Lessons Learned from Businessman Who Started Uggs

This man sold the UGGS brand he founded in 1995 for $14 million. The podcast below I am listening to gives part of his amazing story. Here are my notes on the key things that a businessman can learn from what he says. THIS is the value of reading up on successful business people: There are so many times when I have heard millionaires or billionaires say (in the books or paid/free products/seminars/lectures/audiobooks I have listened to or watched) that “if I had only known this thing earlier, I would have shaved [this many] years of wasted time off or saved [this much] money.” This man, Brian Smith, said a similar thing. In his first year after his idea, he had only sold 44 pairs of boots. Depressingly little. But he had bought an inventory of 500 so he had to keep on going. He had an AHA! moment when he was trying to sell his boots to a big store client and he said “The elephant only moves when the mice start moving” and Sam immediately got what he meant: You need momentum to attract attention from the big players. Unless you have things like solid numbers of sales from other stores, these big players are not going to buy from you or place their trust in you and risk a big flop in sales by putting your item in their stores. He had another AHA! moment which is a big lesson in business and is a KEY lesson. The story goes: he was having a drink with another client and that client called his employees in and asked them about UGGS. They said they were very fake and the models that wore them obviously could not surf which made them atrociously fake (At the time, Sam’s target consumer audience were surfers. He had advertisements with models wearing the boots pretending to surf). He had a big AHA! moment which I think is very relevant to business people to this day: You have to understand what your target consumers want. If you don’t know, figure it out first before you do things like create a marketing or advertising campaign. Immediately, when he figured this out and changed his advertisements to have actual surfers marketing the product, his sales for the following season shot up immediately to hundreds of thousands of dollars.


So those are the two big take-away’s. There’s many more smaller, more subtle ones that can help just as much.

1. He remarks on how sometimes naivete and/or ignorance can lead an entrepreneur to start something because they are unaware of all the hurdles and obstacles and all the many things that needs to be done that comes up as problems for a business. He says this may be a good thing because if they knew, they would not have started. I have my own opinions on this but I will just let you know what he says today.

2. He never gave up despite extremely dark times and that led his business to be the success it is today. He said there were 4 very bad times in his business that he almost gave up but he did not and he managed to pull through and keep going. This reminds me of what Steve Jobs said how passion is so important because things can be so hard that any rational person who have given up a long time ago. Jobs said that it’s really hard and you have to do it over a sustained period of time and if you don’t love it and you’re not having fun doing it, you’re going to give up. Mr. Smith’s motivations came from a different source but it all points to the same direction of how some extreme driver has to keep you from giving up to break through all limiting beliefs and the difficulty of the situation to achieve success. Smith said his motivation came from 4 tenets he wrote down and always kept reading. The theme of them is that if you stick with things long enough, circumstances can change. By hanging in there, time is a weird thing and no matter how desperate things are, the situation can often be fluid enough that things can change. 

His 4 tenets were: 1. Feast upon uncertainty (It means no one has been there which means no one has an advantage and if you can get in there first and learn an advantage, you will be ahead); 2. Fatten upon disappointment (We’re all going to have things happen that aren’t part of the plan – your partner starts a competing business or quits or something… But sometimes your most disappointing disappointments become your biggest blessings. Sometimes, when you are older, you will end up looking back and thinking, “Man, I’m glad that happened because it led me to where I am now. Look where I am now.” A good example is Walmart’s big management massacre-when a 3rd of Walmart’s management left at a point where Walmart was already pretty huge. What happened next was a great reorganization by Sam Walton and despite the fact that Wall Street said Walmart was doomed, the next decade was Walmart’s greatest growth) 3. Enthuse over apparent defeat (A competitor may come along and it may look like he’s going to take over the whole market. Rather than be negative and fall backwards, defeat is not a real word until you give up. Once you’re still trying, defeat DOES NOT EXIST. If you can get enthusiastic about it, you can always figure out a way to beat your competitors off.); 4. Invigorate in the presence of difficulties (self-explanatory)

These 4 tenets embody a central theme which is that we cannot always control our environment but we can control how we react to what happens to us.

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By Will Chou

I am the the founder of this site and I am grateful you are here to be part of this awesome community. I help hard-working Asian American Millennials get rich doing work they love.

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