Sharpening an Old Tool

Sharpening An Old Tool

“Most leaders and policymakers don’t have a clue about what makes entrepreneurs successful” (from Gallup Business Journal, September 2012)

Adequate financing is frequently cited as the primary factor in success, while academia tends to believe that business degrees are essential. There are certainly many entrepreneurial cases to study in an effort to uncover what makes entrepreneurship work: according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity 1996-2012, produced by the Kauffman Foundation — considered to be the world’s largest foundation dedicated to entrepreneurship — there were 514,000 new business owners each month in 2012. And if this seems extraordinary, consider that this is down from 2011 when some 543,000 new business owners created businesses each month. The decline is credited to an improved employment trend, which means that entrepreneurship is stimulated by, among other things, a lack of jobs. There are currently 12 million adults who own a business in the U.S. What drives this entrepreneurship and what drives success are increasingly important questions.

In our 21st Century Business Round Table sessions this year, we’ve been spending time with a few old tools to help us be successful entrepreneurs. I’ve dusted off a few venerable but tried-and-true techniques, such as SWOT analyses, in the context of tracking how well a venture is doing in aligning its resources and actions to its mission and vision. It’s a classic approach that, re-fashioned a bit for the small business owner and solo-entrepreneur, brings heightened awareness about capacity and capability in relation to challenges and opportunities. That is, we’re using, and coming to appreciate, some powerful tools that contribute to mindfulness and to our own successes.

When we dive into the data and analysis about entrepreneurship, the wisdom of this approach becomes very clear…

A few additional pieces of information from the Kauffman Index report are particularly useful in our exploration. The highest rates historically occurred 2008-2011, during the peak of the most recent recession. The “decline” in 2012 is actually a return to the trend line. The fastest regional growth rates of entrepreneurship in the United States, as well as the highest rates since 1996, have occurred on the West Coast, with the East Coast close behind. The lowest growth rates, as well as the greatest declines, have been experienced in the Mid-West.

The report I’m referencing, again, is the Kaufman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity 1996-2012. That time span allows some trend analysis, revealing that the rate of entrepreneurship has been higher for those aged over 45 than for those younger. In 1996, the gap between the entrepreneurship rate of those aged between 20 and 34 and those older was small; the gap has increased significantly since, as older entrepreneurs are starting businesses at much higher rate than younger. About 340 adults out of 100,000 aged over 34 are starting new businesses each month, whereas about 230 adults out of 100,000 aged under 35 are starting new businesses. In 1996, almost 35% of new entrepreneurs were aged 20 to 34, and a little over 14% were aged over 55. In 2012, 26% were aged 20 to 34 and 23.4% were over age 55.

If this age shift seems counter-intuitive, ponder the education shift. This one surprised me: since 1996, the entrepreneurship rate for those without a high-school diploma has always been higher than for those with a college degree, except in 2001, when the two groups had the same rates of business creation. Since 2001, the trend for those with less education has gone up to the point where it almost doubles the rate of highly educated. But this turns out to be more of a demographic shift than an educational variation: the rate of participation in entrepreneurship has increased dramatically for immigrant, Latino, and African-American populations who have not obtained higher degrees and who have become unemployed during the recession years. Among native-born Anglo/white population groups, people with higher degrees are far more likely to become entrepreneurs than those with less education.

Entrepreneurship attracts those confronting an economic or employment disadvantage, regardless of education; as well as older and more educated professionals. Seen this way, entrepreneurship is a choice made to create jobs, incomes, and life-styles for the entrepreneurs while being “free” from the difficulties of working for, or becoming unemployed from, other employers. Entrepreneurship is an opportunity and sometimes a necessity.

Let’s go back to that Gallup Business Journal article I started with. The authors, Sangeeta Badal and Joe Streur, reported on “What Drives Entrepreneurs to Win.” All the data points reported in the Kaufman Index now become really interesting: regardless of education level, nationality, birth place, gender, and employment, the unifying theme is that all these entrepreneurs are self-driven. The authors identify 10 functional demands “that are enduring and universal:” all depend on the capacities and capabilities of the entrepreneur. These 10 demands include nuggets such as “Know your personal brand: entrepreneurs must interact effectively with others; successful entrepreneurs know themselves…”; and “Take on challenges”, “think through possibilities”, and “be a self-starter.” The authors note that “Startups that are growing rapidly demand long hours of work and high levels of energy and stamina.”

