Business Success Attracts Haters: Ignore Them

How Hophead’s Good Luck Attracted a Bad Attitude

“Do you have Hophead, please, mate?”
The small Brighton pub was packed; I was shouting.
The barman yelled back, surprised: “Hophead?! No, mate. We haven’t stocked Hophead in ages!”
“Oh, shame!” I replied. “They were local, weren’t they? Did they go bust?”
“Nooo! The opposite. They’re a success. Dark Star was bought by Fullers, then by Asahi, and yeah…”
The barman’s voice dripped with scorn, “You might as well go to Sainsbury’s!”

I looked at him, bemused, and he shrugged and gave me one last chance to ‘get it’:

“They just got too popular, mate. We won’t stock that in here again.”

A victim of its own success? Apparently. The tiny but popular West Sussex brewery Dark Star and its flagship beer, Hophead, went from strength to strength until it gained a sexy new international cellar in which to expand and thrive.

This bizarre exchange got me thinking. Surely we – suppliers and customers alike – all want and admire success?! If your enterprise takes off, your instinct is, hopefully, to let it bloom; not to hold it back. Nothing clever about a bonsai’d business, surely.

However, there’s a certain type of person who’ll stop stocking or buying a product as soon as it hits mainstream, as my pub exchange proved. That person bangs on about how they were the ‘number- one fan’ of a band before that band got big. They used to drink Beaverton, “but not any more, of course!” They’re a card-carrying ‘early adopter’, to the exclusion of any mainstream kudos, and don’t you forget it.

It’s inverted snobbery and it’s a distraction. Exhausting, even.


With your start-up, this attitude, this inevitable background noise, this snobbery, is exactly that: simply another distraction. Ignore it.

It’s common for a newbie director, as you swim deep in your world of expertise, to hear the closest voices most loudly. Small businesses create small but nearby ripples. It’s said that your biggest hater is usually someone you know.

I read recently somewhere: ‘Haters will see you walk on water and they’ll say it’s because you can’t swim’. It’s funny because it’s true.

Don’t let them get to you. Don’t get distracted. So long as your platform is strong, so long as your head is level, so long as your North Star Metric holds true, you will scale up with authenticity and your business will continue to embody the same values you placed on it on Day One. I still love to drink Hophead, after all.


So don’t be scared of success – or of the haters. Don’t allow yourself to be thrown off. It’s all part of the journey.

Let’s drink to that!