[quote style=”boxed”]”Anyone can have a great idea. Though bringing them to life is a team sport.”[/quote]
Alex Caredes is a Co-founder of Mailbooks For Good, an innovation in book publishing which encourages book donations to charities via specially designed book jackets that turn into pre-addressed envelopes.
Alex is also Director of Business Development at Australia’s leading creative agency BMF.
When he’s not working with some of Australia’s most well known companies to help grow and develop their brands and products, Alex is passionate about finding new and innovative ways for BMF to help others benefit from the agency’s creativity and innovative ideas.
Alex joined the Australian Agency of the Decade, BMF, in 2007 and has since worked on some of the agencies most awarded work. He was recognized in the inaugural B&T 30 Under 30 list showcasing future industry leaders.
What are you working on right now?
On top of the business as usual, and day-to-day Adland goings on, Mailbooks For Good is a big focus. Mailbooks launched just a couple of months ago and the level of interest from all over the world is well beyond what we ever expected.We’ve had to take a few deep breaths and rethink our plan. Too many options was never one of the problems we anticipated, but it’s fantastic because we know every option means more books into the hands of people that need them.
Where did the idea for Mailbooks For Good come from?
At BMF, we believe strongly in fostering a creative environment and encourage staff to find innovative projects beyond the work we are asked do for clients. This has seen the agency create and support staff projects including photographic exhibitions such as As You Dreamt It, short films and other patented innovations such as Twignature for Amnesty International USA,which was used to help put pressure on President Barack Obama to sign a robust UN Arms Trade Treaty. BMF firmly believes in the power of creativity to help do good where it’s needed. We run a program called BMF Heart which encourages staff to donate time, money and creative thinking to charities and NFP organizations. The Footpath Library was identified by some of our staff as an outstanding organization that we’d love to help, and so we worked on developing a range of ideas that we thought would appeal to them. Mailbooks was one of these ideas. Figuring out the logistics, the prototyping, refining the design and the concept took about six months.
How do you make money?
The Mailbooks For Good innovation is available freely to Non-For-Profits and Charitable organizations all over the world.
What does your typical day look like?
I’m an early riser. Though it wasn’t by choice at the beginning, mostly triggered by the dreaded to-do list for the day, or on the more pleasant occasion it was a great idea that just couldn’t wait. These days I’m up and off for the morning walk before six. There is something about the rising sun and fresh air that prepares you for the day ahead, whatever it holds. Then it’s home, coffee and a cab into the office. Every day is different at BMF, which keeps it interesting and exciting. There is usually a couple of new business pitches going through so checking that everything is on track is good to get out of the way early. Then there is another coffee and getting up to speed on what’s happened in the world while I was sleeping. It’s too easy to get the blinkers on and forget there is the whole rest of the world out there, staying in touch with current event and news gives everything context, but it’s important to get a variety of sources. Meetings, meetings, meetings and bite to eat (unless it’s a Friday, when I don’t mind a beer as well). With a bit of a floating role in the Agency, I try and find a couple of things each day that can add value to a current project going through. Sometimes these make sense! Several times a week I have a coffee with people who BMF doesn’t have a direct relationship with, like new companies in the market, new technology providers, and innovators that I just want to find out more about and better understand how they tick. I go through more business cards than most. When I’m not working late in the office, I’m off to the gym. Lots of my friends go to the same place, so it’s a great opportunity to see what’s going on in their worlds. Not that we can talk much over the huffing and puffing. A quick change and I’m off to dinner with my wonderful girlfriend. Usually in trouble for constantly checking emails at the table, back home and some quiet time with a book on the iPad.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Anyone can have a great idea. Though bringing them to life is a team sport. BMF operates in Project Teams. With a core group of three or four people with the specific skills required on anyone project. No idea is the same as the last, so why should the same types of people be required? Too often businesses try to do different things with the same people over and over again with the same process and expectations.This handpicked team with their own specialties and experiences are then supported by over 70 diverse roles within the agency, brought in as and when required. When a great idea gets up, the whole agency benefits, so everyone’s always keen to chip in and help. Mailbooks was born through this very same approach.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The melting pot that is art and science, creativity and data. Collaboration between the arts and sciences has the potential to create new knowledge, ideas and processes that improve both fields. Artists and scientists approach creativity, exploration and research in different ways and from different perspectives; when working together they open up new ways of seeing, experiencing and interpreting the world around us. At BMF, we’re incredibly lucky to have both sides of the coin, with a world-class creative department and our own Marketing Sciences division. Watching these two traditional foes working in harmony, finding new and innovative ways to approach and optimize the communications world is really exciting to be around.