LOF1: You Don’t Need a Big Idea

This is the first installment in a series that I have chosen to call LOF, short for “Learning on Friday.” LOF is a place for random things that I learn and that I think are worth sharing. As always I think if it helps one, it has the potential to help another. This is a weekly feature, so tune in every Friday. Enjoy the first installment!

I have been reading a book by Jim C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras called Built to Last. The premise of the book is to look into what makes a select few companies stand the test of time; the subtitle for the book is “Successful Habits of Visionary Companies”. These companies are called visionary companies as they are some of the captains of industry whose products influenced our lives in one way or another. Some of these companies are:

  • Procter & Gamble: Soaps
  • Merck: Pharmaceuticals
  • Boeing: Aerospace
  • Sony: Does anyone remember the Walkman?
  • HP: Computers!

I’m still hovering around the first three chapters of the book. The primary reason for this hovering is that Chapter 2 presents a mind-boggling premise. The basic premise is that in most cases the visionary companies were not built on an idea/product or on the back of a “charismatic leader.” Visionary companies were built around an underlying purpose that was determined upon the inception of these organizations. The authors call it “clock building” versus “time telling.”  Hewlett and Packard didn’t know what HP was going to be about, they just knew that they wanted to be in business together; Sam Walton of Walmart just wanted to be in retail and not so much revolutionize retail logistics; and Masaru Ibuka of Sony had the first brainstorming session with employees “after starting the company” and like the founders of HP, he sold any product that would pay the bills in the early years.

The authors clearly point out that this is totally contradictory to conventional wisdom and what is taught in business schools. This is true as my first entrepreneurship class was built around finding and accessing the viability of ideas.

BUT

I sat with this new information for a while and it started to make sense. The part of the business that stands the test of time isn’t so much the ideas that a business is founded on, but the foundation from which the ideas are launched. When you think about it, if you started a business today to exploit the growing trend of blogging for instance and for that reason alone, what happens to your business when something comes along and renders blogging obsolete? Don’t think it can’t happen, look at what email did to the post.

What did I do with this information? Well I re-read the chapter over and over again, and I thought about the reason I want to go into business for myself in the first place. Freedom. The freedom to choose the customers that I want to serve and the product that I want to offer them; the freedom to change my offering with customer needs without having to deal with bureaucracy; the freedom to explore new ideas/new methods; the freedom to be able to work where I want to (geographically); and of course the freedom to define my work around my life and not the other way around. After reading it several times, I took some of the actionable lessons from that chapter, shared them with my partner, and brainstormed on the type of organization that we want to build.

I haven’t finished the entire book, but I felt compelled to share this new nugget of knowledge. The authors encourage would be entrepreneurs not to wait for the big idea or the stroke of genius that could be the master piece on which your company would be built. Do it the other way around: envision/build a company that you can be proud of, one that is founded with a purpose that can stand the hard times that can come with entrepreneurial endeavors. And when the big idea that will knock your socks off finally comes, you would be ready to execute from your solid foundation.

Have you read the book? If you have, please share some of your insights.

If you want to read more about the book, you can find it here.

One of the authors also has an article that is based on the book his website.

Who Are You?

Who are you? What I am asking for is what makes you who you are, I’m talking:

Values, Loves, Could do withouts, Can’t live withouts, What breaks your heart, What makes it sing…

Essentially what makes you tick. What makes all this important?

Dream jobs are more often created than found, so they are rarely attainable through conventional searches. Creating one requires strong self-knowledge. ~ Business Model You

So this week we are talking about You.

Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up ~ Pablo Picasso

 

The question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” comes up for many of us at a very early age. This is a great thing because when we are young we are mostly oblivious to the expectations of society and those around us. We are also very in touch with the things that bring us the most joy. What is the purpose of pointing out this obvious fact? Well, this “obvious” fact needs to be pointed out because what brought you the most joy as a very young  child will highly probably, and I mean most likely, contribute to your overall satisfaction as an adult.

To give a personal example, as a child reading and lying around and kicking thoughts around in my head were two things I loved doing and was amazing at. I wanted to do a job where I could read for a living, but in my limited world view quickly “realized” that there was no such thing. That and the more than frequent rebuke to stop “staring at the ceiling” (my thinking mode) “helped” me “realize” quickly that my loves and making a living were highly incompatible.

Fast forward 12 or so years later and I find myself actively creating a career that puts reading, thinking, and of course executing in center stage. I have been opened up to the world of entrepreneurship where the ability to distill large amounts of theory into practical tactics and thinking up new ways to solve problems and convert these solutions into sustainable businesses using some of these tactics as part of my every day.

How does this help you? AKA So What?

In the environment we live in where dismal unemployment figures and poverty statistics are part of our everyday existence, a means to make a living that taps into your innate abilities – the things that you couldn’t imagine not doing as a child – might sound like pie in the sky but the purpose of all this is to tell you that it is not. The purpose of this all is to tell you that it is possible to create your own job, possible to take your destiny into your own hands.

  • It won’t be easy
  • It will take take sweat and maybe tears (if you are like me)
  • It will take long nights and sacrifice
  • It will involve mistakes, triumphs, and everything in-between
  • It might even involve failure

But ultimately it will involve the satisfaction of taking the task of creating your own livelihood into your own hands

If I still have you, lets take a ride. The first part of answering this question is to take a moment and think of yourself as a child. And similar to the story I unearthed about myself, write down the one (or two, or three) things that you could do all day (outside of play of course).

The Business Model

A business model tells the story of your company. It is a snapshot of:

  • Who your customers are;
  • Why you are in business;
  • How you reach and relate to your customers;
  • How you make money;
  • The things you do to make sure that you are achieving your reason for being in business;
  • Who your strategic partners are;
  • The resources that you need to execute your business;
  • And your overall cost structure.

My preferred method of crafting a business model is to use the business model canvas. It is a one page snapshot of your business model at any given time that makes it very easy to visualize all the aspects of your business.

Your business model can change from one period to the next to adapt to changing conditions in the market and in your company. Every company should have a business model, and it needs to be flexible enough to allow it to change as the company grows.  There several situations where your business model might need some changes: when it doesn’t prove profitable and you are spending more money than you make, or when it doesn’t help you achieve the goals of the company with respect to the customer and the company’s overall evolution.  The one thing on your business model that I would say might not change is the underlying reason why you are in business. An example, the business model for Gig Theory is always open to changing except for the underlying reason that this organization exists, to empower you with the information, tools, and access where possible to achieve your goals of creating whatever your dream job may be. This core reason for existence is summarized as “empowering you to create your dream job” and is at the forefront of every innovation, product, or feature decision that is made. The source of this was the answer to the underlying questions:

Why do we exist?

There are several places within yourself that you can search to come up with the answer for your organization; these include the problem that prompted you to start this journey, your personal values, and the things you are passionate about.

The book “Built to Last” by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras does a great job of explaining the idea of an underlying core purpose.

Welcome

Hello and welcome to Gig Theory:

The Mission

To empower You and I to create our dream jobs.

How the Mission is Achieved

  • By going back to business basics.
  • By sharing the stories of those who have come before us and have been successful at charting their entrepreneurial course.
  • By answering your questions.
  • By asking and answering the questions:
    • How can Gig Theory help YOU?
    • How can WE help each other?

Why?

  •  Because life is too short to wait around for someone else to decide if they have a job available for someone of your talent.
  • Because life i too short for you not to take your destiny into your own hands to do the work you are uniquely endowed to do
  • And because doing our best work involves helping you do your best work.