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Over 15 years ago I distilled business building into three basic activities that I’ve since labeled “the trifecta of business building” –
- Getting new customers
- Serving existing customers better
- Not going crazy in the process
During the past 4 years or so I’ve increasingly shoved more focus on that last one because the need is so large (and the opportunity is equally large). Not because the first two are less important, but because they’re so important. Business owners and CEOs are driven crazy largely because of the importance of the first two. Pile onto that the personnel and personal issues confronting leaders and some form of crazy is almost always in play for us.
Getting Back To What Matters Most (and has always mattered…to me)
Part of avoiding going crazy is having help when we most need it. In an age where there’s an app for just about everything – including therapy (have you not seen TalkSpace, the online therapy service?) – we’re often lonely, sad, worried and anxious. Sometimes it all morphs into despair.
Passion is popular and highly over-rated. Especially in the business world. I don’t see the world in terms of passion and happiness. Instead, I focus on energy and dread, which drains energy. And instead of learning more, I concentrate on closing the gap between what we already know and fail to do (a shout out to the 1999 book that gave language to what I was feeling, The Knowing-Doing Gap by Pfeffer and Sutton).
It’s not a slam against passion or knowledge. We need a degree of both, but neither will get the job done. Doing gets it done. Figuring it out while you’re doing it gets it done. And it won’t happen fast. It’ll be a slog, which is why dread can’t be part of it. Dread drains energy…energy you need to get the job done!
I’m so inclined in helping people that many years ago I snagged a domain, TalkingYouOffTheLedge and another one, TwoFriendsTalking. I didn’t keep either one because I never did anything with either of them. I just use them to illustrate how I’m wired. People will tell you to pay close attention to what people look to you for…and there you have it with me. I spent a lot of time talking people off the proverbial ledge. Not people who are despondent, but people who are vexed. Not people on the verge of suicide, but people with real struggles that could possibly take them down a path of real despair. The ledge is unsafe. Dangerous. We don’t make our best decisions there.
I’m going back to the core things that I believe in most. The things I’m most blessed to do to help others.
Empathy. Asking questions. Listening carefully to answers. Emotional intelligence.
Through the years I’ve had many occasions where I’d call a business owner or CEO. Somebody I’d never talked with before. People I’d never met before. Within minutes I’m asking them about their biggest challenge and then I shut up. Twenty minutes later they come up for air and it’s evident…they’re not used to having anybody ask them. Instead, their lives are full of people pitching them, selling them and claiming to have “just what you need.” Stranger like me enter their lives daily armed with the solution to problems they don’t even know exist because they never took the time to ask. Been there. I know exactly how these women and men feel because I’ve sat in that same spot. That helps me serve better.
Longevity matters because patience is a lost art. Growth takes time. Improvement can happen incrementally, but it takes patience to reach mastery. For over 7 years my work has happened 6 to 12 months at a time, then ended. In some instances, clients have remain engaged for 2 years or more, but not usually. And all along the way, the work goes deep, but I drive away if it’s face-to-face or I hang up if it’s a video conference. The depth of it all leaves me feeling empty. Or I should say, the shallowness of it all leaves me that way.
Deep relationships matter to me. I’m the guy who prefers fewer people willing to go deep. Curious. Interested. Hard things to scale, but scale has never mattered much to me.
So starting right now I’m going to peel back the curtains and whatever else might obstruct your view. I’m going to show you how I’m working to assemble a small group of business owners for no purpose other than helping one another grow as business people and humans. Bula Network is going to veer away from a network of services to a real, genuine network of people – people connected for the purpose of their own higher human performance.
By now you may know of my work with Leo Bottary to produce his podcast, Year Of The Peer. Want to talk about passion and energy? This topic fuels me because I think we’re facing a tidal wave need for business owners to take better care of themselves emotionally and mentally. Emotional and mental fitness are crucial to helping owners overcome their dread and misery. It’s not limited to struggling owners either. Sometimes successful owners face even greater pressures.
The evidence – my evidence – is anecdotal, but still important. I rarely encounter business owners who don’t quickly and freely express frustrations that drive them crazy. And when I do encounter it, it’s almost always a person wired to not be open. You know the kind…the person who gives single syllable answers to questions. The person who doesn’t engage easily in conversation. It happens. That’s fine. I’m not bothered by that.
Instead, I’m going to go hunting business owners who are yearning to get ahead. Owners willing to invest in themselves knowing that few things will fuel their company’s growth more than their own growth.
Right now, I’m taking my aim at small business owners operating companies that do between $5 and $20 million in annual revenue. I don’t care where they’re located because this is going to be a virtual group with meetings conducted via video conferencing technology. I don’t care what industry they occupy because I’m going to concentrate on making sure the space is safe and confidential for every member.
It’s not about selling, it’s about finding the proper fit. I’m not a coffee drinker. I hate coffee. Always have. I have friends who love it. Even addicted to it. If you were going to try to sell me coffee you’d have a better chance of pushing water up a hill. I’m not buying. No matter how much you extol the virtues of coffee. Why waste your time talking to me when you could easily talk to people who love coffee? Stupid.
I’m not going to be stupid. Conversation will determine whether people are attracted to putting themselves in better positions to grow as leaders and owners. Dialogue will quickly reveal if people see the true value of making better decisions by surrounding themselves with people whose sole purpose in coming together is to help each other build more successful businesses. I’m not shocked when I encounter people who can’t see the value. I hate coffee. 😉
So here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to record weekly updates – maybe more – sharing with you the journey of what this looks like. And what it feels like. I won’t betray confidences, but I’ll characterize the conversations I’m having, the objections I’m encountering, the positive feedback I’m receiving and whatever else comes by way. For now, Bula Network’s first business owners’ group will select 7 business owners.
Time to get busy and figure this thing out. I hope you’re trying some things that are nagging at you. This idea has nagged at me for almost 6 years…proving that thinking about it won’t make it happen. I once read a story of slavery in the pre-Civil War south. In the story was a quote that always stuck with me because of the brilliant wisdom of it. It was a quote attributed to the Negro slaves of the day who would say, “Mean to don’t pick no cotton.” And boy is that right! I know too many people – including sometimes myself – who live life meaning to do many things, but never getting around to them. It’s time to stop meaning to, and DO.
I hope my journey and admission fuels your own desires to pursue the things you may have been putting off. Get off the schneid. Start doing it and see what happens. Let me know how it’s going. I’d love to hear it.
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