|The talent is there.
The threat looms.
The real reason.
Some don't get it.
See the light.
Keep your cool.
It's depressing to hear my friends' lack of enthusiasm for starting a business. Especially when it offers a safety net for the political and market shifts that can leave you out in the street.
Most of my friends are creative, smart people with all the skills needed to put together and run a small business. The talent is there. I have seem them come up with solutions to situations where a greased snake could not have gotten out. But 95% of them simply won't consider an entrepreneurial venture. As a result, they stay with the corporate job, and I can see their energy and spirit diminishing.
I must admit that some of their resistance is justified by their responsibilities: the mortgage, the kids in school, or the roof repairs. But this doesn't justify the absolute avoidance of an after-hours project. If the project takes off, then they can break away; if it doesn't, they can maintain their present situation.
The threat is real. Automation continues to eliminate the need for traditional positions. New technologies have rendered entire industries obsolete. The automated processes don't have a union nor do they need health insurance. Even mainstays like manufacturing, printing, and training are being replaced by computer aided processes.
And the knife does cut. Every time a company buys out another, new management expects to cut the fat and remove 20% of the overhead. Forget retraining, forget keeping the knowledge base in-house, forget the fact that there isn't 20% fat to cut. Instead, think downsizing, restructuring, and out-sourcing. And you're really in trouble if the stock market doesn't like your latest PE ratio. The new management team has their mandate...your fifteen years of effort can go down the drain in an afternoon.
The times require that you have a backup plan.
Why don't my friends get their own businesses going? They are courageous in almost everything they do. What holds them back in this area?
Perplexed, I decided to ask them again. This time I prepared a list of low investment, part-time ventures that they could easily undertake. For those who didn't want to cover start-up cost, I would offer to fund their effort. I was determined to get to the real reasons.
Once we cut through the usual excuses, a theme surfaced:
Once I got over the urge to call them wimps, I tried to analyze the situation. The act of selling was the problem. It centered around people's tendency to discredit any sales pitch automatically.
It wasn't always like this. It seemed like there was a period when you could take on a product and start selling it door-to-door. Your success was only limited by your persistence. If you push enough door bells, you would get your business launched. I know, as I had sold magazines door-to-door in high school and early in my career cold-called businesses for management training programs.
These opportunities don't seem to exist today. The general public has had too much junk mail, too many calls during diner, and too many e-mail pitches. As a whole, no one will listen to a sales presentation.
In this light, I couldn't hold my friends reluctance against them, for they were right. They knew that if they had to give a sales presentation, their chance of success was negligible. At the same time, they knew that their business depended on their ability to pitch the product -- and no one would listen. They wanted to be independent, but if it depended on selling, they would fail. It would be too painful to even try.
They were right: the typical consumer is jaded -- customers don't believe anything, and they hate sales pitches.
It's a shame, for the life blood of a country is the small entrepreneur. As business owners, people walk taller, feel more secure, and don't have to put up with a nasty boss. Innovation and inventions flow from the freedom to explore. And you get your life back -- you can make it to the kids' ball game and not be a stranger in your own home. It's a shame to give this up just because the dynamics of selling has changed.
Is there another way? This had me stumped. Can a person start a business going without selling?
I went back to business basics: needs and solutions. As I replayed the most simple interactions, another theme surfaced. I believe it offers another way.
The theme removes the selling requirement. It enables you to get a business going without traditional selling. There are no sales pitches and no painful rejections. It's an approach where your effort and the strength of the product will determine your success. You are no longer bound to how well you can sell. With this approach, if you gut it out and put in the hours, you will get the business launched. Period.
The approach involves building relationships.
I will take you through each step in detail. If you follow the steps, you will be able to get a business going. At no point will you have to make a sales pitch. Sounds too easy? Well, as you will see, it isn't easy. It will require that you dig down and gut out the work required.
The first requirement is that you understand the approach thoroughly. Each phase will be spelled out in more detail than needed for a quick grasp of the concept, but the details are important. The better you understand each section, the better you'll be able to adapt it to your individual situation.
Since we are going to redesign the traditional approach to launching a business, we need to start with the basics.
The basic elements of a free marketplace:
Let's look at a simple example.
Looking at the pizzas elements:
The example illustrates a complete business model: there was a need, the shops let you know they could fulfill the need, and in return you addressed their need to take in money.
It also illustrates that business interactions can be easy. There was no high pressure selling, no arm twisting. It was easy and even pleasurable.
Two of these elements are so key that we can call them principles:
In a less complex business climate, addressing these two principles would make you a successful business person. You'd present a solution to a need, and others would happily offer you money in return.
