Walt Long

Making BIG differences with incremental growth

Making BIG differences with incremental growth

By David Lloyd

Making BIG differences with incremental growth

This is me and my dog Walt. Walt is now three, not a big deal I know but for me having Walt in my life for the last three years has made probably a bigger impact than anything else on my health, physical and mental.

There’s a line that really resonates with me, one that I borrowed from a business mentor that we have worked with for the past few years. A line that he used whilst discussing our business and its growth, but one that really hit as much to me on a personal level. As a creative it’s not that sexy by any means, it’s hasn’t been distilled and reduced into some catch phrase but nonetheless it is a great one to remember and to use in most aspects of our lives — ’incremental growth’. Small changes that make a big difference over time, not rushed.

It is the positive effect of making those small changes/tweaks to better develop something, in this case, Naked and secondly me.

So, what was the spark for this change? It was actually a whippet called Walt and the impact that that whippet has had on my life is astonishing.

After the impact of Covid on all of our businesses, which incidentally happened three weeks after buying my business partner out of Naked, we were in a position like most businesses needing some extra help and guidance. We found a mentor who helped us understand what we needed to do to not only secure our business but possibly push on with growth, not standing still but looking for opportunities in a shit situation. And, always using the line, ‘incremental growth’, don’t rush it, we love what we do, we want to be sticking around.

Now, like any business owner, I wasn’t spending any time on myself or my family, constantly pushing work, looking at the business, looking at how we could be better ourselves and looking at the people that we needed to bring on board to sustain the business moving forward.

Sustaining my own personal mental health was not even considered, and probably never has been. Maybe a few beers on a Friday after another week of lockdown was one of the ways to get through it. I’ve always kept pretty quiet about it, and we all know that is the wrong thing to do.

So fast forward a year, we have some video for our new website taken of team members telling our audience what we’re good at, what we can do and how we can make a difference to your business. When I reviewed the footage, I looked at a person I didn’t really recognise, I know TV is supposed to add a few pounds, but this didn’t look, or importantly felt good at all.

I’ve always fluctuated with my weight; I’ve tried running a lot in the past and got up to distances of about 13 miles. But running is hard and takes motivation, it also creates injuries that can set you back weeks. I’ve also tried the Joe Wicks work outs, this I thought would help me look better from an aesthetic point of view, again, probably not the best place to come from. What I was failing to recognise was that good mental health goes hand in hand with good physical health, and pushing myself into something was beginning to create a cycle of stop/start and no clear changes, just fluctuations.

At this point I’d like to mention I’ve never been the most dog-orientated person however, as a family a year out of lockdown we convinced ourselves it would be nice to have a four-legged furry friend. My wife has always wanted a rescue dog, something like a greyhound or a lurcher, but our son at the time was 10 and the rescue centre weren’t so keen on us having one, so we decided to invest instead in a puppy. My wife and son went to visit a Whippet breeder in Lincolnshire (my home county). It turns out the dog chose them rather than the other way round, but it was love at first sight.

So let me get to the point of this quite quickly, incremental growth was taking a puppy for a walk for 10 minutes every day, although he was carried most of the time because he hated being outside near cars traffic and we live in a town centre. It was a whole new experience so that’s how we started, a 10 to 15 minute walk a day, I didn’t realise how much I really enjoyed being outside listening to the birds, feeling the weather, this built-up overtime to 40-minute walks in the morning, and then we go out again in the evening.

It was really starting to make an impact, I could feel myself getting healthier, feeling better and, also, I’d like to add at this point as a designer, it seems I’m a bit of a polisher trying to constantly make things look better, feel better and that’s what I started doing. We started taking walks out in the countryside, listening to podcasts, learning so much more and feeling so much better — massively impacting my life, my mental health and my physical health. One of the podcasts spoke about wearing a weighted rucksack that they use for hiking and long-distance walking in the military, so I started putting some massive heavy graphic design books (IYKYK) into my rucksack which after a while started to burst at the seams.

For Christmas I asked my mum and dad for an actual weighted ruck sack 15 kg plate in a proper forces style rucksack. So, within these three years of owning Walt and being out with him for a couple of hours every morning I’ve lost three stone, and most importantly feel so much better and inspired. And because of the small changes it doesn’t feel like a chore, actually the opposite. As you’re walking, there’s so much less impact on your body compared to running, and you can absorb yourself in your surroundings more. It gives me clarity of mind to able to think about things better.

Then another decision to make came my way during this time. When I took over Naked, I adopted the role of Managing Director. However, after being in this role for a couple of years I also realised it wasn’t what I enjoyed or what I was necessarily the best at. I could do it as a job, but I felt it needed somebody that was a bigger picture thinker and more analytical.

I love being a creative. I love being a designer. I feel like I’m good at it and it’s where I can make the business, so I switched places with my colleague Dan. Again, making changes that have a better impact. Also, technically demoting myself but it seems like the right switch at the time, and Dan is now using his ideas and thoughts to incrementally impact Naked. After 22 years in business, and with Dan at the helm, we have really discovered our purpose and mission, what it is we want to be and that has taken some time to come to fruition, something that you’ll all see very soon with a slight tweak of our brand identity and website.

As I write this, or should I say talk it into my phone on my morning walk (something else I’ve started doing), I can feel the sun coming through the mist and starting to feel the warmth on the back of my neck. I’ve got Walt buzzing around my feet looking to chase the next rabbit or deer he sees, and I know those times were difficult and hard, but now I can get out into my headspace, I have the space to think. Think about how I can make a difference, it really does feel so good. So, just remember from those very small steps, doing a little bit extra every day, very very big things can happen.