Most businesses are started with the customer in mind and eventually, often through toil and trouble, get around to figuring out how to serve the needs of the owner. I get that; there is no business without a customer.
The Shane H via Flickr
It may come as no shock to committed readers of this blog that I’m fully into writing my next book and, as displayed in various posts over the last six months or so, this book is an exploration into the whole business, including the whole person that owns that business.
I believe there is one true committed way to build a fully alive business. There are, in fact, countless ways to build a business, but my contention is that there are common elements, practices and patterns visible in the fully alive, commitment filled business.
One of goals of tackling a far ranging topic like commitment is to flip the traditional “customer first” business model on its head by suggesting that a business be started and grown with the goal of serving the owner’s internal intention for life first and foremost.
If a business, begun in this fashion, can then link that intention to a single-minded business purpose, even a purpose seemingly unrelated to the actual product or service, and then use this purpose to make the business where people can become fully alive, the only logical end is a loyal, committed customer
Below are the elements of what I’ve started to call a “system of commitment” – something that I believe through mindful intention and practiced attention can be installed in any business.
1) Work as craft – Define your relationship with the work
The first step in the system is to understand your own relationship with the work the business does.
In order for a business to become fully alive, the owner of the business must be fully alive. They must have passion and desire for their work, but they must also be able to connect what they do with their own personal goals, desires and needs.
They must be able to see their business as a place that can help them develop their capacity for things like purpose, love, wonder, courage and grace.
2) Finding commitment – Discover your higher purpose served by the work
Once we establish the reasons for starting a business and the connection that business might have to enriching your life, it’s time to move on to how you will develop your own personal form of commitment inside that business.
The thing that makes a business exciting is purpose. In fact, the real purpose of any business might just be to act as the ultimate vehicle to create purpose for the owner, employees and customers of the business. At least, that’s the potential.
While it’s great to love what you do, if you’re going to generate commitment from others, if your business is to become fully alive, you’ve got to understand why you do what you do. You must find the higher purpose that your work has to offer and translate that into something that can move others to join your cause.
3) Community on purpose – Install purpose as a meaningful way for others to connect
Once you’re able find your own higher purpose, the real reason the business exists, the thing that connects your business and your life, you’ve got to install that purpose in your business in a way that is meaningful to others.
It’s not always easy and there are plenty of people that will suggest you shouldn’t even try. This is a tricky thing. The real thing that drives you can be very personal, it can be very hard to explain, it may not even feel very businesslike – and that’s the point.
The creative work required in order to connect your powerful “why” with a community, message, brand and culture is what makes the difference in the degree to which people are attracted, connected and committed to your business.
4) Generating commitment – Build stories that generate commitment
The next element in the system is the bridge element. This is where you will take your own personal commitment, generated and defined in the first three elements of the system, and use it to lead others to join your cause or, at the very least, find themselves in your cause.
The bridge from your own personal commitment to generating commitment in your staff and your customers lies in your ability and willingness to lead by crafting and telling stories with your community.
5) Commitment as strategy – Build your business around characteristics of real life strategy
People commit to things that are simple, inspirational, convenient, innovative, playful, community oriented and filled with surprise. These are the seven characteristic of a real life business and marketing strategy and these are the characteristics a fully alive business must blend as the everyday creative language of the business.
Find a way to wrap your purpose in these characteristics and build a community that’s drawn to that purpose and you are on the surest path to creating a commitment filled business.
6) Commitment as culture – Make culture your greatest marketing asset
As any business grows the customer experience often moves away from the passion and commitment of the owner into the hands of staff members performing a function.
As this occurs, if you are unable to breed a level of commitment in your staff you will find it next to impossible to create any level of commitment in your customers. Your employees are the patrons of commitment and will only understand this to the degree that you allow it.
7) Commitment as customer – Orchestrate commitment in every element of the brand
The final element of the system involves the obvious public face of a business – the marketing experienced by customers and prospects.
It should come as no surprise that the seven characteristics of commitment come into play again here as they hold the key to the common promise that runs through strategy, culture and customer.
You can use these seven characteristics to make customer service decisions, product decisions, promotion decisions, design decisions, and even price decisions. The game remains the same. Is it simple, inspiring, convenient, innovative, fun, community based and surprise filled?
In a fully alive, commitment filled business the customer is, in effect, an expression of everything the orchestration of your commitment has to offer. When a customer experiences the single minded purpose of a business through the intentional acts of simplicity, inspiration, convenience, innovation, play, community and surprise the business is made fully alive.