Richard Tait (1964-2022)
I had been lucky enough to meet and discuss entrepreneurship and life with Richard Tait just enough to consider him a friend.
He was a dedicated father. My heart goes out to his children.
Revisiting the notes from our coversations and emails through the years. I wanted to share Richard’s lessons.
Tait’s Eight Principles
As a serial entrepreneur, Tait has honed eight principles that have helped him grow successful businesses and endure the trials and challenges of entrepreneurship. It is a journey, a way of life he said. It is tough. It can be very lonely. He defines success not by how many times you are knocked down, but how many times you get back up.
1) Have a mission
A clear sense of mission is vital to ask people to dedicate their lives to create history. At Cranium, it was to give everyone a chance to shine. It was a cause that made it easy to recruit people. At Golazo, it was about creating products that are true to the game and the fan. With Golazo, similarly to Cranium, the mission is that everyone is born to score.
2) Change the rules
Before Cranium games were sold at toy stores. Cranium was the first non-coffee product sold at Starbucks, the first game sold at Barnes & Noble and the first game to be sold on Amazon. The company changed the rules through an act of desperation. Tait and co-founder Whit Alexander had missed Toy Fair, so they took the game to where their customers were.
3) Know what you are good at
Tait said plainly, “Do not stop until you are the best in the world.” You, as entrepreneur, must create world-class products and services. Know what you are best at and then commit constantly at this level. At Cranium, the term CHIFF was coined. CHIFF, an acronym that stands for “Clever, High- quality, Innovative, Friendly, Fun”, became a mission and a mantra. Everyone, even suppliers, understood the statement and how it defined the company strategy. Golazo defined its CHIFF as “Golzao-style”.
These six values include:
- Passion for the beautiful game,
- Play where we can win,
- Respect for Latino heritage,
- Pause before you pass,
- Platform for human potential,
- Born to score.
Every product and project that the company does must be “Golazo- style.”
4) Make hiring priority number one
People who join the company must fit and actively engage in the culture. Cranium had a philosophy of hiring for smarts and renting experience. A hard lesson was learned that the opposite is true for operations and finance. Everyone must pursue the dream, live the mission and culture and go for it. Tait built Golazo around the dream and is defining the culture.
5) Your customers are your sales force
Customers came first at Cranium. They responded and many became “Craniacs”. Birthdays, proposals and weddings were themed around the game. The company would do ridiculous things for its customers.
Tait’s stories range from sending bike messenger to deliver a game to a grandmother sending in a game idea that ended up selling 800,000 games. Tait employed word-of-mouth strategies before the term became commonplace. Golazo took a similar word-of-mouth approach building the brand through amateur 3 on 3 tournaments and Golazo Ambassadors on local college campuses.
6) Avoid hairballs
Tait’s favorite book is Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie. The book is a guide to how to stay creative in a large company. MacKenize and Tait developed a rapport during Tait’s transition from Microsoft before starting Cranium. That relationship left a lasting impact on him. “He taught me to trust in my creativity.” Tait believes that every would-be entrepreneur should read this book only to understand that the challenge is not to be in the reaction business, but rather the avoidance business.
7) Do good as you do well
Giving back as you succeed in business helps tremendously. Tait recounts a terrific story where Cranium had donated more than $1 million to afterschool programs. One of the beneficiaries was a young girl who played violin. For that hour, there were no distractions, no older brothers, no homework, just her and the violin. The way she took the violin and made it play made that hour the best hour of her day. Tait recommends giving back because it is good for those you help and you.
8) Lead with passion, a sense of discovery and speed
“Speed is your friend.” You must push yourself hard to succeed in business. It can also be lonely as well. Tait believes that every entrepreneur will need to recover from the inevitable knockdowns.
Tait takes chances and believes in himself. His self-confidence radiates and is infectious. He believes to invent is why he is on this planet and he encourages everyone around him to find their own leader within. “I am in your corner,” he wrote me in an email — five simple words of encouragement that continue to inspire me.