How do some people (and it seems, everyone can) overcome adversity and progress?
This week I met an amazing woman. To be honest, meeting amazing women is pretty common for me.
Then there is next level. This lady was rather special. A breast cancer survivor. Remission, relapse and remission again. This was no easy life. Watching a young drunk driver die alone who had hit her car, head on. Miraculously she managed to drag herself out of the wreckage. Only then to be helpless herself and watch him die. If that was not too much, she had suffered unspeakable and abhorrent abuse from various men in her life. Somehow, she exuded happiness and confidence. I was choking back tears watching her poise and listening to her story. Trying to concentrate on the question she was asking me, I wondered how I could answer. In some bizarre way, her sharing was inspiring, endearing and reminded me of the value of community. The entire room was silent.
Thankfully, she asked about commercialising her idea for her new company. Once composed, I shared some ideas with her. However, she had so much to offer others in the room. Her ability to articulate, and overcome insurmountable issues was abundantly clear.
I picked out 3 Founders in the room that she could assist with defining and improving their messages. Delineating the core values of a business and its authentic message was clearly a strength for her. On the other hand, I identified another person who could deliver my new author friend’s tech requirements with ease. The room was buzzing.
People are amazing. They can rise to any challenge and they triumph when they have the ability to be real, share and support one another. Sharing her stories for the benefit of others was now her mission and gave her the strength to prevail. Her progress was a beacon of triumph. She stood tall as the vanguard for women and her progress was celebrated.
Everyone is a mentor, if they are authentic and give a shit
The concept of coaching or mentoring has its place in the start-up eco system. But there is no shortage of talented people, humbly doing their thing. The power of learning and sharing and helping people just because you can is intoxicating.
Going to see an expert, or someone who has ‘been-there-done-that’ is often invaluable Think long and hard about who you want to help. Remember to help others and take help (when its offered).
Make your customers your tribe
You can learn so much more about your potential customers by asking good questions. They may not be product experts, but they can explain their problems if you demonstrate that you care about them. If you are driven to genuinely help people, the payback is exponential.
Resist the urge
All too often people can lose sight of what the real issues are. You don’t have to build a company as big as Apple. Chances are there is no chance of that. Instead, just do what you are passionate about.
We don’t need to label things, and it can be damaging. Paradoxically, perhaps it is convenient for us to label things e.g. ‘My business is Uber for X’ or ‘I’m a double-sided marketplace for y’. Or better still, I’m a serial Entrepreneur exclaiming ‘you can’t grow a business fast enough’. My point is you always need to take your time to define and differentiate yourself. Different markets may require different personas for your brand, your business and product. Our message is always important, are the genuine deliverables. Do you solve a big problem, commercially?
Why should you be authentic?
Simple truth, it’s the only defensible thing you have. There is only one you.
Do things your way, draw strength from others, stick to being you.
Every day I meet founders who are striving to build something great. Some are promising, but struggle with one thing. Others are just starting out and are usually somewhere from pathologically optimistic to lacking self-belief. I always find the best approach is to provide a balanced, truthful and without fail some tough love analysis. Those that believe they are great, can be better. Those who are almost beaten, are often moments from victory. My task is to help them see their commercial reality or encourage them to go deeper when they are seeking insights. I call this CEO as a service. An always authentic GPS recalibration check in. These are my people. Sometimes someone needs to ask the right (and often awkward) questions. I strive to identify not what someone ‘wants’ but instead what they (and their customers, staff, partners and in turn ultimately themselves) ‘need’.
The images of athletes stopping during Olympic Games helping one another, sacrificing their own medals is inspiring. Good people do not finish last, not in things that matter.
You can’t be someone else forever. Having said that, there is no issue in learning from other people, businesses and brands and emulating some behaviour or characteristics. Don’t copy, instead learn. Then consider what applies but always define your own style.
Then for those of you who want to be the best, measure yourself against others, but don’t forget your personal progress. Be positive, it’s a good trait.
If my author friend is anything, she is authentic. She didn’t hide or embellish. It was her calling to help others deal with devastation. One by one, she was improving lives.
Everything can be scaled, but first it must be valuable, and authentic.
Why is value and authenticity important?
A business has as a purpose to make money. However, no entrepreneur did this alone. As a minimum they had feedback from customers and assembled the right team. Successful founders know that people who are ‘aligned’ basically care about the customers. If value is created, it can be shared. If a customer feels cared for and that you and your team are authentic, you will create loyalty. This builds real value, sticky customers and long-term profits.
My friend had an army of people in that room who would help, engage and trusted her.
Pitching to raising money before you can demonstrate you have or will deliver value lacks authenticity (among other concerns). If your company has started to make sales, but your mission is not intrinsically connected and committed to helping your customers, this will be easily spotted and will not engender loyalty. In start-up parlance, your LTV (live time value) of your customer will fall away.
Be real, authentic and create value. Always take the time to help others, it is very rewarding.
We all crave, actually we thrive, when we share. Don’t beat yourself up for looking back, its healthy. Our history is inescapable, but by being real, and building your tribe, you don’t have to be afraid. If it is only to glow when you see you have progressed, that will always be available to you. Don’t be afraid to build a tribe around you. Your tribe will remind you in your life of what is real and the value we provide to others in our stories of demise and success. Shared success in business, customers, staff, suppliers provides sustainable value in any businesses. More importantly, you will enjoy and be surrounded by fulfilled people to share your success with. You too can overcome and challenge and move forward,
Go on, create the future.
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