Author Archives: Julian Stubbs

What is e-ployment?

It’s not employment. It’s not freelancing. It’s something else.

E-ployment is new way of working in the cloud that uses the advantages offered by modern digital technology combined with a growing entrepreneurial spirit around the world. It combines the benefits of self-employment with the advantages of working as part of a team in a real company. You get the best of both worlds, as the saying goes.

No Employees, No Offices, Just People.

Look at the major costs of running a creative or strategic services agency. It comes down to two big items: people and offices. When times get tough, as they do in increasingly regular cycles in our business, adjusting these two items is difficult and expensive. Imagine a structure where those two costs are vastly minimised. Consider the most important element that our clients really value: the people they work with. But people working in a structured and co-ordinated way together, with common systems, tools and standards.   AT UP THERE EVERYWHERE, we decided not to have any employees – we have members. We have a Leadership Team that meets weekly by Skype, eight people from three countries and two continents, who give a weekly business update and take key decisions. Like a traditional bricks and mortar organisations, you can’t just join us. Over the past three years we have developed strict recruitment routines, systems and contracts that work for our model. We’re not talking about crowd sourcing either – a long way from it. Crowd sourcing is closer to outsourcing and, in our opinion, just a short sighted way of shedding costs that does not add long term value to the creative industries or even the clients.

A new way of working

So the future we believe is one where individuals will take responsibility for themselves, their lives and their own employment. These community organisations will provide structure, tools and a brand presence. People will work within teams that are globally connected and provide many aspects of the support of traditional employment, with the freedom of being an independent worker. All this is enabled via cloud based productivity tools. People will work within these global communities that will help them win work, and invest in ever more sophisticated tools that improve productivity as well as track admin efficiently. They are not employed — they are e-ployed.   More on E-Ployment here and download a free chapter of the book E-Ployment Living & Working in the Cloud:

Public Speaking: Ten Things to Stop Doing

Julian Stubbs is founder and CEO of UP THERE, EVERYWHERE the world’s first global cloud based agency. He travels about 120 days a year and is a public speaker on a variety of subjects. More on Julian at www.upthereeverywhere.com or go to You Tube for some of his presentations.  

All of us at some point in life have to stand up in front of other people and make some sort of presentation. That’s just the way it is. Whether it’s only a verbal presentation to a few people or a Ted Talk with cameras and a larger audience, there are some simple things to remember that will help you make as strong a presentation as possible.

Ok, you’ve just been invited to make a presentation and the fear starts to set in. Well, don’t panic. According to my Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I’m a 100% confirmed introvert, so not someone who naturally enjoys public speaking. However that doesn’t necessarily mean I can’t stand on a stage and give a speech—in fact I’ve done it hundreds of times and have survived, and so can you. The most important thing is to prepare correctly, practice and then stick to a few simple rules. These are the focus of this blog. They are the rules I’ve lived by and they seem to work for me.  

1. Don’t reach for a computer right away.

My first rule is don’t reach for the computer first. Plan in analog. Get a plain sheet of paper or better still, a large flip chart, and map out what you want to cover in your presentation. I’m a digital nut, but the computer can come out later as you start to build the actual slide deck.

2. Don’t start with detail – start with an idea. 

The most important part of any speech or presentation is an idea, not detail. Detail is there to support the idea and I see too many people who think that just simply presenting lots of data and facts makes for a great, engaging, presentation. It doesn’t. It starts with a good idea.

3. Don’t focus on too many things. The rule of three.

A presentation is a story, so think of it that way. You are telling a story and like all good stories there is a beginning, a middle and an end. Build three parts to your presentation and start to decide how you will structure it into these three sections. Doing this makes it much easier for the audience to remember the salient points and helps them structure in their own minds what you are talking about.

