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Sharing Stories from Some of My Favorite Entrepreneurs

I conducted a live to YouTube Google+ Hangout yesterday to tell some of the stories of the very cool entrepreneurs that got to know in the process of writing The Commitment Engine.

I love the streaming technology and plan to use it more.

During the 30 minute session I talked about

  • How Mary and Tony Miller found their purpose for Jancoa while driving a the company shuttle around
  • How Jason Fried of 37Signals turned Clarity into Strategy
  • How Bill Witherspoon of The Sky Factory created a culture of shared ownership
  • How Natalie George of Cafe Gratitude built community before you even had a business
  • How Jack Nickell of Threadless views his community as the business

Learning and sharing these kinds of stories is what makes being an author so very worth it!

Today is the official launch day for The Commitment Engine and for the rest of today I am giving away a free copy of my last book, The Referral Engine to anyone that buys a copy of The Commitment Engine. Get in on the Twin Engine Deal here

Join Me Live Times Two Today

My latest book The Commitment Engine – Making Work Worth It launches this week so I am holding two live opportunities to talk about what it takes to make work worth it. I’ll cover topics like clarity, culture, community and purpose.

John Jantsch live

1) Live Hangout Presentation – I will stream a presentation – How to Build a Commitment Engine – live to YouTube – join live and ask questions to win copies of the book – all book buyers from my previous promotions are also entered into a drawing to for 1 Kindle Fire, 1 B&N Nook and 1 $100 IndieBound gift certificate – all buyers from past promos qualify.

Head over to YouTube and tune in live – Wed, Oct 10th – 11am CThttp://www.youtube.com/ducttapemarketing

2) Twitter Party and Live Teleseminar – Wed, Oct 10th 1pm CT – * 25 cents for every tweet, during the party, will go to Kiva.org to help celebrate entrepreneurs in developing countries. Sign up here to get in on the fun!

Twin Engines for Your Business

Making Work Worth It

DearWorld.me shot by Robert Fogarty

This week my latest book, The Commitment Engine – Making Work Worth It, ships in the U.S.

The central theme of the book is purpose – or more specifically, how to get very clear about why you do what you do, how to bring that to your business and how to attract and build a community around this single-minded focus. It’s a road map for building a fully alive business.

More than anything else I’ve written about the intense need to make the work you do worth it. This takes clarity, this takes intention and this takes, well, the hardest work you’ll ever do, but it just might be the only true way to success.

In an effort to attract as much interest as possible to this important topic I’ve created a bunch of valuable content promotions, a party, a live webcast, a reader focused contest and a whopping good deal.

First, buy a copy of The Commitment Engine this week and get a copy of my last best seller, The Referral Engine free. (Shipped to U.S. addresses only) – Thus the Twin Engines!

And that’s not all – everyone that takes me up on this offer will also be entered to win a Kindle Fire, Nook or $100 gift certificate to an Independent Bookstore. (Anyone that has purchased before and submitted receipts is already entered.)

We will announce the winner of the prizes during a live to YouTube seminar – How to Build a Commitment Engine – Oct 10th at 11am CT

Okay, if you want to get more details, consume some educational content and take part in the fun by sharing and tweeting, hop on over to:
Friends of The Commitment Engine page.

The Cynics Guide to The Commitment Engine

I have a new book coming October 11th called The Commitment Engine – Making Work Worth It.

I know, I know, I’ve talked a lot about it lately, but bear with me. The book is a more personal look at some of the important elements of building a business that serves your life and there’s a decidedly more “touchy-feely” nature.

So, as one might expect, there are few folks that are surprised that I am sharing my thoughts along these lines.

Today I thought it would be fun to conduct a self interview of sorts with questions compiled from some of what I would call my more cynical readers. No, I’m not talking about you, but maybe you know one.

Anyway, hope you enjoy the interview.

1) Why did you write a book about commitment and how does it relate to marketing?

A:I think the main thing I started out to do with this topic was to redefine the concept of commitment with regard to business. I’ve seen seemingly successful business owners who felt like their “commitment” to their business was sucking the life out of them. I wanted to frame commitment in terms of commitment to a higher purpose the business services. The marketing connection flows from the fact that when businesses promote why they do what they do, the natural outcome is a committed customer.

2) Where does the bottom line of business intersect with ideas like passion and purpose?

A: So often people try to find the bottom line in ideas that don’t seem very “business like” and that’s really a significant theme of this book. Art, passion, purpose, inspiration all produce incredibly practical outcomes when applied with clear intent. For me what that idea illustrates is the notion of extreme clarity – those one or two moments in life when you knew. The most important concept of this book is that of clarity – personal, professional, brand and purpose.

3) I’m in a very competitive marketplace, how will the principles of this book help me?