We spend time on SWOT analysis because it forces us to pay attention to all these factors. At the heart of this tool is the very first demand: self-knowledge. Once I can clearly articulate my vision, and develop a mission that will fulfill it, I have to gather resources, make decisions and take actions that will move my mission forward. And to fully understand how I will do that, I want to commit serious thought to understanding my capabilities, capacities, opportunities and challenges. I love this process: I turn to it often, and it always brings new insights and discoveries that me drive forward.

Of the roughly half-million entrepreneurs entering the market places this month, some are old, some young, some with advanced degrees and some not, speaking many languages and born in many countries. They all share this same drive: to use their capacities to create enterprises. To be successful, they will need to be purposeful, intentional, and mindful.

Links: “What Drives Entrepreneurs to Win,” Sangeeta Badal and Joe Streur, September 6, 2012. Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, 1996-2012. Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Mindful Economy


A teacher and a consultant walk into a bar…and they have a conversation that anyone can understand!

My friend, Doug, a professor in education with a background in educational instruction and assessment and currently a department chair, and I got into a wide-ranging conversation covering our areas of mutual interest and concern. We both have wide-ranging interests, and we each read a lot and keep abreast of each other’s areas of interest. And although most of my recent work has been in business, organizations, finance and economics, we’ve worked on projects together involving education and community action. It’s fun as well as challenging to hang out with people like Doug; I have to keep my own learning up to date if I expect to keep pace! He began the conversation. “What’s your take on the economy, and what do you think we can do to make things work better?” he asked. I wondered about his thoughts on the status of higher education, and how well he thought colleges and universities were doing in fulfilling their missions. We discovered a couple of important intersections: education and economic growth and sustainability are very closely related.

  • Four patterns stand out as causes for economic woes:
    • undermining the importance of information
    • confusion of goals
    • inadequate education that must include critical thinking skills in an ever more complex world
    • the loss of sustainable employment and the decline of wages.
  • The troubling patterns in education include:
    • Educators at each institutional and grade level tend to find fault with the previous grades for not providing “good education” but rarely question their own roles and responsibilities, and then fail to attend to the real learning needs of students
    • Consequently,  education systems and structures have hardly changed in relation to the needs and conditions of the world around us
    • Students and learners carry the brunt of the consequences, and teachers are blamed for everything, while education in general is underfunded and un-prepared
  • If our information and analysis are at all accurate, then the joke emerges: our economy and our economic systems rely heavily on education, the education system is inadequate to the challenge and to fix it we need a public commitment to changes and alternatives in education and we need funding for education as both local and national priorities, and the funding won’t be available without a robust and sustainable economy.


  • For free markets and vibrant business to succeed, information about any and every transaction, must be reliable, and it must be equally shared with all parties, and that includes underlying information about the participants themselves.


  • The desire for “confidentiality” as applied to producers and traders is entirely misdirected: without reliable and timely information about a product, and about the commercial (including financial) health of the producer and the distributor, any market exchange is skewed and its results are suspect.


  • A major cause, perhaps the largest single cause, of the 2008 recession and bust, was the huge quantity of misinformation being passed between market players: banks misinformed each other, lenders misinformed borrowers, borrowers misinformed lenders, corporations misinformed stock-holders, everyone misinformed ratings organizations, and markets were left managing transactions built on falsehoods and misdirections.


  • Computerized trading in financial markets only amplified the misinformation, taking trade markets rapidly in one direction or the other without real data or evidence.


  • Reliable information was, essentially, taken out of the market. And for markets to work — for markets to act even remotely like the Adam Smith model — traders need to have access to the same, and to all, the information embodied within any proposed transaction. Auctioneers, market makers, and brokers all serve a mid-ground position to help match up buyers and sellers through an information posting and exchange mechanism. That’s what the ideal stock market does, and that’s what the ideal public marketplace does.


  • Regardless of political persuasion, every rational person will have to admit to the importance, the sacredness, of quality information if he or she believes at all in market economies.


  • The stated technical goal of free market liberal economies is the rational resolution of participants each seeking maximum benefit. It has been believed that well formed markets will allow rational players to each reach their best possible position in relation to every other player, because rational players in a rational market, having the same complete information, will essentially negotiate a transaction that is mutually beneficial.


  • But the current unstated goal is that each player gets the chance get whatever he or she can. That is, the way we tend to play it out is to pursue individual self-interest at all costs to others. Gold becomes a highly valued and over-priced commodity in a market built on greed and deliberate misinformation, for example. Yet investments in gold support child-labor and near slave labor working conditions, engagement in environmentally hazardous extraction processes, and the movement of working capital into metal stockpiles such that capital becomes  unavailable to local and regional economies.

