What if it were that simple?*


We stand on the balcony partially surveying the detritus of an ever-changing Southport.

There’s also the construction happening, with old buildings being knocked down and replaced with sterile-new buildings which look like they belong in a 1950’s sci-fi film. Greg stands a good foot taller than me, cigarette in one hand and a coffee in the other we talk of this and that, of books and business.

Each time the conversation digresses to books we remember we’re talking business and we bring the conversation back.

“The madman bum & angel beat in time”

Have you ever watched a homeless man unpack his home from a shopping trolley? Watched him meticulously unpack, unfold and search for some prized possession? As I was talking with Greg there was a guy in the park. He didn’t riffle through his shopping trolley, he methodically searched—what was he searching for? No idea, because he never seemed to find it. He unpacked his trolley then looked around him, then looked back at his trolley, then back over his shoulder before placing everything tidily back, and moving on. Purposefully ambling off in the direction of Nowhere.

The conversation is idling along the idea of putting a book together, something small that we could sell: a sort of Ogilvy & Mather meets Surf Pacific via whichever one of us finally put pen to paper. We wanted something small, something you could pick up in an airport and read in an afternoon. Inevitably, the one thing we do not discuss is: what would we say? What could we possibly write about that would entertain an audience? How do you provide value and charge $14.99 for it?

Actually that part was easy.

It was spilling enough ink in the right places in order to attract a prospective reader’s eyes. After all, there are a dozen business books published daily—probably more if you count self-published content.

The air tries to bite, but this is South-East Queensland so the air doesn’t bite like it does when you’re somewhere like London or walking along the Irish Coast as the sun comes over the sea and paints a watercolour that would shame the French Impressionists. Greg lights another cigarette and we talk business. Nothing specific, I’m a copywriter with aspirations of being a…well, of being a writer, so all I’m interested in is helping to create a place where other people enjoy writing.

Writing then and now

As we talk about where Surf Pacific is and how we’re in a good period of growth it makes me wonder if a book is really a good idea at this point. Could my creative effort and energy not be better spent creating the sort of content for clients that makes them money? The answer, at that time, was yes.

Actually, as long as I am a copywriter-come-content marketer, that’s my job. Generate leads for clients through content.

But now, now seemed like a good time for a book. The answer of what, is still foggy, after all: we need to say something that hasn’t been said. Or, failing that, say something that’ll entertain a reader for a 100/150 pages.

And not one of those useful guides on marketing your business or ‘how to make six figures in six months’. Not that sort of book. I haven’t made six figures in six months. So there’s no point in me talking about it. Surf Pacific can market your business, just ask us—we’ll tell you how awesome we are.

No. There are enough how-to guides out there.

A simple truth

The book would, through the show-don’t-tell principal, show you a simple truth. And no, I’m not going to give you that simple truth here. You’ll have to read the book when it’s published.

When Greg and I had the conversation on the balcony in the morning, with the detritus of Southport three storeys beneath us and the construction going on, and staff coming and going and more and more clients coming on board there could not have been a worse time to propose the writing of a book.

Now as the dust and staff settle, and the clients keep signing up now seems like a good time to sit down and write. Actually, as a writer I think it’s always a good time to sit down and write.

Digital Companies and writing a book

Digital companies are dime-a-dozen—is Surf Pacific unique? Nope. But we’re brilliant at what we do. Too often people and companies are worried about being perfect: about only ever showing a flawless mask. It’s why they’re stifled. It’s why they stutter. I’ve worked with enough clients to know they missed big opportunities because they didn’t want their customers to know they were human. They were afraid of being transparent; of showing their personality.

Surf Pacific stands out simply because we’re successful and we’re mortal: because who isn’t?

Yes, you will invariably meet former clients who will have nothing but venom to vomit about us; and you will come across current clients who have been with Surf Pacific for more than 10 years.

We are not unique

Being unique does not necessarily provide an advantage.

Being good provides an advantage.

Being reliable and delivering results provides an advantage. Anyone can tell you what they’re offering has never been done before…but if you’re in their industry or even know a little about it, you can quickly measure the validity of that sentiment.

I think sometimes it comes from a desire to be different. So many clients have told me that they offer a unique service. And I get a little excited. Excited—because after all, very few clients stand apart from each other—I ask what their unique service is. Excited—because if a client truly does something unique, then we can sell that—I hear their answer, and hide the fact their service is not unique. A ton of other people offer that same service — sometimes in a better way.

Being special is good, being unique is great. James Joyce was unique: Stanley Kubrick was unique: William Burroughs was unique—Eminem took what he saw around him and owned it. It’s kind of hard to see Eminem as unique so much as talented performer who cornered a market—does that make Eminem unique? Probably not. But he’s good. He’s being going at it for 20+ years. Look at Weird Al Yankovic—his latest album made it to number one. Thirty years entertaining people with his unique style and he’s only now got one of his albums to number one.

On being unique

Being unique is only useful to you if it’s genuine and you know what to do with it. But that’s not what I came here to talk about. I came here to talk about the beginning of a book — a book which sounded as though it’d be a good idea: a book written by/about Surf Pacific which would be small, easy-to-read and entertaining.

I’d like to say it starts on a balcony with two people discussing writing, books and the nature of sales. But does anyone do beginnings anymore? After all, this is not “David Copperfield”; or a modern business biography.

This book is going to do something. It’s going to convey a simple truth in order to entertain a reader, and hell: we may even surreptitiously teach something along the way.

Thank you for reading.

*The views in this post are solely mine and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of Surf Pacific, it’s management etc.

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