This will be the first of a series of ‘teasers’ on my new book Finding the Sweet Spot, available from most booksellers or online from the sites listed in the right sidebar. A complete set of reviews of the book (thank you, reviewers!) can be found on Beth Patterson’s site here.
I‘ve spent most of my professional life helping entrepreneurs succeed. After I’d worked with over a hundred, I began to notice something special about a small number of them. Their people smiled all the time. They loved their work. They didn’t work especially hard. Their customers loved them, so much that they rarely had to do any marketing — word of mouth was enough. They were partnerships of equals, working together, with no ‘boss’. They had few or no debts, and were beholden to no one. They were connected to, responsive to, and responsible to, their people, customers and the communities in which they worked. They were environmentally sustainable and economically resilient, not vulnerable to vagaries of the market or economy. They had created the kind of workplaces that made you say “Boy! I’d love to work in a place like that!”
So I studied them, to try to find what made them special, different from all the rest. I found they had mostly done six things differently from all other entrepreneurs. When I looked at these six things, they seemed obvious to me, until I realized that none of these things is taught in business school, and none of them is the “conventional wisdom” of what starting your own business is about. So I decided to write a book about them, in the hopes that others could use this “formula” to escape from wage slavery and create their own responsible, sustainable, joyful enterprises — what I have come to call Natural Enterprises. Chelsea Green agreed to publish the book under the name Finding the Sweet Spot.
Here, in a nutshell, are the six things these remarkable entrepreneurs did differently:
- They discovered what they were meant to do. The work they do is in the “sweet spot” where their Gifts (the things they do uniquely well), their Passions (the things they love doing), and their Purpose (the things people in the world really need, that these entrepreneurs care about) intersect. This “sweet spot” is Area 3 in the three-circle chart above. When I studied all the unhappy and unsuccessful entrepreneurs I knew, I found they were doing work outside this “sweet spot”, most often in Area 2 (unappreciated work) or Area 5 (work they did well but hated). So the whole first chapter of the book is about how to find that “sweet spot” for you, with lots of examples and exercises. It’s really all about knowing yourself, a voyage of self-discovery.
- They found the right partners. The biggest mistake most entrepreneurs make is trying to do everything alone. It’s a recipe for failure and exhaustion. Natural Entrepreneurs seek out partners who share their Purpose, and whose Gifts and Passions complement their own. That way, everyone gets to do what they’re good at and love doing. Chapter 2 of the book suggests how and where to find just the right partners.
- They did their research to discover a real unmet need. Where most businesses start with a product, and then try to chase money and customers for it, Natural Entrepreneurs start with a need that no one else is meeting. They do that not by copying anything else out there, or by looking for ideas online, but by talking to lots and lots of potential customers (this is called “primary research”) and discovering something that people really need which no one is providing. So Chapter 3 of the book explains a simple, rigorous research process, one that draws on the processes used by the world’s best research organizations.
- They innovated a product or service that met that need in a unique way. The innovation process, which I explain in Chapter 4, enables you to iteratively imagine and then realize products and services that are significantly different from anything already in the market, so that you are not competing with anyone else — you are creating a new market for something that you have already established meets a need not met by anyone else.
- They made their organizations resilient to marketplace changes. Because they were so connected to their customers and so responsive to their communities, they knew what was happening before anyone else, and they perfected improvisational skills and processes that allowed them to adapt quickly to change, instead of locking into plans that inhibited their flexibility. Chapter 5 of the book provides examples of how to make your organization more resilient and improvisational.
- They built strong, collaborative relationships and networks, and operated their enterprises “on principle”. They understood that powerful social relationships are the underpinning to all human enterprise, and that collaboration succeeds better than competition. And by sticking to principles of responsibility and sustainability they ensured that these relationships were deep, trusting, and reciprocal. Chapter 6 explains how to build strong business relationships and networks, and provides examples of principles that engender trust and guide responsible, responsive decision-making.
Finding the Sweet Spot starts you on your journey to Natural Enterprise, and contains a full set of resources, including books by successful Natural Entrepreneurs like Dave Smith and John Abrams who tell you their stories in greater detail.
As I watch our economy unraveling, I am more and more convinced that we need to create a whole Natural Economy of responsible, sustainable, joyful, Natural Enterprises, and that the time is now. I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the book and help me make it happen.