What You’re Building Is Bigger Than You

A business can be a prototype for the world you want to live in. -- Jennifer Armbrust

“A business can be a prototype of the world you want to live in.”

Jennifer Armbrust

You probably started your business to create the world you wanted to live in.

You thought about the kind of people you wanted to work with, the kind of work you wanted to do, the kind of time off you didn’t want to have to ask permission for, and the kind of flexible schedule that would allow you to accomplish more than work. 

I hope you accomplished a lot of that! 

Maybe some of it is still a work-in-progress…

Yet, as you are very well aware, the world doesn’t stop at your office door or even your front door.

If you want to build a business that prototypes the world you want to live in, you have to consider how your business is impacting your customers and your community. 

  • Does the structure of it embody the values you hold dear?
  • Do the offers you make reinforce your idea of how you want to build relationships with others?
  • Does your team reflect the way you want to see our communities organized?
  • Does your mindset as an entrepreneur and leader represent the mindset you want to see in the leaders of our community at large?

Building a business that is a prototype for the world you want to live in doesn’t just mean you get to live a great life (although that’s incredibly important). 

It also means that the decisions you make for your business reflect your greatest hopes and dreams for our society.

What you’re building has the capacity to be so much bigger than you. 

If you want to live up to that potential, you have to answer those questions. And then keep answering them so that you are always improving on the world you’re creating for yourself and others.

And today–today–I challenge you to rise up to that potential. 

Your potential gives me hope–hope that is growing day by day by day:

Between 1997 and 2014, non-employer firms in the United States grew by 60% (for contrast, traditional payroll jobs grew 12% in that same time).

What’s a non-employer firm, you ask? 

Well, it’s you. Or, if you’re not anymore, you most likely started your business as a non-employer firm.

Non-employer firms are–most often–the scrappy, creative, determined sort of micro businesses that have no employees. They consist solely of an owner creating something from scratch with an idea and loads of ambition.

This is an unprecedented rise in this measure. And that means…

There is an unprecedented number of entrepreneurs taking steps to create the world they want to live in. There is an unprecedented number of business owners building personal wealth and contributing to the common wealth.

There is real change afoot. 

And, it’s not coming from the top down.

It’s coming from the bottom up.

What you’re doing right now—by building your business, circumventing pre-established norms, creating value for others and wealth for yourself—is slowing but surely changing the dynamics of power in your community.

No matter which side of the aisle we sit on, I know that we agree that when creative, thoughtful, purpose-driven people of all different stripes have more influence over the direction of society, we all benefit.
 
So, thank you.
 
Thank you for showing up. Thank you for offering your voice. 
 
Thank you for offering a different solution. Thank you for toughing it out. 
 
It’s working.

How to Find Success In a Crowded Market: Fix What’s Broken for the People You Care About

How to launch a product in a crowded market

I always chuckle when people tell me their market is “really crowded” and for that reason, they’re a special case when it comes to marketing or business development.

What market is not really crowded in the 21st century?

I mean, we now have competing toilet sprays to keep people from knowing you’re going #2 while you’re at your significant other’s house.

A crowded market often means more opportunity, not less opportunity.

First, if a market is crowded it means that there is plenty of demand. There are loads of people who want to buy.

Second, if a market is crowded there are lots of straightforward, non-ninja ways to figure out what needs still aren’t being met.

And it’s this second piece of the puzzle that I want to focus on today.

You can develop a product in a crowded market and become a key player…

…if you focus on what’s “broken” about the other solutions on the market for the people you care about most.

Take Emily McDowell’s blockbuster success.

Emily noticed that, despite Valentine’s Day being a multi-billion dollar industry, none of the greeting cards she could find matched the relationships that she and her friends were really in.

Those greeting cards were “broken” for people like Emily (and probably for people like you, too).

The solution?

Make a greeting card that was laser-focused on that kind of relationship.

1500 orders in 1 week with zero marketing on her part…

…and the idea was proven.

I did the same thing earlier this year when I decided that I’d have enough of “online courses” but not enough of virtual training and created our Virtual Planning Retreats.

Online courses weren’t getting the results customers wanted (or that I wanted) because of the very way they were structured–so I “fixed it.”

I thought about the specific people I care the most about (you) and I created the Virtual Planning Retreat to “fix” the online course experience for you.

(By the way, the next one is February 22-23 and if you’d like to see if it’s for you, I’ve got a 4-video training series that walks you through the big reasons you’re not making the money you’d like to be right now.)

Last week, I talked with both Joanna Wiebe and Nathalie Lussier who have both launched software products in crowded spaces and they echoed the same strategy:

Find out what’s broken for the specific people you care about and fix it.

Don’t worry that your product is one of many in a crowded market, if it’s designed with for a customer who isn’t satisfied with the existing options–no matter how many there might be–you’ll have a winner on your hands.

Think about your own market:

What do you hear about being “broken?”

What do your customers have to “make work” for them?

What disappoints them about existing options?

The answers to those questions could be the key to your next blockbuster offer.

