In this episode, Matthew Stibbe shares:
That he still enjoys doing the IT Projects in his company even though he could outsource it to someone else.
How his leadership and communication style has evolved from heroic individual leadership to a more profes...
In this episode, Matthew Stibbe shares:
That he still enjoys doing the IT Projects in his company even though he could outsource it to someone else.
How his leadership and communication style has evolved from heroic individual leadership to a more professional, collegiate, management model.
He is not good with Finance and HR so those were among the first items he augmented with other people.
He comes from a long line of entrepreneurial stock.
What he wanted to be when he grew up.
How he got into game design with his first company, Intelligent Games.
That when he left Intelligent Games he vowed to never have another office or employee again. He is one for two on that one.
How he captures ideas and why he does that.
What he does with the ideas that he captures and when.
His thoughts on data loss in IT.
That while he never wants to own another gaming company, he wouldn't mind writing his own game for his personal enjoyment.
[00:00:41] Greg Mills: Our guest today is a serial entrepreneur marketing, Maven writer, pilot, and wine enthusiast, but not necessarily in that order, he created marketing strategies, content and campaigns for clients, including Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn, and HP, and contributed to wired Forbes and popular science. Currently he is CEO at articulate marketing, a UK marketing agency specializing in the technology sector.
[00:01:09] Greg Mills: Also his geek credentials are strong previously. He was founder and CEO at intelligent games, the 70 person computer games company, where he designed games for Lego and produced two games based on noon. He also has his commercial pilots license and an advanced wine diploma. . At some point in the previous millennium, he studied history at Oxford university.
[00:01:33] Greg Mills: These days. He blogs about modern firstname.lastname@example.org about email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org without further ado, Matthew step .
[00:01:46] Matthew Stibbe: Hey Greg, thank you so much for having me on the show and thank you for the very generous and introduction and the, of all those things, the thing I'm I'm most proud of is the wine qualification, which sounds like the thing that was the easiest and most fun to do, but it was the hardest exam I ever did in my life.
[00:02:05] Greg Mills: Now can you take a few moments and fill in the gaps from that intro and bring us up to speed with what's going on in your world today.
[00:02:12] Matthew Stibbe: Sure. So, I run articulate marketing.
[00:02:15] Matthew Stibbe: That's my day job. That's the thing I spend most of my time doing and mostly with great pleasure and happiness. We are a B2B technology, marketing agencies. We help tech companies with websites, with copywriting, with strategy, with positioning, branding, and so on. And we're a HubSpot diamond partner.
[00:02:33] Matthew Stibbe: So we also do quite a lot of technology implementation and marketing automation. So that's my world mostly. I still geek out quite a lot on games and Lego. I've got my I dunno if this is going out on video, I'm pivoting my camera to show my shelf of Lego models that I've built. And then if I pivot the camera the other way there is my collection of vintage computers.
[00:02:57] Matthew Stibbe: Well, you can't see all of them, but so yeah, I'm I still enjoy. Playing games though. I don't have much time for it. I don't, I would love to make games, but I don't have time to do that either. What am I thinking about from a management and business and entrepreneurial perspective? The, there are a few issues on my plate.
[00:03:16] Matthew Stibbe: Things that are occupying my thoughts. One is sales management and sales growth and really bringing some predictability and scalability to that part of the business is a really interesting challenge. I'm not a I'm pretty good consultative salesperson by accident, but I'm not a particularly well trained sales manager.
[00:03:35] Matthew Stibbe: So I'm working through that. Another thing that I'm thinking about a lot at the moment, My own communication and leadership style as the business has grown. I've moved from, we have moved from being, how can I put it heroic individual leadership from me trying to be the boss, be in charge of everything and involved in everything, which is fine.
[00:03:57] Matthew Stibbe: If you're five people, it's okay. If you're 10 doesn't work, if you're 20 and it will never work if you're 50 people. So I'm flexing to what I would call over the last year, a more sort of professional collegiate management model with a broader team of senior leaders who are responsible head, their departments and their functions.
[00:04:17] Matthew Stibbe: That's, challenging and exciting for them, but it's big change for me. It's a change I went through before in my own bus, old business, but it's something that requires. So I'm thinking about how do I flex my leadership, my management style, my communication style to suit that.
[00:04:32] Matthew Stibbe: Growing business and push us through those growing pains. So that's exciting. And then on top of all of that, I'm trying to do the fun stuff of my job, sort of drum up business, talk to people, build thought leadership, communicate. And I still hold the reins on it at the company.
[00:04:49] Matthew Stibbe: So I'm also first line, second line and third line it technical support. So I have quite a lot of that stuff to do as well. Anyway, so those are the things, it's, run a business and then worry about sales, worry about management and worry about it. That's my life.
[00:05:04] Greg Mills: You are insane.
[00:05:07] Greg Mills: the it stuff I think that would be the first thing I would outsource or hand off to somebody else.