Education that includes learner-centered methodologies, project centered learning, life-long learning, critical thinking, and complex systems — and, importantly, this includes education that encompasses and embraces the arts! — is essential to the long-term development of sustainable systems as well as market economies, not to mention healthy democracies.

In A Local Economy’s Network

In A Local Economy’s Network

We continually review and often revise—to better describe—INCOMMN’s vision and mission. Let’s start with the name: INCOMMN is an acronym for “Interactive Communities Network”. “Communities” include the communities we live in, we work in, and interact in. Our name is itself visionary: imagine a highly active fabric of interconnected businesses and communities that describe a regional economy as a whole. To accomplish this, we’re committed to building, encouraging, and supporting ecosystems of businesses, non-profit organizations, and local communities. An ecosystem is the detailed interactions and resources in which we all operate. For INCOMMN, this ecosystem provides the environment, resources, transactions, and supports for on-going venture, organizational, and community development. What emerges from all this is the collaborative economy: all the players, ideally on and with purpose, but often enough by accident, interact in ways to help each other achieve and accomplish. This is the “common good” in action.

A Regional Economic Model

At the more mundane level—putting this into practice—I often get to work on projects that fully illuminate the network. In the past month, I’ve been developing an economic model—a picture—of the Western Massachusetts region and sub-regions to reveal the particulars of this networked economy. It’s truly fascinating to develop the image at this highly detailed level. I’ve been doing this sort of data gathering and analysis for almost thirty years now; studying regions throughout New England, Colorado, Illinois, California, and Europe. Regional economic modeling and analysis has its rewards: great, beautiful pictures are revealed. This week, I was reminded of this again. We discover in these projects just how tightly woven the economic fabric in any region can be, and what might be achieved if we work even more on developing that fabric. And it is a fabric: a network so well connected and established that we see very clear patterns. For example, even small scale increases in production in any one major industry create jobs and raise incomes throughout the entire network. The inverse is also true. A decline in regional and local food production, for example, impacts food pricing; which will impact household purchasing, restaurants, grocery stores, and even tourism. And if households continually have to limit their purchasing choices to smaller and smaller ranges, then some purchasing gets delayed or even eliminated. Another example is the rapidly expanding world of telecommunications. It’s almost impossible to remain competitive in any business without ready access to advanced telecommunications: data, voice, and video delivered via broadband connectivity. If Western Massachusetts lacks adequate and affordable connectivity, the ecosystem cannot support business or organizational development and growth. Jobs will be lost, incomes reduced, and towns and cities decline. In fact, every industry in a region is eventually—and most often very directly—linked to every other industry through what gets purchased and produced. To produce the telecommunication infrastructure and services needed in our region, that industry has to purchase wire, cable, wood, plastic fasteners, a variety of metal parts, tools, trucks, parts, electricity and…Well, in fact, over $400 million worth of inputs and services a year. And it has to hire people, and they need decent wages, and they need to purchase food, health care, clothing, housing…the network of interactions becomes increasingly complex!

We’re All in This Together

You, me, and our colleagues in entrepreneurship, understand this even at our smaller scales of operation. INCOMMN purchases and rents space, pays for printing, owns computers, and buys a variety of web-based and telecommunication services as well as devices. And we’re very small economic players in the whole network. Our success depends on our own choices in many ways, but it also depends on finding what we need from all the other businesses and organizations in the region. Vibrant, growing and complete ecosystems allow us to gain capacity, produce high quality services, and deliver what our customers and stakeholders need and expect. When you work at your desk today, think about how you’re an important player in a vast, tightly connected network. Stop for a minute and appreciate the rich texture of the economic fabric that sustains us. Be mindful of just how much you interact with your community and its networks! Come to one of our FREE Mindful Entrepreneur’s 21st Century Business Roundtables and join the growing community learning and talking about our local economy as a network and much more.

More information and registration at the InCommN Events Page on Eventbrite

Between Interesting and Mythic

Entrepreneurs are like soccer players

We move on to the fourth in our series of 21st Century Business Round Table workshops in the coming week (April 23rd in Northampton; April 24th in Springfield). The series mirrors this blog: gaining presence in your organization to know but not fret about where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going. We’re going to do more with basic tools for gaining critical insights.