 

Behind the Scenes of Explosive Growth with Empathy Cards creator Emily McDowell

Behind the Scenes of Explosive Growth with Empathy Cards creator Emily McDowell on Profit. Power. Pursuit. with Tara Gentile

It’s tempting to think that “lucking” into explosive growth is all that’s standing between you and the lifestyle you dream of as a small business owner.

All you need is a tap on the shoulder from a big influencer, or a blog post that goes viral, or a product you create to appear on Oprah. But explosive growth is often uglier than it is exciting or lucrative.

On this episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., my guest is Emily McDowell the founder of Emily McDowell Studio and the creator of the wildly popular greeting card collection Empathy Cards.

When Emily realized that the Valentine’s Day cards that were on the market didn’t really reflect the relationships many people found themselves in (ya know, dating–sorta–but only if that’s okay with you), she decided to try her hand at producing an alternative.

It said, “I know we’re not, like, together or anything but it just felt weird to just not say anything so I got you this card. It’s not a big deal. It doesn’t really mean anything. There isn’t even a heart on it. So basically it’s a card saying hi. Forget it.”

Etsy–kingmaker for independent designers and makers–put it on their Facebook page and Emily was inundated with orders. She received a whopping 1700 orders in 1 week and had to refuse to sell more.

What would YOU do if you received 1700 orders for your product overnight? Could you fulfill them? Do you have the customer support to keep everyone happy and informed?

It would be easy to say that Emily’s success was a fluke, a stroke of luck.

But Emily tapped into a key strategy for product design.

She says: 

“I was really focusing on what I didn’t see versus what I was seeing and what I was seeing done successfully.”

Whenever you’re trying to “get creative” about what you’re going to bring to market, when you’re trying to innovate on something as ubiquitous as a greeting card (or an online course, a coaching package, a wedding photography package, or a t-shirt), you might think the best plan is to shut off the internet, go into a cave, and wait until lightening strikes.  

Emily had the opposite approach.  

As a former creative director, she knew the best way to create something new and remarkable was to really look at the market. By examining what else was available, she started to see the hole–the opportunity–where there was great need. 

It wasn’t luck. 

It was a process. 

And because Emily had a process for tapping into the market with her products, explosive growth didn’t stop with that one card. Emily created a line of 40 cards she presented at the National Stationery Show and received an order from Urban Outfitters. 

Each time she’s experienced that kind of explosive growth, she’s had to figure out how to make things work… even as what she knows might feel like it’s crumbling around her.

Now, her company’s mission is to identify universal emotional truths and observations on being human and turn them into products that help people feel understood.

Emily and I talk about the other side of explosive business growth. We talk about what went on behind the scenes when her very first greeting card design went viral and sold 1700 units in one week. We also discuss how things have evolved from landing a big order for Urban Outfitters at her first trade show to licensing the production of her gift line to another company.

Click here to listen on iTunes and, while you’re there, be sure to subscribe & leave us a 5-star review.

And, find Emily’s new book, There is No Good Card for This, on Amazon.

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Building Relationships & Communities to Fuel Your Business with Justin Shiels

Building Relationships and Communities to Fuel Your Business with Justin Shiels on Profit. Power. Pursuit. with Tara Gentile

When it comes to networking, I’m a little intense. I’ve actually reserved every Wednesday at 3pm for a meeting with a close friend or a new stranger who I’m interested in meeting. So I literally email, Facebook, or Instagram someone who I think is doing something interesting.

— Justin Shiels, marketer, speaker, and community builder

This week’s Profit. Power. Pursuit. guest is Justin Shiels the founder of This Creative Lab and Curious Tribe. Justin has over 9 years experience in communications, marketing, and graphic design. He uses his passion for community and his hometown of New Orleans to fuel his work. In 2014 Justin cofounded Venture Pop, a conference for creative entrepreneurs.

Justin and I talk about the power of nurturing relationships, the specific tactics he uses to connect with new people, and his value of diversity in building creative communities.

A Simple Networking Tactic Even You Can Use Every Day

Aside from his weekly standing meetings to get to know new people, Justin also recommends a networking tactic (oy, that sounds so cold and impersonal for such a friendly thing) for staying in touch with the people he meets. I’ve been trying to implement this networking tactic myself all year–and it’s panned out beautifully.

The process is simple: 

If you read something, see something, hear something, or think something that reminds you of someone you know, let them know. Don’t let the thought pass and wonder why you haven’t talked to them in forever.

Drop them an email, text them, post on their Facebook wall…

…heck, pick up the phone and call them!

Share the thought, article, or video that made you think of them and tell them why. That’s it!

These small gestures–whether you actually reconnect with the person or not–puts you (and your business, mission, movement, ideas, etc…) back on the top-of-mind for the person you just thought of.

It’s a little thing that can have big results.

Take Action Now

In fact, why not give it a try right now.

Who do you know who is a natural relationship-builder? An authentic networker? A consummate community-wrangler? 

Let them know what Justin’s interview made you think of them. Tell them how much you appreciate their curiosity, friendliness, and openness.