[00:05:13] Matthew Stibbe: I, the first thing I outsourced was finance. I'm like I'm techy, but I'm not Nuer. So I have a really good accountant and I've, we have a really good CFO now as well. And the other thing I'm not good at, and I'm really happy to hand off is HR.
[00:05:28] Matthew Stibbe: We have a chief happiness officer and we have an outsourced HR consultancy to do all of that stuff. Yeah. I, the reason I can't quite let go of the ideas. I'm really just enjoy it a bit too much. Okay. It, lots of my job have very open ended outcomes and it's all about influencing all the people and getting things done through teams and projects and collaboration, and, that's in interesting.
[00:05:52] Matthew Stibbe: And it's the ball game that I'm. It, I can go and do it, and then it's done. And it's just me and I can exercise mastery and learn things and solve problems. I've just been, I this is a terrible thing. So to admit, because I've got so many important roles and jobs to do as the CEO, but the thing I've been really pleased with in the last week is I'm.
[00:06:13] Matthew Stibbe: I moved all of our domain names from two other domain name hosts to a third one, put in DNS sec for all of them put in some anonymized contact details. So people can't trace me put in some a D mark policy to prevent email spoofing. And it's basically just tightened up our domain and all.
[00:06:31] Matthew Stibbe: And then the whole thing is protected by two factor authentication and account control. And it's like, I've got all my domain names lined up and protected and secure and done just nice. It's just, that makes me really happy. And I, any one of my colleagues listening to that will recognize.
[00:06:47] Matthew Stibbe: The geek joy that I have in it and go, Matthew, why the hell are you doing that? You've got other stuff I need you to do for me.
[00:06:56] Greg Mills: Did you come from an entrepreneurial background or did anybody in your family while you were growing up, have a business of their own or was it just, you.
[00:07:05] Matthew Stibbe: Yeah, my parents both entrepreneurs, my grandparents although they retired the day I was born coincidentally, so I never saw them working, but they had been for most of their adult lives hotel years in in, in the UK, my parents also in the sort of hospitality business, different kinds over the years, restaurants and hotels and coffee shops and things.
[00:07:30] Matthew Stibbe: So yes, I grew up in that Melia of people, didn't seem unusual at all to run your own business. Yeah. I think that I think that's a bit of a blessing actually. I think because a lot of people have a lot of people would like to run their own business, but have fear and anxiety about it.
[00:07:45] Matthew Stibbe: And it just it was normal for me that was like, oh yeah. I somebody once said about being an entrepreneur, everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. I think that's some, there's something about that, that, and I never had that fear. Okay.
[00:08:01] Greg Mills: Growing up. What did you wanna do?
[00:08:05] Matthew Stibbe: that's funny, the second time I've been asked that question recently. I remember telling one of my mother's friends as he was driving me and some friends back from school, I was, I must have. I don't know, 11 or 12, I said, weekdays, I want to be an astronaut. And then on weekends, I want to run a hotel so I, I had it all mapped out.
[00:08:24] Matthew Stibbe: I don't quite know how I was going to do the flight from Houston back to Devon to run my hotel on weekends, maybe in my spaceship. But that's that? Yeah, unfortunately I never quite got to be an astronaut and not technical enough too old and decrepit now. And I never went into the hospitality business and I think watching my mother, particularly in my parents work like crazy in their, I would never want to be at a hotel here or a restaurant her now.
[00:08:50] Matthew Stibbe: And it's, that's the hardest gig in the world, so, but so, Hey, I got into marketing and computer games instead.
[00:08:58] Greg Mills: So let's talk about that. How did you get into game design with intelligent games?
[00:09:02] Matthew Stibbe: Well, when I was 17, 18 at school, I used to play a lot of board games and I really enjoyed that very much.
[00:09:10] Matthew Stibbe: And I thought it would be fun to design one. And I thought I could design a board game that I could sell as a board game. Not really understanding that world put was a dying market. Actually coming back now board games, but wasn't then, and also I was hugely into computers. I had, Sinclair spectrum and a BBC micro and these were Coval with apple twos and TRS eighties.
[00:09:33] Matthew Stibbe: So it was that sort of generation in the eighties. And. So the two ideas came together, historical board games, computers, and I designed a couple of games in the gap year between finishing school and going to university. And I was lucky enough to sell them. And then I ended up programming one and working with the pro a programmer and a graphic designer to implement the other.
[00:09:57] Matthew Stibbe: So these two games basically were in my life while I was doing my degree. And then they came out in my second year, my third. Okay.
[00:10:06] Matthew Stibbe: One was a game called Imperium.
[00:10:08] Matthew Stibbe: And it was published by electronic arts on the Atari S St. A meager and PC. Remember those. And in it, you played the emperor of a space empire, and it was all graphics with planets and stars and you could build spaceships and space fleets and things. Very Aly coded by Nick Wilson and To designed by me and published by EA.
[00:10:31] Matthew Stibbe: And the other game I worked on was sank without a trace, unfortunately a Vietnam war game simulating the, sort of the history of the Vietnam war and the American involvement there. And you got to make presidential decisions and then you got to make strategic battlefield decisions.