A: The principles I use to illustrate how to build a Commitment Engine – hunger for extreme clarity, culture of shared commitment and a ridiculous passion for community – are powerful tools in the right hands.

4) The book includes some touchy-feely ideas such as the idea of learning to be “present,” taking time for self-reflection and creating a “passion mantra.” Aren’t you concerned that these ideas might alienate some readers?

A: No, I am not worried that my point of view might turn a few people off, that’s actually my intent and it’s a central idea of the book. Authenticity is a very attractive quality in business and the only way to keep it and communicate it is to present a clear and consistent point of view and stick to it, knowing that there will be many for whom this point of view resonates.

5) What exactly is a passion mantra? And why should someone do it?

A: The idea of a passion mantra is a little like a core message might be in marketing, but it’s your internal life message. When you create a phrase or concept that you can return to daily it can snap you back a bit and remind you why you do what you do, particularly when you find yourself in the midst of chaos.

6) You devote an entire chapter to the idea of treating your “Staff as Customer.” Does it still make sense for businesses to invest like this in their employees?

A: The concept is not only possible it’s more important than ever. Your staff is treating your customers exactly as you are treating them. So, does it make sense for a business to invest in employees, well, I guess only if it makes sense to have customers. Where so many businesses get tripped up with the concept of investing in culture is that they think that means buying an espresso machine. The best investment a business owner can make in culture is to understand and communicate the higher purpose or “why” the business exists and find ways to amplify that in every action that impacts the staff.

7) There’s also a section called, “Staff as Owner,” which advocates for creating a culture of shared ownership. Surely you’re not suggesting that every business, even those with seasonal employees, adopt this?

Part of this has to do with mindset as well as physical ownership. Any business, particularly those that hire seasonal help, competes for the best people available and attracting people based on a higher purpose ensures you’ll attract a greater of number of people that fit.

8) The first section of the book implores owners to engage in some serious soul-searching about their level of passion and purpose they bring to their business. Is this a necessary step, before you can expect others (namely employees) to follow suit?

A: Actually I believe it’s a necessary step if you ever hope to establish a guiding vision for your business, strategy that allows your business to stand out and differentiate and focus on the priorities that will keep you on track. It’s pretty tough to give something to someone else until you possess it yourself.

9) Has all this social sharing that people do now days changed the language of business?

A: I think it’s changed a few things. Yes, I think the way we talk about business, the way we share and perhaps what we share has changed dramatically. For years I’ve been advocating the use of personal stories in marketing and widespread social media usage has certainly helped break down resistance to this notion as a leadership style.

10) You say there’s a big difference between the term “plans” and “planning”. I have a business plan explain why they’re so different?

A: So many people approach planning as though the end document is the goal. To me it’s the process of figuring out what not to do or what to leave out of the plan that is the greatest outcome of the planning process. That’s why I also believe that it’s essential to keep your plan alive through continual revisiting and pruning.

11) The book includes a section called the Committed Handbook. Does this document serve a similar function as a social media policy for employees?

A: I look at it a something more essential than what typically rests as a section of an employee handbook. This is clarity training and includes why we do what we do, core beliefs, marketing proposition, key stories and even updates on numbers and current state of the business.

12) What three ideas from the book would you want a reader to consider and contemplate?

1. Clarity is strategy
2. Culture is clarity amplified
3. Community is a natural outcome of clarity

If you enjoyed this interview you might want to hop on over and download a free chapter of The Commitment Engine – Making Work Worth It.

Real and Raw Stories About Being an Entrepreneur

I’ve been collecting stories of late about what it means to be an entrepreneur, about what work means, about value, purpose and passion.

Make Work Worth It eBookI started asking people about their work and about what makes work worth it to them.

I’ve collected many of these stories and find them both inspirational and quite telling about the real things people care about and dream about. (Download the Make Work Worth It Collection83 Stories of Passion and Purpose – no forms to fill, just grab it and share it.)

I also experienced a fair amount of fear, angst and doubt when I asked this question. Some have stopped wondering about why they do what they do, some have lost hope that any of it matters and some are just simply so busy they don’t stop to think about much of anything as it relates to purpose.

I’m on a mission to share this message and the profound impact that it can have on the lives of millions and millions of entrepreneurs and business owners toiling away in dreary and lifeless jobs.

If you haven’t connected with that thing that makes work worth it for you, do it now, take a bold step and change course, reconnect with your customers and employees and revel in the awesome opportunity that owning a business or simply going to work in a place that has meaning affords.

Tell your raw and real story and help others tell theirs. I really hope you choose to consider and share this collection of stories.

Clarity Makes the Best Strategy

I’ve made a bit of a career out of talking with, listening to and understanding entrepreneurs and small business owners. I’ve worked with thousands of you over the past twenty plus years or so and at some point most of the discussion I’ve had center on the idea of strategy.

