Planning won’t even get you a good plan, let alone success.

Stop thinking. Get moving.

Planning does not create success or even the best plan. It also doesn’t create action. Most planning just creates paper, spreadsheets, complexity, doubt, paralysis, and dream-dampening. There are two things that create a far better plan than planning itself.

If you believe that meticulous and detailed planning of every possible contingency is the best way to create success you won’t like this post. To make matters worse, I’m probably going to accuse you of living in a dream world.

How many SUCCESSFUL businesses were started from a highly developed business plan? Next to none. And of the very, very few I’ve found that were started from a business plan, when asked how that worked out for them, most laughed but none said that reality had followed their excel spreadsheet plan.

Yet we keep slavishly promoting an antique practice that has almost never done anything for anyone except get someone an “A” in an MBA class on how to build a business plan. Oh, and it will get you into debt, because banks are still requiring business plans so they have a teddy bear to hold while they give you money. None of those work out either, but most banks haven’t figured out there is a much better way to see if someone is going to be successful.

This isn’t a blog on the attributes of success (maybe I’ll do that one next week), but creating a 30-page business plan isn’t one of them. To the contrary, the simpler the initial plan, the better, because it’s going to change anyway.

I advocate a 2-Page Strategic Plan (never do another classic Business Plan unless you have an antique bank asking for one). A simple 2-page Strategic Plan is set up to change, adapt, and be clarified every one to three months – you know, sort of like life.

It shouldn’t take more than a few hours to do it because, again, like life, it’s going to change very quickly. The only part that is likely to not change is the objective – what do we want to see as a result? The rest of it is up for grabs – anything that gets us to that result will be added and anything that isn’t will be removed.

Once you’ve got a simple plan, the two keys to making it into a great plan are:

  1. Commitment (to the objective, not a plan)
  2. Movement (in a purposeful directions toward the objective, not “activity” based on a plan)

It is NEVER how good your plan is that creates success, but how committed you are to the bad plan you’ve got and how willing you are to get moving on it NOW. As you move with absolute commitment in a clear direction toward the objective – that commitment and that movement will work together to make your so-so plan into a world class one.

Commitment and movement create success, not a tortured 30-page document. And a simple 2-page plan will become brilliant over time if there is enough commitment to the objective and enough movement to inform you what to keep doing and what to keep changing.

Stop thinking, get a clear objective and get moving with abandoned commitment toward that goal. Use the movement to make the plan better all the time. You’ll make more money in less time by committed movement than you will by sitting around trying to figure out what might go wrong.

Do you have balance across the Seven Elements of a Business?

Business divides pretty neatly into seven categories or “elements” that all businesses must pay attention to in order to be successful. They exist whether we pay attention to them or not. If we pay attention, we are successful, if we don’t, we are not.

Most businesses reflect the strength of their owner/founder, who are really good at one, two, or maybe even three of the seven. The successful business makes sure they get the people and systems in place to have all seven humming.

Get a handle on these seven elements, and get off the treadmill. All great business owners do.

The Seven Elements of a Business are:

  1. Vision & Leadership (mission, vision, principles)
  2. Business Development (sales, marketing, research)
  3. Operations & Delivery (get a process that delivers a consistent experience)
  4. Financial Management (improve cashflow and profit just by paying attention)
  5. Customer Satisfaction (almost no one has a process for this critical Element)
  6. Employee Satisfaction (treat them like they are #1 and they will do the same for your clients)
  7. Community, Family, Self (how is your business impacting the world around you?)

STAY IN YOUR ELEMENT

The key is to know which Elements you are really good at, and how to get others to bring the others up to speed. Sometimes early on, we have to cover them ourselves, but knowing which ones you’re great at and which ones you want to off load puts you in a better position to get off the treadmill faster and get others doing the things that aren’t your cup of tea.

KEEP IT SIMPLE IS STILL THE RULE.

If you can’t stand in the middle of the room and share your system for each of the Seven Elements in 30-120 seconds, it’s likely you’ll never use it. Systems are not 3″ binders that sit on desks. They are a remarkably simple set of lean, efficient, time-tested set of steps that everyone knows and everyone uses in the every day of doing business. For most businesses, your entire Systems Manual with all Seven Elements shouldn’t be more than a few pages long. If you can’t share it from memory without memorizing it, you won’t use it.

FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND GET IT OUT OF YOUR HEAD.

For each of the Seven Elements, ask yourself:

  1. What is the process I do now for each Element? (You’ve got one, whether it’s well thought out or ad hoc.) Write it down.
  2. What part of that process is working? What isn’t? Keep what is, and take your best guess at what would work to change what isn’t. Don’t spend hours or days thinking about it. Just change it. The only way you’ll know if it works is if you try it. If it doesn’t, change it again until you find the right process. If it’s broken, those quick “experiements” won’t be an worse than what you’re doing and will lead you to the best process.
  3. Get others involved. Create ownership by having others take a stab at the processes that will effect their work the most. They’ll likely to know more than you do about it anyway.
  4. Keep it to one page or less per Element. Resist the temptation to write an Operations Manual. It will sit on a shelf and you’ll never use it. Some of the processes you write down should be less than half a page; maybe one of the Seven might take a full page, but see if you can’t keep them to less seven steps or less per process. Again, if you can’t stand up and share the whole process quickly, you won’t use it.
  5. Prioritize the ones that create the most challenge for you. Get outside help if at all possible. Otherwise you’re going to have to gut it out yourself and get them working in balance with the Elements you love doing. Until you do, you will be owned by your business. After you get all Seven humming, you’ll be on the path to actually owning your business and getting off the treadmill.

Get all Seven Elements of a Business working for you and you’ll be on the path back to the passion that brought you into business in the first place. Get all Seven Elements in place and get off the treadmill. You’ll make more money in less time.


How 211 Degree Relationships Can Be Your Latent Key to Success

Where do most of your sales come from? When I’ve asked this question in a weekly lunch I do with 60 business leaders, 59 of them say relationships and one didn’t understand the question.

So how do we shift more of our spend from advertising, direct marketing, and public relations to relationship marketing? The good news is that it just doesn’t cost that much money – it costs time. The bad news is that we think we can buy customers and would much rather spend money than time. Good luck with that.

It actually works if you have enough money to make a very big and sustained splash. But most business owners don’t have the kind of marketing budget that allows them the luxury of spending wads of cash and sitting back to wait for the phones to ring. Like it or not, we have more time than money, but again, the good news is that an investment of your time in building relationships will be much more effective than a quick, short-term spend of money.

The key is moving people from being “advocates” to “raving fans”. There are a lot of past and present customers along with friends and business associates who really like us a lot. But they have lives and we are not at the center of their lives. I describe an advocate as someone who likes me enough to give me a referral when I ask, but I have to ask. A Raving Fan however, is at a whole new level – this is someone who sends me customers without me asking.

The difference is one degree.

At 211 degrees we get hot water to make tea. At 212 degrees we get steam to power a civilization. We have a lot of 211 degree relationships who are really warmed up to us (Advocates), but what do we do move them that one extra degree to turn them into Raving Fans?

Here are some simple things that can turn Advocates into Raving Fans. By the way, the profound things are always the most simple.

  1. Serve people – meet them where they are at, not where you want them to be. You want to sell them something, but they need a babysitter or a new supplier. Find them that and forget selling them your wares.
  2. Set aside a few minutes a week to ask yourself what else you can do to move them forward? Do you want a client from them? Can you send them one instead? Or just call and say hi and ask them what you can do to push them forward.
  3. Relate/recreate with them – when was the last time you actually took time to build a relationship with an Advocate? Go to dinner, have a cup of coffee, invite them to golf, go to a workshop together. People buy from people, and they buy more from people they like. Become likeable.

Discover what your Advocates want and deliver that. If you do, they could become Raving Fans who will become gate openers for your business. What have you done for them besides deliver something they’ve paid for? Answer that question positively and you are on the way to turning your 211-degree relationships into 212 Raving Fans.

Make a list of five to ten people who love you and aren’t helping you grow your business. Then create a three month action plan help them grow theirs and watch what happens.

