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Attitude Lessons From Multimillionaire Fashion Mogul Justin Herald

By Tom McSherry
29 Comments

A few weeks ago I attended a seminar for entrepreneurs held by Justin Herald.

Justin has made tens of millions of dollars in the clothing business, having launched his first brand, Attitude, with just $50 to his name. He was named Australian Entrepreneur of the Year back in 2004 and has written a stack of books on branding, entrepreneurship and various aspect of starting and running your own business since then. (His books are awesome if you’re starting up on a tight budget.)

Justin Herald AttitudeIt was a fascinating seminar, which I’ve been turning over in my head ever since. I thought I’d try to distil what I found to be the key lessons Justin expressed in his talk, as well as some of my own interpretations of what we can learn by looking at examples like him.

Forget Formality And Carve Your Own Path

One of the first striking things about Justin is that he’s far from the typical conception of ‘business-like.’ He’s the kind of person who decides what he wants and then figures out how to get it, without making any excuses. He’s not very ‘politically correct,’ and he doesn’t need to be – because he has that mindset that he is the boss.

He’s not going through life bowing down to anyone. This is a mindset that can be observed in virtually every hyper-successful entrepreneur, which I think is worthy of note. He reminded me a lot of Richard Branson in the way he dressed and carried himself.

Justin also made a point of saying he had never written a business plan. He actually created the first Attitude t-shirts to annoy a lady at his church, but when he had people coming up to him saying, “Where did you get that shirt?” he realized he was onto something – and so his business was born, almost by accident. But it’s what he did after that which sets him apart as an entrepreneurial genius.

Be Prepared To Get Creative

Justin shared a story about a problem he ran into when he first started trying to market his Attitude clothes to retailers.

He described a typical scenario: he’d walk into a surf store and start pitching the manager. Inevitably he’d get a response along the lines of, “There’s just no demand for that brand.” In frustration he’d try to point out that there was no demand because nobody knew about the brand yet, and as soon as they did know about it they’d want it. This didn’t get him very far, and stores refused to stock his clothing.

A lesser entrepreneur would have given up at this point. Not Justin Herald.

If it was demand he needed, then it was demand he’d create – even if it was only the illusion of demand. So he rounded up a few of his friends and they started making a habit of calling up clothing retailers several times a day asking, “Have you got any Attitude gear?”

Needless to say, the next time Herald went in to pitch retailers the response was a lot different: “Oh, Attitude! Yeah, we’re getting loads of calls about this stuff. Huge demand for it.” And they started making orders.

There’s a very important lesson in this attitude: any problem is only a temporary setback forcing you to be more creative. If you’re not achieving your goals, it may not be because you aren’t trying hard enough, but because you need to try a strategy which is outside the box.

Reinvest And Scale Up

This is one of the biggest lessons of the seminar: the simple beauty of compound growth.

It’s easy to start making a few thousand from your business and go hog wild, spending up on new cars and clothes. But ultimately the more you reinvest your profits in your business – the more you pour resources into a model you know already works – the faster you’ll get to join the millionaire’s club. This takes discipline.

Have Some Fun

Justin shared an anecdote about himself going to buy a car. I don’t remember off the top of my head what make and model it was – an Aston Martin, I think – but I do remember the price tag: $358,000.

Justin spoke about how it was always an event for him and his friends when he went to buy a new car because he likes to mess with the salespeople at upmarket car dealerships.

He puts on shorts and a tank top (so he doesn’t look like a millionaire) and strolls into the dealership with one of his mates (who is chosen by drawing straws, because all his friends want to come and watch but he can’t take an entourage of 10 guys into the showroom with him at once).

He told the story of how he went into the first dealership and asked for a test drive, and they basically laughed at him and told him he couldn’t afford it. Long story short, he went to a different dealership, bought the car, and then drove it back to the first dealership to show the cocky salesman the sale he had just missed out on.

Lesson for the salesman: Never make assumptions about a potential customer.

