I enjoy watching The Apprentice. It’s a great case study in human behavior. The players are in a business context where someone gets fired. The pressure of intense deadlines, shotgun creativity, and working with competitors brings out the best and worst in otherwise dignified and accomplished business people.
There are a lot of business people panicked under the change going on around us. What once worked does not work today. The rules have changed and continue to change. However, it is an exciting time for anyone who is willing to work hard (very few) and execute. Here is how myriads of people who are getting on with life and working in the new economy are doing it:
SERVICE: It starts with creating a service which has value. A laptop and an internet connection is all you need. So, $400 and you are in business. Master a technology, a subject or a process. Put in the hours and have a black belt in your trade. It becomes valuable when you can deliver it faster and with precision compared to anyone else. The scarcer the service, the higher its value. You could go into carpentry, but does the world really need another carpenter? How about analytics or high end design? Do this better than anyone you know and you have opportunity.
SELL: Don’t perfect your service. Sell it first. Master your service to help you get 80% there. Your first customer will help you define that last 20%. If you work on perfection in your little laboratory of a brain, you likely will miss. Customers with demands create greater clarity and precision for what the final solution needs to look like. Make the second sale and your refinement will dial into the perfection you are seeking. Sell the dream and then deliver. Here’s a secret, don’t sell; Create a buying experience instead. Get people to buy and you win. Sell and you will struggle.
SCALE: By the time you have your 20th customer, your value proposition will become well defined. If you cannot get your next 20 as easily, it is because your business is not a business. It is just a service and selling activity. A business has systems. Systems scale. Ensure every aspect of your business – how you get a customer, how you service a customer, how you keep a customer – is automated as much as possible. Less people and more automation means less headaches and more predictability. When people are involved, ensure they understand the system and execute with interchangeability.
The new economy affords great opportunity because it is easy to build systems and deliver value if you choose not to sit on the sidelines. The process for doing so starts with a desire to bring value. Growing anything means you have to be willing to grow. Come up with an idea. Persuade a new customer. Systematize your customer experience. Then watch opportunities arise. Perhaps a new product will be developed or a new business venture will be realized. This is how the winners today are working and changing the world. It’s not a secret. It’s just hard.