It’s something I’m absolutely fascinated with and it’s something I’ve been on a quest over last 18 months to understand more fully.

I firmly believe that strategy, success and happiness are strangely intertwined when it comes to growing a business and I’ve deposited many of my thoughts on this subject in my new release – The Commitment Engine: Making Work Worth It shipping this month.

In order for clarity to become strategy you must remove all doubt about what your organization believes and you must be crystal clear about what that looks, sounds and feels like in the simplest way possible. Once you do that everything else just follows form – it’s clarity amplified.

Below is a very short presentation of one of the key ideas contained in the book that I gave at this summer’s TEDxKC event. The title of the talk is Rethinking Commitment and in it I introduce Tony and Mary Miller – I also share their story in my upcoming release, because the Jancoa story is a brilliant illustration of the power of clarity as a business strategy

I hope you draw inspiration from the Miller’s as I have and check out additional stories on What Makes Worth It at www.makingworkworthit.com (Download a free chapter and grab 6 audio interviews I captured from some amazing thought leader and authors such as Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Derek Sivers, Nancy Duarte, Chris Guillebeau and Steven Pressfield.)

Okay, and now for some final pandering to my readers – you truly make work worth it for me and I feel blessed that I get to do what I do particularly when something I’ve shared or experienced offers a fellow entrepreneur and business owner some measure of comfort, control and insight.

Peace!

Do What You’re Good At and the Money Will Follow

There’s a well-worn line of thought in entrepreneurial circles that suggests that if do what you love, the money will come.

photo credit: o4orange via photo pin cc

This one phrase has probably done more to hold business owners back from discovering their greatness than anything else I can imagine.

Not only is untrue it’s terribly limiting and painfully shortsighted.

The thing that simply trying to find work you love ignores is that most work is hard, particularly when it involves doing something you aren’t that good at.

Passion and purpose in work isn’t something you can simply identify and then go do, it evolves as you actually do it.

I’ve written a new book called The Commitment Engine, due out next month, and in it I spend a great deal of time suggesting that you do indeed need to pursue work you enjoy, but if you want the money, purpose and passion to come, you have to get really, really good at doing work you love.

In fact, in my experience you won’t really enjoy any work until you get good at it, so in some sense you must work very hard at getting good at some part of the work you do in order to find what you might be passionate doing.

And then once you gain some true sense of passion, proficiency and purpose, you can finally start to labor at turning your work into a craft.

You do this by continuously studying, practicing and stretching.

Studying

In business you can’t ever stop studying, it just must be on your to do list somewhere. This includes reading some combination of about 50 books a year, subscribing to and scanning 100 or so blogs and selectively attending conferences to gain exposure to new and bigger ideas.

I believe that you find purpose and passion in work by coming to recognize patterns – patterns in your own thinking, patterns in what customers want and need, patterns in how winning products and services are created, patterns in successful business models, patterns in compelling stories – consuming content, especially content and ideas from outside your industry is how you get very good at pattern recognition.

Further Reading – The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander

Practicing

Business people always just perform, the rarely practice, particularly after they develop a level of competence. Speakers that rise to the highest fees practice far more than they perform. They participate in groups that push them and offer feedback, they have every aspect of their speech picked apart and reconstructed, they learn how to find and tell better stories, they hire coaches and they stand in front of the mirror and rehearse hour upon hour for a 30 minute presentation.

So, what does intentional practice look like in your business? How do you get better at your craft? How do figure out where you are, where you’re weak and where you can excel?

Further Reading – So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

Stretching

This is perhaps that place where excellence and proficiency, passion and passing part most. Those who discover work they truly love and then stretch far beyond their comfort level at every turn are those that stand that greatest chance of following their passion and finding the money.

Once you get “good” at what you love, you need to find a way to push yourself back out where you are terribly uncomfortable again or you’ll stop growing. Again, I believe this is the place where far too many people give and settle because this can be a pretty scary place.

See, once we get good at something, we tend to enjoy it more, so now I’m suggesting that you must deliberately make it hard again.

Almost everyone wants to write a book, so what’s the difference between wanting to write a book and writing a book? To me, the answer isn’t as simple as it may appear. The difference between those two things can consist of layers and layers of studying and practicing, but the key distinction is stretching – writing your first book is simply the act of doing something you’ve never done, no matter how prepared you may feel at the outset.

Further Reading – The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

So, my real advice today is suggest that you stop searching so hard for passion and purpose and go to work at something you enjoy doing, get really good at something in and process and let passion and purpose find you.

What Is Shared Culture

I wish I could give you a crisp definition of what the word culture, with regard to business, really means. It’s a tricky word that finds its way into most discussions regarding the workplace these days.