Lesson for the entrepreneur: What’s the point of making a lot of money if you can’t relax and enjoy it? Don’t feel like your income or your bank balance should dictate how you behave – whether your income is high or low at this point in time, you are who you are and that won’t change because of the number of dollars you have in the bank.

If you’re trying to be an entrepreneur because you think running a business will help you ‘fix yourself,’ you’re already approaching it from the wrong angle and actually holding yourself back.

Give Something Back

One of the parts of the talk I found most compelling was at the very end when Justin spoke about what happened when he realized he had more money than he could ever reasonably spend on himself.

He explained how he now dedicates a lot of his excess cash to building orphanages. This seems to be a common theme for many ‘accidental millionaires’ (I’m not implying that Justin somehow bumbled his way to having millions, but simply that he didn’t start out with the intention of making millions – he was just having fun, and financial success was basically a natural result of his personality and drive).

He also takes a lot of time these days to do things like giving seminars such as the one I attended – teaching other people to gain the success he has enjoyed in life.

He’s still in the clothing business – after selling the Attitude brand, he has spent the last couple of years developing a brand of sunglasses, Intimate Industries – which proves once again that once you understand the process and attitude behind entrepreneurial success, once you make it a part of who you are, you can repeat it again and again.

Tom

About Tom McSherry

Tom McSherry is the founder of Premium Online Writing, a provider of top-notch SEO copywriting services. His company is built on the idea that SEO is more than just quantity of content and links – it's about maintaining high quality in every aspect of your website and promotional campaigns. A commitment to high quality is key to achieving long term growth and success online.

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29 Comments

  • Hi Tom, just reading your thoughts on the seminar, I really feel like I missed out on really great stuff, and I’d never even heard of Justin until today. I love the way he created demand for his t-shirts; great lesson there especially for internet entrepreneurs. I think it’s much easier for us to create a buzz online anyway, what with Twitter and Facebook. I think Seth Godin pretty much teaches the same thing. Anyway, thanks for this post. Got me thinking.

    • Hey Sharon. Yes, you’re quite right – social media does make it easier than ever to manufacture buzz about a brand. And yes, Seth Godin is definitely another good one to read for tips in this area. Thanks for reading.

  • I am feeling myself in a similar position right now. I have a bit more than $50 to my name, but workin on a small budget trying to make big things happen. This is a very inspirational story!

    • Hi Matt,

      Just a quick one to let you know I have been exactly where you are now – not even $50 to our name (My husband, baby and I). We had to rely on the Church for food! It was a lesson in humility. I don’t earn 6 figures (Yet) but I’m doing good. So hang on there; it is possible to reach your dreams. It just takes hard work and determination.

    • Hey Matt. When I started my first site, I was $1600 in debt with about $400 left on my overdraft capacity. While I haven’t had Justin’s crazy success, I was fully self-employed within six months of that and have been ever since, so it really comes down to how you use what you have rather than how much you have to begin with to take those first steps.

  • True say about never make assumptions. Treat every person or a call as a sales opportunity. If we start to assume things we will defiantly miss out on a lot of opportunities. Just like Mary Kay Ash (businesswoman) said “Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’”

    • Hey Wasim. That’s a good quote to follow. I think there’s an important caveat here though – you do have to apply the 80/20 principle when chasing sales and learn to avoid the tire kickers and time wasters that only waste your time and energy. But that quote is brilliant – after all, it doesn’t take any more time or effort to make everyone you deal with feel important, just a different attitude.

  • I have never heard of Justin Herald before, but what a fantastic story. He reminds a lot of the type of person that looks at what everyone else is doing, and then does the complete opposite.

    Thanks for your insights Tom

  • Yolanda Amphy

    The hardest thing about this industry is staying focused enough to get results!!! Sometimes it seems like there is so much information, that you are pretty much burnt out.

    • Hi Yolanda. Agreed, I’ve been there. My advice: simplify, focus on one or two areas of your business (say, cold calling, or SEO) and just do them to death. Put your blinders on and just focus on repeating what you can already do well. There comes a point where more learning is simply a form of creative avoidance for taking the action you need to take.

