My Dream: Changing How We Do Business

I do have a dream. It’s not just last night’s over-active imagination. It’s a vision that has pulled me forward for decades.

There’s something I want to build. Something I yearn to create. Something that will be much bigger than me, that will outlast me, that will have ripples of impact for decades.

I see, in my dream, a living, growing, focused network that will change the way we do business, and create amazing success.

I believe that great people should be able to succeed greatly because they are part of something larger. Not a corporation – a network. A curated referral network.

A network built on clarity, competence, and caring.

Where did this dream come from?

This is not a late-in-life grasp at legacy, or some radical new idea that popped into my head just this morning. In fact, this growing passion has fueled me and taken shape over many years.

Like so many puzzle pieces, 11 years of blog posts have hinted at it all along.

This dream began to take shape about 25 years ago, when a manager in a small company where I was employed saw two of us splitting the country in two sales roles – and realized that we were each effective (and ineffective) due to our particular makeups. So he re-deployed us by function, not territory – according to our strengths. He broke the existing mold by thinking differently. And the company prospered.

Simple, right? Back then, it was pretty radical. Some years later, I read the book “Discovering Your Strengths” and this approach was cemented in my mind and soul. Identify and build on strengths, and you liberate maximum effectiveness.

The sales role was still uncomfortable for me, as I am more of a contemplative introvert. I’ve succeeded in selling despite my makeup because the business settings I’ve occupied involved technical savvy and trust-building, and those were my strengths. But in one later role I hired a “real” salesperson – she could build a warm relationship with a Russian dictator in 5 minutes – and I came to realize that I’m not really gifted at insta-rapport. Being outgoing is an effort. I’m actually built for creative problem-solving. I’m a consultant.

It took years and multiple roles to actually define and articulate my sweet spot. And I see this evolution occurring in countless individuals and businesses.

When I decided to go out on my own as a solopreneur 11+ years ago, I made the unorthodox choice of building my business strictly around me – who I was in my DNA and experience. It would be a network business, a referral business, a branding and communications consultancy that would help small businesses find the ideal work for their sweet spot. It was a risk, and I’ve had to make it up as I’ve gone along.

And so, for over a decade, I have grown and operated a referral-based business “matchmaking” service in the pharmaceutical sales training sector. This niche business led to my wider practice of providing clarity/branding/strategy consulting for small companies and individuals.

What’s clarity got to do with it?

Over the years, I realized that I was much more of a branding guy than a sales person. I love distilling information into a compact message. I love effective communication. I love helping a business find its unique strengths, and craft its distinguishing message. And, I love helping people then build their business through targeted referrals (based on clarity of focus and message).

I despise “me-too” messaging and generic jargoneering. How can we work in our sweet spot if we don’t know how to articulate it? And how can we refer someone that doesn’t stand out with a clear focus and value proposition? Our websites, our sales pitches, our LinkedIn profiles – all need to get right to the point within 15 seconds or we lose opportunities.

It turns out that these same principles apply to professionals in career transition, and to consultants finding their niche, so I began to provide “clarity consulting” to individuals and found that it was immensely helpful.

It was LinkedIn – way back in its earliest days – that suggested to me the potential of computer-enabled network building. This led to my deep involvement in social media and its power to fuel brand-building, and referral-based networking. On the other hand, it has becoming increasingly clear to me over the last decade that face-to-face relationship building cannot be replaced. My experience with “live” networking in the Nashville area, marked by its unique brand of humanity and caring, leads me to believe that a local approach to referral networking is indispensable.

We moan often about the worst of humanity we see on social networks. I’m convinced that there are whole levels of best we have yet to realize.

Add clarity to caring and competence, and you have some very powerful potential for intelligent, focused business building. As many in middle Tennessee (and elsewhere) can now attest, a bit of time spent gaining clarity of purpose and messaging can be a tremendous impetus to growth.

So, I’ve built a niche professional referral network in pharma. I do clarity consulting. I’ve created my own practice based on my particular strengths. I know a lot of fantastic, competent people locally and around the world. Mission accomplished, right?

No. Mission barely begun. If you know me, you know I’m called the King of Clarity. But clarity is not merely an end in itself. It is a means to an end – optimal stewardship of our strengths and competencies. It is a means to gain focus and communicate effectively to our marketplace. And, finally, it is a means to empower referrals.

Referrals + Network – the key to creating business success?

There are thousands – millions – of individuals who are not doing their best work. There are countless companies who don’t have a clear focus and message. There are billions of dollars worth of business not happening that could be activated by the most effective promotional strategy ever employed by mankind – intelligent referrals.

Can we change the way businesses succeed through gaining clarity, and plugging into a caring referral network? I’m convinced that personal, intelligent, trusted referrals are the key to business success (this is also true of career transition and advancement).

Can you imagine the power of a network of great individuals and companies who are clear on what they do best, and who are caring enough about their customers and colleagues to give targeted referrals? Can you imagine how much success awaits when smart, focused people with a heart are brought together in a growing network – a network where connections get made that change lives and businesses?

Not a loose bunch of Twitter connections. Not a monthly business card exchange. A living, breathing, well-designed network, filled with vetted, trustworthy professionals. Can you see it in your mind’s eye?

Then you can imagine my dream. The vision that has shaped all of my efforts for years.

How would this be different from any number of networking groups that already exist? I have been part of such groups, and here are the 3 key elements that always seem to be lacking, to one extent or another:

  • Clarity – ability by members to articulate clear focus and message
  • Caring – going beyond business card exchange or Twitter messages to real, human relationships
  • Curation – intelligent matchmaking of individuals and businesses by someone that “owns” it (instead of just hoping that random connections will occur)

Thirty-plus years of sales/business development/networking has convinced me that intelligent, referral-driven business building doesn’t just happen – no matter how good the tech, or how well-meaning the heart. I don’t think the world has yet seen what a network built on clarity, competence, and caring can accomplish. This is the network I want to create, to curate, to grow.

What do you think?

Maybe this is all a pipe dream. Maybe the status quo is good enough for most people. But what do you think? Is this an idealistic flight of fancy, or is there real potential to change the way we do business? Can consultants, small business owners, and other caring, competent professionals band together to create a continuous pool of well-targeted opportunities for each other? Can we tap into whole new levels of referral-based business?

I’d love to have your thoughts as we kick off a new year. Add a comment or DM me if you share the dream.

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