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job I ever had, was probably also the best job I ever had. I couldn’t get a job the Account Management department of any of the big Agencies in Sydney. I worked for free and they still didn’t want to keep me around. An office junior role popped up and I took it. Washing dishes, distributing the mail, fetching lunch, cleaning up, stacking fridges, washing dishes, doing the mail, fetching lunch, cleaning up; it never stopped. But after a few weeks, I started to realise that I was beginning to understand the pulse of the agency better than people who had been there for years. Like who was in charge, and who was really in charge. The way to get things done, and the way to get things done fast. Plus there was all the face time with the senior management, the morning chats and advice that many others would have killed for. When I eventually transitioned into an Account Executive role, I felt like I knew many of the inside lines and secrets that you get from many more years in the business.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Never stop looking for new ideas. And, don’t keep your ideas to yourself. A favorite pastime is brainstorming at the pub. We call it Beerstorming, you’d be amazed how many cracking ideas follow a few beers. The best ideas come when you are relaxed and in an environment where you are comfortable, whether it’s the back seat of a cab, a couch in a lobby, or just walking the streets on the way to a meeting. Bashing your head against a wall in a meeting room, forcing something to appear seldom works. If you have all the information, and some time to let it simmer, they will come. But it is also just as important to have a sounding board. Someone you can trust to give you their opinion, and not run off with it or make fun of it. Nobody thinks their baby is ugly; it’s the same with ideas.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I underestimated the difficulty in bringing the idea to life. When I first started exercising my entrepreneurial side, I really thought that getting the idea was the hard part, and that a great idea would just happen. I now know it’s the other way round. And I only know that having tried many times over with a bunch great ideas that have still never seen the light of day. I think that having the determination to keep on pushing on something you believe in, no matter what, only comes from experience. But it’s also important to know when to pivot. I’m not saying you should quit, but you learn to park something sometimes until the conditions are better suited, or you find the time and calm to be able to let the solution find you.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The Beerstorm app. It is just like a regular note taking app, but has a bunch of cool features that improve your ability to articulate those great ideas you have at the pub. We all know the best ideas happen over a few beers!
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
Working on the Mailbooks project, I’m becoming increasingly aware of the issues with literacy in the world. Access to books and reading material is one issue, but education is the other bigger challenge. There are just too many holes in the system. Everyone should have the opportunity of education, but for my mind the education system is far to regiment and one-size-fits-all. If the entrepreneurial spirit could be encouraged sooner, imagine the progress we could make if going from high school into a technology and business incubator was an option.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I was in the choir in year six at school
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Shazam – what on earth did we do without it?
Rossignol ski pursuit app – there are no more disputes as to who is faster on the slopes. I am.
Investorville – admittedly a project close to my heart. Investorville was the world’s first investment property simulator. We developed the platform for Commonwealth Bank; it uses real property and suburb data to simulate the investment property market. It was such a good idea; it even got me into the market.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
It’s not a book, but a movie. It’s called “Objectified” and impressed upon me the importance of experience design. To my point earlier, it is another example of art and science meeting to make things better.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Guy Kawasaki – Because Apple was his start not his finish
Ilya Pozin – Ilya has a strong opinions on big issues
IDEO – not one person but many very smart people worth following
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I always laugh out loud. Much to the displeasure of the surrounding people at work. I laugh at myself, all the best-of Fail compilations on Youtube, and pretty much anything even mildly amusing.
Who is your hero, and why?
It’s a trio. Nathan Blecharczyk, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia; the airbnb founders. Because they had an idea, it was bigger than anyone could have imagined, and they made it happen. Anyone (or company) could have had their idea, but to have the determination to change how people travel the world and make it a reality is the stuff dreams are made of.
What do you believe is the single most exciting innovation in the market at the moment and why?
eCRM and other Connected Marketing platforms like Neolane. The way they are able to listen to and observe the myriad of human interactions (real world and online) and combine that data with transactions, product trials and propensity modeling is just scary. In a few years it will be impossible to unpick why we bought something, but there would no doubt be a thousand well-placed, unobtrusive interactions that just “happened” on the path to purchase.
Alex Caredes’ Email – [email protected]
Alex Caredes on Twitter – @Careshnikov
Alex Caredes on LinkedIn – au.linkedin.com/in/alexcaredes
Alex Caredes’ Company Website:
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.