“Ignorance is a key element for every entrepreneur; some level of ignorance. Because if you knew all the obstacles ahead, you would never do it.”
“In life you get beat down. In business, you get beat down twice as much!”
– Brian Smith/UGG Founder
Five Hundred Stories had the privilege of interviewing Brian Smith at the Digital Footprint Conference, where he spoke to a large group of entrepreneurs and influencers. He shared his candid thoughts about his early days starting UGG and provided valuable insights for anyone looking to start their own venture. He lends a philosophical approach to the trials and tribulations plaguing all entrepreneurs. Saying anything is a must-read, is cliché. With that being said, this is a must-read.
Career Highlight: Founder of UGG Boots
Title: Founder of a billion dollar company, Author and Speaker
Introducing: Brian Smith
Brian, it’s truly an honor to be with you today. Please, start us off by introducing yourself, and something that has made you who you are today.
Hi there, I’m Brian Smith and I’m most well-known for being the founder of UGG Boots; you know, those beautiful sheepskin boots. It’s something I started back in the late 70s, but in the last four to five years, has been in the billions of dollars in sales, so I’m super proud of it.
I’ve contributed much (to those billions) with three girls in the house!
But, and I will say this, they still have their boots today. My daughter is 16 years old and she still has her boots from when she was nine.
Who most inspired you, and/or had a profound effect on the decisions you made, when you were starting out?
That’s an easy one to answer. I read a book called, Winning Through Intimidation by Robert Ringer. That was right when I was beginning, in the late 70s and early 80s. It was about a real estate guy that got screwed out of his commissions over and over and over again. He grew up through the school of hard knocks,and wrote this book.
I remember writing 23 points from that book, which became my bible. I had it in front of my daily planner for years! And things would come up. Normally, I had already made the mistake, and I’d say “Oh my god, I should have known”.
But having done that, when I sold the UGG company, and wanted to help give back to entrepreneurs, I wrote my own book called The Birth of a Brand. And what I hope, and I think is, it is already becoming, is the Winning Through Intimidation, for the 21st century. Because I speak to entrepreneurs, and I help from the stage and through the book, they get to see the same sort of issues I went through, which is a warning and a guidepost for them, starting their own entrepreneurial careers. It has sort of gone a full circle, and I love the service that I’m giving right now.
That’s great! And just expanding upon that; what advice would you give somebody starting a company who wants to solidify their brand or decide what their branding should be?
Well, there are so many industries, it’s sort of hard to give one answer for that. But, the thing to learn most for an entrepreneur starting out is, ignorance is a key element for every entrepreneur; some level of ignorance. Because if you knew all the obstacles ahead you would never do it. Sort of like having a baby, maybe if you knew what was ahead maybe you would think twice.
But having started, there this great ancient saying that says:
Once you start on a path, the universe will conspire to work with you.
And it’s infallible. Here’s a good example; when is the last time you saw an advertisement for a refrigerator? You probably don’t know. But, if you need a refrigerator next Saturday, you would start to see evidence of it everywhere. And then you’d be able to zero in and buy one. Well, that universe is absolutely complete. And everything that you could possibly want is out there. But if you haven’t started on a path, on a direction, looking for a refrigerator, you’re not going see any of it. So, starting out with a level of ignorance is fine, because once you start, the things that are in alignment with your goal will become so obvious you can’t miss them.
What kept motivating you and driving you in times when you were uncertain if things were going to work out for you?
In life you get beat down. In business, you get beat down twice as much! But there’s a couple of elements in my book, nearly always your most disappointing disappointments become your greatest blessings. So, it doesn’t matter what disaster happens. If you look back a year later, you’re going to say, “thank God,” because I wouldn’t have taken the attack I did, had that not happened. And then, usually, you’re way ahead of things.
And the other thing I’ll share is my four mantras. I carry these forward in my daily planner every year. December 31st, I get my new planner and I carry this one page.
It’s four statements:
- Feast upon uncertainty.
- Fatten upon disappointment.
- Invigorate in the presence of difficulties.
- Enthuse over apparent defeat.
And those four affirmations are so positive, it eliminates the victimization of, “oh poor me, why did this happen to me, it’s a cruel world and life’s unfair.” It gets rid of all of that self-pity and takes it into a positive affirmation.
Feast upon uncertainty; My first three or four years of building UGG were so uncertain. But as I look back, those were the fondest memories I have of the entire business. Enthuse over apparent defeat; There’s twice I lost the company. I could have easily given up. But I said, NO, I can beat this! I can get it back. So taking those affirmations is REALLY, really big.
Thank you very much.
My pleasure. It’s been great being here.