[00:10:46] Matthew Stibbe: So you broadly got to play Johnson, Nixon and Westmoreland, little bit CRA Abrams, I suppose, at the end. It wasn't the world's greatest game. I programmed it, which is probably why I was the world's greatest game, but it came out in my final year and I was finishing my degree in code fixing bugs at the same time.
[00:11:04] Matthew Stibbe: So when the, when my, when I finished my university career, my finish finished my university degree. I had a choice of what I wanted to do, jobs. And I decided to go set up a business to make these computer games to do more of them. And so that became intelligent games and. I graduated 1991.
[00:11:23] Matthew Stibbe: And for the next nine, 10 years, I was doing that professionally and the company grew and we did all, we did Lego games and we did world cup soccer. We did the June games, all kinds of different things and went from being a hobby to being something quite serious and grown up by the end.
[00:11:39] Greg Mills: What were your key takeaways from founding the company and eventually selling it?
[00:11:44] Matthew Stibbe: Yeah. When I left, when I sold the business and I went, walked out of the door and I sat in my car and tried to figure out what I had two very strong feelings, one is I never want to have another office again in my life.
[00:11:58] Matthew Stibbe: It, for some reason it just seemed like a dead weight and a burden. And the other . The other rule I made for myself was I'm never gonna have another employee again. Well, I still don't have an office, but I do have employees. So I broke one of the rules. So I think that was, those were two obvious lessons.
[00:12:13] Matthew Stibbe: I think reflecting very hard on that whole experience. I think give up when it's not fun anymore. or find a way to have other people do the things that are not fun. So you can do the things that you are good at and enjoy. And if they're things that you need to get better at in order to enjoy them, do that, but don't be a bloody fool about it when it stops being fun, stop it.
[00:12:40] Matthew Stibbe: And the other, the, I think, and I think that's quite an important observation cuz I was young and I didn't know a lot when I was running that business. And I looked back on it and thought if only I had known them, what I know now that you can hire an HR person and they'll take care of most of the people problems and you can hire a salesperson and they'll do your sales for you, admitted that you have to, have to make it work and have the right people.
[00:13:00] Matthew Stibbe: I could have run that business very differently and I would've been very happy being creative. So, I know that now that, and I didn't know it then the O the last long, this is a deeply held long reflected lesson. The last one is and I need to remind myself of this every week. The people in a business, if you imagine you've got 70 people and you've got a bell curve of, there are some people who are extraordinarily productive, good, loyal, engaged, happy to be there, and really, your rock stars and then sort of, rumper people, a group of people in the middle who are variously pretty good to very good, engaged, reasonably and happy, reasonably productive, reasonably worthwhile.
[00:13:39] Matthew Stibbe: And then there's this sort of tail end, this sort of end of people who are just difficult. They're not happy. They're not engaged. They're not good. They're not, there's problems there. And it there's always a bell curve. You're 70 people. You're gonna have three or four people, right at that bad, you're gonna have three or four people right at the good.
[00:13:56] Matthew Stibbe: So the observation is this, those bad people will take as much time and energy and effort and moral courage as you can you give them. They will soak up all of your time. If you let them, they will keep because they're difficult, they're demanding, they're creating problems. They're making noise. They're, you're having to go through performance improvement plans and disciplinary hearings and and of course everyone's the hero of their own stories.
[00:14:23] Matthew Stibbe: So they don't understand why you are upset about it. And they're shouting and grievances and pro. So those people, so you limit, you minimize the amount of time you spend with them. You treat them fairly, you do the right thing, but when someone's not performing, you say, you're not performing.
[00:14:38] Matthew Stibbe: You've gotta get better when someone's no good and they don't get better. You fire them. You just, you've got to be, not let them take over your life. And then you take the time that you're not spending with them and you spend it on bit on the top people to make sure they're happy, but mostly on the people who are on the higher end of the bell curve, how do I make those people into rock stars?
[00:15:01] Matthew Stibbe: Take you can spend four days a week on the crappy people. You take three and a half days a week from that time and you spend it on the people who you can make better and when you make them better, they're good. And you minimize the time on the bad people. That's the number one lesson I learned.
[00:15:17] Matthew Stibbe: And because I'm confrontation avoidant, and because I'm, constantly get sucked into the drama of annoying, bad, badly behaved people. I have to keep reminding myself of that lesson, but the best investment of time is investing in making good people. Great. Well said. So I should have that written on my screen here because I keep remembering that lesson and go, oh, why didn't I do that?
[00:15:43] Greg Mills: We had talked to a little bit about this before and I kinda wanna explore this some more. You've undoubtedly had multiple great ideas. Some of which you may not have acted upon. And I think the average person does the same thing.
[00:16:01] Greg Mills: How have you captured your ideas going forward?
[00:16:06] Matthew Stibbe: Yes it, I have a notion page or group of pages of ideas, of things that I would like to do games. I would like to make projects. I would like to run books. I'd like to, all the backlog and I'm very diligent about writing that stuff down and filing it away.
