Business, Connection, Development, Reflecting

DreamBalls & Being Rich in Other Ways


At first, I kind of didn’t understand what Jack Hubbard was going to talk about – a bucket list as a business plan? Huh? What’s that all about?

And then it became clearer – he had built a business. It was successful. Received wisdom said: after 3 years growth and profit, you sell it & go live your dreams….. only he loved his staff & the work they were doing. His dream was to live in the mountains…. Why couldn’t he do that AND still be CEO of the company he loved? So he moved to the Alps, but he didn’t sell. He invested in his staff for the long-term.

What he does now is plait the dreams of his employees right into the fabric of the business. Propellernet work in a digital space – they say they turn reputation into revenue in a number of ways. Employees are asked to put their dreams in those 1970’s plastic balls that came out of 2p bubblegum machines at the end of the pier – renamed the Dream Ball Machine …. Each time they hit a target, they pop a dream ball out of the machine and someone’s dream comes true. So yes, there is a commercial reality – targets need to be met, customers need to be got and satisfied – but beyond the customer, it comes back to the staff:

“Steve and Jim watched the footy in Rio, Carla took the family on a luxury ski holiday, Alan rode his motor bike across Africa, Sophie C is putting Namibia on the safari map, Mark is producing a sci-fi electro opera, Gary is playing the tech start up game, Dan rides his mountain bike all over the Alps and I run a ski music festival and an Alpine theme park for better business meetings.

At Propellernet our business plan is a bucket list; our corporate objectives are the dreams of employees.

Fun adventures in creative innovation keep our culture in good shape to deliver great marketing work for our clients. And being a great place to work means we attract, retain and motivate a more than capable bunch.”

Jack spoke with heart and authenticity – this was no shiny, soft soaped vision of enabling dreams…. Some of it was bloody hard work. When Sophie wanted to go to Namibia on Safari, they decided to lend her out, for free, for a few weeks to support and enable the Namibian Safari industry with Sophie’s skills. It was going to be expensive to make Stefan’s Dream of climbing Mount Erebus in Antarctica – less so if you find an expedition going there and offer digital and social media support to fundraise and equip….
Mark’s sci-fi electro Opera was mapped out over a few pages of text – a dystopian tale of the future, some of which Jack read out – he and the team had to leave early because they needed to got to an initial jam session with willing musicians and actors who had been rallied together – the plan is for it to debut in London next year (might be Hyde Park – I was laughing too hard to remember).

This is dream–making courtesy of practical magic.

What I loved, as I listened, was the deep understanding of how good it is to be good to people. The dedication to ensuring employees got a go – a dream – a thank you for their efforts – and then the joy Jack seemed to get from being able to make that happen.

From one who has listened to countless talks on employee engagement, where leaders seem to find the whole thing a bit bothersome, this was a breath of fresh air.

And when he had done speaking and I had sought him out, in a slightly fan-girl style to shake his hand and say a genuine “Thanks for unlocking my thinking” I went a sat on the big old tree swing and two thoughts began to crystalise:

1) You can rip up the rule book that says “Sell what you create to the highest bidder so you can live out your life rich and contented” Because it strikes me if you are contributing to something you love and creating something good and purposeful, whilst supporting other people to do similar, you are already living your life rich and contented.

2) What would I wish for, what would I truly deeply wish for, if I knew someone would really make that come true?

Find out more about Jack’s Alpine Theme Park here:


This is part of a four-blog series:

Intro: Happy Start Up Camp – Reflections
Reflection two: The Need to Break Bread – Marketing by relationships
Reflection three: The 1,000 Day Manifesto</h4

2 thoughts on “DreamBalls & Being Rich in Other Ways”

  1. Yes! Jack spoke at Spark the Change 2014 and we loved listening to him as well! At Gamevy, we do it in a slightly different way – we are all direct owners and so responsible for making dreams come true (or not) ourselves. I was thinking about it because someone was talking to me about the distinction they made between their boredom at work and happiness in life and I was thinking what nonsense it was. When I’m unhappy at work, I’m unhappy – because I’m alive there too. What Propellernet do is make it really clear that life – real life – is at the heart of work.

  2. I love this Helen – and welcome to the blog, I’m always pleased when folk comment and add to whatever is posted – We do seem to lose our “whole person” thing – splitting “life” and “work” .. which suggests we are dead at work??? Weird.

    Listening to Jack opened up my thinking – partly it was that thing about not selling up for conventions sake, but sticking with what is good and gratifying…. I’m not sure we get a lot of permission to do that, work is often meant to be a struggle and a strive… it was good to hear about joy, about dreams, about making wishes into something commercial….

    And I’m still puzzling on what my dream would be – have been dreaming small…

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