Sunday, 9 December 2007

Differences of Opinion

Interesting as always to read the differences in opinion that media articles about me draw. Today's Sunday Times piece is no exception.

First, a negative email received this morning (what is it about being on TV that de-humanises you to the point people think they have the right to send you whatever nasty messages they feel like writing?)

"Hi Rachel

Have just read your piece in the ST...

Glad to hear you are getting back on your feet instead of your bike so to speak.

I was an avid viewer of the Dragons Den...I say in the past tense for a very good reason.

The main protagonists in this series...always appeared to be the most arrogant , conceited bunch of individuals.( including your good self)

My question to you is the following;

Was I being duped by a TV drama or was in fact the behavior of the so called judges on the program true to life ?

If the behavior pattern was true to life...( As I suspect it was) then you have learnt a lesson that should stand, somebody of your intelligence in good stead for a long time to come.


The second, a really nice supportive message received later today:

"I just read Rachel Bridge’s article in today’s Sunday Times. Thanks for sharing with us again the emotion you felt during your battle to save Red Letter Days. I don’t doubt that anyone one of us would have done anything else in the circumstances.

I hope that your experience will eventually reverse the view that people have about business ‘failure’ (whatever that means). I hope in some way that as we develop as a nation of enterprise, we will all learn that the path is not as straight as some would have us believe and when we take the wrong turn because of our errors of judgment that it’s all part of our walk down that path. I hope that we will all learn that real failure only happens when we refuse to bounce back and try again because we have been so scarred by our experience fear has taken over.

I’ve struggled with the word failure particularly in the context of Rachel Elnaugh and Red Letter Days. To me the success has been the rise and development of your company, the fact that you pioneered a whole sector and the fact that you run the company successfully for 16 years. You didn’t fail Rachel – you took a wrong turn, you made the wrong decision (and even that is debatable). The real failures are the people who refuse to see the success of your achievement and the legacy that will remain with us for a long long time. I don’t think we need to wait for your obituary before we appreciate that.

As for things happening for a reason – you are absolutely right and as you say you are seeing a lot of value in what you are doing now. Somewhere in your epitaph the words ‘successful entrepreneur’ ‘legacy’ and ‘altruistic’ should appear. You name will always be engraved in business history Rachel and I’m sure you’ll be remembered for turning the tide not simply the so called failure of Red Letter Days."

One of the things I have learned post RLD (apart from those business lessons mentioned in the article) is that people's reaction is usually a mirror of the person who has written it. Nasty people feel the need to say nasty things; positive people always look for it in everything they say and do.

Thank God for the positive people!

Enjoy your Sunday.



Stephen said...

Dear Rachel,

As you know - Business is full of self-interested people - whether they say nice things or nasty things. Always has been - always will be. What the path to (so called) failure taught me was that we are all essentially alone in this world and that more importantly - we must take our ques from our own inner spirit. In that circumstance - it doesn't matter what other people say.
Problem comes when you lose your baby (and your spirit with it). I have spent 6 years grieving in the wilderness myself - but i know i will find it again. Don't ask me how. I just know.

Love & Light

Rachel Elnaugh said...

Funny that Stephen, I have just idly tuned in to the Biography Channel to hear Donny Osmond talking about the '80's as his 'wilderness decade' - he lost all his Osmond's money at the end of the '70s as a result of some bad investments.

At one point, Michael Jackson (then riding high on Thriller, before his own 'wilderness years' kicked in) advised him the only thing to do was change his name.

But he didn't, he just kept going and finally reinvented his career via the chance offer of 'Joseph'.

I guess we all have wilderness years - and these are the times when we actually learn and grow the most.

Best wishes


Stephen said...

Yes, in amongst the rubble of self-delusion, fame, hope, fear and fortune - i found a child.

This child let others take the responsibility for once. This child didn't wear armour anymore. Didn't have to always be right.
This child just was.

Looking forward to seeing you reinvent "Red Letter Days" mark 2 someday. You can take the company away from the brand - but you should never take the brand away from the company. Its just not good business.

Ian said...

I usually find that the people who shout "failure" at others have never tested themselves to that point.
What is life without the challenge?

Stephen said...

Divorcing the Brand from the Company : Not good for business?

She built a multi-million empire over a period of some sixteen years. She was the brand - she was the player. Then in one brief moment in time, her adventure was over. She was cast adrift from the apparatus of her own success. Thrown off the stage. Seemingly never to return.

Some years later, in amongst the rubble of self-delusion, fame, hope, fear and fortune - she found a child. This child let others take the responsibility for once. This child didn't wear armour anymore. Didn't have to always be right. This child just was.

One day this child came to her and said - why don't you begin again? Why don't you just be you?

Upon hearing the child, she remembered who she was and decided to be herself again. And so it was that she built a new company, much bigger and more successful than the last. In fact it did so well, it put her first company out of business.

You can take the company away from the brand - but you should never take the brand away from the company. Its just not good business.

Daran said...

Why is there still talk off RLD’s being a failure? It hasn't failed. The company is still running isn't it? People are still enjoying the experience of Rachel’s creation aren't they? Pretty successful I'd say.

So the company had a few problems (which business doesn't) but if the concept were a 'failure' it would have stopped trading years ago.

