Have you ever thought of starting your own business, and then concluded that it is hard, dicey and not all that professional? You might think entrepreneurs are only in it for the money. Isn’t anyone who has spent time in a business cynical and cut-throat? Aren’t there easier ways to make a buck?
Contrary to appearances, starting a business is one of the most creative things you can do. A conscious business, whether Whole Foods or Apple, Inc., can actually change the world. It can also be a lot of fun and a matchless way to meet people and form lasting friendships.
If you are thinking short-term--take a dive, make a bundle and then quickly get out--think again. The businesses that make it are passionate. These kinds of entrepreneurs have vision, want to make a difference and find their greatest satisfaction in serving people. A conscious business is the only business to think about today.
Conscious business looks at commercial activity from a spiritual standpoint, as a way to wake up and serve people, thereby finding God. It looks at ALL the stakeholders, not just your customers, but your suppliers, investors and surrounding community. It has a very long-term orientation. Native Americans spoke of making all decisions with the Seventh Generation in mind. Seven Generations! Can you get with that?
Conscious business comes from the viewpoint that life, itself, is sacred, a precious gift… even miraculous! It is a great privilege to serve people, to see them as unique expressions of the Creator. “Love your neighbor,” and “Love your enemy,” are no longer remote ideals, but vital principles of action.
Love even your competitors, as they keep you on your toes and bring out the best in you.
Conscious business is intimately connected with the environment, the plants and animals that surround us, the web of life, the ecosystem. True wealth comes out of the earth and the spirit. Money is simply a convenient medium of exchange. Certainly not the end all and be all of business. Saving the Planet is job number one.
When you have a vision that keeps you up at night, that you can’t resist sharing with others, you are on the right track to creating a business. It is never trivial. Bill Gates, Co-Founder of Microsoft, left Harvard before graduating to go to Albuquerque, New Mexico to go work for $2.00 an hour. Why? To put a computer on every desktop. Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple, dreamed of creating an “insanely great” computer, a computer “even your mother would love.”
Ask yourself, if there is one thing you could change about the world, what would it be? If you could play God for a day, and you were given the crown and regal scepter, what one thing would you decree? For me, it has been to see the end of rainforest destruction. What is it for you?
Today, all markets are global. If your business is to scale way beyond your neighborhood, you must go online, with mobile, as well as desktop, computing. Ecommerce is such that credit cards can process orders from over 100 countries, and international shipping has never been easier. With digital products and services, your customers can access them instantly.
If you are thinking of quitting your job and dropping out, DON’T. Start a business in your spare time. Much of it can be done online. Your personal and professional network is one of your greatest assets. Put your idea out there and get feedback. Invite people who like it to play with you.
Quick money early is most often wasted. The whole process needs to be organic. If you raise money from friends and families, most often, expectations are attached, and you quickly lose control. Mark Zuckerberg had a brilliant idea with his Harvard University “Facebook.” Mark proved its viability with several universities, and then came out to Silicon Valley where the action is. He resisted early money until he had to take it. Mark then resisted going public until he had a green light. As a consequence, Mark became the world’s richest man for his young age.
Achieving business milestones takes typically four times longer than you estimate. If you think you can easily get it off in three months, give yourself a year. EBay, which made a profit in its second month of operation, is a huge exception. It took Amazon almost 20 years to rake in the profits!
Every profession or occupation has an association or interest group. Plug into the right one. Attend the national conference. Get the directory. Start connecting on LinkedIn and Facebook. Begin to solicit ideas, support, feedback and referrals. Whatever you do, DON’T try to do it all alone. The job is way too big without having people root for you. Be an evangelist.
Today, people are members, not buyers. When they have a great experience with a business, they want to join in with the other customers. Social media and networks have made this mandatory. Your customers will invite others to join them. Before you know it, your business will snowball.
Create a mastermind, and aim high. Find people in your professional network, and solicit them for guidance. Discover your own “Universal Selling Point.” What makes your company or business way different from anything out there? Whole Foods became a supermarket with organic foods and a proliferation of options found nowhere else. Maybe this is why Amazon just bought them.
In ancient cultures, travelers were greeted with exceptional hospitality. In some cases, they were treated as virtually gods and goddesses. India’s ultimate salutation, said with a bow, is “Namaste!” (I salute the divine within you.) In Japan, you bow down to your waist several times. You can actually start competing to see who bows the most!
If you have a conscious business, you will resonate to the possibility that everyone you meet is your mirror, along with being a unique expression of God. You will begin to sense that there is ONLY Supreme Being, beneath all appearances. Even in traditional business, the customer can do no wrong. Then why not go all the way?
Nothing sells like love. When you truly love your customers, they will never forget you. This is why the baker usually gave 13 muffins for the price of 12, the “baker’s dozen.” Something from the oven to keep reminding the customer of outstanding appreciation and service. Rather than compete on price, sell value. Give the greatest value of anyone in your space, no matter what that space may be.
In the last 15 to 20 years, marketing has changed forever. It has gone from a preoccupation with bells and whistles to the total effect your product or service has on the customer. You could buy your shoes at Macy’s or Nordstrom. At which store do you never have to worry about your right of return? Better yet, Zappos. Zappos learned to sell shoes on the Internet by accepting returns with no questions asked. They even made it fun for their employees.
Apple invented relationship marketing, and then with iTunes and Apple Stores, they perfected the customer experience beyond anything America has ever done. Have you bought an Apple notebook or digital device lately? What about the packaging? It is so beautiful that you never want to throw the box away. It is a work of art.
If you want to see a movie, what can be easier or more enjoyable than watching it on Amazon or Netflix. I watch first-run TV series and feature films on my iPad, while putting on a pair of Beat’s earphones. The experience is comparable to that of a large theater. With my tablet and Wi-Fi, I have a proliferation of electrifying films to choose from.
When you go out on a limb to start your own business, it is all too easy to get terribly attached to the financial results. This customer, this account or this deal simply MUST come in. When it doesn’t, you feel devastated. Pious Christians admonish, “Let go and let God.” Hindus remind us in the Bhagavad Gita, “Leave the fruit of your action to Me.”
We only learn by making “mistakes.” The faster we make mistakes, the faster we learn. When we start small, we systematically learn the business with a manageable amount of risk. We learn that it is almost impossible to second guess the market, as to who will buy, and who will pass. We start with educated guesses, and then test the market.
I have literally prayed for deals, and saw them go through. Having worked in sales for decades, I know it is far more than clever words and smooth manners. Much of it is heartfelt love for my prospects. When I represent a product or service that can make it a better world, I have confidence that my efforts will eventually yield results.
Here are some career paths worthy of investigation. Maybe one of them will speak to you.