[00:16:26] Matthew Stibbe: And I think. Partly because it relieves me of the psychological pressure of having to remember it all. And partly because it relieves me of the guilt burden of, I had that brilliant idea, but I didn't do anything with it because you have, I'm, it sounds like you have the same issue. I have 99 ideas that I don't act on.
[00:16:47] Matthew Stibbe: One idea that I do. And I don't want to carry around those 99 ideas as like, oh, that's the path not taken, but so writing them down allows them to be exist in my life. They're sort of there. They're like seeds in a dark room. I take them out and they might germinate. I haven't killed them. I haven't lost them.
[00:17:06] Matthew Stibbe: They haven't gone anywhere, but they just haven't come to. And sometimes I go back and look at them and I go, actually now the time has come for that idea. Not very often, but they're there. So I think this getting things done, idea of get it out of your head and on paper is mission one.
[00:17:21] Matthew Stibbe: The mission two is get it out of the sight line of what you are working on right now. Put it somewhere where it won't bother you. Won't make you feel bad. These are ideas that you're not acting on right now. So I have a very good triage flow for this. This all sounds terribly thought through it's just a thing that I've built over the years I use.
[00:17:42] Matthew Stibbe: Notion for writing ideas down. I'm just constantly documenting things in notion, but the main flow is managed inside an app called click up. And it's a project management tool we use in the agency for running client work. So I have a list of things that I'm to do, and I have a backlog of things that I might do later.
[00:18:03] Matthew Stibbe: And I have another list, a tag of saying, I've asked this person to do this so I can monitor whether they've done it, check on delegation. So I have, I use that to sort of keep track of things and what I do, cuz click ups a little bit slow and frustrating. Sometimes I use an app called to doist, which is quick to load on my iPhone and quick to load on my computer.
[00:18:24] Matthew Stibbe: And I just, this idea occurs to me asks so and so to do such and such go and look at this, read this book. Somebody will tell me some, an podcast I should listen. I just, I write it down, get it out of my brain as quickly as possible into to doist. And then I use Zapier. It takes the tasks from, to doist and it puts them into the right place, depending on where I put them into doist into click up.
[00:18:47] Matthew Stibbe: And then they're there for me to reviews and nothing ever gets lost, but I triage, I capture quickly. So it's outta my brain and I log them and track them and triage them in, in, in click up. That process works pretty well. I have to be pretty ruthless about my to-do list because typically it runs to 40 to 60 things at any one time.
[00:19:12] Matthew Stibbe: And no, no high. Nobody's got the time to do that many. So I have to I have to constantly com out things and delegate them or delay them or don't do them or archive them. And I hate information loss. I hate things. Not that existed, not existing so I just have this backlog and I just put things into the backlog and they're there.
[00:19:31] Matthew Stibbe: and then the last piece of all of this puzzle for me and my, my, my process is every Christmas holiday when nobody is phoning me and I've got no meetings, I go to that backlog and I just go down that list. And I, is there any of these I'm gonna do, I'm gonna read that article and I'm gonna read, look at that thing.
[00:19:48] Matthew Stibbe: I'm gonna check out that app. I'm gonna click and anything I want to keep just gets pushed down into the ice box. So it's really long term storage, but not deleted. And I, that, that's a sort of strangely satisfying end of year ritual for me. And there's usually two, 300 things in the backlog that I go through and it takes me a day or so.
[00:20:08] Matthew Stibbe: So nothing gets lasted, all gets triaged out, but. Okay. The funny thing is I'm telling you all this story and I'm remembering that in my life I've had various versions of this same flow. When I was at school, I used to write it in a notebook and cross things out and move them to do. And then I was using Microsoft schedule person.
[00:20:27] Matthew Stibbe: Then I was using outlook. And then I was, but the same sort of capture triage, archive, review has always been there. Okay. So
[00:20:39] Greg Mills: I understand I really think that not only do these ideas, these thoughts that if they have weight and they take up mental capacity. We're not talking about getting rid of them, we're talking about, putting them away for a little bit.
[00:20:52] Matthew Stibbe: Okay. Yeah. And there's that sort of nagging anxiety that if I don't write it down and capture it next week, I'll really need that information and it will have I'm using the technology actually as an extension of my brain. That, and it's actually, this is an interesting this is a new thought that's occurring to me.
[00:21:15] Matthew Stibbe: So thank you. I'm interested in this area. I have a colleague who is. And one of the SIM, one of the symptoms of this is she has almost no conventional memory for things. She's got a huge memory palace for like information, but so she, she literally has this notebook, physical notebook with tabs and post-its and colors and things that she, and she has completely outsourced a part of a memory function to whatever this month's notebook is.
[00:21:44] Matthew Stibbe: And it was fascinating when I first met her to see how she was doing that. And when she was talking about that and I, I sort of so related and connected with it, I don't do that thing, but there's something about outsourcing part of your memory and yourself and your identity, and you don't want to lose it.
[00:22:01] Matthew Stibbe: It's important, but it's not urgent.
