John Lee Cronin is a truly inspirational entrepreneur. John, who has Down Syndrome, co-founded his business John’s Crazy Socks with his father Mark and between them they have built a $multi million turnover business in less than 2 years by spreading happiness through socks!
We had the honour of meeting him and his team at their office in Huntington, New York earlier this week, and it’s clear that they are a shining example of a Dramatically and Demonstrably Different Business – they demonstrated all 7 of the Characteristics! This is how….
3D Characteristic #1: Get That Vision Thing!
These guys have a clear vision to build a successful business that makes a difference. Like the best ‘visions’, it’s a picture of the future that ‘stimulates, excites and inspires’. They have ambitious goals, both financially and socially. As well as clearly defined goals of making an impact in terms of employing people with disabilities, raising money and profile for a wide range of charities, Mark explained that they have clear profit goals too – it all has to make financial sense! They also work hard at sharing that vision and ensuring that employees, partners, supporters and customers have bought into it too.
- Do you have ‘that vision thing’?
- Does it ‘stimulate, excite and inspire’… you… and others?
- Have you shared it and does it drive your performance?
3D Characteristic #2: Think in 3D!
John and Mark recognised early on that ‘same as sucks’ and they strive to do things that makes them ‘stand out from the crowd’, get people talking about them and telling others. They have established a ‘Dramatic Difference‘: “an unmatchable ‘bundle’ of products, services, skills, methods and practices that differentiate the business from its competitors”. It’s their original, quirky and fun over 1,900 products, and it is of course, John himself! His personality shines through in everything that he does and he works hard at ‘Demonstrating‘ that in his personal thank you videos, and his updates and news that are published online across a wide range of social media.
- What’s your ‘Dramatic Difference‘?
- Do you ‘Demonstrate‘ it in everything you do?
3D Characteristic #3: Create Delighted And Devoted Customers!
They strive to ‘Delight’ their customers in everything they do! From individual ‘thank you’ notes from John, and (at his insistence!) sweets in every delivery, they look to make the customer experience a very personal one! John also does personal ‘thank you videos’ to customers that contact him and mention him on social media.
- How do you ‘delight’ your customers?
- How do you do it consistently to create devoted customers?
3D Characteristic #4: Forget CRM, Think MCR! Maximise Your Customer Relationships!
3D Businesses have a total customer focus and are proactive (even obsessive!) in focusing their efforts and resources to demonstrate it, and John’s Crazy Socks are fantastic at this. They work hard at Maximising their Customer Relationships which means “proactively developing relationships that give the best to and get the best from the customers that they want”.
It’s all about engaging with their customers and creating ‘dialogue, not diatribes’. They work hard at ongoing engagement with their customers through things like their Sock Of The Month Club, their specialty gift boxes and bags, visits and tours of their offices and ongoing interaction on their Facebook page and social networks. They’ve created a real ‘community’ which they proactively stimulate and engage with and this creates large amounts of repeat business, referrals and recommendations.
- How do you ‘engage’ with your customers?
- Are you ‘maximising’ your customer relationships?
3D Characteristic #5: Create An UBER Culture!
A key driver for this business is their amazingly strong focus on making a social impact. Mark explained that they have built John’s Crazy Socks with a simple mission: Spreading Happiness! He went on to say “We have a social mission and an e-commerce mission and these twin missions are indivisible. Our social mission helps our e-commerce efforts and our e-commerce efforts supports our social mission. We believe it is not enough simply to sell things; we think it is important to have a mission and to give back”
Everything they do is designed to spread happiness and have built their business on four pillars:
- Inspiration & Hope: Demonstrating what people can do when given a chance
- Giving Back: We donate 5% of our earnings to the Special Olympics and our awareness and charity socks raise money for our charity partners
- Socks You Can Love: We have over 1,900 crazy sock styles
- Making It Personal: We want a personal connection with our customers.
It’s clear that they ‘live’ these values in everything they do, from recruiting people regardless of disability (provided they can demonstrate that they can ‘do the job’ – it’s part of the recruitment / induction process – as Mark emphasised to us ‘It’s got to make commercial sense to employ them’!)
The John’s Crazy Socks ‘culture’ is very tangible and it’s clear that customers experience that ‘culture’ simply by talking to and interacting with them, whether it’s by email, social media, on the telephone or face to face as we did!
- Does everyone in your business Understand your ‘values’?
- Are your systems and processes Built to support them?
- Are people Engaged, empowered and enabled to demonstrate them?
- Do you Reward and recognise those that do?
3D Characteristic #6: KeeP In Control!
3D Businesses establish a clear profit focus and get ownership of the ‘numbers’ at every level. It’s clear that this is a real driver at John’s Crazy Socks and has been since the beginning. When they first decided to go into business, they explored different ideas. A ‘fun store’ was John’s first idea, but unfortunately, they couldn’t find anything to sell profitably in it! They then decided on a food truck and started making plans until, as John explained to us, there was a problem… “We can’t cook!”
The next idea was socks! John had worn crazy socks all his life and so they set up a website and tested the idea of selling socks online and the response was very positive. Mark says, “We learned three things: 1: People want to buy socks, 2: People want to buy socks from John, 3: This young man and this old man can sell socks”
It’s clear when you listen to them, that they clearly have their ‘fingers on the pulse’ when it comes to the numbers. Yes, they are making a real social impact, but they are doing it ‘profitably’.
- How profit focused are you?
- Do you KeeP In Control with Key Performance Indicators that measure ‘the right things’?
3D Characteristic #7: InnovatiON!
John and his dad have a passion for generating new ideas and like all good 3D Businesses they ‘successfully exploit those new ideas’, both in terms of new products and the way they sell them. They are constantly on the lookout for sourcing more socks people can love, and that involves proactively getting ideas and suggestions from their customers by encouraging them to put forward those ideas.
John and Mark create time, systems and processes for making innovation work and recognise that ‘standing still’ actually means ‘going backwards’. As a result, they drive and develop their ‘Dramatic Difference‘ continuously. It’s clear that they don’t leave it to chance!
- Where do your ideas come from?
- What ‘processes and systems’do you have for innovatiON?
- How much time do you spend proactively developing it?
So, a great business that demonstrates that you can make a real difference and make a real profit. It was an honour to meet John, Mark and the John’s Crazy Socks team and we went away as both happy customers (yes, we bought lots of socks!) and happy people having met such a wonderful chap!
Keep ‘Spreading That Happiness’ John!