4. Don’t use bullets on slides (repeat this statement 10 times).

If there is one thing that puts me, or just about any audience to sleep rapidly, it’s slides covered in bullet points. You see people’s eyes glaze over as presenters show a long bulleted list of things they will be talking about. Too often presenters use a bullet point list to remind themselves of the points they are hoping to talk about, which really means the presenter is not well rehearsed enough. Humans don’t engage with bullet point lists. We engage with stories (more on this later). Instead, aim to make your slides visually interesting and appealing. Use single words or at most a phrase or single image on a slide to support what you are talking about and never just clutter your slides with ‘stuff’. Big simple words and images work best. One practice I always stick to is dissection. Once I think I have a presentation ready, I try to go through it again and take away even more words or images. Keep things simple,

5. Don’t talk about what you want. Talk about what your audience wants. 

Any good presenter knows that focusing on what the audience wants to get out of it is key. Always get advanced information about your audience, and put yourself in their shoes. Try to imagine what they want to get from your presentation and what is going to make it a great presentation from their point of view. There will be certain points you need to cover, so think about where you will cover these in the presentation, and the evidence and facts you have to support these points.       SBR Volvo ocean race Julian Stubbs

6. Don’t discombobulate (don’t use difficult words).

A common mistake I see in presentations is that people use overly complex or obscure language. It just confuses people. One way of getting an audience to remember your presentation is to use simple everyday language and powerful big numbers. Use fun and interesting words that add that extra punch. Too many business presenters hide behind complex terms and phrases, and this doesn’t help their presentation or get the audience to engage with it. When using numbers, keep it simple and add context so the audience can better understand what the numbers mean. I recently gave a Ted talk about the benefits of remote working and working from home, and wanted to talk about how much time I used to waste every day that I sat in a car. I didn’t just want to state the number of hours per day, which was 2 hours per day. I wanted to really communicate what that meant in context. So I talked about the 18 days a year I was wasting, which is equivalent to more than a two-week holiday. Give your numbers a human scale.

7. Don’t just hope it will be all right on the day. Practice!

We all know that practice makes perfect, and this is never more true than when it comes to making a presentation. Once you’ve got your draft presentation ready, rehearse with yourself and talk it through. See if the words come out easily and where there are complexities you need to navigate. I tend to practice talking out loud and even time the presentation. Whenever I start practicing a new presentation, it sounds awful – but that’s why you practice! I then typically ‘rehearse’ parts of my presentation in conversation with friends to test out my arguments to see if they hold up under discussion. Finally, I run through the whole presentation with close friends, or my wife, who can give honest, critical, feedback. In the TedX speaker’s guide they list the most important elements in making a great Ted talk. And top of the list is rehearsal. So know your subject and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. 8. Don’t just assume…check the technology. My biggest actual fear in making a presentation is technology not working. So I always check that the technology works. Confirm that the films play, slides animate correctly, and sound is working. Don’t just assume it will work. Have a run through: check the projector, and that the slides look good, check the sound system if you have one as well as any other technology like remote controls or pointers. And even once you have done all that, be prepared for disaster. I’ve been in those situations. Once I was giving a presentation in Phoenix, Arizona, to around 250 people and, despite there being two technicians present, the computer system crashed as I walked out on stage.  (They were using a PC running PowerPoint. Since that day, I have always insisted on using my own Apple Macintosh computer running Keynote as the presentation program). But in spite of the technical issues, I managed to cope as I had prepared for a verbal version of the presentation using notes I’d written on cards – just in case. I keep the cards tucked away in my pocket as a final back up. So never assume everything will just work.

9. Don’t keep looking at the slides, your finger nails or your laser pointer or anything else except the audience.

One of the worse nervous habits some people have is to stare out into space or at anything except the audience. One very senior executive I know has the habit of examining in detail the remote control in his hand to avoid making eye contact with the audience. So, look the audience in the eyes and don’t even look at your own slides. It will make you look awkward. Know you material well enough to make eye contact with your audience and engage them throughout. Even try to build in some two- way dialogue where possible with your audience.