Love this episode? Subscribe on iTunes and while you’re there, leave us a review, too! It helps us reach more smart & ambitious small business owners like you.

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4 Lies About Your Business You Shouldn’t Believe in 2017

facebook_lies

I’m pretty lucky that my job isn’t just to build my business but to watch businesses being built. And from my perch in the online business market, I see a lot of lies about building businesses.

Some are obvious. Others… are more pernicious.

Many lies are distortions of truths that have been passed along in a sort of entrepreneurial game of telephone. These are the ones I find most damaging.

What you’ll find below are 4 of the lies–most definitely grounded in some truth–that are stifling the prospects of businesses left and right.

Lie #1: Your most important goal is to build your list.

A few years ago, there was a major shift in the community of people building businesses in the wake of the rise of social media.

They realized that social media—on its own—wasn’t going to produce the financial results they were looking for. The platforms got more crowded, it got harder to earn attention, and followers became elusive.

There was no way to predict whether anyone would see your message—let alone click or buy.

What was working was email marketing—as it has since it was created—and savvier new marketers started to put more and more energy into ushering new people onto their email lists.

They found people who were interested in what they were offering, signed them up to “the list” for free, nurtured their blossoming relationships with content, and then made an offer.

Money was made.

A mantra was born: The money is in the list.

By the way: I’ve been–unintentionally–as guilty as almost anyone of perpetuating this lie.

Soon, everyone was talking about list-building. List-building, list-building, list-building.

There were list-building challenges, courses on how to get your first 1,000 subscribers, webinars on how to turn Instagram followers into email subscribers…

Everywhere you looked, someone had an answer for your list-building problem.

Only… you never had a list-building problem.

List-building isn’t the real goal of any business.

Finding customers is the goal.

Attracting people who want to buy from you is the goal.

List-building be damned.

As you think about your email list moving forward, remember that your goal is to fill it with potential customers, not just to add to the numbers on MailChimp or ConvertKit or Infusionsoft.

There might be a hot new “list-building” tactic out there and it may potentially add hundreds or thousands to your list but that doesn’t mean it will add new customers.

Be intentional, think socially, and grow your audience with purpose this year.

Lie #2: If you can’t scale, you can’t succeed.

Tech startups, software-as-a-service companies, and of course, online education businesses are all the rage.

All around you, you hear about the promise of scale: serving hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people with the same amount of work you use to serve one.

Scale is awesome. And, yes, the internet makes scale more accessible than ever before. But it’s not the end game for every business.

Businesses have been succeeding and making their owners millions of dollars without scale for the entire history of capitalism. Think about advertising agencies, construction companies, hospitals, and architecture firms.

Certainly, building this type of business is a challenge in and of itself. But if you have strong values for personalized service, bespoke results, and deep experiences, this is the growth path you should be on.

You don’t need to build an online course to grow a successful business. You don’t need to create an app. You don’t need to build a media site that tallies their visits in the millions. Those are all viable models—but they’re not the only model.

Lie #3: You have to work harder to make more money.

Now, this is a tricky one. Because it’s a lie that seems to have been debunked early in the rise of the New Economy.

However, for those of us with working class upbringings or ingrained Protestant work ethic (and I’m sure for many others too), this lie dies hard.

In a virtual planning retreat, I facilitated last week, several of participants expressed concern that their new, bigger goals would mean that they’d have to work really hard to reach them.

They were signed up for this event specifically to create a plan that would allow them to work less and earn more. And yet, they still struggled to get past this mental block.

As I’ve written many times this year, the main difference between a business that earns 5 or 6 figures and a business that earns 7 figures is not the work ethic or schedule of the owner. It’s a matter of design.

Design your business to produce more with the effort you’re already giving it. Change your behavior, don’t do more of the same. Build creative solutions instead of working harder. Adjust what you’re offering to produce the results you want, don’t pile on more, more, more.

Lie #4: Learn first, then do.

Having access to a wealth of information both free and paid is fantastic.

My pre-2003 self is still amazed at how effortlessly I can access news, opinion, education, and tutorials on any subject.

This wealth of information at our fingertips has created a strong culture of learning and exploration online. In many ways, this is extremely positive.

However, that learning and exploration culture can also prevent many people from taking action. There’s extreme FOMO when it comes to new ideas, new tactics, and new trends:

If you don’t learn something because you’re off doing something, someone else might learn it first.

The truth is that learning doesn’t actually happen until you do something.

All those courses you’ve taken, blog posts you’ve read, podcasts you’ve listened to, and coaches you’ve hired haven’t actually taught you anything until you put their teaching to use.

That’s just how learning works.

Keep investing your time and money in learning, but take action before you’re ready and as part of the learning process—not something that happens later.

(This 4th lie inspired by Mary Ann Clements, founder of Jijaze.)

The most important truth you can take with you into 2017:

Critically examining what you perceive to be your limitations never fails.

If you bump up against an obstacle time and time again, it will always pay to ask yourself why you’re bumping up against it and how you can get around it or over it instead of pushing through it.