  • Interesting stuff. $50 really isn’t a lot to do a lot on. Some people just have the knack, though, I mean look at Bernie Ecclestone.

    • Quite right. Justin certainly struck me as one of those guys who just has the X factor.

  • The part about reinvesting and scaling up is something I had to learn because I would make a few bucks and go bu something I really didn’t need. Now that I am more mature reinvesting makes it easier to build something sustainable. Thanks for the post, Tom.

    • Hey Dwayne. You pretty much just described me for the first 12 months of self employment. Eventually I realised I was still a very small fish in my industry and if I wanted to be a big one, I’d have to start applying more strict financial discipline.

  • I am amazed and inspired that he managed to start his empire on a mere $50! Was that after he made the shirts or before? Because if it was before then that is even more impressive.

    • Hey Dean. He told a great story about how he bargained down the t-shirt printing guy from (I think) about $250 to $50 to print the first run. Then he sold a few and used the profits to print more. Rinse and repeat until swimming in money.

  • It’s great to hear stories from the successful. I think we can all agree it gets us going just a little faster when we hear about someone who made it.

    • Hey Josh. Yeah, it was definitely a kick in the behind for me to start pushing myself more. The good is the enemy of the great, as they say. It’s harder to get complacent when you listen to speakers like this.

  • This is really inspirational… especially the not bowing down to anyone bit…

    Do you have any tips or ideas on how one can train himself out of a habit of deferring to others. It’s not my personality it’s just a bad habit and I forget who I am and what I was made to do?

    • Hi Geoff. Good question. Being a natural introvert for most of my life, I actually have made quite an effort to train myself to be more assertive. A couple of tips I’d give you: Keep your goals right in front of your face. I have a big cork board sitting right in front of my at my work desk that has goals, action plans, etc on it. (Some people prefer a vision board – I just have sheets of writing.) This not only keeps your focused but it helps you cultivate that sense of, ‘I’m someone who gets stuff done no matter what.’ Also, keep in mind that confidence isn’t something you turn on in particular situations. It’s part of who you are, so practice it everywhere you go until it becomes you. For instance, when you’re at the supermarket, talk louder to the cashier, project your voice. Don’t just wait til you’re in a business situation. Implement little things like this in your everyday life, and eventually they all build up over time to change your personality.

  • I was so glad while I was reading about the time he wanted to buy the car! Those assumptions are what I hate most! Actually, when I come to think about it, the richest people that I know don’t really “look rich”.

  • love this : “Lesson for the salesman: Never make assumptions about a potential customer.”
    many salesman made this mistake. they just underestimate the potential customer…

    • Yes, many do. It’s a part of sales training to a certain extent, trying to separate ‘suspects’ from ‘prospects’ quickly to avoid wasted time. But obviously in some cases it backfires, so you need to be careful.

  • Lots of really good information here that we can all take away and use immediately. The car dealership metaphor (although true), is a fantastic story to make you realize that you really shouldn’t jump to conclusions and judge a book by it’s cover.

    Thanks for a sweet post Tom

  • I’ve never read any of his books, but Justin has been a longwithstanding inspiration of mine, I think it was because he started with pretty much nothing but a will to succeed and no preconceived ideas on how to get there. Like you have said, he’s got a Branson-esque way of using gut feel to make business decisions.
    It’s funny, as internet marketing is always presented as such a ‘structured’ activity, whereby you put together an SEO strategy, carry it out step by step, then implement and SMO strategy, then maybe a SEM strategy, blah blah blah. Perhaps us internet marketers need to take a step back and remember that the online world benefits from creative, out of the square thinkers as much as the real world. Some food for thought, at least….

  • Jan

    Thanks for sharing that fantastic story! It is really inspirational!

  • I am starting up and this has been insiprational. I have a family to provide for and have been trying to attain all the knowledge from expierenced web marketers. thanks for the post its been helpful.

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