I am loving the new Village Church website. It is very well done — visually excellent and a joy to use. They have done a fantastic job, and it is very much worth checking out.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.
This is the marketing philosophy that Steve Jobs learned from Mike Markkula in the early days of Apple, as summarized in Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs. It clearly continued to guide Jobs’ thinking through his entire career and very much goes to the core of what sets Apple apart.
First of all, though, a point on business in general: “You should never start a company with the goal of getting rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last.”
That is foundational to the next three points, because if you are only doing your business to make money, then it will be impossible to have the genuine passion for meeting customer needs that is essential for creating a long-lasting, effective company that people actually like. The foundation of effective marketing is one thing: to care.
Now, the three points on marketing.
- Empathy. Have an intimate connection with the feelings of the customer. “We will truly understand their needs better than any other company.”
- Focus. “In order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities.”
- Impute. “People form an opinion about a company or product based on the signals that it conveys.” Thus, “if we present [our products] in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities.” Hence, even the experience of opening the box is intended to “set the tone for how you perceive the product.”
This is a great post at the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics on how Millennials are rejuvenating the entrepreneurial spirit in America after 30 years of decline, and how entrepreneurship is very much in sync with Christian values.
Entrepreneurship has been in a slow decline over the past thirty years in America, according to a recent study by the Brookings Institution. Today, more businesses are failing than being created, as this graph shows.
But Millennials may be the generation to change this decline.
The National Journal reports that in 2011, 29% of all entrepreneurs were between twenty and thirty-four years old, and Millennials launched nearly 160,000 start-ups each month that year.
Is it possible that Millennials might bring back the entrepreneurial spirit?
When I was at Desiring God and we were implementing the vision of posting everything online for free, this was a common objection.
I think the people who make this objection are very smart. Further, they have some good evidence for their thinking. For example, who hasn’t returned home from a conference with a huge pile of free books that they are not interested in and might actually just throw away? Or who doesn’t get annoyed by marketers trying to stick them with “free” stuff as they walk by.
And I have to say that one of the most annoying things to me is websites that try to promote their newsletter or other stuff by putting FREE in all caps, as if we are dogs programmed to salivate at any idea of “free” and as if we don’t have enough to do already. My question whenever I see that is always “who cares if it’s free; will it actually add value to my life?” Much of what is “free” actually takes value away from you by taking your time and creating hassle.
In other words, “free” is often a value vampire.
Of course, though, the problem here is that in these cases, we really aren’t dealing with free at all. We are dealing with low-value stuff that imposes a cost on us — the cost of time and hassle, all in the service of the marketers aims, not the recipient’s aims. By definition, that is not free. That’s called taking. It’s taking in the guise of “FREE.”
Back to something like abundantly free online sermons (like at Desiring God) or even the case of free books. The fact is, sometimes we do value free stuff — and sometimes we don’t.
You can’t just make a blanket statement that people don’t value free stuff, or that they do. Experience constantly contradicts this.
For example, think of your favorite TV show (if you have one). If it’s on one of the major networks, it is free to you. Does that make you value it less? For years my favorite show was Lost, and I didn’t value it less because of the fact that I didn’t have to pay to watch it. Likewise, just because I do pay for an episode of something now on iTunes doesn’t mean I am going to value it more. I value it based on how much I like it, not based on how much it cost me.
The biggest factor here of all, though, is the issue of salvation. Salvation is fully free (Romans 6:23). Does that make us value it less?
Of course, based on the behavior of some Christians, some people might actually argue that the answer is yes! But we know that can’t really be the case, for God would not set things up such that the way he grants the right to heaven is intrinsically flawed so as to make us devalue it.
I think the answer is this. People value free things when those free things meet immense needs or enable them to invest in things that matter.
In the case of free online sermons, if a person simply has a consumer mentality, they might not be valuing those free sermons the way they should. But the free sermons aren’t there for such people. The sermons are there for the people who want to take what they learn from those sermons and invest it into their lives and into other people.
Note that in these cases, the person is actually doing a lot of work. But the work is not to earn the right to the free items (in this case, sermons), but in learning from them, applying them, and living them out. That is very demanding, and causes people to value the sermons very much. (I’ve spoken to pastor after pastor, for example, that has remarked on how they use the sermons in their research as they are preparing for their own sermons.)
And that’s why making something free does not necessarily diminish its value. Sometimes, it actually enhances its value by enabling the person to focus on the real purpose of that which is free — namely, putting it to use.
Why distract people from that purpose by putting up additional barriers?
Anyone can do that.
Jim Collins nails the problems with this in his excellent book Beyond Entrepreneurship:
Most of us have been trained to do just the opposite [of acting on good ideas rather than spending hours deliberating on all the reasons they can’t work]. We’re well schooled in criticism, having learned that the way to show how smart we are is to cite all the reasons that something is a stupid idea or doomed to failure.
We’ve noticed many new MBAs, for example, are adept at finding all the flaws in a business idea, but they’re much less practiced at coming up with ways to make the idea work.
Many times we’ve stood facing a self-satisfied person who has just done a marvelous job of demolishing a new product idea during a discussion. Then we ask, “Yes, we know it’s an imperfect idea. But then no idea is perfect. So, now how do you intend to make this idea successful in spite of its flaws?”
