Thursday, January 08, 2009

The ONE Question Every Entrepreneur Must Ask

What did you used to build as a kid?

Lego houses? Popsicle stick sculptures? Bunk-bed spaceships?

In my family, we built forts. Give us a few blankets, a couple of chairs and an afternoon to kill, and my brother and I were SET.

Structurally, they didn’t always work out the way we planned.

Apparently stacking seven bar stools upside down on top of a porcelain elephant lacked the architectural integrity to withstand the force of two young boys hopped up on juice boxes and Pixie Sticks.

OK, so, we weren’t exactly engineers. But we had fun. Building forts was creative, adventurous and educational – even sometimes a little dangerous.

Of course, that was a long time ago. Now my brother and I are all grown up. Well, at least one of us is.

Anyway, it recently occurred to me that our desire to build is something we unintentionally forfeit as adulthood slowly suffocates our childlike creativity.

And so the challenge for growing entrepreneurs and businesspeople revolves around a simple, yet powerful question...

What are YOU building?

Hang on there, Speedy. Read that question again. Allow it to profoundly penetrate you.

What are YOU building?

When I conduct workshops for some of my smaller-sized clients, it’s fascinating to go around the room and ask this question to each person.

For example, last year during a training session with a group of State Farm recruiters, one audience member replied with, “I’m building an empire!”

Wow.

How cool would it be to have a salesperson with that kind of attitude working for YOU?
How cool would it be to have that kind of attitude yourself?

SO, HERE’S THE CHALLENGE: Take some time this month to start thinking about how you might answer the crucial question, “What are you building?”

To get you started, here’s a list of thirteen entrepreneurial elements that I’ve personally built into my own businesses as a writer, speaker and coach. I encourage you to use these examples simply as template for your professional life, hoping that perhaps your childlike sense of adventure and creativity will sparked once again:

1. Build a following. Don’t sell a product – start a movement. Don’t make money – make history. Find your fans. Deliver value regularly. Thank them often. Sell to them occasionally. But only do this if you have inexhaustible passion. Only do this if you’re willing to stick yourself out there, every day, for a few years, before anything big happens. How many fans do you have? How are you (regularly) staying in front of them with a value message?

2. Build business organically. That means blogging. That means Tweeting. That means individual tethering, one fan and one conversation at a time. That means letting go of your ego’s need to “launch big” and just sort of show up on people’s radars. What’s your Weekly Internetworking Plan? How could you come out of nowhere?

3. Build in fun. Wait. Is there a point to doing ANYTHING unless it’s fun? No way man. Gotta play. Gotta smile. Gotta romp. Fun is fundamental. Fun is required. If you’re not having any fun, neither are your customers. And if your customers aren’t having any fun, they can easily Google some other guy who will make that happen. Are you someone that would be fun to be around in a tense situation? Does conflict dissolve around you?

4. Build intellectual capital. Mold your melon. Exploit your brain. Stop watching Law & Order and read a book for god’s sake! Then, write. You will learn more. Then, teach, you will learn even more. Intellectual capital is an asset, just like money and buildings. How much brain equity do you have? How much time did you spend exercising your mind yesterday?

5. Build it BIG. Bigger is beautifuller. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or hire a lot of people. BIG is state of mind, not a size. BIG is a way of life, not a description. Plus, small becomes big. Small prepares big. So, dream only big and you’ll become only big. Have you affirmed your bigness? Have you defined what “bigness” means to you?

6. Build new learnings. By creating an environment where learning stressed. By doubling the learning in every experience through reflection. By preserving your learning through writing. By practicing your learning through daily actions. Remember, learning leads to earning. What did you learn last month? Where did you record that wisdom? And how many people have you taught those lessons to yet?

7. Build permission assets. Because customers are in charge, not you. Because customers are working extra hard to ignore your marketing. Because customers are controlling how much attention they (choose) to give to you. Whatever business you think you’re in, you’re not in. Face it: You’re in the name accumulation business. How many subscribers do you have? How many people are anticipating your marketing?

8. Build personal mastery. Tiger Woods, The Beatles and Tony Robbins – what do they all have in common? 10,000 hours. That’s how much they practiced before they could rightly call themselves Masters. That’s the magic number, according to Outliers, Malcom's latest book on the indicators of success. Now, if you do the math, that number adds up to about ten years. Ten years of practicing. Ten years of working your ass off. Ten years of getting up early. Ten years of impossible patience. Yikes. Hope you’re ready. Do you start each day practicing? How many hours will you practice today?

9. Build possibility tracks. It’s all about leverage. Killing two stones with one bird, whenever and wherever you can. All you have to do is ask yourself the following question, every day: “Now that I have this, what else does this make possible?” Potential is colossal. Recognize it. Embrace it. Exploit it. What else could this become? What type of business COULD you be in?

10. Build professional equity. No, not all that corporate/financial/real estate mumbo jumbo. I mean brand equity, as a function of your marketing efforts. Creative equity, as a function of your brain. Content equity, as a function of your body of work. Relationship equity, as a function of your personal and professional network. Reputation equity, as a function of what The Google says about you. How many different types of equity do you have? What new categories will you add this year?

11. Build profitable relationships. Profit meaning money. Profit meaning learning. Profit meaning attention. Profit meaning access. Profit meaning visibility. Profit meaning awareness. Profit meaning memorability. That’s how powerful relationships are. SO: The more friends you have, the more people you know – and the more people who know YOU – the more profit will soar. How are you using your listening skills to begin relationships? What’s your system for keeping your relationships alive? Where can you make the greatest contribution in those relationships?

12. Build your altar. This word comes from the Latin adolere. Which means, “To ritually burn.” Wow. Ever thought about your business in that way? I hope so. Because when it comes to building something, starting movement and creating some REAL change in the world, fire is the secret. Passion is the answer. So, let yourself burn. Smolder some gravel. Nurture internal fires. How’s your online altar? What have you set on fire today? And how many people have you invited to hold your hand to trot on hot coals together?

13. Build your boundaries. If you don’t set them, other people will set them for you. And then they will violate them. And then they will tell their friends to do the same. And it will be YOUR fault. Remember: Boundaries are saviors. Boundaries bring order. Boundaries create freedom. Who is currently violating your boundaries? How good are you at saying no? And what would it cost you NOT to stand up for your boundaries right now?

One question. Four words. Infinite possibilities.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What are you building?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS...
For the list called, "99 Ways to Think Like an Entrepreneur, Even If You Aren't One," send an email to me, and I'll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

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