[00:22:04] Greg Mills: I think it really frees you up to have other ideas and to not have that nagging feeling of. Am I gonna deal with this? Am I gonna forget it? And if I forget it I'll know, I forgot it, but I won't know what it was.
[00:22:18] Matthew Stibbe: What? You forgot. Yes, exactly. That, yes.
[00:22:20] Matthew Stibbe: I won't know what I forgot. Yes. So, and occasion and my ex-wife was among other things are playwright and choose to write books about theater and she used her practice was to what she called morning pages. So she'd just write random nonsense on and just whatever was stream of consciousness onto pages for, until she'd filled up four pages.
[00:22:42] Matthew Stibbe: And there was something about that allowed some other creativity got it out of the way. And then some other thing came out. That was the thing she was actually writing. I can't do that. I think I bring a bit too much selfing and structure to my writing, but. If you can clean out, if you can get the, this, the random noise out of your head and capture it without guilt or anxiety, it makes space for something more constructive potentially to appear.
[00:23:09] Matthew Stibbe: And I think it has the same role for, geeky ideation as my ex-wife's morning pages.
[00:23:16] Greg Mills: Well, I had never really considered the fact that both of us being in an it background, that data loss is unacceptable.
[00:23:26] Greg Mills: That's the one thing that you don't want to do. I myself have these, folders that are backed up re redundantly, and I've got backups of the backups, in various different locations. It's really quite ridiculous.
[00:23:40] Matthew Stibbe: Yes. Yes. I can't understand how I can't understand how people wouldn't want to do that.
[00:23:46] Matthew Stibbe: Yeah. I never got, colleagues, friends, family, who just like, they forget things and staff, and it's not really they somehow seem to survive. They manage to live quite happily and verbal through life. So it is just our idiosyncrasy. There's not, it's not the right way of living, but you have to cope with what you're given.
[00:24:05] Greg Mills: Right? I don't know whether we were both born that way or if it was indoctrinated into us, but yeah, it is what it is.
[00:24:13] Matthew Stibbe: Well, the first time you create some artifact, some digital artifact, and then it gets lost it a searing memory. I, for example, so with the computer games company that I used to run, I sold it in 2000.
[00:24:30] Matthew Stibbe: And sadly it closed two and a half years later. Nothing to do with me, but inside that organization where all the game design documents and all the things that I had written and were the work that we had done and the code that we had created and all the, this just collective creative output of dozens and dozens of people for 10 plus years disappeared just up gone.
[00:24:57] Matthew Stibbe: And that's, that just hurts. It hurts that my business that I had loved and created is no longer there, but that's a small pain. The big pain is all that data loss just really upsets me. It really upsets me. I never thought about that before in that way, but yeah. Yeah. Oh, well, nevermind.
[00:25:19] Matthew Stibbe: We should learn to let go.
[00:25:20] Greg Mills: Yeah. Have you ever considered recreating intelligent games?
[00:25:26] Matthew Stibbe: No, I never want to go back to the games business. I would however, quite like to go back to game design. Okay. I quite, the thing that I originally loved and this is one of those things that was an idea that I had.
[00:25:41] Matthew Stibbe: And I would like in the last month, and I just I'm really, if I can find a day, I'm going to try and do it like a weekend day, because now there are game design tools that are much easier to use you. Don't, if you, the moment you accept, you're not going to be writing a 3d interactive, blockbuster, half a million, half a billion dollar game thing, and you use twine or something like that to build these and you're not worrying about graphics.
[00:26:08] Matthew Stibbe: It's going to be text with some choices and a few variables. So I have a few little game ideas that I would really like to do. And I that I think that will survive the triage of ideas. It just, it's just waiting for a little bit of time. And the part of what's attractive about that is if you do it in text, if I do it in like a little text adventure game with some variables , I'm a good writer, so I can write it.
[00:26:34] Matthew Stibbe: And I'm a, I'm not a great programmer, but I'm a good enough programmer that I could code it. And using some, one of his off the shelf tools means instead of it taking two weeks, I think I could get something minimum, minimally viable and playable in a day or two. And that would just give me great pleasure and that, but it's taken almost 20 years to want to do that.
[00:26:55] Matthew Stibbe: Cause for most of the time after I sold my games business, I couldn't even play.
[00:27:00] Greg Mills: Would you could classify yourself as an extrovert or an introvert.
[00:27:05] Matthew Stibbe: I'm definitely introverted.
[00:27:07] Matthew Stibbe: Okay. I sometimes think I'm not on the, or, autistic spectrum, but I'm probably tiptoeing up to it.
[00:27:16] Greg Mills: A lot of it in it are,
[00:27:18] Matthew Stibbe: but I think I've got a pretty good sincerity simulator and I'm pretty good at I, I can't remember who I got that line from, but it, I'm, and I'm, I, I've run companies all my life, so I'm perfectly comfortable standing up and being, I'm talking in public.
