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Steven Bartlett: Four Strategies for Future-Proofing Your Business

Steven Bartlett: Four Strategies for Future-Proofing Your Business

Entrepreneur, investor, best-selling author, host of Europe’s #1 podcast, “The Diary of a CEO”, and the youngest ever dragon on BBC’s hit show, “The Dragon’s Den” (the UK equivalent of “Shark Tank”), if anyone can speak on big bets and how to navigate the future, it’s Steven Bartlett.

At INBOUND 2023, Bartlett shared insights on how businesses can thrive in today’s shifting landscape. Drawing from his personal journey and experiences, he offered actionable strategies for individuals and business owners eager to lead, rather than follow.

With so many algorithms to keep tabs on and constant changes in the technology landscape, how does Bartlett stay on top of it all? Experimentation. At the core of his philosophy is the importance of experimentation and learning from failures. 
The greatest companies that I've studied and examined, they're not great because they've had great ideas. They're great because they out-fail their competition.

On his podcast, Bartlett notes how testing a variety of factors from the music to episode titles and thumbnails has led to the podcast’s surge in growth. “None of that is because I'm a good interviewer… honestly, it's because we outfail our competition,” he added. By adopting a similar mindset, organizations can innovate continuously and adapt swiftly to new challenges. It also empowers employees to present new ideas and experiments to contribute to the company’s overall innovation efforts.


Drawing from his podcast discussion with Mo Gawdat, former head of Google X, Bartlett shared how happiness and satisfaction are tightly linked to the alignment between expectations and reality, both in life and in business relationships.

If you want to be a master of customer relations or client retention, it's all expectation management. And that's the controllable element of your own happiness too.

Take a look at your client onboarding processes and make a point to review and revamp them regularly (if needed!) to set and manage expectations clearly from the outset — enhancing satisfaction and retention.


When referencing his latest book, “The Diary of a CEO: The 33 Laws of Business and Life”, Bartlett touched on one of the pillars — that “useful absurdity defines you more than useful practicality.”

Through personal stories, he emphasized the impact of memorable elements unrelated to a brand on its perception and visibility. For instance, he highlighted a massive climbing wall in his gym that, despite being underutilized, stands out in conversations with friends when recommending the gym. “I'm using the most absurd thing about the experience to sell you everything and to tell you everything about the experience,” he added.

Another example is the giant blue slide that he had installed in a new office before the space even had work desks. “Because what the slide said, more loudly than any marketing campaign I could have ever done was, ‘they're young, they think differently, they're innovative, and they represent the exact product they're selling’, which is social media marketing,” Bartlett said.

The most absurd piece of any experience can help define the value of the brand more than anything else. Lean into those references to make the point of your company stand out.


To end his session, Bartlett shared some key leadership takeaways. On the hiring front, he emphasized the Three Bars of Building a Team. View it as a general framework if you’re ever in the position of hiring, promoting, or letting go of a team member — simply ask yourself one question about that individual:

If everybody in the company represented that person's cultural values, would the bar be raised? Would it be maintained? Or would it be lowered?

In his company, being a bar raiser signifies setting a high standard where everyone emulates their excellence. A bar maintainer requires additional training, while a bar lowerer is someone no longer suited for the organization.

It’s not all about how hard your team works or how good their ideas are — “it comes down to the group of people you assemble, the culture you bind them with to get one plus one to equal three. And the vision that you give them,” Bartlett said on a leader’s role in building a team.


Bartlett’s insights serve as a blueprint for businesses aiming to not just keep up with the pace of change but actively set the pace themselves. By integrating these strategies into your business practices you can foster a culture of innovation, experimentation, adaptability, and continuous improvement to ensure that your company not only survives, but thrives in the future world of business.



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