You may consider me a little sad, but I love reading stories about how individuals built their businesses from scratch! I find their stories not just inspirational but enlightening too. Reading accounts of how individuals overcame set backs on their journeys and the risks they were prepared to take to achieve their success is to me fascinating.
The interesting thing is that these stories are everywhere. Behind every famous brand is a story about someone who had a dream and decided to make it happen.
On a recent holiday to France we stopped near Épernay and had the good fortune to visit the Mercier champagne house and experience a tour of their cellars and champagne tasting. But more than this I learned about the founder Eugène Mercier (1838-1904) and took away three business lessons which still resonate so much today.
Make sure you have a clear vision for your business and think big. Eugène’s vision was crystal clear – to make his champagne accessible to everyone without ever sacrificing quality.
Make your marketing memorable so that it stands out from the crowd. Eugène was very much the Richard Branson of his age coming up with creative idea after creative idea to popularise his champagne.
Don’t let obstacles get in the way. Once Eugène Mercier had an idea he would do whatever it took to make it happen – including buying and knocking down buildings to achieve his goals.
Today we regularly have trade fairs. Usually these are industry specific but back in the 19th century there were some huge universal expositions where products from all around the world were shown to the public. The first was organised by Prince Albert, the famous 1851 Great Exhibition held in London. In 1889 and 1900 the Exposition Universelle was held in Paris and at both events Eugène attended with the intention to impress.
For the 1889 exposition he built the then world’s biggest wine barrel, which could hold the equivalent of 200,000 bottles of champagne and which took 24 oxen to pull the barrel from Épernay to Paris. On the way trees, walls and even parts of buildings had to be demolished. The end result was a showstopper which was only bettered by the newly built Eiffel Tower!
For the 1900 exposition Eugene created a floating bar in an anchored hot air balloon. Visitors would be given a flute of Mercier champagne and then rise to 300 metres to view Paris. But the story didn’t end there; one day the cable broke and the balloon floated all the way passed Épernay to Belgium, where fortunately it landed safely. A great news story! Today you can still enjoy the experience with a balloon ride overlooking Épernay.
What else did Eugène do?
- Made the first promotional film with the Lumiere brothers.
- Constructed huge cellars where visitors could take tours in carriages pulled by four horses.
- Built a railway from Paris direct to Épernay to get his product to his customers quickly and allow his customers to visit his cellars.
Today Mercier remains a leading champagne house hosting more than 100,000 tourists each year making Mercier the most visited cellar in the Champagne region.
What can we learn from this Entrepreneur?
In today’s fast paced, news driven world it is easy to lose sight of what will really make a difference to your business. In business there are few truly original ideas; the same key lessons come up time and time again. If you are interested in building a great business and like me are fascinated by and keen to learn from others then look around and you will see hundreds of truly inspirational stories. If you love books here are five I can strongly recommend:
- ‘Shoe Dog’ by Phil Knight
- ‘Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future’ by Ashlee Vance
- ‘The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon’ by Brad Stone
- ‘The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons in Creative Leadership from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company’ by Robert Iger
- ‘Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds’ by David Goggins
The last is not so much a business book but is more about the power of your mind to do anything.
If you are interested in growing your business and need help or guidance then why not check out our growing businesses page or better still contact us to arrange a free discovery meeting. If you are a client of Friend & Grant then please contact your account manager do discuss how we can help you grow your business.
The content in this blog is correct as at 28 October 2022 See terms and conditions.