10. Finally – you don’t have a Boa constrictor wrapped around you. So breathe! 

Boa constrictors kill their prey by wrapping around them and squeezing tighter every time their prey lets out a breath Some people, when they’re presenting, seem to have the same problem. So don’t forget to breathe! Before you walk on stage or stand up, take a couple of good deep breaths and compose yourself. When you are talking, take a moment every now and again and make sure you are not rushing. Slow things down – it’s not a race. Even when giving a Ted talk, and the 18-minute clock is counting down in front of you, remember to take pauses. It allows you to breath naturally. Pace is so important. Taking those pauses makes you look more in control and confident as a speaker, and lets you breathe. If it’s a larger audience, say over 200, try to pick out a few people around the room to use as focal points, covering all areas of the audience. It helps make you look more animated. So those are my personal ten important points to consider when giving a presentation. And remember, most people in the audience want you to give a great presentation – so they are sympathetic. Smile, be yourself and genuinely engage with them on a human level. They will appreciate it. Good luck!    

‘Open the window and stick your head out occasionally.’

Sweden, like most other civilised nations, has a national weather service. They go by the name SMHI or, to give them their impressive full name, Sveriges Meteorologiska och Hydrologiska Institut. Very nice, as long as you don’t have to say the whole mouthful. But as the saying goes everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it. Anyway, SMHI are driving me crazy. Have been for several months. I mean I understand that trying to predict what the weather is actually going to do can’t be all that easy, but it is actually their job. And they don’t even come close by a zillion miles. I’d have a better chance of getting an accurate weather forecast by listening to my dear Mother’s daily predictions after she’s peered into her morning cup of tea and swirled the tea leaves around. One morning not so long ago provides a good example of the issue. SMHI predicted heavy rain and thunderstorms all day. I peered carefully out of the window, expecting to get drenched but the sun was shining brightly in the sky. I asked myself do they ever actually open a window and just stick their head outside? Anyway, this brings me to a more relevant focus. Personal research. As these weather related thoughts were running through my brain I was reminded that when it comes to marketing and branding research we all too often don’t simply stick our head out of the window. There is nothing like leaving your nice warm comfy office and actually getting out amongst where the action really is. I had a client years ago who insisted that before you could work on his account you had to spend several days walking around a supermarket watching consumers taking his product, or not, off the shelves and really looking the consumer in the whites of their eyes. Very good advice I’ve never forgotten. I still find too many people expect to understand consumers from lifeless market research reports. So open the window and stick your head out occasionally and see it like it’s really like. ——————————————————————————————— This blog is reproduced from the place branding book Wish You Were Here, by Julian Stubbs.  

​Greece and the ‘C’ Word. TED Talk Greece

Greece. So what’s the first thing that springs to mind? Well, unfortunately these days the ‘C’ word. Crisis. The word actually comes from the Greek (krisis). We’re all too aware of the financial troubles and EU arguing that is going on in the Peloponnese at the moment. It seems the Greek loans, austerity measures and budget discussions dominate the news headlines most days. Well, I won’t be heading to the peninsula of Greece or Athens but to the island of Crete, to Heraklion, to give a TED talk about the revolution occurring for the new mobile creative class and the potential it offers for places around the world. Places like Heraklion and Greece. Last time I was in Crete was over twenty years ago, exploring the ruins of Knossos, by all accounts Europe’s oldest city. I loved it, and felt pretty much at home and remember enjoying myself enormously.

Crisis. Never waste a good one

So how could I not talk about the crisis? In fact, as a place marketing person, my talk will focus on the fact that most great cities and places need a decent crisis before they get their act together. The saying ‘Never waste a good crisis’ certainly comes to mind. War can certainly be deemed a crisis. But just look at what has come out of war. During the Second World War modern computing, an idea that had been kicking around since the 19th century with Charles Babbage and his difference engine, was developed on both sides of the Atlantic simultaneously. In the US, with their ENIAC computer, to aid complex artillery ranging calculations and also at Bletchley Park in England, with their Colossus computer, developed to help crack the German Enigma codes. Operating ENIAC Computer Similarly, RADAR had been around as an idea for some time, but it took the crisis of the Second World War for British scientists to really turn it into a functioning technology. In fact, it was probably this very technology that helped Britain win the Battle of Britain in the air in the summer of 1940. We have RADAR to thank for the modern microwave as well, a technology that was discovered by accident when Percy Spencer, an American self-taught engineer, noticed that the chocolate bar he was carrying in his pocket had melted when he stood too close to the radar set he was working on. If all that isn’t enough, even FANTA, the fizzy orange drink, was developed out of crisis. After 1941, the Germans, understandably enough, were not able to get hold of the syrup they needed to make Coco-Cola. So the head of Coco-Cola Germany decided to create a new product, made out of what was available to them – oranges from North Africa. The name came about when they were brainstorming for the new product and the head of the company said they needed to use their imaginations more, or Fantasie, as it’s said in German. And so – FANTA was born.  