One degree – does it really matter? It just might take one of your 211-degree relationships and turn it into steam that can power your business for years going forward.

Why I wrote “Making Money Is Killing Your Business”

I built five businesses from the ground up. Each time in the process I found myself as a hostage of my business, never knowing how it would work out, how I would get off the treadmill, or most importantly, a firm date for when I could look forward to enjoying my business. It all seemed to be up to chance, and that the best I could do was work harder and increase my “chances”.

Along the way I learned two valuable principles that transformed me and my businesses, and helped me build a business I could enjoy for decades:

  1. You get what you intend, not what you hope for… and…
  2. He who makes the rules wins.

Throughout a number of my businesses I intended to work extremely hard and make money, and I got exactly what I intended – hard work and some money. While growing those same businesses I “hoped” they would result in a great lifestyle and worked even harder to increase my chances. But we get what we intend, not what we hope for.

I learned that unless I very intentionally designed my work around building a great lifestyle, that all I was going to get was hard work and maybe some money. I decided I was going to turn the whole thing on its head, stop working for my business and make my business start working for me.

It dawned on me that “He who makes the rules wins”, and that I had been allowing my businesses to make the rules by just “hoping” they would give me a great lifestyle. I added “use my business to create a great lifestyle” to my intentionality, having grown into the belief now that business should not just give us money, but it should give us three things – money, time, and the opportunity for significance, or meaning.

This led me to develop simple tools that would keep me on track to create that lifestyle:

  1. The Big Why – those with a great vision for what to do are more likely to be successful.
  2. A Business Maturity Date – to give me a very clear, measure of the time, money, and significance I now intended for my business to bring me, and a specific date for when I intended to be there – Friday, February 18, 2001, at 10am.
  3. A simple 2-page Strategic Plan – to help me stay above the daily Tyranny of the Urgent so I could focus on the things that would build a business that makes money while I’m on vacation.
  4. Process Mapping – to get me off the treadmill, allow me to train others to do what I do, and create repeatable and consistent experiences for my clients.
  5. Outside Eyes – I have others I meet with regularly who are helping me keep on track. I’m too subjective about my own business to make the kind of progress I regularly should.

February 18, 2011, we’ll be on our way to New Zealand celebrating the maturity of our business, and we fully intend for it to make money while we’re on vacation. Why don’t most businesses get here? Simple, the owner is doing what I used to do – intending to work hard and make money, and “hoping” it will all work out in a great lifestyle. We get what we intend, not what we hope for, And when I realized I could no longer let my businesses make the rules, I was on the road to freedom.

What are you doing to build a business that makes money while you’re on vacation?

UPDATE: The book is now out and available.

Is it Harder to Start and Run a Business Than 30 Years Ago?

Almost everyone decrying the demise of entrepreneurship in America is blaming either Walmart or rising health care costs for making it more difficult to start a business. But the biggest obstacle is a long-term shift in American culture and society that has little to do with big box businesses or heart attacks.

In a recent article titled “Are we Becoming Less Entrepreneurial?” Scott Shane cited 30-year trends going back to 1977 that fewer people are starting new businesses over that time. Other research conflicts with that to some degree, but virtually everyone seems to think that it’s harder to start and run a business these days.

As with most things, there is rarely an easy one-line answer. I see at least four factors that someone running a small business has to fight through these days:

  1. Long-term cultural shifts in the way we view life and opportunity
  2. The constantly increasing costs of running a small business due to government controls and regulations and other factors (such as health care)
  3. Pro-active resistance and disincentive by the SBA to start true small businesses.
  4. Pro-active support and incentive to mid and large-sized businesses by the congress and SBA that create artificial competition for small business.

The overwhelming uphill struggle is against #1, cultural shifts. Numbers two through four added together don’t come close to the problems number one presents.

Entrepreneurship is not declining because of Walmart. He who makes the rules wins. If you play by Walmart’s rules, you will lose, but millions of small businesses are figuring out they can build businesses around rules that Walmart can’t touch and are doing fabulously.

Nor is health care the reason. It doesn’t help, but it is only one in a pile of factors in the decline Shane cites. People who claim they aren’t going into business for themselves because of health care risks wouldn’t go into business anyway. They are risk adverse and if health care wasn’t an obstacle they would find another one as an excuse. Health care wasn’t any better for someone 75-100 years ago but people started businesses.

