I just came in from a 3 mile run with Nike+ on my iPhone while listening to Led Zeplin on Pandora. Man, running is such an experience today compared to just a decade ago. I think I could have been in even better shape in college if I would have had access to the tools I do today for fitness training. It’s kinda amazing if you stop and think about it. The three products I just mentioned did not exist until the dawn of the decade (Pandora, 2000; Nike+, 2006; iPhone, 2007). All 3 of these products are innovative in their own right but, I have a few questions for you.
Are You Building A Company For Profit Or People?
As an entrepreneur, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in building for the successful exit – I have. And, I’m pretty sure you do too however; the above mentioned companies I believe are going to be around for a while and at least 2 are really not looking for an exit. I also suspect that Tim @ Pandora will be involved with the company for some time even if he does get a offer he can’t refuse since he’s a passionate musician.
The reason I am raising my hand on this question is because I know how easy it is to lose focus on what the heart of creating a great company should be all about – creating value that truly impacts people lives. Sure, some entrepreneurs have and will continue to capitalize on short-term opportunities but, if you are one of those entrepreneurs that wants to leave a legacy and have a positive impact on the world then stay focused on the people.
Just last night, I was reflecting on how my company will be able to create long term value for the people that use our product. As I was writing out our user personas, attaching pictures to the profiles and writing out who these people are and how they will use our product I began to stretch my thinking on what truly created value for them. Writing personas is a great exercise to tap into the mind of your users and if have not done so I recommend doing it even if you are in a more advanced company stage. Knowing who your users are and what you think they are about and value needs to be validated regularly to confirm your assumptions. Build for people and profit will come, I think…still working on it.
What About Sustainable Value & Innovation?
What product or service can you think of that is truly innovative and has long-term sustainable value with out benefiting people? I’m sure there may be a few but for the most part every product that has become a fabric of our lives has the value expressed in Lean Startup as, “something the user does not want to live without or be highly disappointed the product/service went away”. I’m sure for a lot of people such products include; a phone, computer, car, that app or service that makes you 10X’s more productive, etc.
I find it interesting that the video phone is back after multiple failed attempts by AT&T years ago but then, they just could not communicate the value to people and the impact it could have on their lives. It was innovative several decades ago but communicating the value to people was not understood therefore it failed. Will it succed now with Apple and AT&T? Hmmm, I think Apple understands and communicates value better to people but we’ll see.
What About Impacting The Value Of A Better Life?
Does your company aspire to achieve this benefit for its users/customers? Maybe it should? Selfishly, it may make your company more valuable.
Let’s dig a little deeper as this is where emotional brand connection comes from. It’s one of the reasons Nike is such a popular brand because of its brand attitude, but also because the brand stands for creating value in your life by making you healthier by equipping you to get fit.
What if you could be part of positively changing lives with your company? This is something that people like Richard Branson and Tony Heish set out to do. Both are inspiring individuals and both are creating better lives for the people whom they serve – their employees and customers.
How Can You Create Value For People With Your Company?
Well, I’d love to tell you I have all the answers but, I don’t. I’m still working on it myself however; I can share with you some tips I recently came across by reading Tony Dungy’s book, “The Mentor Leader”. Here are 8 action steps you can take or consider to reflect upon the value you may or may not be creating for the people you serve.
8 Value Creation Action Steps:
- Evaluate your focus: Is it centered on benefiting others?
- Evaluate your influence: Are you focused on developing your “coaching tree” – building leaders who build leaders, generation after generation.
- Evaluate your audience: Are you able to preserve a long-term focus on growing others while at times appropriately exercising more direct control and involvement?
- Look ahead: Know your vision, mission, and values, but remember that life is about the journey, too.
- Focus on the present: What can you do today to build into the lives of the people around you? Don’t miss the now. Remember, tomorrow may never come.
- Evaluate your vision: What do you hope the future will look like as you proceed?
- Evaluate your personal and organizational mission: Does it clearly tell you and the world what you’re about, why you’re here, and why you have chosen these goals?
- Evaluate your values: Are your “rules of behavior” consistent with your principles? Does your “rudder” steer you in a good direction for how you will behave and treat others?