Ian Sanders - Writer and Marketing expert

[quote style=”boxed”]I’m interested in ‘unplanning;’ ditching a planned strategic approach  and embracing experimentation, discovery and curiosity to develop your idea, career or business. That and thinking plural, not being restricted by embracing one talent or skill but being multi-dimensional.[/quote]

Ian Sanders is a writer and marketing expert who helps businesses communicate ideas and get things done. Ian started his career in broadcasting while still in school and then worked in TV and radio production after graduating from university. Since 2000, he has been working for himself in a series of incarnations that have seen him advising media startups, delivering marketing solutions for brands including Benetton, launching a rock band and wrapping up his know-how into books. Ian’s career has been united by 3 factors: 1) an obsession with ‘doing,’ 2) a desire to be multi-dimensional and 3) using instinct and curiosity rather than strategy.

Passionate about soaking up and sharing ideas, Ian is the author of Leap! Ditch Your Job, Start Your Own Business and Set Yourself Free, Juggle! Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life and Zoom! The Faster Way To Make Your Business Idea Happen. His consultancy business helps clients communicate ideas, leveraging thought leadership to make businesses stand out from the crowd, making business propositions gettable and helping businesses compete on their story. Ian contributes to Monocle magazine’s audio channel, Monocle 24, where he interviews entrepreneurs. He has written columns for Management Today, The Financial Times and TomPeters.com.

Ian lives in Leigh-on-Sea, 40 miles east of London with his wife and 2 sons. As they will testify, Ian’s happiest in his natural habitat, the coffee shop, scribbling ideas with an espresso at his side.

What are you working on right now?

I just finished writing my fourth book, Mash-Up!, which will be out in September. I’m working with a number of businesses to help make their ideas gettable. This year I’ve also been contributing to Monocle magazine, interviewing people like IDEO’s Tom Hulme and Moo.com’s Richard Moross for the online radio channel, Monocle 24.  I’m also doing some promotions around my book, Zoom!

Where did the idea for Zoom! come from?

It all started with a session I co-hosted at SXSW in 2010 called ‘How To Unplan Your Business.’ We argued that anyone with a business idea should forget a detailed plan and just launch it. That grew into a booklet and then got the attention of a publisher who asked us to write what became Zoom! The Faster Way To Make Your Business Idea Happen.  It was also rather bizarrely aided by the UK’s 2010 volcanic ash cloud and a serendipitous meeting with Dave Stewart (long story, available on my blog).

What does your typical day look like?

I have 2 typical days: those in London and those in Leigh-on-Sea. London days start with thinking and scribbling on the train before meeting clients and contacts.  I usually hang out at The Hospital Club, a members club for the creative industries in London’s Covent Garden.  On Leigh-on-Sea days, I work out of a local coffee shop in the morning and from my home attic office in the afternoon.  A nomadic style of working suits me well.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I am curious, which often leads to cross pollination from one industry or trend to another. Making ideas happen requires 2 essential ingredients: self-belief and what us Brits call ‘hard-graft’. Belief that the idea will come to fruition and hard graft to get it launched.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I’m interested in ‘unplanning;’ ditching a planned strategic approach  and embracing experimentation, discovery and curiosity to develop your idea, career or business. That and thinking plural, not being restricted by embracing one talent or skill but being multi-dimensional.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I’ve been lucky, nothing’s been truly bad. One of my worst gigs was writing copy for a really dull technical website.  But it helped hone my writing skills and taught me the benefits of being a “can do” guy. I try and look on the bright side.  😉

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I guess I would have more confidence in finding my passion quicker and just getting on with it. Listening to my gut sooner.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Taking an inspiration break. Whether taking an hour out to go to an art gallery or 3 days to go to the South of France, I’ve found inspiration breaks immensely valuable for finding my mojo, getting inspired, writing my books or solving problems. After all, inspiration out relies on inspiration in.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?

We’ve all encountered a loss of business or a drying up of demand. My solution is to pivot and to slalom left or right in order to find new opportunities. Be agile and react rapidly to opportunities; don’t stick with a single fixed product or proposition if no-one’s buying!

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A gluten-free pizza delivery service, preferably within a 10 mile radius of my house, would be a winning idea!

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I’d love people to be more action-oriented to help address injustices like improving the plight of the world’s poor. Doing beats talking. Look at the work Bill Gates has done in eradicating disease in the developing world. Okay, he’s a billionaire but it’s about the attitude, not the dollars. Organizing an awareness campaign, lobbying politicians – let’s start DOing more and making a difference.

Tell us a secret.

Since I discovered I’m gluten intolerant, I’ve taken to squirreling emergency gluten-free snacks and supplies in my bag!

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  • Google Docs is invaluable for simultaneous collaboration. I couldn’t have co-written Zoom! with David Sloly without it.
  • Twitter  is unequalled for making connections, making discoveries and connecting the dots in my life.
  • I’m not a digital purist, I love analogue, too. I’m loving a product being developed by John Willshire called Artefact. It’s an ever so simple, yet effective system of blank cards to organize ideas, develop new ideas or tell stories.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Anything from my back catalogue: Leap!, Juggle! or Zoom!. Why? C’mon, a guy’s got to eat!

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

  • Melissa Pierce because connecting with her via Twitter got me my invitation to co-host a SXSW core conversation in 2009. She’s proof Twitter works. Oh, and she’s cool too.
  • Edward Boches, the chief innovation officer at Mullen, because he’s got some great insights on startups, marketing and digital. Even if you’re not in that space, there’s always lessons you can take to other industries.
  • The Do Lectures is a UK ideas festival that curates some great content.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I often laugh out loud at the amusing yet strangely insightful pronouncements of my 6 year old and 4 year old sons.

Who is your hero?

I don’t have a hero as such, but I admire Tom Peters enormously.  Tom’s books have always really spoken to me and when I’ve been professionally lost, they’ve been a great help in getting me back on track.

It seems like you’re very multi-dimensional; so how do you deal with the, “What do you do” question?

Too much emphasis is placed on the “what do you do” question. I thrive on plurality and love juggling different roles. Sometimes I’ll reply, “I’m a writer.” Other times, I’ll go with, “I help businesses communicate ideas.” I met Baratunde Thurston recently and loved his answer, “I just do ME!” So I’m going to steal that from now on.

What do you listen to while you’re working (and playing)?

Music is a great love of mine and we have great radio in the UK, particularly BBC radio. You’ll find me listening to BBC 6 Music for my music and BBC Radio 4 for news and talk. I love working to music; if I’m up against a deadline, I’ll choose something like the Chemical Brothers, Springsteen or Jay-Z to fuel me.  If I need a more laid back soundtrack, I’ll click on Joni Mitchell, Bill Evans or Kate Rusby.


Ian Sanders Website: www.iansanders.com
Ian Sanders on Twitter: @iansanders