One year on from launching Chapter One, 2016 was a BIG year. I had always thought 2016 would be epic for Thankyou. The reality of how big it might be hit in December 2015 when I met with someone from the world’s largest publisher of business books.
She had come to ask me to consider writing a book. I cryptically communicated that we had already embarked on a journey similar to what she was proposing. Out of interest, I asked the name of the most successful book they had recently launched.
Naming a book I knew, she spoke about how it had been wildly successful, with sales unlike any other Australian business book. Including US sales, it had sold 80,000 copies. I nearly fell off my chair. 80,000 books. I couldn’t believe it. We were about to place our order for 80,000 copies of Chapter One. Just for the Australian launch!
Had we gone too far? Were we actually crazy!?
Fast forward to 7.50pm on Friday 26th of February 2016. My stomach was literally in my mouth. I sat in a converted warehouse, along with 900 guests at Change the Game, A Thankyou Gala. There were tables full of media and bloggers, corporate tables from some of the largest businesses in our country, tables of philanthropists, our suppliers and retail partners, as well as many key long-time Thankyou supporters. All of these people had come to hear about our ‘world first’ launch concept. I struggled to eat my food. In a mix of nerves and thinking I should eat something, I took a mouthful of seafood (which I’m allergic to) and needed a quick antihistamine to shrink my swollen face. My name was called.
As I walked out on that stage the nerves were overwhelming. I was about to pitch a side-ways book, that sold at a pay what you want price, aiming to raise an impossible profit (in the world of books) of $1.2 million in 1 month, and hopefully go on to sell over 80,000 copies. We’d promised a world first launch! The question in my mind was: were we about to disappoint or confuse a room full of very influential people?
As I began to update our guests on the 5 years of success we’d had as an organisation, I could feel the momentum building, people were laughing and nodding along. The audience feedback was good — people were getting into it. While the team had given me a time frame, and an appropriate one at that, I did warn them that I was not coming off until I felt it had landed. Not great news for any event planner!
Then I dropped the ‘world first’ launch. A book titled Chapter One that will fund the future of the organisation. Bam. Silence. The silence was deafening.
As a team, we’d had time to get used to the idea and we believed it would work. But this was the first time the audience had heard the concept and you could see people attempting to digest this crazy idea. And then I explained about the book being sideways. Eyes started to pop out of heads. I then explained pay what you want… and later that night we announced I’d be in a warehouse packing books until the $1.2 million was raised.
While I had always anticipated a drop in momentum at this part of the pitch, I didn’t think it would be this big. I pushed through and gave it everything I had, walking off that stage after a 35 minute blow out in time. I hoped I had landed the pitch in all that time, but gosh, it was hard to tell.
As the launch video played and I sat side of stage, shaking and disappointed in myself for going over time, questions were running through my head. Had it worked? We’d been working towards this moment for two years. Had I let the team down in my delivery? Did it make sense?
I returned to my seat as book sales opened. Now the awkward part, would people buy the book? The updates began coming through, books were selling. I was relieved. SO relieved. I worked to stay focused on the conversation in front of me, but when a hand slipped a cheque into my pocket with a pat on the back, I had to try very hard to listen to the person finish talking. When I peeked at the cheque, it was an order for $100,000 of books. I don’t remember too much more from that night — I was in shock!
In two hours we hit best-seller status. In one week, the book was outselling every other book in airport bookstores (Relay, Newslink & Watermark), second only to Harry Potter in launch week sales. The 28 day campaign had rocky moments, like any campaign. The ‘will it work’ question was answered in the 11th hour as we went over our $1.2 million target and hit a total of $1.4 million. Selling over 55,000 copies in 28 days, and to date tipping over 80,000 copies and $1.7 million raised — it has worked.
My favourite moments have both surprised and humbled me. The stories of how Chapter One was inspiring people. There’s the 11 year old world changer who recycles bottles, saves the 10c from each bottle until he reaches $20, then has his mum drive him to the airport to buy a copy of Chapter One. He then gives the book to someone he believes will go on to change the world. This is one of hundreds of stories that came in from around the world, brought tears to my eyes, as well as phenomenal encouragement. Chapter One has two purposes. Firstly, raise money for Thankyou. Secondly, a much bigger purpose. To spark dreams, igniting something inside readers to want to change ‘stuff’ in their world.
We recently launched ‘My Next Chapter’ journal. This is so important to us, because it’s not about Thankyou, it’s about you. YOU are the author. It’s a dream pad with blank pages ready for your dreams, ideas, your goals and even your honest frustrations to be put to paper.
There is a very messy but important picture in it. It’s a photo copy from my note book from last year with some of the plans for the Chapter One warehouse launch. It’s a mess of a drawing, but it represents the raw ideas we have. It’s a very powerful picture because what was a drawing is now an idea that’s gone on to hit over 18 times best seller and continues to sell between $10,000-$20,000 a week in book sales. The team wanted to put it at the start of My Next Chapter to serve as a reminder to you and also to me that the ideas we have, if we push past the challenges and the fear, can become a reality.
While it might be ‘just another journal’ to some, to me it represents the beginning of possibility. The last twelve months have been the outworking of ‘what could be possible’? What if it works? Writing down dreams and plans, then chasing them down.
As I reflect on a massive 12 months, for me personally and Thankyou as an organisation, I’ve been re-considering some thoughts from the New Year season.
On New Years day, Justine, Jed and I went to church, something we thought would be good to do on New Years day! The speaker said something very profound:
Don’t write a list of what you want to do this year, first write a list of who you want to be. We are human beings, not human doings.
There is a lot I want to do this year, including launching Thankyou New Zealand! I am very good at making a to do list and then jumping into a lot of activity to get it done. But rather than my to do list, I am starting this next 12 months with a ‘to be’ list… and here is where I’m starting:
A better listener. Those closest to me who I work with have delicately and kindly pointed out this is an area I could work on. I’d like to say they are wrong, but on reflection I’ve got some work to do here.
Humble. As we grow and get more accolades and pats on the back, there comes a danger of letting it go to your head. There’s a wise old proverb that says: Pride comes before a fall. I’ve known that to be very true.
Calm. We are going to face some massive mountains and storms this year. To be calm: find peace in the storms and enjoy the journey, even in the ups and downs.
Early and present. I don’t want to be that guy, always rushing, always just on time or late with a good excuse and then I’m there but not there mentally. Barack Obama had a big reputation for arriving early to everything, communicating value and being present. I like that.
Brave. I want to have the courage to go again, even when there’s a fear that we could fail. I want to have the courage to get up and go again, even when I get knocked down (and yes I feel like there are still knock downs, almost weekly). The bigger we get, the faster they come, but there’s also increased momentum to bounce back quickly.
Let’s be, then do. Write hard, write fast.
All the best on your next chapter,