Let’s quickly review this whole idea of mindfulness in business and organizations: if you’re mindful, you know what you’re doing; you care about and work to provide benefits to your clients, customers, stakeholders, and participants; you care about the impacts of your enterprise on others and on your community; you care about your colleagues and any employees; you operate with the highest standards and dedication to quality; and you pay attention.

And you function and operate with purpose. Your work, and your enterprise, isn’t activity-driven, it’s outcome-driven. Outcome, purpose, action, care, principles, ways to track and monitor, internal and external actions—everything is integrated. These aren’t separate arenas of concern; they come together into a single whole, into a unity of concern. The task falls somewhere between interesting and mythic, and it may border on the impossible. I’ve had the good fortune to work in and with organizations that fulfill this vision, where both those leading—owners, principals, directors, or CEOs—and those working in the organization can state their roles, functions, limits and areas of concern easily; communicate openly and completely; and support each other in achieving the desired outcomes for their customers. The “mindful entrepreneur” is not a fiction, nor is it difficult to arrive at that level. Three things are required, however:

  1. Realize that all aspects of your enterprise, especially when you’re a sole proprietor or leader of a small enterprise, are related to each other; if they’re not all mutually supportive, the places where they aren’t supporting one another will become major sources of dysfunction.
  2. Most of what you learn and practice focuses on a limited subset of all these components. The integration and wholeness of all the parts is rarely if ever considered. That includes the relationship of your enterprise to the world around you.
  3. This integration and the dedication to principals is outcome-driven and purposeful. You have things to unlearn—and things to explore and discover and learn for the first time.

“…you move with purpose, to be where you need to be when the critical play occurs….”The mindful entrepreneur is a soccer player: the field of action is large, there are many players in motion, the ecosystem in which you operate is changes constantly, and it involves many others. Your well-being—your success—depends on how well you master your place and action in that field in relation to all the other action. You might be very strong and very fast, but you can’t simply be running around the field: you move with purpose, to be where you need to be when the critical play occurs. Join us at this month’s workshops to gain more of these soccer-player skills. Among the basics we’re learning is how best to put SWOT analysis to work for you.

Taking Measure

Being present, taking measure, introducing CoreValue Software

The 21st Century Business Round-table is heading to session #3 in Northampton and session #2 in Springfield. Our theme this year links mindfulness and enterprise success for you, the mindful entrepreneur.

First, Happy Birthday to my INCOMMN partner, Daniel Lieberman! Daniel is the editor and chief writer for this newsletter, and he started the Don’t Eat Lunch Alone (DELA) lunch-time networking and discussion sessions. He and I joined forces to further our visions of resilient enterprises and resilient communities. All that for such a young man is astounding! (aw, shucks, thanks! — Ed.)

Measuring the Right Thing: How Alaska Airlines Does it

What is the measure of “age?” Does it really tell us much about who a person is, and what he or she is doing? Some of us celebrate, and some get worried as they count the passing years. But is it age that matters, or is it something else: fulfillment, achievement, accomplishment, satisfaction, happiness, a sense of wholeness? At any moment (at any age) in life, each of us can take measure: “Who am I? If not now, when?” The same for our businesses and organizations. Alaska Airlines, one of the few airlines, and in some recent years, the only one, to be profitable in North America, employs over 50,000 data points daily to measure how well it’s doing. It’s been an astonishingly successful enterprise with a full national flight schedule: it has the highest on-time take off and landing rate, it has the most satisfied customers and consistently high customer ratings, it has a safety record second to none, and yet it’s profitable. This is the airline that developed satellite tracking and guidance systems, the first to fully utilize this technology. Satellite guidance initially solved the airline’s home-base problem: Alaskan airports are nestled in small areas between mountains and coasts, and the winds and weather can be brutal. Flying there had been high risk yet left no room for error.

This example can teach us many things, including how to engage innovation effectively, and how to manage a complex system successfully. And profitably! And, by the way, for the common good: folks in Alaska depend on this transportation system, and the company has been committed to community and public interests.

InCommN offers CoreValue Software

We don’t always need 50,000 measures, or data points, to help us. I’m now working with, and offering as a new INCOMMN service, a measure-and-analysis system called CoreValue Software. INCOMMN is an advisor with this system, meaning that we employ it to help enterprises measure and track every key aspect of business and organizational development. The system uses 18 dimensions, or areas of measure, including internal (management, organization, accounting, leadership, and legal dimensions) and external (marketing, sales, product/service placement, pricing, brand, customer satisfaction) measures. On each measure, the business is compared to other businesses in its industry sector and also measured against its own stated goals and needs. Each measure is scored, and each results in a number of recommendations for improving that score. It’s the perfect tool for business valuation if owners are thinking of selling, and for entrepreneurs thinking of buying. And it’s equally powerful for assessing any businesses strengths and challenges, for growth planning, and for loan evaluations.