Crisis and Places

Crisis has been central when it comes to Place Marketing as well. Take the example of New York in the 1970s. The city and state were gripped by recession and still feeling the effects of the oil crisis. New York State was in the depths of a severe financial downturn and the City of New York was on the verge of bankruptcy, with the Federal Government, under President Ford, refusing to bail out the city or state. New York had a host of problems, in particular a surging crime rate, which was driving away tourists. An action plan was urgently needed to generate revenue. They hit upon the idea to attract more tourists to the state and city by using a promotional campaign. The New York State Department of Commerce saw this as the quickest way to generate hard cash. That is when they developed the strategy of Market today, visitors tomorrow. They recruited Milton Glaser, a famous local graphic designer, to work with them on a campaign and to develop a slogan and approach for the state and city to rally around. Glaser’s idea was very simple and focused on the one thing about NY that was most unique to it – its people. Its people and their passion for New York. This passion made New York a very special place. Glaser developed the now iconic I love NY graphic and slogan. It was to become the most recognised, and copied, destination brand icon in the world.
The world's most famous, and copied, city brand device.

The world’s most famous, and copied, city brand device.

  Similarly, when I was recruited to work on the Stockholm branding back in 2002-2003 the city had been through a severe crisis. The dotcom bubble had burst and the fall out was spectacularly affecting the stock market and the city, which had stopped growing for the first time in many years. After conducting our audit work, examining external research and running internal focus groups and workshops, we realised what the city needed most was a central focus. It needed a powerful new business proposition and an umbrella identity to work under. The primary target was tourism, and inward investment. We developed our napkin strategy (any good idea should be tight enough to be written on the back of a napkin) and declared Stockholm the most important place in Scandinavia for tourism and business. Based on our evidence, it was. Once this was signed off it was just a short creative step to the execution and positioning of Stockholm as The Capital of Scandinavia.
The Stockholm brand was also developed during a financial crisis.

The Stockholm brand was also developed during a financial crisis.

So, inside the cloud of every crisis there can be a silver lining of an opportunity.

Personal Crisis

Now we all hit the odd personal crisis now and again. I tend to have one every time Liverpool loses a football match. That aside, I hit a more severe personal crisis a few years back. I was working for a company and had two things in my life I really felt weren’t adding to the overall quality of my life or well-being, or even my productivity and work.

The Boss

The first was having a boss. Now I’ve had a few bosses over the years and some have been very good and have actually helped me to develop as an individual. But there have been a few who have been lacking in this respect and, worse of all, were egocentric maniacs and control freaks. You really have to question the real function of a boss. In part, their job is managing processes but especially managing people. Added to that a major part of their focus tends to be measuring productivity – your productivity. Now it seems a bit of a waste of time in the 21st century to employ someone to look over someone else’s shoulder to check they aren’t slacking off. It suggests a certain lack of trust as well as the organisation in question lacking decent systems and processes to measure productivity and performance. So do we all need a boss? Some people might, but I just don’t happen to be one of them.  

Traffic

The other issue I had was concerning cars. Lots of cars in the form of traffic jams in the rush hour. I was sick of sitting in traffic jams on my way to the office. Yes, even in so-called utopian Sweden, we have traffic jams. I was sitting in traffic everyday and commuting for up to two hours. And we had over 50 people doing the same as me everyday. Was that productive? As Ian Dury would say, ‘what a waste.’ So one day, stuck in a traffic jam, burning fuel and belching out CO2, I started working out how much time I was actually wasting in my daily commute. The numbers were astonishing. Two hours per day, which was 10 hours per week, which when multiplied by my commute of 45 weeks a year was a mind-boggling 450 hours a year. That’s over 18 days each year. What could I do with 18 more days a year? (If you want to get really silly with these sort of numbers you can give yourself a few other shocks as well. We all know the one about someone with an average life expectancy spending 25 years of their life in bed sleeping. But less well known is that the average American will spend 1.9 years sat in front of the television and a mere 48 days during their entire lives having sex. I stress these are averages for typical Americans). Anyway, back to my 18 days a year and realisation that bosses could be a waste of space.  