Also, the SBA has spent 50 years proudly killing people’s dreams by showing them empirically that their dream doesn’t work as an Excel spreadsheet. It doesn’t take a genius to know this – almost no small business makes financial sense out of the box, which is why they go through 5-7 iterations before they find the pot of gold. That’s what entrepreneurialism is all about, and the SBA’s SCORE advisors – mostly middle managers from large corporations who never started anything – are hell-bent on keeping you from the joy of that journey. They would much rather have you sit in a cubicle than give wings to that once in a lifetime longing you have.

Government regulations and a burdensome tax code are also factors. Regulations are never put in place in response to small business abuses and yet small business has the same regulations and tax code as the biggest businesses. That’s why Goldman Sachs was able to make $2 billion last year and not pay a cent in tax while most small businesses will pay a significant percentage of their revenue in tax.

But all of these are just bumps in the road compared to the cultural shifts that are undermining entrepreneurialism in America. In the last 50 years we have undergone a dramatic shift toward an entitlement society. Only 1% of entrepreneurs come from the upper class while fully 27% come from the lower class. Being soft and avoiding the struggle has not made us better. When we receive things without working hard for them we gain a sense of entitlement that leads to dependency that results in a full-blown sense of victimization when the handout I’ve been used to is no longer there.

None of that helps us start new businesses. Way too often I hear from business owners that conditions around them are keeping them from succeeding. This is a mindset of victimization – it’s not my fault, it’s the world around me.

Circumstances don’t make me who I am. How I respond to them does.

Relearn the joy of the struggle and shed your sense of dependency, entitlement and victimization. It’s a deadening mindset and will keep you from getting where you want to go.

He who makes the rules wins. If you decide you can’t make any of the rules (victim), you lose.

Being a business owner isn’t any harder than it was 30 years ago, it’s just harder to convince people they don’t have to lose.

Your Freedom Number is the Only Number That Matters.

Your business has the same issues as those I visited in Kenya. In the final analysis, there’s only one number in business that really matters, you’re Freedom Number. While I was in Kenya, I had seminars and workshops with everyone from large international businesses to egg vendors in the slums. I wanted to impress on them the importance of net profit, the money that is “left over” after you pay all your expenses including your income.

I wanted them to know that it’s the only number that matters in the long run (others might be more important in the short run), so I asked an egg vendor:

“Would you like to get to a point where you could choose what to do with your time and your money?” She lit up.

I said, “Wealth is simply the ability to choose what to do with my time. We need to figure out how to become wealthy, not rich (riches=money).” She agreed and recognized instantly that having more money, if it didn’t create a better lifestyle for her, would not solve anything.

Sound familiar? We struggle with the same issue, the decimal point is just in a different place. The key is Net Profit. If you have Net Profit, now you have the freedom to choose what to do with it – the seed money for Wealth. To drive this home I asked the Kenya business owners to switch out the term “Net Profit” with “Your Freedom Number”, and to report it to each other every month, along with how the were going to reinvest it to create more wealth. They got very excited about the idea and there was a lot of buzz about their “Freedom Numbers”. I also challenged them to have a long term Freedom Number – the accumulated Net Profits over time that would truly create Wealth – the ability to choose what to do with their time.

One of the big “ahas” from being with business owners in Kenya was that the Cycle of Poverty is identical here with seemingly successful business owners – we haven’t really broken out of the mental Cycle of Poverty. The decimal point is in a different place, but we’re mortgaged and leveraged to the hilt and Net Profit is something we use to go to the movies, not reinvest in our business. After all, how could $50 left over at the end of the month have any impact anyway? I might as well just use it to enjoy the moment.

The egg vendor had the same question. She figured she might have 200 shillings ($2.64) of Freedom Money at the end of a month. We did the math. If she reinvested it and bought 20 extra eggs the next month, and kept reinvesting her increasing Net Profit for 18 months, her personal income would go from 4800 shillings a month to 30,000 shillings a month, with 10,000 more shillings to still reinvest in her business! $2.64 is a great Freedom Number if you see it that way.

