigger businesses, you start to say this is not my job, it is someone else’s. Can be positive, can be negative
  • 1:4 – Go speak to x 🚨
    – this is a warning, someone who points to anyone else and doesn’t help or guide becomes a problem within organisations and startups

4/ Hierarchy is important & so is guidance  

If it becomes about the individual or the lead then you have lost what is most important the business objectives and the things people signed on for and work becomes selfish. Me before We should be a warning sign.

Has to be

  • Company
    • Department
      • Team
        • Me 


  • Me
    • Team
      • Department
        • Company

5/ Pricing is one of the hardest things you will learn 

A conjoint analysis was the best thing I ever ran

6/ Good product is priceless
The Truth:
Marketing & Sales cannot plaster over a rubbish product.
A great product beats millions in sales bonuses and marketing budget

7/ Be Customer Centric  
Competitors obsessions blinds everyone!  

“The number one thing that has made us successful by far is obsessive compulsive focus on the customer” — Jeff Bezos

Read the business lessons from Jeff Bezos

8/ If you have enough budget, burn competitors 

This goes against everything you will read about, however, if you are stronger and have more budget kill competitors on every battlefield.

9/ Growth is about 1% increases everyday 🚀  

There are hacks you apply but levels out quickly 
There will be big wins but they don’t last forever 
Growth is about finding the 3 things in the sweet spot 
The unscaleable definitely scales for a time

10/ Products have to be

  • Easy to learn
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to share  
  • …then easy to make your own

11/ Be the brand of your market 

Make it onto lists – that’s how you win the long game. Read my blog post on what marketing is and how you win at marketing.

12/ Applying Impact vs Effort

2×2 matrix can be really misleading 

Find the sweet spot but be fooled by high impact low effort work – this misleads you constantly

13/ No one really understands strategy properly

That’s why everyone calls everything strategy & every team creates “a strategy”

Replace Department Strategy with Plans Of Action.

Overlap each and every department in a simple drawing
Teach what tactics are & why they roll up into strategy

If you cannot explain strategy on 1 page it’s not simple enough or you don’t understand it enough!

14/ In a team or business of 10 you need 

  • 2 who think long term (strategic)
  • 1 who operates midterm (tactical)
  • 7 who think and act short time (action plans)
  • Ideally 1 or 2 Ideas People from the group

15/ People give to people (stories) – not to pages 

Fundraising and crowdfunding supporters back the stories not the URL or the pages.
If they don’t know it exists how will they find or discover it?

Here are a list of my lessons and tips for running crowdfunding and fundraising campaigns.

16/ Some people like and want micro management  

Yes, it’s true & they even ask for it.
It’s how you develop these people away from micro to macro

17/ Ex Google, Ex Facebook, Ex Uber, Ex Deliveroo looks great on the CV or on LinkedIn  

BUT doesn’t make you great…many times in your career you will hear Xooglers, ex Facebook staff are being hired and more recently ex Deliveroo or enter high growth company hires and they are actually no different or better than what else is on the market they are become vanity hires to make their boss look good or for a press release.

18/ Onboard colleagues onto management and leadership teams
It is a learning curve & a hill with a massive rock on your back 

19/ Learn what motivates people around you 

The actual motivations and their why.

Is it:

  • Money
  • Title
  • Influence
  • Power,
  • I did a good job,
  • I’m good at this

20/ Be Visible 

  • Create the reports
  • Take on projects
  • Deliver on time and report on success
  • Have opinions you can back up
  • Don’t reply all – no one likes the reply all emailer

Life experience is a better education provider than any school you go to

Download the full PDF version of the deck