[00:27:35] Matthew Stibbe: In fact, I'm much better talking to a group of people or this kind of thing probably is why I enjoy working remotely. Cuz talking to a screen's a lot easier than talking to an individual. I quite like talking to people. I like meeting people. I dunno. It's I'm I. So this is a strange kind of, it's not extroversion it's I don't like small talk.
[00:27:53] Matthew Stibbe: I don't like parties. I don't like a lot of things that people who are sociable and extroverted, like, but I like people and I'm interested in people and I enjoy, and I have no fear of talking. I think I was, I think it was cuz I was very lucky when I was growing up. I had a very good education, very, lots of we had you would call it junior RO ROTC office of training and there's lots of leadership training and lots of outdoors and lots of communication and very loving family who were very outgoing.
[00:28:21] Matthew Stibbe: And then the Oxford university education system then was, you sat in a room with a, with an academic and you read them your essay and then you are argued about it for an hour. So I sometimes say I learned how to BS at Oxford BS on very limited information with someone who was an expert is perfect training for marketing.
[00:28:40] Greg Mills: And it as well
[00:28:42] Matthew Stibbe: that it as well. Yeah. Well, the thing I learned about it for it, and for a lot of other things actually was the bit that happened before I got in the room with the tutor, with the academic was cramming a lot of information in my head very quickly and picking out the bits that were interesting and then writing an essay and that journey, lots of information, picking out the interesting bits, writing an essay to make an argument that is marketing well,
[00:29:10] Greg Mills: well said at the core of it, what does articulate marketing do
[00:29:16] Matthew Stibbe: We hold up a flattering mirror to our clients and help them understand who they are, what, who they sell to, what they sell, why people buy it, who buys it. And then we help them optimize all of those things. We help them communicate their message, their tone of voice, their positioning, their branding, their website, their marketing, communication, their thought leadership, their blogging, their website, content, their website, to convey that message, to put their best foot forward, to stand out from the crowd.
[00:29:45] Matthew Stibbe: So yeah, we help people differentiate. We help B2B tech companies differentiate themselves and communicate with potential customers. That's another way of
[00:29:53] Greg Mills: looking it. Yeah. I noticed that you talked about a differentiation engine. how do you help them to establish one
[00:30:00] Matthew Stibbe: interesting question? This is an area of deep active investigation right now. I can, I think fundamentally you have to do what I would call business or industrial anthropology and go pay lots of attention to customers. Right? What problems are they trying to solve? What pains do they have?
[00:30:23] Matthew Stibbe: What issues are they dealing with? What ambitions do they have? What is, where do they go for advice? What information do they trust? What is, what are their jobs to be done to use that. And then you take all the stuff that you know about your business, your products, your services, and you translate it so that they, you are talking to your potential customers about their issues in their language, on your terms and that sort of trans investigation, diagnosis, translation, and then messaging and communication.
[00:30:54] Matthew Stibbe: It's quite hard for business owners to do for themselves because they're trapped in the confines of their own life experience and whatever it was that got the business started and whatever it was that made the business initially successful. And they find it quite hard to take all of those steps.
[00:31:11] Matthew Stibbe: So what we're trying to do with the difference engine is find the thing that makes them interesting, uniquely valuable to their potential customers and communicate that how you actually communicate it. It can be, Word, it can be podcast. It can be videos. It can be website. It can be branding.
[00:31:29] Matthew Stibbe: It can be design. It can be content. It can be thought leadership. There's lots of ways of positioning, but it's got to start with the understanding. It's got to understand with who are we selling to and what are we selling and why are they buying it?
[00:31:44] Greg Mills: I believe you've got a webinar coming up or it may have already passed.
[00:31:47] Greg Mills: It was about the power of expertise in marketing.
[00:31:51] Matthew Stibbe: Ha yes. Thank you for looking that up and it's it's happened. But the recording is available on articulate marketing.com. The, there are a number of failure modes, and I've talked about one failure modes of business owner managers in the it and tech space, probably in other businesses too.
[00:32:10] Matthew Stibbe: But these are the ones we talk to. One, one is that inability to see the world from their customers perspective and talk to their customers about the customer's issues. That's very common. Another one is to fixate on what the competitors are doing. Another one is to be aware, be resistant to opinions, to taking a position on things that we call it, the rounded pebble problem, the man in the miracle, there's a whole load of failure modes and fallacies, right?
[00:32:38] Matthew Stibbe: . And the problem that we face as a marketing agency is we understand those. We know how to solve those. We are able to take people on a journey and make that better. We are experts in marketing, but the people we sell to generally are owner managers or business managers. They, and they are experts in their business.
[00:33:04] Matthew Stibbe: They're experts in their field, but they assume that what got them, where they are, is gonna get them where they need to get to. And the expertise they have in their field also means that they're experts in marketing. So they tend to self diagnose and they tend to self prescribe and they think that they're right, because, and also, and I say this myself as an owner manager people tend to agree with them cuz they're the boss.
[00:33:28] Matthew Stibbe: Right? Right. So they've got a certain privilege and authority about it. So they go, well I think we should do advertising on Google everyone's yeah. That's a great idea box. Let's definitely do that. And we might be coming on go, that's a completely stupid idea until you figure out your value proposition and who's gonna buy it.
