In my previous post in this topic, I talked about author and speaker Simon Sinek’s philosophy on why leaders like Apple, the Wright Brothers, and Martin Luther King, Jr. were able to inspire those around them. He says that truly inspirational leaders start with why they do it, not what they do. Uninspiring companies focus on “what” they do: I build websites … I help companies get top search engine results … I help businesses leverage social media. Blah, blah, blah …
Okay. But why do you do it?
If your answer was “to make money” or “to earn a living,” there’s nothing wrong with that. But making money is a result, not a reason.
This has got me thinking about my particular “why.” Why am I so compassionate about people who would risk all to start a business? Why don’t I buy into popular thinking that believes people who own businesses are mostly rich, greedy, and immoral?
When I was six years old, my dad and his brother went into business together. And I don’t mean they paid $60 to become Amway distributors. I’m talking about the “take-out-a-second-mortgage-on-your-house-and-send-your-wife-back-to-work” type of business. I witnessed first-hand how difficult starting and running a business can be. Although they were successful overall and eventually had more than 20 employees, we always seemed to struggle. So I vowed never to go into business for myself.
Anyway, that didn’t really work out, because later I decided to start a web development business of my own, with two partners. Over the years, I’ve met many small business owners like my dad and uncle who risked everything to build a dream, yet struggle with growing that business to its fullest potential.
Most small business owners fall on their face when it comes to marketing and advertising. That’s understandable. Most of them decided to start a business because they had a product or technical skill they thought was marketable, and not because they knew anything about marketing.
Author, speaker Guy Kawasaki, owner of venture capitalist firm Garage Technology Ventures, gives this advice to budding entrepreneurs: Before you can make money, you have to make meaning. He says there are three ways to do so:
Increase the Quality of Life
My dad went into business to increase the quality of his family’s life. (And he did.) I enjoy helping small business owners do the same, by helping them successfully market their business. It’s the same reason I enjoy training sales people.
Right a Wrong
As I write this, the U.S. economy struggles to pull itself out of a recession. Many businesses didn’t make it. I think that’s wrong—plain and simple. I want to help right that wrong, whenever I can.
Prevent the End of Something Good
When I meet men and women like my dad who have risked all to start a business, I cannot help but hold them in high regard. When I see them struggle, I want to prevent the collapse of their hopes, dreams and desires that caused them to start that business in the first place.
I read a great definition of capitalism:
A system in which there are winners and losers, in which someone with a brilliant idea gets rich, while most of us get by.
It’s not just about having “a brilliant idea.” Anyone willing to take the risk, work hard, and has the ingenuity and creatively to succeed despite the odds is entitled to the rewards of that success. That may mean more money, having the freedom to work when and where you like, or something completely different. You get to define “success” however you like.
Most of what I write is about marketing your business, earning more money, and gaining more freedom. But if there’s no meaning behind it, if you don’t know why you do it, then it’s mostly pointless, isn’t it?
So how are you going to make meaning?
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.