What is your Freedom Number (Net Profit) this month? What are you doing to create more of it? Are you reinvesting it to build Wealth or using it for short term comfort?

Net Profit is the most important number in your business – it’s your only Freedom Number. Focus on it and you’ll make more money in less time.

I had a shower yesterday… #Kenya

Finding time to blog has been difficult, but these tweets tell it all. I’ll share more tomorrow.

Day 4

  • Candle wax being melted on the table to hold our light while dinner is made. Rieva and Karina (kids) enjoying darkness. #Kenya
  • Unpainted plywood ceiling in main room of house is luxury. Stone walls, concrete ceiling in most others. #Kenya
  • @GoSocialMobile I know. But here we call it getting through the crowd in a car. Life has different rules in different places. #Kenya
  • Diesel smell everywhere. Will take weeks to get it out of my head. I have that option, they don’t. #Kenya
  • Yesterday we visited another school with 250 kids. No electricity, dark dirt floored rooms. Beans for lunch – only meal of the day. #Kenya
  • .@ColoradoFoothil No Mexican food, but Mexican soap operas translated into English – biggest hit on TV here by far. #Kenya
  • Brian was down for almost two days with stomach problems. #Kenya
  • .@barrymoltz Don’t tell Charles that (owns soap stand). He says “no problems, only challenges” #Kenya
  • .@prolificd The actors are different than India, but the play is the same. Poverty & hope together. #Kenya
  • I’ve seen hundreds of kids, only one crying. So much hope w/ so much less “proof” then in Colorado. We are spoiled. #Kenya
  • After all the desperation we’ve seen, tomorrow we go to the slums of Kibera. How could it possibly be worse? #Kenya
  • Hope is not a commodity here. There are no atheists in a foxhole. #Kenya
  • The battery is almost gone. No electricity/water. The world will get smaller in a just a few minutes. #Kenya
  • Every day I know less and have more to learn. What can I possibly say that will change anything here? #Kenya
  • I’m supposed to talk for two days straight Thurs/Fri. to tell bus. owners how to create wealth. I wonder – can they afford lunch? #Kenya
  • Church on Sunday was loudest event of my life, more than any concert. Drowning out the sounds of poverty for just 2hrs of the week #Kenya
  • Chuck – this must be so humbling RT @ChuckBlakeman: I’ve seen hundreds of kids, only one crying. So much hope . We are spoiled. #Kenya
  • .@barrymoltz I would think that, too. But Charles is just one Kenyan, and lives it out every day. #Kenya
  • .@AlanBoothCoach Adults must be disoriented to learn. I’m learning. #Kenya
  • Can you help? #Kenya
  • The battery is gone – Good night!

