Chicken & Egg? 16 points to guide your thinking about business in 2019.
Here are 16 points I believe in today (this was written in March 2019, and my thinking has been refined since. This story serves as a historical marker). I’m writing this not to convince you, but as a way to share my experience with you and hope that you find it useful.
(1) The goal of a business today is to create value, which is different from generating revenue. Revenue is a byproduct of communicating and delivering on that value to a person or a group of people prepared to pay for it;
(2) Creating value has evolved from using industrial-type business models of the 1900s (product-centric) to network-centric models. Network-centric models are far more profitable and useful, and they also build a “moat” around the business (i.e., a brand), which is remarkably resilient to competitive pressures;
(3) To build a network, you must tell the right story and relate to the right group of people. I used to think that the story of a business needed to be derived based on the product it was selling. However, these two are entirely different beasts. The story should not be selling and is driven to build your brand. If you haven’t seen the Fyre Festival documentary, I recommend it as it is a fantastic case study of brand vs. product delivery.
(4) The task of creating a network is first to focus on getting awareness and gaining influence. Patience is the key and you can do it in many ways, for example getting influencers to relate to your uniqueness and what you are trying to do. Paying for the services of an influencer to talk about your brand is not as effective as an unbiased, unpaid and honest account. You shouldn’t devalue the reach of influencers by putting them on your payroll;
(5) As far as possible, don’t create a network by going directly to decision makers in a sales-only focused effort. The goal is to make decision makers come to you by leveraging the voice of others. You should connect with influencers or the right person from a relatable story that they feel compelled to share. Try creating your relationships via an influential intermediaries (i.e., don’t promote your work, let others do it for you);
(7) Real and “sticky” stories must be able to elicit an emotional reaction that is so strong it sticks with the person receiving the story;
(8) Once you acquire a network, you must nurture it. Your business model is incidental to serving them, and you must be creative to make that model sustainable. If it is not sustainable, the group will disband, and your work will be lost;
(9) We are moving very fast towards “decentralized” business models. This means that people are grouping around their beliefs, wants and needs, and they are not bounded by geography or colors). These groups may be small or large, but overall, they are extremely powerful and if appropriately engaged, can be hard to disband. These groups will defend a particular brand, person, idea, etc. Instead of seeing sales channels, understand those groups as spatial planes breathing specific stories. With today’s technology, these planes can be identified easily. For example, Flat Earth Society, Trump Election Win, Brexit;
(10) As far as possible, you should avoid introducing any complexity or accept payments from networks. These distract away from the story you’re trying to tell and the value you are trying to impart. Always aim to add value to the group (or network) by working to get them the things that they want. If they value the service, they will be prepared to pay you for it;
(11) The sales team from your old business model is ill-equipped for this world. The skill set required includes people like movie producers, graphic designers, artists, storytellers, community managers, experience officers, etc;
(12) People don’t trust brands when their message is all about themselves and sales. Unless you’re providing an essential service or product (oil, water, milk, bread, healthcare, air) or a highly cutting edge service that differentiates you from everyone else (Ferrari, Apple), you cannot get away with this. That means that traditional marketing channels must be used appropriately. Take, for example, a billboard that says “People love my product” and another that tells a joke from an artist, with “by X to make your commute a little better.” Both have the advertiser’s logo. One is selling a product; the other is bringing an emotional reaction without selling you anything. The latter is geared to attract people into a group (remember, your task is to build a business that serves that group);
(13) Don’t forget that once you have a community, you must execute. Telling a story with promises can quickly lead to the unanticipated results that lives are affected if you can’t deliver on it. It can also be illegal (i.e., learn from the Fyre Festival).
(14) A business is a collection of people. Get the best people, and you’ll have the best company and hence, tell the best story;
(15) The most important and valuable commodity in life is “time.” You should not squander it or spend it on people that do not deserve your time. A leader should invest time in building the right people into superstars in their own right.
(16) The role of a leader is to lead. To lead means building the right group of people to surround him or her at the first degree, clearly communicating the task, coaching those people tirelessly, planning and monitoring their work. A leader should not do the job of a subordinate unless it is to teach. To lead effectively, a leader should make himself available to at least 90% of his/her time with his managers, and the rest with other team members.
About James Duchenne
Engineer, Lawyer and Business Guy. James is the co-founder and CEO of Ducorp Ltd. He has managed several ventures and sits on corporate boards in Asia, Mauritius, and the USA. He was previously the Managing Partner of Sutton Stone, LLC, Hon. Rep. in the USA for the Board of Investment (Mauritius), Chief Operating Officer at Crowd Machine, Inc.
First posted in X-Team Academy.