Let's not forget, Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple a few years back, with Apple facing bankruptcy. Like a true entrepreneur, Steve continued on besides his 'failings", pick himself up, learnt a few lessons along the way and returned to Apple and transformed the company to the one we know today.... and make the doubters eat their words for his ‘failings’ (not mentioned now for some reason!)

Most entrepreneurs make mistakes, learn and pick themselves up and start again on their goal for success, whatever it is. Its one of the formulas of success, as James Dyson says, failure and mistakes are good. We don't learn to walk without falling down a couple of times.

From you entry 're-defining success", I agree, 'success' is a personal matter but I get the impression Rachel that you haven't found it and won't be happy until you find it.

Whatever is stopping you moving on to be a ‘success’, tackle this issues now, move on and go for it. You’ve got to much experience and skills to waste... Your 'success' will be the inspiration for others to follow!

Stephen said...

Whole-heartedly agree Daran.
That's why i thought Theo and Peter looked like a couple of wallies standing next to that car.

They might have bought the company - but their one big over-sight was that they don't own the brand.


Two types of entrepreneur in my mind. Those that build brands and those that are just parasites. I know which one i'd rather invest in!

Rachel Elnaugh said...


Thanks so much for your comments.

In amongst all the positive feedback I've actually received a couple of really really nasty emails over the past 24 hours.

Which has come as a shock as 99.9% of my mailbag these days is positive - or where it is criticism at least it is positive constructive criticism (which I welcome, as I value feedback greatly).

So it is great to read your positive comments on my Blog today.

Yes Daran/Stephen, actually you are right - if Theo and Peter had invested in me, backing me to run the business (or at least continue with my brand/marketing work while they helped me strengthen the Ops/Finance side of the Board), instead of waiting until it went in to administration to gain 100% control and then putting a bean counter in as CEO, they would probably not be sitting on a £7.1 million loss right now.

Instead, together we could have fulfilled my dream of floating it - and they would have made many £millions.

And do you know I would have done that for a happy salary plus a small equity stake, just to see my baby fly.

But life goes on...


bluemonkey said...

Here's one for a difference of opinion, I find good feedback rather bland and (constructive) negative feedback far more useful and interesting. There's many types of negative feedback, but the 'good kind' of negative feedback changes things.

Deran, Steve Jobs is indeed a true entrepreneur, but he regularly sacked his most loyal and hard working staff who had families to feed for no reason other than to stroke his ego. His career is riddled with questionable business ethics. He was also the reason for Apple failing because he refused to accept that his ideas (and new Apple machines) weren't what people wanted. Although I idolise him, a lot of people lost their jobs (no pun intended) due to his lack of consideration towards others and the marketplace.

Rachel, other than the book which you're writing, do you have any other businesses/business ideas/business plans for the future?

Anne Herbert said...

Interesting comment about good and negative feedback. To my mind feedback is feedback and serves to provide an affirmation that what one is doing is right or points out areas for improvement (what we call constructive criticism) or at the very least seeks to pinpoint where things went wrong. So is there then really such a thing as negative feedback? Just food for thought.
What we have seen since the issues with Red Letter Days became public has been a personal attack on Rachel, some of which has been downright abuse and you have to ask yourself what purpose that serves.
Many of the people who've attacked her have very few credentials to speak of. By credentials I mean a proven record in the business world with good stories to tell of their successes and not so successful paths and the decisions they made which has brought them to their current positions.
Even so, I would not expect that even those with impecable credentials have a right to take a moral high ground. I would expect them to be magnanimous in their criticism having reflected on their own journey and showing some appreciation for how difficult this can be. For those who have no credentials I would expect them simply to keep their mouths shut!

Anne Herbert

Mr Robot said...

Hi Anne, i don't think anyone really dispises Rachel, what they do dispise is her public image - and that is only really because of her time on Dragons Den. How can you dispise someone you don't really know anyway?

So what they dispise - is really an illusion anyway - and that makes them stupid!

As for those who say nice things about Rachel - who knows where they're coming from.........

Trust in your gut instinct every time......... Which even that deserts you at times......

Anne Herbert said...

Quite right Mr Robot. Hopefully we can learn to re-align our vision and see that the illusion and the reality are one and the same and you can't attack one without affecting the other. We are after all human.
Not so sure it's our gut instinct that let us down though. Sometimes it's the people we trust isn't it?
Hope you all have a good weekend

Mr Robot said...

You are human, but your persona is artificial. One needs to realise that the persona can be damaged beyond all recognition, but your essential self is never damaged. "unless you deem it to be so of course".

It is only by undergoing difficulties in life - do you realise that persona and essential self are two. (a gift from God).

One is tempted to enquire "what it was that founded Red Letter Days, Persona or essential self?

Which is the most significant... A Brand built in the spirit of authenticity and sincerity - or one that was just thrown together by a bunch of persona-driven types, who would sooner eat each other - than build a brand that is significant and truly representative of themelves.

I feel sorry for those in business who have never given themselves the opportunity to build such a brand.

Anonymous said...

Rachel writes: "Nasty people feel the need to say nasty things; positive people always look for it in everything they say and do."

Is this the same Rachel who bitches throughout this blog page about the Dragons' Den cast?

Or is that OK to do because they didn't want her back on the show?

A free curry to all those who write in with correct answers.