Day 6

  • The rooster next door that woke me up at dawn the last 2 wks. did not sing this morning. Dinner. #Kenya
  • Here I am just “Mzungu” (mah-zoon-goo). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muzungu #Kenya
  • Electricity back on today. Water still off. Just another day in #Kenya
  • Saw my first refrigerator in 6 days today. The Other #Kenya
  • Visit Kean Blixen estate today (Out of Africa author) – 600 acres. The Other #Kenya
  • Filmed orphaned elephants today 3 mths to 3 yrs. They sleep under a blanket in single rooms. Not so in Kibera. The Other #Kenya
  • @drjoyce_knudsen Visited the wealthy side of Nairobi today. Their water works just fine. The Other #Kenya
  • Govt. coalition falling apart. Kofi Annan called in to hopefully stitch it back together. Locals here in Nairobi are concerned. #Kenya
  • Open door to Room 1 – 30 5yr olds in dark (no elect) happily learning ABCs. Room rt. beside? 100 chickens in dirt/crap laying eggs. #Kenya
  • Locals here in Nairobi say President Kibaki is creating instability and is “nuts”, “crazy”, and other more descriptive phrases. #Kenya
  • Had tea in an upper middle class home in Nairobi today. Vastly different than the lower middle class home I’m staying in. The Other #Kenya
  • Saw my first microwave today in a week – left Kayole and traveled over to the wealthy “Westlands” and Karen, Nairobi. The Other #Kenya
  • ZnaTrainer RT @ChuckBlakeman: Electricity back on today. Water still off. Just another day in #Kenya {{{ WOW!
  • Steep, rickety wooden stairs (almost ladder) to 2nd flr of grade school wouldn’t have been safe in a tree house. 100’s of kids #Kenya
  • @drjoyce_knudsen Especially in #Kenya. The roads are quite good leading to the President’s house
  • Great conversations on sustainable business for the Kibera slum yesterday. #Kenya
  • @drjoyce_knudsen No, it’s in a bit of chaos right now-coalition falling apart; Kofi Annan back to try to fix it; locals say Pres. is “crazy”
  • .@drjoyce_knudsen FYI – Someone from Nashville built a school for my host’s wife who is now School Director for 300 kids. #Kenya
  • C7Design @ChuckBlakeman – welcome to Mother Africa! Once her dust is in you, you will always want to go back. #BornAndRaisedAfrican
  • .@C7Design The diesel fumes are in me & the dust is soon to follow. Bugs bite here, but so does Africa herself! Magnetic people. #Kenya
  • #Kenya has two halves – the “haves” and the “have nots”.
  • 8 yr old Andrew came back to school today. Refugee from Rwanda via Uganda. Our host has a safe house they fund themselves. #Kenya
  • Tomorrow we go to “the other #Kenya” to do biz owner wrkshops w/ shipping magnates, CEOs/college grads – wealth. The other #Kenya
  • My host’s wife has asked me to kill a goat. I told her it was woman’s work. She laughed. I got away with it. #Kenya

Small Business in Kenya is not the same

After a great visit to London and Belfast working with business owners (I’ve been asked to come back in May), I was on to Kenya on Thursday, arriving at 9:30pm at night. The ride from the airport was fascinaing. The paved road from the airport was worse than most back roads anywhere in the US. Along the way there were giant open-air tire fires that people were burning to extract the wires – huge billowing black pyres of suffocating smoke.

Dust in the air was thick as fog (even without the fires). Every other vehicle in front of us was belching something noxious (the driver kept passing them to try to get us into the clear). For an uninitiated American on their first visit, it was like driving through a war zone. For Kenyans it was another pickup at the airport.

Then we pulled onto dirt that didn’t qualify as a road – ruts too deep for a regular car – our friend has a Land Rover. It felt like an alley but it is a main street. Not wide enough for two cars with houses right up against the dirt road, boulders and rocks everywhere as if no one is living there. He beeped and his wife opened the iron gate to let us park in the equivalent of a tight one car car-port (no roof), then close the iron gate again. The only entrance to the house is in the walled car-port. All stone-block construction, this house is especially nice – all the walls are covered with adobe. Most on the street are just jagged stone blocks, and probably only half are completed, the rest standing in various stages of construction, but still lived in.

Concrete floors everywhere – no rugs. Windows have glass but are open most of the time. Not many insects – mostly some flies. They have satellite TV that is on constantly, and basic electricity. The last five days the running water was not running. My second day here (today) it came on again, but likely won’t stay on for very long. They have an upstairs where I’m staying, very rare in this lower middle class neighborhood, which would look worse to most Americans than some of our worst slums.

Walking up the concrete stairwell to my room the first night was like walking in a basement. My bedroom has a bed with a mosquito net and a wardrobe that clearly isn’t used (I rigged it up to hold some of my clothing). No other furniture except the hub of a car wheel. Toilet with no seat in the hall – I’m sharing that with another woman and a guy in rooms beside me. Oh, and the wall goes up eight feet, but then there is a two foot gap to the tin roof above me – so the woman and I are essentially just separated by a tall knee wall – we’re able to hear each other turn over in bed. Just like camping!

Yesterday afternoon we met some business owners selling liquid soap for 250 shillings ($3.25) and hoping to get a machine to make peanut butter, for which there is less competition than soap. Their soap sells pretty well because it has a label and many others don’t – the right marketing works here, too. We also met with 20+ single women who have banded together and pooled their money each week to give one of them a loan to build their business. 23 of us sat in a 9×11 room with a lot of furniture in it (most stood) while they counted up that week’s revenue and made a loan of 6,700 shillings (about $89) to one of them. If she pays it back in six months or less, she can get another one.

