Business Love

Who ever created the dividing love between the business and the personal?

I get it, of course – the two realms aren’t the same – but I’m not sure we can completely maintain hard and fast distinctions on every level.

Because in our families, our communities, our companies, and everywhere else in the world, we’re rubbing shoulders with…people.

If people in the business realm exist to be used – if they are a means to profitable ends – then, of course, we can limit our caring. And, let’s face it – we work and do business to make money. When I network and present and consult and write and connect others, long-term and short-term business goals and strategies are woven throughout all of it. I’m not in the least embarrassed to admit it. Ultimately, whatever else I may earn in the business realm, I have to earn revenue primarily.

Or, to put it another way, it’s not about the Klout – it’s about the Ka-ching.

But this other, more personal drive keeps weaving itself in, dis-allowing me to treat people as business objects. And I see this drive in many others as well. When we interact face-to-face, there is a caring that goes beyond some anticipated short-term revenue gain.

It’s that pesky, inconvenient, hard-to-suppress, human, real, and amazing thing called love. You know – caring about others on a personal level that goes beyond today’s subscriber numbers and tomorrow’s paycheck.

I’m not talking about the whirl of romantic emotions or the carnal pleasure-seeking of one-night stands, or mere emotional sentimentalism. Love is an instinct to care about others – never fully pure, of course, but there nonetheless. Something we’re taught to suppress in that realm called “work”.

In the midst of our transition from a nation of farms and smaller businesses to the depersonalized landscape of huge companies where people are cogs in a great machine, we have tended to lose the connection of love and business. We’ve drawn a line between the realms, perhaps because it is so easy to be hurt in the world where getting ahead and winning are Job 1.

But now we are re-entering an era of entrepreneurship, where, as Mike Henry, Sr. put it in a phone call yesterday with Lisa Petrilli and me, we each have a factory on our desks. And lo and behold, love seems to be sneaking back into business.

Because we are what we always were – people. Maybe the machine robbed us of something important in our work. Maybe some of this dehumanization was a defense mechanism that we can and should outgrow.

Maybe – just maybe – love and business can be woven together.

I don’t fully understand how it all works, but I’m determined to explore it. Who’s with me?

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

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Random Act of Beauty

It’s been a rough few weeks of loss and grieving.

Floods in the Northeast have taken a terrible toll. Fires in Texas have devastated communities. We lost Trey Pennington. We remembered 9/11.

I guess some people have a very high capacity for bearing sorrow – I, for one, do not. It’s been tough.

But this is a new week, and it’s time to look at what is beautiful and hopeful and good. To that end, I’m just going to post a random act of beauty on my blog today. As a pledge, that it’s going to get better. For all of us.

Aiming High. Really High.

A lot of business is ordinary. And a lot of businesses are pretty…well, ordinary.

That’s because a lot of people learn to be ordinary. They learn to aim low, because they are surrounded by people who keep their heads down and their visions small.

And then there’s Steve Jobs and Apple. There’s Tony Hsieh and Zappos. There’s Jeff Bezos and Amazon. All transcendent game-changers, in user experience, customer service, and commerce. And there are a whole lot of lesser-known lights who are aiming high and changing the game in less public, but no less important ways.

They aim for transcendence. Going beyond the ordinary, surpassing expected limits. Transcendence is often used in a spiritual or mystic sense, but in a business sense, it is all about seeing planes fly 200 mph at 10,000 feet, and understanding that they can and should (and will) fly 600 mph at 30,000 feet. And higher and faster still.

Then initiating something to make that happen.

A lot of people in the social media space criticize Chris Brogan. I’m sure he’d be the first to tell you he doesn’t get it right every time. But he’s looking to transcend the normal and expected ways to build networks and do business. Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin are other examples. Or Gary Vanynerchuk. Breaking new ground can be messy. Trying new things can put a target on your back. Even if they get it wrong sometimes, they get it. The status quo never inspires.

Surround yourself with these people. I do – because there’s an awful lot of ordinary out there. And I want to aim high. What’s the ROI of keeping company with proven transcenders like Lou Imbriano, Anthony Iannarino, Ann Handley, Sean McGinnis, Tom Martin, Lisa Petrilli, Angela Maiers, Jon Swanson – and young entrepreneurs aiming high like Bradley Gauthier, Sarah Evans, Kirsten Wright, and Greg Hartle?

Here’s the ROI – Replacing Ordinary Influences.

Who are your transcendent figures (past or present?) I’ve listed a few of mine – share yours in the comments!

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Turning the Corner

At a tweetup in NYC this week, I had the joy of talking to a fellow entrepreneur about how her business had finally turned the corner and begun to really take off. She and I had talked late last year and she was right on that borderline at the 3-year mark – “will this make it? Or do I need to get another job?” I knew she both needed and wanted to make it on her own.