1099 Economy. Over 50 Million Americans

So I quit. I decided to become independent. A freelancer. Now Americans talk about The 1099 Economy, named after the IRS tax code people fall into if they are self-employed. The US Freelancers Union claims that today fully 34% of the entire US workforce fall into the 1099 tax code. If accurate, that’s 53 million people. That’s a lot of people and it’s still growing. So I wasn’t alone. I started thinking about ways to use my 18 days a year. The first thought that sprang to mind was just lying in a hammock on a beach for a couple of weeks. That’d be better use of time than sitting in a traffic jam for sure. But it wouldn’t be very productive or valuable in the longer term. I was also starting to question the whole logic of traditional employment itself. It’s actually a very 19th century concept, and we all know nowadays, for a certain category of work, we don’t actually need to live close to the factory or office to be really productive. Being independent and working on my own had certain appeals. Flexibility was the most attractive thing. But there were downsides. Firstly, and most practically, earning money. I was normally OK on this front, so that was not my major concern. The bigger downside was that being ‘on my own’. I wouldn’t be able to compete as well when it came to larger jobs. Working alone, and I’d done this before, can also be a pretty lonely experience.Hammock    

The Hammock Theory

That’s how I hit on the idea of the Hammock Theory. The thing was, in my line of work, I could actually sit and work anywhere I liked. Including in a hammock, should I wish. (I have to stress, I’ve tried working in hammocks and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Personally I find it impossible and extremely difficult on the Wi-Fi and power charging front. In fact it’s largely a myth). But I could work from anywhere with the incredible tools now on offer through the cloud. Living and working from everywhere is now possible. There are great tools for communications like Facetime, Skype and Go To Meeting. Great tools for productivity like Basecamp and Team Gant. There are also incredible file back up and storage systems such as Drop Box. The cloud had once been a dream but it is now a reality and it actually works. I’d been using most of the cloud-based tools for years already, so moving further into the cloud was an easy step for me. Hammock 2   Now the On Demand Economy gets talked about a lot already these days, and people mostly mean the likes of Air BnB, Uber or Elance. These are big brands but not what I was personally after. I didn’t fancy renting out my room to a stranger. Equally I would make an awful taxi driver. I was looking for something more professionally focused. Elance has over a million people signed up, and obviously works for many people. But that didn’t deliver what I personally wanted. I was after something that would give me more than just an income. I wanted colleagues that I could work with closely, everyday, all around the world, just as in a regular company. People I’d interact with everyday. And an organisation that provided opportunities to grow and learn. I didn’t actually want to work for an organisation that would just sign up anybody. Instead, I wanted something much more selective in who was recruited, aimed at professionals like myself. I knew plenty of people like me, very good people. What if we created an umbrella for us all to work under, in the cloud? We could create a brand and organisation to set a standard for the processes and systems we would jointly use. Working together we would be vastly more effective than working individually. And even with just the people I knew, like me, we could be global from day one. That’s when, with a couple of close friends, we hit on the idea of UP THERE, EVERYWHERE. A global cloud based organisation, made for people who wanted to work together under one brand and with common tools. People who wanted to work globally and locally. People who would interact everyday if needed, just as in a regular company. Anyone who wanted to join us would need to go through a number of interviews and be recommended, not for employment – because we would have no employees, but for membership.