It was a hundred degrees in those tight quarters and we finished the meeting with everyone drinking very hot chai tea – a traditional “close” to any meeting.

Oh, and to get to this second floor room we passed through a 5’ tall steel door on the street and into a pitch-black stairwell where you couldn’t see the person in front of you until you got up to the room and they opened the door. One of the women lived there with her children. They move the meeting around every week so no one can figure out their pattern and rob them of their loan money.

Today is another day. I’m supposed to teach these amazing people small business principles. After less than two days I’m realizing I have much more to learn than I will be able to “teach”.

He who makes the rules wins.

Make Your Own Business Rules.

As I was writing my new book “Making Money is Killing Your Business” and getting feedback on it, a lot of people told me that some of the principles in this book are things they’ve never heard before. I’ve frequently heard, “I’ve never been given permission to think that way.” Allow me to set the record straight. I’ve never had an original thought in my life and I’m pretty sure no one else has either.

Picasso said “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.” There is nothing new under the sun and when I hear people claiming they have an amazing new way of doing something that no one else has ever thought of, it usually turns out it was all just marketing.

One of the big re-discoveries of old truths for me was that a business is supposed to throw off three things for us, time, money and significance. But for some reason we only expect it to give us one: money. And because we focus on just making money, our business never gives back time or helps us have a significant impact in the world around us. We’re too busy making money to get to the important stuff.

As a result everything is backwards. We build a business and take whatever lifestyle that business happens to throw off for us, which at best usually involves having money, but rarely a lot of time, and almost never significance. This isn’t surprising because “he who makes the rules wins,” and we too often let our business and the business world around us make the rules for us. Making Money was written to help us take hold of our business and re-make the rules in our favor so that our business finally becomes our servant to do our bidding, not the other way around.

On Monday, I’m able to head to London, Belfast, and Nairobi Kenya largely because I’ve been committed to making my business live by my rules. I have to rein it in every day of every week, but simply being committed to do so has made all the difference. Working for free with business owners in Kenya is a great reward for having made the rules in my business. I’m looking forward to a lot more time, money, and significance to come as I force my business to live by my rule: Live well by doing good.

Are you making the rules or reacting to your business? He who makes the rules wins.

Make a Donation to Bring Sustainable Business to Kibera, Kenya!

February 8-20 I will accompany The 1010 Project to Kenya to help break the cycle of poverty and develop some sustainable business models. I need your help. So does The1010Project.

Brian Rants, the Director of The 1010 Project has asked me to work with them to think big and go beyond the typical craft-making and handwork solutions. We’ll be looking for ways to fund real businesses that work for the local economy – it’s an exciting and daunting opportunity.

We’ll be working in the second largest slum in all of Africa. We’ll also meet with some nationally connected business leaders to involve them in the solution.

The size of the problem is overwhelming. Our solution will be simple – change everything; one person and one small business at a time.

What can you do?

Three things:

  1. Sign up for The 1010 Project Newsletter here – and keep updated about our trip and what we plan to do to.
  2. Make a donation to help fund the trip by clicking here. I will be funding my own travel costs; your donations will go to fund the in-country costs of the trip and the travel costs for Brian Rants, The 1010 Project Director, and to support the in-country permanent presence of The 1010 Project headed up by Keith Ives.
  3. Buy a copy of Making Money is Killing Your Business that we can take with us to Kenya and donate to a small business owner. I wrote this book as a comprehensive reference book for starting and running a small business, and I believe the principles work in any culture. It is normally $28.95, but if you want to buy one specifically to send on our trip, we’ll take it with us (it will be shipped in advance), and the cost will be only $15. This will pay for the printing, handling, shipping and for having your name placed in the book (address info will not be provided).

To buy a book to send with us to Kenya and present in your name, go to our pre-order site and click on the Book for Kenya button. We’ll present the book on your behalf to a small business owner in Kenya. We’ll only be able to take 150 books, so please order your Book for Kenya right away.