Five years into my business adventure, I’ve been right on the edge of that bubble, too – more than once. Really wondering if this Impactiviti/Connection Agent business was going to fly. Now, as more and more business comes through the accumulated time and effort of network-building, it’s amazing to look at that corner – in the rear-view mirror!

My mission is to help entrepreneurs. And one of the biggest difficulties we all face is getting to, and around, that corner of steady work and profitability. Have you gotten there? Can you give hope to others by sharing your success, and perhaps a vital lesson or two you learned getting there? You could do so in the comments; but even better, perhaps – write it up on your blog, send me the link, and I’ll post it here.

It can be a lonely path. Let’s help kindle the hope and confidence of our fellow entrepreneurs, in the best way we can. There’s nothing better than a success story!

UPDATE: Here is a great video story from Carrie Wilkerson, The Barefoot Executive

Great perspective here from Anthony Iannarino, on the role of client acquisition in turning the corner.

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Epiphanies

I see my development as a person and a professional as a timeline filled with two elements – the slow, steady accumulation of wisdom that comes from experience, and the intrusion of epiphanies.

(from Dictionary.comEpiphany: a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something)

For instance, I clearly remember the ground-shaking impact of the central message contained in the books First, Break All the Rules/Now, Discover Your Strengths. The insight that people can only perform at their best when working in alignment with their core strengths radically changed my world view and has profoundly shaped my thinking to this day.

What about you? What have been some of your epiphanies (people, books, talks, even tweets)? Please share in the comments!

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Believe

While talking about career transitions and social networking this week, one individual asked me (and here I’m paraphrasing) what was the one thing to do above all others in building an opportunity network.

The answer that came out surprised even me at first. It has nothing to do with tactics, or specific social platforms.

I said to Sara that you have to believe. You need a gut-level conviction that building a network is the most important professional endeavor you can undertake.

And I do believe that. I think I gave it lip service for much of my career, because networking equaled schmoozing in my mind, and frankly, I am not a schmoozer. But it was the early days of LinkedIn that opened my eyes to the potential power of networks – and the massive advantage of a hybrid approach marrying digital technology to personal relationships.

Each step along the way – blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. – has grown that belief. But it has been getting past the pre-meeting stage which digital tools facilitate, and getting eye-to-eye, mind-to-mind, and heart-to-heart with people that has utterly convinced me. When friends are made, and opportunities opened up, and lives changed through these connections – well, it’s awfully hard not to believe.

You’ll read a thousand blog posts about the tactics, or the higher-level strategies, of using social networks. There’s a ton of noise about specific tools. I’m going to point you to the one thing that is foundational and drives the rest.

Believe. And if your faith is a little shaky right now, feel free to borrow some of mine. I have a lot of stories to tell – and so do a bunch of other people I can point you to.

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A Lake Placid Mugging

I was bummed.

Pulling my coffee out of the microwave, I managed to bang my favorite mug against the edge and shatter it, not only spilling coffee everywhere, but losing a symbol one of my fond memories.

Lake Placid, NY.

You see, I met my wife-to-be in Lake Placid during the summer of 1979, just before the “Miracle on Ice” Winter Olympics (still my favorite sports memory of all time!). We spent part of our honeymoon there, and have visited numerous times over the years, always happy to re-live the memories, and to introduce our kids to the sights and pleasures of that little Adirondack getaway.

Last summer, we had the pleasure of enjoying lunch at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, and there I spotted a mug similar in shape and size to one I’d purchased in LP way back in ’79. So, I bought it.

Then, a few weeks back, broke it.

Because I have fun sharing life events on Twitter, I posted a picture of me mugging with my remaining half-mug, and got some funny messages of sympathy. But then, lo and behold, a unexpected note from Kimberly Rielly at the Lake Placid Twitter account:

I loved the fact that LP has someone in charge of monitoring tweets that mention the destination. But I loved even more that Kim reached out via e-mail and really did offer to fix one of these tragedies. And, she did (together with the fine folks at the Brewery)!  A few days, later, I get this box in the mail, and sure enough, it put a whole new expression on my previously-saddened mug–>

And that, my friends, is how to use social media to delight customers. Happily, our local libation store now carries Lake Placid Brewery Ubu Ale, so I’ll be enjoying some of it this weekend.

This spring will be our 30th anniversary, and this summer the 32nd anniversary of our meeting in LP. It’ll be a little bit sweeter knowing that Lake Placid is not just a far-away memory, but an up-to-date source of gladness!

Now, for some more coffee…

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