Pam's pizza shop is a good example of having the solution right in front of you but not being able to see it. Proximity was driving the business of the other shop; her business was getting by because of relationships. Relationships which were based on give and take. This leads to the next principle:
Principle 3. Given a choice, people will support a give and take relationship.
The comment arises, "But I feel helping others in order to get more business is manipulative. It doesn't feel right." It may not feel right in the beginning, but it's difficult not to get pulled into the spirit of giving and having others give back. Even if your motivation begins as self-centered, how bad can it be to lend a helping hand to others?
Pam's business took off without any sales pitches. She filled a need and others returned the favor, gladly. It was easy; it was fun. Building "give and take" relationships offers a very real approach to launching a business.
Each element in Pam's success was important. They were:
That's pretty traditional up to this point. The following are just as traditional but are used in a more creative manner.
Interestingly, a need like the dirty neighborhood doesn't have to be closely tied to what you are offering. The idea is to establish a "give and take" relationship, not to push your product. For this to work you must fulfill a genuine need, and the recipient must know that you are connected to the product/service.
At this point you know enough to formulate your own strategy for building "give and take" relationships and launching your business. The following sections offer suggestions on customizing the principles to better fit your operation and style. Several common pitfalls are addressed.
The Next Level
To get a better sense of which needs to focus on, it helps to identify the customers you are looking to attract. Obviously, if your goodwill offering doesn't impact potential customers, your return will be much lower.
As you provide your service, it's important to let the recipients know that you are connected to a product. This is not the time to be shy or anonymous. You don't have to pitch your product, but they should come away knowing it exists. The next time they have a need for your product/service, you will stand a much better chance of being selected.
Examples of making the connection available:
It's like a joke. You know it's funny, but some individuals don't get it. The same works for "give and take." You can shovel their walk, bring them cookies on the holidays, pick them up at the airport, but if you ask them to walk next door and feed the fish one weekend a year, they don't want to do it. They're perfect "give and take" without the "give."
Before you start explaining the joke to them in no uncertain terms, it's useful to look at the percentages. Responses often fall into these four categories:
The final tally works out with about 60% of the population accessible for give and take relationships. I mention the lower 40% because you should be aware that this approach will not be successful every time. This is reality. The reasons why some individuals are not receptive have little to do with you. Focus on the top 60%, and you will have a successful and pleasurable group of relationships.
The top 20% will be easy. Fulfill one of their needs, and they will reciprocate gladly.
The good natured group may need an occasional nudge to see their part in the relationship. Take care not to turn a nudge into a sales pitch, for even this easy going group will resist a standard sales push. The key is not ask them for anything -- keep the nudge indirect. Remember, the goal is to get the relationship going and create a connection to your product, not to make the sale or close the deal.
To keep your nudge from becoming a push, you might try this viewpoint: Assume the person is already a customer. That way you have no reason to push. You will be able to energetically describe your efforts without the underlying sense that you're pushing a sale. The idea is to let them know you have an on-going operation that requires outside support.
Again, the goal is for them to see the connection between you and your product, not to make the sale or close the deal.
Some people have a difficult time giving. I hate to think what their experiences might have been to harden them in such a way. So when someone who owes you dozens of favors refuses to buy a magazine subscription from you, keep your cool. Try to show compassion and understanding.
I realize I didn't show much compassion when describing the lower "non-giving" groups -- I was pretty harsh. The fact is that I don't like dealing with people who never give back anything. But if I take a higher view and realize something pushed them into this stance, my attitude softens. Be careful that someone's problem with giving does not grow into a point of conflict with you. The situation is sad enough as is -- let it go.
For some, building relationships is the perfect way to launch a business. It fits their style; they interact well; they have plenty of ideas on how to go about it; and they have reasons for getting a business going.
Sometimes, however, these motivated, energized individuals have nothing to market. They don't have a business, and for one reason or another their skills never led them into a commercial enterprise. They could be research mathematicians or historians. Or they might not have a formal education which can be shaped into a product line.
Good news: plenty of products already exist and are in need of marketing. In fact, most of the free market is built on brokering others' products. The grocery owner doesn't grow the vegetables or raise the beef, and book sellers don't write the books.
Since you're not limited to marketing your own product, you might as well pick something that is required by a majority of the population. Cosmetics, car products, phone service, grocery services, travel services are possibilities.
If your situation doesn't include a business, don't worry. There are plenty of solid products in need of someone to market them.
The 25 Sales Habits of Highly Successful Salespeople
by Stephan Schiffman. Adams Media Corporation, 1994.