The Culture of Entrepreneurism

I just attended the BNI International Conference in Southern California.  There were almost 1,000 people from 40 countries around the world at the event.  It looked like a meeting at the United Nations with people from different countries and different accents all meeting for several days.  It was amazing to watch business people from various cultures working together to network and build each other’s businesses despite their differences.

It was appropriate that Brian Tracy was a keynote speaker at this event because he and I spoke about the subject of cultural differences and doing business a few years ago.  We had lunch in San Diego and I asked him if he changed his material when he did seminars in other countries.  He said that he didn’t.  He said that entrepreneurs want to do things more efficiently or more effectively.  If you can show them how to achieve either of those, the cultural issues are not as big a factor as many might believe.

This made me start to think about why structured networking programs work so well and in so many countries.  It occurred to me that there is a “culture of entrepreneurism” that in many ways transcends other cultural issues.  The core of this process is the importance of trust.  When people get to know and trust each other, that factor supersedes many cultural factors. 

Different people, different places; different countries, different cultures; different races, different religions, we all want to do business with people we trust.  While there may be many other things to divide us and separate us, we all speak the language of referrals.

Capture Your Success Stories

Many of us are taught as children that we should refrain from bragging about our successes. But there’s a caveat to those rules that our parents usually didn’t teach us: The rules apply to our individual, personal lives–not our businesses.

Success stories about businesses and entrepreneurs are vital for those of us dedicated to learning all we can in order to make our own enterprises as successful as possible.  What’s more, having your own success stories heard could bring you opportunities to network your business far beyond the playing field of the typical networking arena.

Here are four approaches to capturing your success stories:

1.  Ask for written testimonials: Get satisfied customers or colleagues to write letters on their own letterhead to spotlight their positive experience with you and your business.

2.  Write down two success stories: Highlight your successes to help your network understand who best represents your preferred client.  These stories should clearly emphasize what you do better than anyone else.

3.  Write a personal introduction: Provide your network with material they can use when talking about you and your business with people who fit your preferred client profile.  You don’t want your sales force making stuff up about you, right?  This simplifies their task and ensures accuracy.

4.  Toot your own horn: Tell people about the good things your business does.  This isn’t about crowing over your amazing golf handicap or complimenting your own fine taste in silk ties.  It’s about spotlighting your business’s strengths, as well as its legitimate good works in the community.

Do What You Love And You’ll Love What You Do

As an adjunct university professor for almost 20 years, I would often have students say to me, “What kind of business or profession should I consider going into right now?”  I would respond by asking them, “What do you like to do?  What do you really enjoy?” They’d respond by saying something like . . . “No, no, you don’t understand, I’m asking what I should do?” And I’d reply back by saying . . . “No, you don’t understand, what do you like to do?  What are you really interested in?”

They’d look back at me, obviously perplexed, and stutter out something about trying to figure out what a good profession to go into would be or what kind of business they should start. I would proceed to explain to them that you can’t achieve sustained success over time without doing something you love.  Therefore, they should think about what they really enjoy doing and look for opportunities in those areas.  

According to the NFIB (the National Federation of Independent Business), it’s estimated that 60 percent of all businesses started in the late ’90s “were based on hobbies or personal interests.” More and more you see people turning their dreams into their livelihood.

I saw a great example of this in action when I attended a fundraiser for Azusa Pacific University over the weekend.  During the evening, the program highlighted a graduate from the physics department. His name is Steven Moser. He graduated in 2001 from the university. After graduation, he worked at NASA’s JPL in Pasadena.  While Moser was working at JPL, a close family member died in a tragic accident. Moser and his wife (who also had a very successful career) evaluated their lives and decided to make a major change. They chose to pursue a hobby they had had for some time, making all-natural body care products and turning it into a full-time business. This would enable them to work from home, spend time with the family and do what they really love.

Steven’s company is called Anti-Body. It not only offers all-natural body-care products, but it also promotes global fair trade. It sources all its raw materials directly from workers in developing countries, creating sustainability for those that might be exploited in most markets.

This is a great example of doing what you love and loving what you do. Moser changed the course of his life to do what he loves.  His business seems to be thriving, and he definitely loves what he is doing.

I understand that loving what you do is no guarantee that you’ll be successful. However, I am equally confident that if you’re not happy at what you’re doing, you can never achieve any sustainable success over time. So if you’re thinking about starting your own business, do what I used to tell my children when they couldn’t figure out what ice cream they wanted to eat. Stick your tongue out. Wave it around. What does it feel like? Pick something you really want. You’ll be happier (and I’m not talking just about ice cream).

‘Multi-Touch Marketing’ Helped Win The Presidential Election

OK, the economy was clearly the big factor in this presidential election.  However, that aside, I am in awe of the “multi-touch marketing campaign” by President-elect Obama that helped steamroll the election.  No matter what party you are with or which candidate you supported (I’m an Independent), you have to admire the technology strategy implemented by the Obama-Biden team.  It was, I believe, the first true 21st century presidential campaign.

This “new millennium” approach to politics involved a mixed-media plan that began with an online video announcing Obama’s candidacy.  The campaign then used Facebook and YouTube extensively.  A social network for the Obama-Biden ticket was also utilized throughout the process.  Supporters created their own websites and linked back to the campaign website.  E-mails and text messaging were used extensively, and donations came in droves through this process.

Technology flattens the communications hierarchy.  In this campaign, technology was implemented with such an effective multi-touch methodology that the results were amazing to behold.  The campaign used multiple points of influence to pull people through to the election.  It is a case study that we entrepreneurs can draw from to market and promote our own businesses.

If President-elect Obama and his team run the country as well as they ran this campaign, some amazing things may take place.

Why Join a Chamber of Commerce?

In addition to joining a referral networking group, you should also consider further diversifying your network by joining your local chamber of commerce.  A chamber provides a broad membership base but usually within a defined geographic area, such as a town or a county.  Depending on the nature of your business, this kind of local membership could be of significant importance.

Unlike a referral networking group, professional society or trade association, a chamber does not limit the number of people who can join from any one profession or industry.  The local membership may include, for example, several commercial interior designers.  Membership in this chamber of commerce would thus give you an opportunity too meet more than one prospect for your word-of-mouth marketing team.

Chambers conduct social and business events where you can socialize and develop relationships.  Becoming a member of a chamber of commerce provides opportunities to give back to the community and capitalize on significant member benefits; serving in the leadership raises your recognition, visibility and credibility, as well as that of your business.

So make it a point to investigate your local chamber of commerce.  Find out where the office is and request membership information.  Ask for the names of members you can contact.  Attend an event or two to see whether the membership is a good fit for you; for a small fee, you can probably visit a chamber mixer.  Take your time, do your homework and locate a chamber that knows how to hold networking events and has strong membership.  Membership is not free, but it’s far less expensive than traditional advertising.

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