Like so many things, it’s hard to describe, but you know it when you see it.

The thing is, every business has a culture. It may be strong or weak, positive or negative, or just plain hard to spot, but it’s like a form of internal brand in a way. It’s the collective impression, habits, language, style, communication and practices of the organization.

Some elements of culture are intentional, some are accidental. Some are rooted deeply in the ethos of an original employee group, some are created out of a lack of any real direction or clarity.

My belief is that a healthy culture is a shared culture, one created through shared stories, beliefs, purpose, plans, language, outcomes and ownership.

These aren’t little things; these aren’t things that you get right during an annual retreat. These are things molded over time with trust and passion and caring. These are things that evolve.

I don’t have all the answers, no one does, but I assure you this is the question that needs answering – How can I build a culture of shared commitment?

The following elements make up the foundation of a system of shared commitment.

Shared stories

The first step is to begin to develop, archive, curate and tell stories that illustrate what your business stands for.

Stories that tell why you do what you do, who you it for, why you’re passionate about it, and where the business is headed.

Throughout time great leaders have used stories to inspire commitment and attract community.

The central elements of a strong culture are the stories that employees tell themselves and each other. The why you would want to work here story, the orientation story, the here’s how we deal with challenges story, the here’s where we are headed story.
These illustrations are like oral traditions that allow culture to sustain, thrive and grow and it’s the job of the leader of the business to make story building an intentional act.

Shared beliefs

People want to work for more than a paycheck. Sure, they want to be paid fairly and in some cases the element of salary will be an important aspect of their decision to come to work for an organization, but perhaps more importantly, people want to work on something they believe in and they want to do that work with people that share their passion and beliefs.

This isn’t the same thing as saying, everyone in your organization has to maintain the same beliefs. However, by creating a set of core beliefs that everyone in the organization lives by and supports, you create a set of filters for how decisions are made, how people treat each other, how they treat customers, what’s expected, how to manage and even how to write a sales letter.

Shared purpose

For some time on this blog I’ve talked about the idea of connecting your passion with why you do what you do, or what some might call purpose.

In order to bring purpose fully into the organization you must determine a way to bring it to life and reinforce in every decision the organization makes.

This may take the form of an employee development program, foundation support, benefit package or community program. The key is to bring purpose to life by example. Your actions, or how you treat your staff, will speak far louder about purpose than any page in an employee manual. In order to create a shared purpose the staff must be your first customer.

Shared plans

The strongest, most productive cultures come to life when people know what to do and how to do it – In places where they are trusted to do go work and use their creativity to solve problems.

If you are to grow your organization to the point where it can serve you ultimate higher purpose, you’ll need to develop a system that enables people to manage themselves.

Now, that may sound a little foreign or perhaps even scary to anyone who’s worked in a typical hierarchical business structure, but it’s central to a fully alive culture.

The key lies in systematic planning thinking, clear accountability and consistent communication.

Shared leadership

While stories are an important way to attract and inspire people to join you on your journey, they can only take you as far as the leaders you develop around you.

After payroll is made and your business is generating sufficient cash flow I really believe that the leader’s primary role should shift to developing leaders internally.

In fact, as the owner of a business you’ll never succeed in reaching beyond where you are today until you are no longer the person that brings in the most work.

Teaching others to land the big fish, to tell stories, to create shared beliefs, to inspire and attract commitment means you have to invest time and resources in this very thing in a very intentional way.

This element of the shared culture comes by teaching your people what an ideal customer looks like, what a customer is desperately in need of, and how to communicate your core difference in a meaningful way.

It comes by teaching what everything costs, how profit is made, how every decision impacts a customer in some way. It grows by sending them to school, supporting their growth in other areas and demonstrating this is an organization that cares for the whole person.

Shared outcomes

One of the strongest ways to foster commitment is to get people to commit to a stake in the outcome of their work.

The only way I know to do this is to establish benchmarks, goals and indicators and then report and communicate progress religiously.

You must create reporting mechanisms that truly measure the most important components of your business. This will include key financial elements, but must strive to go far beyond into measuring success around shared beliefs and culture.

Shared ownership

The ultimate measure of commitment is achieved when people that work for your organization come to understand that they play a crucial role in creating the kind of company they want to work for – that the company is actually their most important product. (Of course the owner has to realize that first.)

This won’t happen until you help your people free themselves from the typical job descriptions and organizational charts so they can begin to manage themselves. It won’t happen unless they are excited about the journey they are on. It won’t happen until they fully understand how a dollar spent on a new desk equates to profit margin.

It won’t happen until they start thinking like an owner (and I mean in the good way) when it comes to meeting a customer’s needs. It won’t happen until everyone realizes they can help develop new business, build the community, create innovation, fix problems, right wrongs and make decisions that impact the organization on their own.