[00:33:43] Matthew Stibbe: Cuz you could spend tens of thousands of pounds advertising to people on Google who are never gonna buy your product. So the whole point about that pod, that webinar was, there are different kinds of expertise and the, the wise management wise leadership is knowing your limitations, knowing where you don't have expertise, trying to fill that gap learn, but also go find experts who can help you.
[00:34:06] Greg Mills: Is there anything I have not asked that you'd like to go over
[00:34:13] Matthew Stibbe: We talked a little bit in the pre-interview about note capture, and I think it might be fun just to have a little bit of a compare notes about what apps you can use for that.
[00:34:23] Matthew Stibbe: And I've mentioned notion I've also been a fan of one note. What do you use
[00:34:28] Greg Mills: right now? I am using, I'm experimenting with an app called Nebo and unlike yourself, I've got a three different ecosystems that I play in. I've got windows, I've got Android and I've also got the apple iOS.
[00:34:43] Greg Mills: So it's, not quite as seamless for me to take a note and have it appear in all three devices, but I'm experimenting with that.
[00:34:52] Matthew Stibbe: Well, you've got from where I see you've got two fundamental choices, right? Choice. Number one, Microsoft OneNote sits on all of those platforms.
[00:34:58] Matthew Stibbe: Right? Number two, come over to the dark side, get rid of all the Android windows stuff. Just buy apple. If you apple end to end, life's just, yes. Brainwashed apple. But it does help if you're all on one
[00:35:11] Greg Mills: ecosystem, I a hundred percent agree. Unfortunately, I've got to support windows for work.
[00:35:16] Greg Mills: So that, that pretty much takes care of that. I could switch from, I could switch from Android to iOS without a problem. If I had my own business, I would strongly look at the iOS operating system and replace my
[00:35:32] Matthew Stibbe: PC. It's interesting though, isn't it, people are born one way or the other.
[00:35:38] Matthew Stibbe: I think I, we give people a choice of apple or PC, and it pretty much splits 50 50 and it splits very in on the exact cliche lines. You'd expect the designers and the coders tend to want Mac and the more generalist marketers and writers tend to want windows. There's some exceptions in both directions, but generally, Apple's done a pretty good job of staking out that creative mentality.
[00:36:05] Matthew Stibbe: That's our audience and positioning it there. Why people, why, what people would think that, you, all the apps you use on a P on a Mac, you can get on a PC, all that Adobe stuff is on PCs, but that's marketing for you. That's positioning for you.
[00:36:17] Greg Mills: I can't say they've absorbed Linux, but they're based on Linux.
[00:36:20] Greg Mills: So that appeals more to some of the creative people as. And myself occasionally
[00:36:28] Matthew Stibbe: there, there is that I think the Linux or the Unix probably more accurately at the heart of OS 10 was, gives it a certain credibility to develop as I think, , but I Microsoft's embraced open source.
[00:36:42] Matthew Stibbe: I think Microsoft's a very different company than it was in the days of Steve jobs. I think
[00:36:49] Greg Mills: their model is now largely a subscription model.
[00:36:52] Matthew Stibbe: So. Yeah. Okay. And that's also interesting, isn't it? It's just, you don't go and buy a box of software anymore. You buy a subscription for something, you buy a subscription for your TV, you buy a subscription for your games.
[00:37:04] Matthew Stibbe: You buy a subscription for your computer. The next thing that's gotta happen, I think is you pay money to a company and they, you, they just give you a computer and it's got all the software on it and all the licensing and all the security and all the it support. And you pay 50 pounds a month. And as that's all, everything you need, and then every two years, they just upgrade you.
[00:37:25] Matthew Stibbe: And if you have a problem with it or you drop it, they just send another one out by FedEx. I'm really surprised that nobody has done. Everything you need for one price computing. , it's always unbundled. It's always, you've gotta buy something from this person and something from that person.
[00:37:41] Matthew Stibbe: So there's the next step, I think. Yeah. I
[00:37:44] Greg Mills: know that both Microsoft and apple offer, computing in the cloud where you can use their desktop, but you still have to be able to get to the cloud to use it. I think what you just described would be the ultimate thin client.
[00:37:58] Matthew Stibbe: Well, yeah, thin client or, why not?
[00:38:01] Matthew Stibbe: Why not? I've a fewer a company, you would get a Microsoft surface laptop and it would have a Microsoft 365 subscription and it would have an antivirus subscription and it would have an it support contract and it would have, yada, whatever it is. And you, it's not a necessary a thin client, but it's.
[00:38:19] Matthew Stibbe: corporate it computing with a device and all the software and all the support for a fixed monthly price. Yeah. And that's effectively what happens in big companies. They have somebody like you with, an it department and there's some support and they're buying all this and you are aggregating all of this together, but I run a company with 20 people with 18 of cream across the UK and two in continental Europe.