Some people rise brilliantly to the challenge when they realize that the goal is no longer to show how bright they are by shooting holes in ideas.
But, alas, others do not. They’ve been trained too well in the ethos of criticism, and to build a great company, they’ll have to overcome this negative training.
I don’t mean to be so blunt, but it’s true! Keith Ferrazzi nails this once again in Never Eat Alone. His words are especially significant given that he is one of the most connected people in the world:
I have a confession to make. I’ve never been to a so-called “networking event” in my life.
If properly organized, these get-togethers in theory could work. Most, however, are for the desperate and uninformed. The average attendees are often unemployed and too quick to pass on their resumes to anyone with a free hand — usually the hand of someone else who is unemployed looking to pass on his resume.
Imagine a congregation of people with nothing in common except joblessness. That’s not exactly a recipe for facilitating close bonds.
The problem with “networking events” is that they are typically based on the “me first” model of networking, which we’ve refuted in the previous posts. If you are networking first of all for what you can get out of people, you’ve blown it. That’s not networking — that’s schmoozing.
Real networkings is first about the value you can bring to others. Certainly, your own needs do matter, and it is right and legitimate to seek help from your network (in fact, it is essential and, when understood rightly, actually another way of helping). The problem is when your own needs become your first priority, when networking is abstracted from mutual interest, and when networking is abstracted from what you have to offer without thought of return.
That’s what’s wrong with most networking events. They are artificial and canned. But when you are interested first in other people for their own sake, then you don’t need networking events. You will naturally encounter people at places of common interest, such as conferences and events, which are the best places to “network” (= meet people!) in the right way.
The answer is no. That’s maybe how things were done in the 1950s, but it’s not how things work in the new economy. Thankfully.
Keith Ferrazzi once again nails this in Never Eat Alone:
Contrary to popular business wisdom, I don’t believe there has to be a rigid line between our private and public lives.
Old-school business views the expression of emotions and compassion as vulnerability; today’s new businesspeople see such attributes as the glue that binds us. When our relationships are stronger, our businesses and careers are more successful.
Elsewhere he adds:
Real connecting insists that you bring the same values to every relationship. As a result, I no longer needed to make a distinction between my career happiness and my life happiness — they were both pieces of me. …
You can’t feel in love with your life if you hate your work; and, more times than not, people don’t love their work because they work with people they don’t like. Connecting with others doubles and triples your opportunities to meet with people that can lead to a new and exciting job.
I think the problem in today’s world isn’t that we have too many people in our lives, it’s that we don’t have enough.
A few years ago a friend of mine mentioned that he was going to be at an event where he could encounter someone he would really like to meet, but he wasn’t going to introduce himself because it would seem like networking.
There is of course such a thing as the “networking jerk.” This is the guy who is the insincere, ruthlessly ambitions schmooze artist everyone wants to avoid, and you certainly don’t want to become.
However, the unfortunate existence of the networking jerk should not be allowed to give real networking a bad name. My friend is one of the most sincere people I know, and would by no stretch of the imagination be mistaken for the networking jerk. So I encouraged him to reach out to this person. I said to him “but it wouldn’t be networking, really, at least not in the sense you seem to be thinking. Understood rightly, networking is simply about making friends — and doing it sincerely, because people matter, and not because you are trying to get anything out of it other than encouraging someone and recognizing the value of reaching out.”
Keith Ferrazzi nails this in his excellent book Never Eat Alone: “Those who are best at it don’t network — they make friends. …A widening circle of influence is an unintended result, not a calculated aim.” That’s the first rule of real networking.
And the second is this: have something to offer. Be a person who brings benefit, not a leech who sucks people’s time and energy. Ferrazzi nails this again: “Relationships are solidified by trust. Institutions are built on it. You gain trust by asking not what people can do for you, to paraphrase an earlier Kennedy, but what you can do for others. In other words, the currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.”
Understood in this way, “networking” is a very biblical thing to do. It is about helping and being helped. If we care about building up the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), then we have to care about “networking,” because the kingdom of God is built of people — most of whom we have not yet met.
How do you choose a career path? You shouldn’t decide it first based on what you are good at. You should decide based on what matches your values (assuming, of course, that your values are in line with correct principles). Sometimes, you may find yourself doing something you are good at but which doesn’t fit with your values. In that case, get off that path.
Peter Drucker nails this, with an excellent example, in his classic article “Managing Oneself“:
What one does well — even very well and successfully — may not fit with one’s value system. In that case, the work may not appear to be worth devoting one’s life to (or even a substantial portion thereof).
If I may, allow me to interject a personal note. Many years ago, I too had to decide between my values and what I was doing successfully. I was doing very well as a young investment banker in London in the mid-1930’s, and the work clearly fit my strengths. Yet I did not see myself making a contribution as an asset manager. People, I realized, were what I valued, and I saw no point in being the richest man in the cemetery.
I had no money and no other job prospects.
Despite the continuing Depression, I quit–and it was the right thing to do. Values, in other words, are and should be the ultimate test.
And, note this as well on how knowing your values (and having them right) can be even more fundamental to success than hard work:
Successful careers are not planned.
They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values. Knowing where one belongs can transform an ordinary person — hardworking and competent but otherwise mediocre — into an outstanding performer.