Friday, November 17, 2006

Cranium's Secret Sauce - 7 Rules For Success

Richard Tait is the charismatic Founder and CEO of Cranium. In a keynote address at a recent AAAA conference, Richard shared the story of Cranium, a tiny company born out of an idea scratched on the back of a napkin that has grown into the third largest games company in the world today. In his keynote, Richard shared "the secret sauce" of Cranium's success and the seven things (plus one for extra credit) that got them there:

1) Have a Mission - Be able to answer the question: What is your mission? Why are you here? What is the reason you are dedicating yourself to this company? If your people don’t know the mission, how can they follow you? At Cranium the mission is – "Create fun moments and memories that give everyone the chance to shine”. everyone should know the mission and make it passionate – other examples Richard cites: Microsoft, Google

2) Know your culture and bring it to life every day. Culture will be your competitive advantage. Figure out what your culture is: at Cranium there are two: 1) consumer sensitivity “CHIFF” (Creative, High Quality, Innovative, Friendly & Fun) and 2) operational excellence – the human pulse is used as a metaphor creating “PULSE” stations – key operational metrics eg: EBITDA Fever (“Saturday Night Fever” used as soundtrack) & Revenue Racetrack – giant games piece that moves big dollar bills around the office that show revenue performance. Celebrate milestones and touch tones – “bang the gong – launching a new website, hire an employee, shipping a new product.

3) Change the rules: At Cranium the rule change was: “Let’s take the games where our customers are instead of bringing customers to our games.” Cranium was the first game ever to be sold into Starbucks, Amazon (Cranium sales team scheduled "play dates" with the friends of the buyers at Amazon who then recommended Amazon should stock the game), and Barnes & Noble (grabbed two people at the water cooler outside the buyers office and played the game for 15 minutes with the buyer-- they were sold). Also, applaud people in your company who don’t take "no" for an answer.

4) Figure out what you are really, really, really good at and build the whole company around it: Cranium is good at 1) Invention and has “big ears” listening to feedback and customers and 2) Developing products that delivers on the emotional contract with customers. Cranium designed processes to develop products defined in a manner which are consistent with Cranium Culture - eg: Cranium Cuisinart (product brainstorming), Moment Engineering (product refinement), Big Ears (market research and product testing), Customer Celebration (customer feedback), CHIFF Check List (meet the CHIFF requirements for all products), Celebrate Shine (the moment when consumer enjoys the final game experience and recommends to friends).

5) Hire for smarts and rent experience – hire for how people think NOT what they know. Eg: hiring questions include "give me an example of your favorite consumer durable and what would you do to improve it." Exceptions to this rule: Finance and Operations – hire experience! Also Recognize employees through “shine and celebration” eg: employee of the month gets a custom game built, a theme song and is celebrated throughout the company

6) Never forget that your customers are your sales force – the whole company has been built on Craniacs – word of mouth – eg: Cranium has prepped four "Cranium weddings" creating custom games that reflect the couples' history. Conviction to customers lets you make history. Not able to purchase a game locally in a rural area, Cranium hired a private plane and hand delivered a game to a customer just in time for her hustand's 40th birthday party – 6 years ago – she is still writing Christmas cards to the company and spreading the gospel of Cranium to everyone she meets. CEO recieves and reads over 200 customers emails per day. Over 29,000 Craniacs have written their own games. Never forget the power of your customers.

7) Build the company on anticipation rather than reaction “Orbiting the Giant Hairball” (also the title of a book by Gordon McKenzie - must reading for every Cranium employee). Teach yourself to be great at anticipation rather than reaction. Learn how to stay creative-- especially in a large organization.

Extra Credit) Be a company with a heart and give back to the community – Cranium has given over $700K to Kids at Risk programs.

These are rules which we can all live buy.


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