Cranium Creator Richard Tait Shares Tips for Success

Everyone has ideas, little schemes or things they wish they could pursue. But moving that idea scrawled on a restaurant napkin into reality is entirely different — and not something everyone can do.

Entrepreneur Richard Tait, who is the creator of popular board game Cranium, gave a presentation to Zillow employees on Wednesday on how his ideas went from a scribbled idea to reality.

Tait started off by explaining he’s always had ideas from a young age.

“Inside this body,” he gestured, “beats the heart of an entrepreneur.”

Growing up in Scotland, Tait wanted to be a drummer or a radio DJ. In college he continued to have ideas and his academic adviser told him that if he wanted to be taken seriously, he needed to move to America.

After getting his MBA at Dartmouth, Tait was hired at Microsoft. He ended up spending ten years at the company before leaving to pursue his dream of being a DJ. He took classes at a community college and pitched a radio program to a local station only to be rejected.

But as Tait notes, it’s out of those moments that ideas are born.

“It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up,” he emphasized. “That sums up my experience as an entrepreneur.”

While playing Pictionary and Scrabble with friends, Tait came up with the idea of combining the two games into one. Six months later he and business partner Whit Alexander began trying to sell their new game Cranium.

Despite creating an incredibly popular product that even received praise from actress Julia Roberts on “Oprah,” Tait says that it wasn’t the invention, but the culture the company fostered that was the key to their success.

Tait shared eight things that he learned from his Cranium journey:

  1. Have a mission.
  2. Change the rules. Cranium was the first board game to be sold at Starbucks as well as Barnes and Noble.
  3. Know what you’re good at. Cranium employees were great at product development, Tait said, and it led to several Cranium-related games.
  4. Make hiring your number one priority. “Hire for smarts and rent for experience,” Tait said.
  5. Your customers are your sales force
  6. Hairballs — in reference to the book “Orbiting the Giant Hairballs,” Tait explained the necessity of planning to avoid “hairballs” or future problems.
  7. Do good as you do well. As Cranium continued to be successful, the company gave back to charity.
  8. Orville Wright. A personal hero of Tait. Wright didn’t have his pilot’s license but “didn’t wait to pursue his dream,” Tait said.

His final piece of advice? “Never follow Magic Johnson and Howard Schultz in a presentation.”

Tait sold Cranium to Hasbro in 2008. His current projects include the innovation lab BoomBoom and a soccer-inspired drink Golazo. Tait was the fourth speaker to stop by as part of the Zillow Speaker Series, which is provided for employees who work at Zillow. Previous presenters included real estate coach Tom Ferry, Mike Fridgen of Farecast and Jeff Howbert, who was the second place winner of Netflix’s algorithm contest.

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