We’ll be carrying more information on our web-site about this exciting new tool. Give us a call if you want a demonstration or preview, or if you’re wanting to acquire, sell, grow or elevate any business. There are many great opportunities and rewarding birthdays for the mindful entrepreneur!

Mission Critical, Method Madness

Mission Critical, Method Madness

The Constitutional Convention

Originators of great ideas, inventors, and founders have a long history of frustration with the implementations of their discoveries. Those who create a product or service may not be the ones who successfully organize the production and delivery; it’s one thing to invent and create and quite another to organize, manage, and lead. And once the founder or creator involves others in the project, control can quickly be lost to the group that is now charged with implementation. I wonder how many founders are saddened by what becomes of their creations as others take things in different directions?

The source of frustration and disappointment is the confusion between mission and method that can arise in the lifetime of any organized effort; from nations to small businesses to community-based not-for-profits. The founders and creators, the originators, are mission-focused and mission-driven: the initial idea or invention came about as a response to or a solution for some challenge or discovery. The founders’ greatest desire is to present their idea or invention in a way that does what it was invented and designed to do successfully. To fulfill this promise, resources and efforts are organized: a business or organization is created, a nation is founded, a religion begins. These organized efforts involve other people, and other people bring their own ideas and interpretations. Methods to implement actions that will fulfill the mission are employed, and within some period of time these methods become the drivers for continuation. Countless Board of Directors meetings at countless organizations are spent in debate over methods, with almost no regard for mission.

Methods replace the mission, just as the means replace the ends. Public policy is full of examples. Consider gun control and the debate over the Second Amendment (the Right to Bear Arms). Consider for a moment that the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution are mission statements, and the articles and amendments of the constitution are methods. Methods adapt to demands and circumstances, and if the formal process contains procedures for amendments, the originating documents can evolve to address those changes. One interpretation is that the Second Amendment was added to protect citizens from over-reaching centralized anti-democracy government. Yet Aaron Swartz, a 26 year old computer whiz who recently committed suicide while being hounded by the government and facing a 30-year prison sentence for a minor computer hacking event (he downloaded academic journal articles), would not have been saved by keeping a gun under his pillow. Today, individual citizens need the right to freely access information, as well as to be free from governments’ computer-based policing; the modern state can be far more dangerous through information control than through gun control.

The mission of the United States was to ensure justice under law, democracy, equality, individual freedoms and rights, and organized capacity to address the common good as a number one priority. The means to accomplish all this is found in the Constitution and subsequent legislation and laws. The measure of a given method is supposed to be the mission statements: if a piece of legislation or law undermines the stated purposes and missions, then the law needs to be changed, amended, or discarded. But over time we’ve come to have a higher regard for the methods, and we measure new decisions and actions against the older methods. If something new threatens to change, amend or end one of the methods, courts, and particularly the Supreme Court, squashes the new legislation —  even if it does a better job of protecting and fulfilling the mission. Protecting the rights of corporations as if they were individual citizens is a case in point; so is the undermining of election laws and election finance limits.

What Can a Mindful Founder Do?

The Great Dictator

The same conflict —  the confusion of mission and method —  emerges in all organizations regardless of size and intention. As the organized effort moves away from and past the founder, the focus turns from mission control to method control. One approach is for the founder to invite others to participate and get involved, but exert complete executive control. The Dictator-Founder seeks to ensure commitment to mission by directing every decision and action. The wiser approach is the Founder-Leader: he or she recognizes the need to involve and engage others, and knows full well that those others may alter the initial idea or invention. But rather than attempting absolute control, the Founder-Leader provides inspiration, encouragement, and organizes environments that allow the optimal expression of his or her ideas and programs. And the mission statement is at the core of this type of organization. Having a clear mission statement from the beginning is essential. A very broad and vague mission statement can allow almost any method; an overly detailed and strict mission statement can stifle innovation and critical response to change. The mission statement is the critical foundation block and on-going tool for implementation, and for organizational viability. Founders may find greater comfort in sharing their visions and ideas through Board participation rather than through executive control. If the method requires smart, competent leadership and management, and these are not the strengths of the founder or inventor, then recruiting the right talent and stepping aside will be in the best interests of the founder, the organization, and the initial idea.