Opportunities: For Business, For People

We’ve been working this way in UP for more than three years now and I can tell you it works. In a very short space of time, we’ve created in an operation with sales of over three million dollars a year. It’s not always easy, but it works far better, and provides more flexibility, than the alternative. From a business opportunity perspective this way of working enables organisations to be totally global, to operate extremely effectively and allows them to be hyper competitive. It’s an idea whose time has come for the service industries. As an important aside, it’s also extremely good for the environment. I’m not sitting in a car so often and I don’t need to go to an office everyday, again wasting precious resources. It’s made for the world we live in. The opportunity for people is that it gives them the chance to hang their hammock wherever they want. Depending on each person’s personal situation and skill set, they can live and work wherever they want and still be totally connected to their team and clients. I live in Stockholm and , part from Sweden, work everyday with clients in Switzerland, England, Holland, California and more. And I do it with a team who works in the exact same way. Now that’s pretty cool, but more importantly it’s extremely effective. I’m certainly free of ‘the boss’ but the biggest benefit I see personally is the flexibility it gives me over my time and life. I can now schedule my work around the other important things in my life, like picking my son up from school and getting the chance to kick a football with him for an hour. Then I go right back to work. The biggest demand of working this way is self-responsibility. If you are truly going to make this work for you, you have to take self-responsibility to a new level. You need to have self-responsibility for your life, income, work and colleagues.

Opportunity for Places

Finally there are huge opportunities for cities, municipalities and countries that are looking to attract this new breed of mobile creative class, or E-Ployees as we call them, who work in the cloud. Despite working in the cloud, these people still pay their taxes on the ground. Places like Heraklion and Greece could benefit enormously from attracting people like this. Places need to examine their assets and consider what it takes to attract this new breed of worker. Consider a place like Heraklion. They have a great diet, lower overall living costs than most places and a warm and sunny climate (as an aside, in Stockholm last November we achieved 4 hours of sunlight for the entire month. In Sweden in winter we have more than fifty shades of grey). But to make all this work, places need to make sure certain things are in place and easily available. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, even if it’s a feta and sardine salad. The first must have is free, high speed broadband. It’s the oxygen for E-Ployees. The other thing is great infrastructure or planes, trains and Teslas (if you get my drift). E-Ployees are a highly mobile bunch and move around their world a fair bit, both for work and leisure. Also important is a very low level of bureaucracy and corruption. That’s one of the benefits of living in a place like Sweden (in Sweden politicians are considered totally corrupt if they get caught a putting a Mars Bar on their expense account). We also seek tolerant, open societies with high levels of cultural attractiveness. Things like theatre, music, museums, coffee shops, restaurants and the opportunity to socialise easily together. Great ideas come out of those interactions and when you are working remotely in the cloud, you need those other social interactions even more. Additionally, a truly international environment is important. E-Ployees tend to be a global lot and feel most at home in international environments. We’re global citizens and we like living in places that reflect that. Finally, places need to make it easy for people to vote with their feet. Make moving to a city, municipality or country easy. Provide simple and straightforward information on the ins and outs of moving to a place, provide help and keep it as simple as possible. I think we live in an exciting time. We’ve had the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution and more recently the technological revolution. All affected the way we live and where we live. We believe there is a new revolution about to happen. We no longer need to live close to the factory or office. We no longer need to work in organisations and companies designed for the 19th century. For employees and freelancers seeking a better, closer, way of working we believe they will find it through the cloud and by working together in close organised communities. Where will you hang your hammock?
Julian Stubbs

Julian Stubbs

  Julian Stubbs is Founder and CEO of UP THERE, EVERYWHERE, The Global Cloud Based Agency. His book E-Ployment: Living & Working in the Cloud is available on Amazon.

Quote from Julian Stubbs

‘We’ve been working this way for more than three years now. We’ve put in place the processes and systems to make this way of working through the cloud possible. We’ve gone from two individuals to 200 people working under one global brand and organisation: UP THERE, EVERYWHERE. Within the next couple of years we estimate we’ll be somewhere around 500 to 600 people. People who can decide more than ever before where they want to live’.  

 TedX Heraklion

This blog is based on the TED talk by Julian Stubbs, given in Heraklion, Greece, February 28th 2015. The film will be available on the TED channel in late March 2015. 

