Why the best entrepreneurs are ‘Charlie Sticks’?

Learning from a simple roof build.

We go through life trying to show everyone how indispensable we are. Then something happens to show us that we are not. And, it’s a tough lesson to have to learn. But, as painful as it is, it’s an important life lesson. Because once you have learnt it, everything is different after that point.

Instead of building businesses around you, you start to build them around the central thing you want to change. The job of the charismatic entrepreneur is to build a team around the mission.

This is the real job of the entrepreneur. They have to find the right people. And, then go and get them on board. The future team have to be inspired to leave what they are doing. They have to feel that they are about to do their ‘life’s work’.

The whole success of the mission will depend on who joins the team, and just as crucially, why they are joining it. Because a team built around a strong desire to change something is a hard one to stop.

The best entrepreneurs build teams. They build them around the thing they want to change. And the team knows how to stay true because everyone on the team knows what true is. And ultimately, the best entrepreneurs build teams so strong that the business won’t fall down when they leave.

Indeed, The best entrepreneurs are ‘Charlie Sticks’.


An example from the building industry.

A reciprocal roof is a beautiful and simple self-supporting structure that can be composed of as few as three rafters, and up to any imaginable quantity. Reciprocal roofs require no center support, and they are quick to construct. They are extremely strong. So they are perfect for round buildings and for living roofs too.

To start building a reciprocal roof, you will have to first install a temporary central support that holds the first rafter at the correct height. The first rafter is called ‘The Charlie Stick”.

The ‘Charlie Stick’ supports the entire structure. Each new pole rests on the last for support. Then, once the last pole is in, the ‘Charlie Stick’ can be very gently taken away. Your roof will now bear its own weight.

The ‘Charlie Stick’ did its job.

A gobstopper has layers. So does the best selvedge.

As you suck a gobstopper, it reveals the next layer underneath. And as odd as it sounds, so does the very best Selvedge denim. That’s because the best selvedge is hand dipped many, many times. Alas, not all Selvedge is born the same.Some are dyed with a chemical dye. It’s quick, efficient and cost effective. There’s nothing wrong with it.

But one rule we have at Hiut Denim Co is work with the best. So we persuaded the iconic Japanese mill ‘Kuroki’ to supply us. They are world renowned for their ‘Genuine indigo dyed’ Selvedge. Our Kuroki Selvedge is dyed no less than 10 times.

Natural indigo dying is an extremely laborious and costly process. The cotton is dipped in the indigo prior to being shuttle woven. And it is dipped repeatedly. The more dips it has, the darker the cotton will be.

And after all that painstaking hard work, when you compare a natural dyed jean and a synthetic one, there would be very little to tell them apart. But under the surface, the story is different.

A machine dyed indigo dye only “clings” to the surface of the cotton yarn (leaving a white core). But a bona-fide indigo hand-dyed denim cotton deeply penetrates right down to the center of the yarn. As a result, hand-dyed denim will not only fade more slowly, but more beautifully.

Its layers will be revealed over time. Like, you know what…

Sprint. Then do nothing.

How we work generally is counter to how we work best as humans. What we generally do is to keep slogging at something until it is done. We plod, we endure, but we definitely don’t rest until this darn thing is finished.

It is much more a marathon than a sprint. And my hunch is for a lot of that marathon we are tired out, we lose concentration and we aren’t at our most creative.

We would be much better off if we learnt the art of sprinting. Short intense bursts of work, followed by a good period of rest.

Let me take you through the example that persuaded of this: An experiment in the 1940’s measured men loading pig iron onto a train freight cars at The Bethlehem Steel Company. Each man didn’t stop until they managed 12 1/2 tons. By noon, they were exhausted and could do no more.

The next day, they were told to load the pig iron for 26 minutes. Then rest for 34 minutes. They rested more than they worked. At the end of the day, they had loaded 47 tons. That’s almost 4 times as much as working flat out.

It feels counter intuitive, but sprinting intensely followed by a good rest will deliver better results than plodding along relentlessly.

I took this thinking to get fitter by using sprints. Some background: I run. I like to run. It keeps me fit. It reduces mountains and turns them into molehills. I like that. But the way I have been doing it for years wasn’t getting me fit. I had reached a certain point of no more gain. I was maintaining but not going forward.

I was running 3-4 times a week. (20-25 mins in the week. 45-55 mins on the weekend.) Then I tried something different. I did less but got fitter. Who would have thought, huh? I would sprint for 60 seconds. Then run for 20 mins. Then sprint for 60 seconds at the end. Then on the weekend do a 60 minute run with 3 X 60 seconds sprints. My fitness advanced. I can just feel it. It is called High Intensity Training. The body needs to be pushed. It needs peaks. But it needs rest too. And the rest period is as important as the peaks. So now rather than running at a steady pace for an hour, I use sprints to make me fitter and run less.

As creative people we should learn to work in sprints, and, this is the hardest part, then learn how to take rests in between the sprints. We need to learn the importance of doing nothing.That’s the hard bit. Because we have been trained to think that putting all the hours in is the best way to get things done.

But, maybe. just maybe, there is a better way.

Don’t rely on just being the best.

I was doing a presentation to a famous department recently. I told them all about our town, and how it used to make jeans. They got it. They took a look at the jeans, and they turned around to me and said ‘these are the best made jeans they had seen in years’.

Given they sold pretty much every denim brand you can think of, it was a nice compliment. But, a few months after that meeting, they still hadn’t bought any jeans from us. But I wasn’t surprised.

Our rivals may make an inferior quality jean compared to ours in terms of quality and craftsmanship, but they have other things going for them: They are more well-known than us, they have more history than us, they have a bigger marketing budget than us.

So for us, just being the best is not going to be enough for us to win. Yes, we have over 150 years of experience of making jeans, and we make one of the highest quality handmade jeans on the planet. And yes, our natural indigo dyed selvedge is made by Kuroki who hand dip it 10 times until the dye gets to the very core of the cotton, so they age as beautifully as a jean possibly can.

All this puts us up there with the very best. But the harsh reality is that it isn’t enough for us to win. And winning means: To get 400 people their jobs back.

That is why right from the start we knew it would come down to our ideas. We would have to come up with ideas that challenge the Status Quo of an industry that had its most innovative day back in 1886.

Our ideas will be how we build our company. Our ideas will be how we get people their jobs back.

The good news is we are based down here on the far western edge of Britain.

There are few, if any, distractions.

Coming Soon.

Denim Breaker Club

Meet The Makers - Factory Open Day - April 5th.

Twice a year we will have a factory open day. 

You will get to meet the Grand Masters.

You can find out the art of cutting denim.

You can find out what our plans are for the coming year.

You can tell us how to get better.

You can buy our latest cuts.

You can also buy our factory seconds and returns at a crazy good price.

So come along, we will put the kettle on.

Don't blame me for the choice of music, it's beyond my control.

Meet the Makers Day – April 5th. 10am -1pm.

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If you like ideas, it will inspire you.