Inside the Smartest Little Company in America was the title of a cover story in Inc magazine in Jan 2002. Something reminded me of Cranium recently…I have played the game only once, but it was a fantastic fun-filled afternoon. The game is so full of life – very much unlike other games I have played.
Cranium is the first start-up for Whit Alexander and Richard Tait, but they have approached the venture as a game of skill, not luck, and are planning every move with a deliberateness and stated ambition rare even in serial entrepreneurs. Aware that they lacked experience both as company builders and in the toy industry, the cofounders have borrowed from the best, adapting marketing tactics from such industry greats as the makers of Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary and borrowing product-development strategies from Microsoft. At the same time, they have made smartly counterintuitive decisions about distribution and talent that seem to guarantee a steady stream of genuinely new and distinctive products.
Not surprisingly for a couple of guys whose products celebrate the kaleidoscope of human ingenuity, Tait and Alexander are at least as proud of their company’s smarts as they are of its success. “Making the money is great, of course,” says Tait, “but there are awards and then there are rewards. Our survival and success will come from optimizing fun, focus, passion, and profits. That takes smarts, and we thrive on that.”
Read the quote by Tait again. Many a time, we think that spending money compensates for effort and thinking. It never does. The challenge lies in innovating and being creative, and becoming profitable with the least money spend. In today’s world, as entrepreneurs, we will probably always have less resources than the bigger, established players. But we can more than make up for that with, as Tait puts it, our “fun, focus, passion and smarts”.