Be More Pirate: adding positive fuel to the fire

Are you a pirate? Not the Jack Sparrow kind…the golden-age kind…

Be More Pirate is a movement (and a book) created by Sam Conniff. If you haven’t read it, READ IT, or watch a snippet here. We were lucky enough to have Sam join us in the Natwest Hub in Newcastle. In true pirate style, Sam agreed to come along and do a talk, because the awesome Michelle Minnikin reached out to him on LinkedIn (although he has a lot of high profile events!). The talk was a brilliant reminder of entrepreneurial life, and gave me the opportunity to reflect on where Sail has been, where we are now, and where we are going.

Start up life can be tough, sometimes practicalities get in the way. Sail exists to create exciting work that has meaning and impact, with people and for people that have authentic purpose. But we have to balance that with sustainable and organic growth, without forgetting why we started.

Now more than ever, the world is changing, and businesses must too. Start up businesses are further highlighting this, and shaking things up in many ways.

As Sam went onto say; non-sustainable businesses (and big names at that), will get left behind and will look like a war-crime in the future unless they take action to be, and do better. The responsibility comes down to us all, and it starts by people having a conversation. That’s why movements like Be More Pirate are significant. Here are some key takeaways:

Cause ‘good trouble’ through organisation and democracy

Sam referenced Chance the Rapper, the only grammy-award winning artist that has never had a record deal but is now one of the most successful hip-hop artists. Because of this, Chance has full freedom and control over his decisions. He is now on the front line fighting for equality, as well as making groundbreaking music.

Feeling out of your depth means you are doing the right thing

It’s important to be uncomfortable, it pushes us to be better and more innovative. Always remind yourself why you started and what you stand for.

Find your tribe

Find a support network (not your partner, friends, or parents as lovely as they are) – people that are in the same world, with similar ambitions and ethos.

Take action

Looking away is no longer an option. Equality stops corruption. This includes equality of ideas, imagination and inspiration.

Success is now defined differently

Authenticity brings meaning to what you do. Long live meaning. Sam went onto ask ‘where is the scariest place YOU can tell your story?’ Where is the conflict in what you do? Find it and use it as an opportunity to be better. Trying and failing is the key to success. Don’t be scared to FUCK UP.

Decisions define actions, actions define future

We are living in future truths. We have a choice of what that looks like. Make decisions based on your values, do this with purpose and clarity. Think long-term not short-term.


It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Take risks. Don’t rest on your laurels. Don’t ask for permission. But do so with consideration. Be prepared to take accountability and suffer the consequences of your actions. Don’t blame others. Don’t expect success.

Stay human

Don’t desensitise your values for profit. Show up, do what’s right, take action, be accountable. Cause good trouble.

It starts now

As a business, you should alway be adjusting your sail, but keep purpose at heart, and use this to define your direction. Sail stands for: fairness, equality, experimentation, collaboration, representation, redistribution and the freedom to say no. These are what we base our decisions on. And publicly voicing this will hold us accountable to stand by them; now, and in the future, as business and industry pressure may grow. 

I set Sail up to do good work, for good people. Be More Pirate further validated why I started and confirmed I, and we, are on the right journey. It reminded me never lose sight of that. It’s about partnerships, falling in love with our projects, believing in our clients and creating work that matters for people that care, who share purpose and ambition to be better.

“Today, if we want to improve this picture, of our future, we have to do it ourselves. The only way out of this mess is a little less Instagram and a lot more action. Take a deep breath and break some rules, because it’s only amongst a little chaos that we find the best beginnings of new creation and opportunity.”

The Pirate Code

• Breaking rules and remaking rules to make things better, fairer or faster.

• Collaboration as a secret weapon allowing the underdogs to beat the odds.

• Modern mutinies, where well placed mischief has changed the way we work.

• The fight for fairness, where democracy and diversity drive strategy.

• Weapons grade storytelling, where small voices get heard by the world.