The Garrulous Jay – Go-Ahead Punks

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“What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.”
Ecclesiastes 1:9

The book of Ecclesiastes was written in c.450-200 BCE. According to Wikipedia this is 2650-3300 years after the first beer using barley was brewed in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran.

I am fascinated by innovation and the people who bring new ideas to market. What is striking, however, is how many entrepreneurs build their success on products and services that have been around for a very long time, sometimes millennia.

These individuals challenge the incumbent players in long-established markets by doing things differently or better than their competitors. 

Take James Watt and Martin Dickie, for example.
Watt & Dickie founded BrewDog, in Fraserburgh, in 2007. Anchored around their core product, Punk IPA, they have since built it into a brewing and pubs business with over 1,000 employees and operations on three continents…so far. The company’s five-point Charter includes: “we bleed craft beer” and “we blow shit up”, summarising their dedication to their core product and a missionary zeal to challenge others and themselves.

Among the many innovations adopted by the company are their decision to publish all of their beer recipes online, the purchase of 2,050 acres in the Scottish Highlands to support their commitment to being carbon negative, to fund much of their growth through issuing equity to their thousands of Equity for Punks private shareholders, and to give 20% of their profits each year to their staff and charity.

This shows that brilliant new businesses can be built in even the most established and intensely competitive markets. Success is driven by leaders who have an unwavering belief in their product or service and a determination to challenge industry norms, particularly if this is supported by an authentic commitment to clearly communicated values and a sense of mission among all their stakeholders.

With this as context, I am constantly mindful of both the threats and opportunities posed by innovation in the staid world of financial planning. Trends in technology and society are driving change, and those that welcome and harness this will thrive. The outlook for the rest will be less rosy.

* With thanks to Dudley Shippam for permitting me to use this photograph. All image rights reserved.