A Seasonal Tale of a Louis Vuitton Bag and Just a Little Too Much Pernod Perhaps…

​Now I’m in the business of helping organisations build brands. Helping them define what they are all about, what they are best at and then converting that into a promise to take into the marketplace. And as we all know, branding is all about delivering on that promise to the consumer. Now this has led me in recent years to examine closely, not only some of the brands I’ve personally worked with, but also some of the brands that I chose to buy myself. Over the years I suppose I’ve become a bit cynical when I hear marketing people talk about their customers and how much they really care about them. Now don’t get me wrong, customer focus is obviously a good thing and the logic is that if you talk about it long enough, people will believe you genuinely put customers at the top of the agenda. What I’ve discovered is that for far too many companies it’s pure mouth music. They say it but don’t genuinely mean it. Truth is, I’ve come to discover that most companies are far more interested in themselves than their customers. Shocking but true. All this came home to me personally in an incident with Louis Vuitton. My dear wife bought me a beautiful, and extremely expensive, LV carry on flight bag as a Christmas gift. Well to cut a long story short a wheel on this elegant piece of luggage literally dropped off on a trip to London less than a year after having bought the bag. I couldn’t believe it. Literally it fell off. I spent the rest of the day dragging and carrying the defective bag around the city. I was sure it must be a freak occurrence and that LV would make amends. The store that my wife had bought the bag from however refused to offer any replacement or even to repair the bag for free. They didn’t seem to care at all. I was shocked. We then tried the local consumer protection agency, but they proved to be worse than useless. After twelve months of frustration and complaining I decided to resort to the only course of action I could. I wrote a letter to the Chairman of Louise Vuitton, M. Bernard Arnault. It took me two hours searching on the internet and a phone call to get his personal office address but I did. A hand written envelope addressed to him, for his eyes only, was then dispatched to Paris. I didn’t feel particularly confident it would have any effect, but writing it got the issue off my chest. My letter is below. ———————————————————————————————————————- Dear M. Arnault In December 2007 my dear wife bought me a Louis Vuitton carry-on travel bag as an expensive, but wonderful, Christmas gift. As someone who travels a lot, I was delighted. It looked beautiful, and coming from Louis Vuitton, I imagined spending a lifetime with this particular item of luggage. Growing old gracefully together, aging beautifully with it as my constant travel companion. Maybe I’d even end up looking just a little like Sean Connery in your rather fine advertisements. Ten months later things had gone very sadly wrong. On a trip to London in October 2008, the wheel fell off my bag. Literally fell off. I spent the rest of the day dragging and carrying the bag around the city. My immediate reaction was that the bag was, to borrow a car analogy, a Friday bag. The artisan French worker who had crafted my $1200 bag must have just had a bad day. Maybe he didn’t feel too well after a heavy night out with his friends and a little too much Pernod perhaps? Anyway, I was sure the Louis Vuitton store where my bag was purchased would immediately replace or repair the defective bag. Ten months old and only used on about eight trips as cabin luggage. Louis Vuitton must have a lifetime guarantee right? At $1200 a shot, I expected it. The answer when I returned the bag to Louis Vuitton was non! Forget it! LV does not have a lifetime guarantee, nor does it have even a 12-month guarantee. In fact it has NO GUARANTEE WHAT SO-EVER! None. Zippo. Zilch. After two years of complaining, I’m just totally appalled at the service LV offers its customers. But I haven’t given up hope. I write to you to find out if the LV store in question and its response reflects the standards of Louis Vuitton. Can you help me? With Regards, Julian Stubbs   ———————————————————————————————————————- Now as I said I wrote the letter as a last resort, not expecting much from it, but about a week after the letter had been sent, the most amazingly helpful and concerned manager of the LV store in question contacted me. She wanted to apologise personally for what had happened and have the bag fixed, at no cost of course, as soon as possible. She was genuinely concerned. Amazing what a letter to the chairman can do. Anyway it made me ponder the question again how many companies and brands really do care? I believe that the chairman of LV does genuinely care, but probably didn’t realise that somewhere in the company the brand was falling down on the job. Many companies today really need to understand that to be better than their competitors takes much, much more than just running advertising saying that you care. I’ve also discovered that I’m not bad at complaining and it seems to be a lost art. Seasons greetings and best wishes for 2015.