I’ve been cultivating a business relationship with one of the gnomes in Victoria Park for the past few months. It all started when I was walking through the park on my way to a conference on digital transformation at the University. I wasn’t in any sort of rush; I can quite honestly say that I’m across the topic of digital transformation – even digital disruption – so I wasn’t worried about missing any of the conference. As I was wandering through the park, I came across a little circle of mushrooms, in which appeared a little gnome with a puff of smoke. The gnome introduced himself as Clodwick, and asked if I could proffer but a few copper coins to see him do his gnome dance. I’ve always liked to consider myself a patron of the arts, so I tossed him some spare change and watched him dance. He did a little jig for a minute or two, humming himself a tune in his high, nasal little voice, eventually finishing with a flourish. Then Clodwick asked if I wanted to pay any more money for a dance lesson, which I wasn’t interested in – to be honest his dance wasn’t great, and any charm it did have was dependent on the unique visual quality of his short, stumpy form.
That being said, I’ve been in business long enough to develop an eye for opportunity, and I could tell this gnome had an entrepreneurial spirit.
“Clodwick,” I said, “I’m not interested in your dance lessons. But I am interested in mentoring you and cultivating a business relationship. How does that sound?”
Well, Clodwick was thrilled, so thrilled that he started doing his jig again before I stopped him. I told him I had to head to the conference, but I gave him my business card and told him to get in touch. A couple of days later, my personal assistant dropped the mail off at my desk, and amongst the usual invoices and such was an oak leaf which Clodwick had written an introduction email on. He asked if I’d like to get a coffee with him to connect. Little more than a couple of days after that, I was in a cafe with Clodwick, him with several phonebooks beneath him to bring him up to table height.
I asked Clodwick what his revenue streams were, and he told me about his current ventures. He made most of his money from his gnome dance, he explained, but he has difficulty converting customers to dance lessons. He also made hats from acorns to sell to his fellow gnomes, but there’s not a huge market for acorn hats at the moment, so his income from that is limited. Finally, he told me about his shoe repair business. This seemed promising until he told me that he actually doesn’t get paid for that at all – he just sneaks into cobblers’ workshops overnight and fixes shoes for them without charge. I sat back and stroked my chin and nodded at everything Clodwick had told me. It seemed like a textbook case of an entrepreneurial mindset being bogged down by lack of mentorship – and I wanted to help him.
First and foremost, he needed to re-engineer his business model. All his different revenue streams were just too disparate. Worst of all was his shoe repair gig – it simply wasn’t going to pay dividends if he kept doing it for free. Fortunately, I knew a sure-fire way to turn any business profitable.
“Clodwick,” I said, “you’re going into the consultancy business.”
After a marathon scrum session, with synergy firing on all cylinders, the caterpillar that was the Toadstool Forest Dance and Shoe Company emerged from its cocoon as a wondrous butterfly: Equinox Footwear Consulting LLC. From there it was a piece of cake – Equinox provided high-quality advice regarding footwear design, production, and repair to its customers, and a viral LinkedIn post about ‘The Dancing Gnome CEO and the Power of Gratitude’ meant that the customers started pouring in. Over time, Equinox expanded into more industries – acorn hat construction, gnome dance lessons, and now, with the breaking of ground for the Toadstool Forest open-cut lithium mine beginning soon, resources. Business is booming, and Clodwick is happier than ever. It just goes to show how far an entrepreneurial spirit can take you with the right mentor.