Susan Cain, author of QuietINCOMMN started its Mindful Entrepreneur series of workshops and discussions with our Northampton 21st Century Business Round Table of January 22, 2013. We’ll kick new series off in Greenfield, Easthampton, and Springfield in the next few weeks…. check dates, times, and locations in the weekly InCommN newsletter In Northampton, we considered how different entrepreneurs review their recent past business activities — what measures do we each like to use? which measures really help us understand our businesses or organizations? and which do we want to use going forward? All this is in the context of understanding two aspects: planning and preparing. They’re related, but they’re not the same thing. Both address how we need to and want to use the four essentials every venture requires: human resources (talent, skill, knowledge, behavioral patterns…), time, money, and information. When we’re short on one, we tend to overuse the others. But if we’re inventive in how we work with others — collaborate, cooperate, partner, contract, hire —- we can actually expand resources for maximum mutual benefit. The issue of collaboration raises some very interesting challenges. What arrangements work best to foster creativity, critical thinking, and good leadership? The answer tends to be active, participatory collaborations. Picture open-area shared office space: there are lots of interactions, constant engagement, continual conversation. As an introvert, too much of this can be counterproductive for me. I now find support in the work of Susan Cain, reported on the TED website:

“At TED2012, Susan Cain asked us to stop the madness. That is: the group work madness. At offices and schools around the globe, the desire for collaboration has led to an onslaught of open floor plans and group projects where individuals aren’t given much space to think on their own. And this is a big problem, Cain explained, because a third to half of people in the world are introverts. They thrive on their own and feel at their best in quiet moments, without over-stimulation. While our culture tends to laud extroverts—people who are outgoing, social and high on charisma—Cain stood up for the introverts of the world in her talk. “Our most important institutions, our schools and our workplaces, they are designed mostly for extroverts and for extroverts’ need for lots of stimulation,” says Cain. “This is our loss for sure, but it is also our colleagues’ loss and our communities’ loss. And at the risk of sounding grandiose, it is the world’s loss. Because when it comes to creativity and to leadership, we need introverts doing what they do best. In the past year, Cain’s talk has been viewed nearly 4 million times. Meanwhile, her book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” became a New York Times bestseller. With the paperback of the book now on bookstore shelves, the TED Blog spoke ‘softly’ to Cain about the experience of the past year.”

Go to the TED site to read more about this, and watch Susan Cain’s wonderful, illuminating and – yes, mindful – presentation.

Looking Back

In one of my business practices, the founder/owner and I engage in review, evaluation, planning and preparation every year starting just after Thanksgiving break. We spend a month at this; we purposefully set aside time to talk with our colleagues, each other, others in the field, and our staff associates to fully appreciate what we’ve experienced and what we might want to happen next. We’re almost brutally honest, and also completely open to ideas, opinions, and information. In some years, we’ve turned the business inside out and upside down to explore and try something new, and then at the end of that year concluded that we made mistakes and want to try something else entirely. It certainly presents challenges, and one has be somewhat fearless to go through this: you don’t know, and you don’t even try to predict, what you might learn and discover in the process. But we can’t argue with the the results: raving clients, happy and productive and enthused staff, increased profitability, and a fine workplace.

During this process, we’ve often turned to various measures: numbers of calls, numbers of prospects, percentage of prospects who become clients, types and behaviors and expectations of clients, and at least several others. And we’ve learned: selling is dead.

Our best years have been when we’ve focused on elevating our relationship building by delivering what the client wants and needs, and by approaching each prospect as a present and self-aware person who has clear ideas about his or her world. That is, we approach everyone with complete respect and appreciation, and we approach thoughtfully, caringly, and deliberately. Relationships are created and built. And through these relationships, business is completed.

Over time, and this measure varies since each relationship blossoms differently, “sales” are made. More accurately, actions are taken that satisfy each client’s interests to the extent that our busines earns money for what we’ve provided (thoughtfullness, care, purposefull discussion, quality information, solutions to challenges).

We don’t sell anything; we offer relationships that address needs and interests of clients.

Business, particularly service business, is not about selling; it’s about building signficant and lasting relationships. And it’s done through networking, collaborating, partnering, one-to-one conversation. It necessarily requires empathy, self-awareness, and respect. “Being there” when it counts is replacing the sale.