[00:38:41] Matthew Stibbe: What I want to do is just go to a website and go send new computer to my new hire. Here's their address? Click . And I get the whole thing, one price, one contract, one website, B bash Bo. And I don't have to think about it, but actually for me, I have to aggregate it. I have to buy the computer from one, one company.
[00:38:58] Matthew Stibbe: I have to buy it support from another. What I don't, I do it myself. I have to go to Microsoft and sign up for that thing I have to. Yeah,
[00:39:08] Greg Mills: maybe that should be the next big company.
[00:39:11] Matthew Stibbe: Maybe so that I'm gonna put that on list, triage it. And then by the weekend, I'll have forgotten about it and decide it's not a good idea.
[00:39:18] Matthew Stibbe: And it'll go on the backlog anyway.
[00:39:21] Greg Mills: Let's get ready to wrap this up. Is there a book that you currently recommend, for, to enable people in their business to either start it or to move it to the next level?
[00:39:31] Greg Mills: I know we talked about rules of the game,
[00:39:34] Matthew Stibbe: but yeah. Yeah, that's a pretty tangential book for business advice. It's really interesting about leadership, but it's pretty tangential. What I read recently about a business book. I'm always a bit skeptical and wary of business books, but I read traction recently, which is about the entrepreneurial operating system and there's some useful gems of wisdom in there.
[00:39:58] Matthew Stibbe: I don't ask me who it's written by, but somebody gen court maybe. And I think that would be as a business book. That would be interesting. Can I make a completely random book recommendation? Of course we've been talking nerding out a bit and geeking out a bit and there's a, a. A lovely really good sci-fi author that I like called Becky chambers.
[00:40:22] Matthew Stibbe: And she's written just all kinds of, and that I would call them very gentle. Sci-fi, there's no big space battles. It's very human. And there's one called I think it's called some for the wild built, which doesn't sound like a very, yeah. A Psalm for the wild built by Becky chambers. And it's just the most delightful story.
[00:40:44] Matthew Stibbe: And it's about a robot and a monk and just nothing much happens, but it's very profound and very gentle and soft. So when you've got one of these days where you've got, 14 hours of it stuff to get into, eight hours of working life and you want something that's, soothing and fun, but still a bit geeky, Becky chambers, I
[00:41:03] Greg Mills: will definitely check that out.
[00:41:06] Greg Mills: I would recommend Mike Resnik, although unfortunately he has such a huge backlog of books. Purgatory is one that it's about, colonization of another planet and how that planet then rises up and where they go after that.
[00:41:25] Greg Mills: I'm doing a horrible job of paraphrasing a bit.
[00:41:29] Matthew Stibbe: I'll go look that up. I do like a good sci-fi book. I like a good novel. I need I need something that's gripping and page turning to get me away from my obsession about the Victorian Navy. So I keep reading books about that at the moment, which I fascinates me, but it's getting a little bit obsessive and on that bomb shut, I think probably I should shut up and go and have my dinner.
[00:41:52] Greg Mills: well, sir, what's the best way for somebody to contact you or to check you out?
[00:41:57] Matthew Stibbe: So I am blogging with my colleagues about email@example.com. The contact form there comes to my desk. So if you fill that in, say hi, I'd love to hear from you. I blog about my personal staff, leadership management, the kinds of things we've been talking about.
[00:42:14] Matthew Stibbe: Bit of military history, a bit of Lego, bit of computer firstname.lastname@example.org. And then there's a sort of rather idiosyncratic blog about email@example.com. All of these sites have contact forms. All of those contact forms come through to me. So whether you're into wine or management leadership with a geeky twist or marketing, I've got something for you.
[00:42:34] Matthew Stibbe: Love to hear from you.
[00:42:35] Greg Mills: Okay. Lastly, what's the normal one piece of advice that you can give for our listeners.
[00:42:42] Matthew Stibbe: You might not agree. Check out notion as a map, check out notion. It is, it has been transformational for me in my business the last year.
[00:42:52] Greg Mills: All right, sir. That's a wrap. Thank you Matthew, for being a guest on entrepreneurs over
[00:42:57] Matthew Stibbe: 40.
[00:42:58] Matthew Stibbe: It's been my very great pleasure, Greg. Thank you for having me.
Serial entrepreneur, marketing maven, writer, pilot, and wine enthusiast.
Matthew Stibbe is a serial entrepreneur, marketing maven, writer, pilot, and wine enthusiast. But not necessarily in that order. He created marketing strategies, content and campaigns for clients including Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn and HP and contributed to Wired, Forbes and Popular Science.
Currently, he is CEO at Articulate Marketing, a UK marketing agency specialising in the technology sector. Also, his geek credentials are strong. Previously, he was founder and CEO at Intelligent Games, a 70-person computer games company where he designed games for LEGO and produced two games based on Dune.
Matthew also has his commercial pilots licence and an advanced wine diploma. (Have you seen the film Somm? Like that!) At some point in the previous millennium, he studied history at Oxford University. These days, he blogs about modern management at www.geekboss.com, about marketing at www.articulatemarketing.com and wine at www.vincarta.com.