How To Win Business And Influence Everyone

But we already have a way of doing that

But we don’t have the time or money to train our staff to use your product

But no one else is doing it this way

But…

But…

But…

Yes, I’ve heard all the “buts” a million times.  So how do you, as an entrepreneur or change maker, go from a “but” to a “hell yes!”?

Tell a great story.  

Every purchase you’ve ever made had a story attached to it.  And it is not the functionality or the feature set of the product or service which you bought.  You bought the story you told yourself about the product or service.

If I gave you a spec sheet of two cars and they were identical, you would pay the same for both cars.  But if at the end I revealed that one is a Jaguar and one is a Ford car, suddenly the value of the Jaguar car goes way up.

Why?

Because of the story we tell ourselves.

When you drive a Jaguar you’re buying the story of “I’m successful, I am rich, I am one of the big boys now”.

You can create the story you want for your business!  

I know this sounds lofty and as a small time entrepreneur you may think it’s not relevant or applicable, but it is, and if you don’t get this then it will stop you from getting to the next stage in your business.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford

So how the hell did Henry Ford sell his cars?

I played a game with my dad a few days ago.  I was playing the part of a farmer from 150 years ago and my dad was playing the part of an inventor who had just invented a car.  Here’s how it went:

Dad: Hello, I was wondering I could interest you in buying a car.

Me: Oh, what’s that?

Dad: It’s something I invented.  It can take you from A to B in no time at all!

Me: Hmmmm, I already use my horse to get around.  I don’t think I need anything else.

Dad: But, this is quicker!

Me: I’m just a simple farmer.  I’m not in a rush to get anywhere.

Dad: This car can hold luggage!  You’ll be able to move more crops!

Me: My horse’s saddle holds everything I need.

And on and on it went.

Notice what happened here – my dad was trying to sell me features!  The car has a roof, it has a boot, it can go this fast, it has an engine etc etc

NO ONE CARES ABOUT FEATURES!

YOU NEED A BETTER STORY!

We all know how much better the car is than a horse in getting jobs done today, but no doubt Henry Ford and the other innovators of his time faced the same dilemma that entrepreneurs today face.

My dad would have been better off telling a story about his car.  A story so powerful that it would strike the prospect right in his heart:

Innovator: “Mr farmer, do you have a family?”

Farmer: “Why yes, as a matter of fact I do.”

Innovator: “Mr Farmer, this car which I’ve built will allow you to take your beautiful wife out to Capital City during the day and allow you to come back home by evening time.  Imagine taking her out to a nice dinner and showing her the bright lights of the city.  You will finally have the freedom to explore this beautiful country.  The only limitation is how far you want to go!”

Do you see the difference?  And here’s the thing!  You can make up any story you want.  If you tell a good story then you won’t have to convince people about features, you’ll just have a conversation about how the features will allow you to deliver on your story.

You see, if you can tell a story about where you want to take the prospect then you can explain how you will get the prospect there.

I am in the healthcare sector.  If I were the one who came up with the idea of an electronic healthcare record, if I were to plainly describe what it does, I would not be able to sell it.  Take my word that electronic health records have dramatically improved the healthcare provided in England.

But again, if you try to sell features you get the following conversation:

Salesman: Would I be able to interest you in purchasing an electronic health record?

Clinician: Erm, what’s that?

Salesman: It’s a computerised system that allows you to create records.

Clinician: Well, we already have paper notes.  Why would we change?

Salesman: Well paper notes go missing!

Clinician: We have never misplaced a patients record in this clinic!

Salesman: ….well this also does prescriptions and can help you prescribe.

Clinician: I don’t need any assistance from you or your software!

Again, no one cares about features!!!  Tell a great story!

Salesman: Would I be able to interest you in trying out an electronic health record?

Clinician: Erm…what’s that?

Salesman:  Dr Smith, in an ideal world we would work closer with our colleagues both in the hospital and with other healthcare providers in the community.  In an ideal world we would know exactly what medications a patient is already on so that you can prescribe safely.  In an ideal world you would always know what allergies a patient has so that you don’t risk harming them instead of helping.  If these issues are things which you truly care about, then we should have a discussion.

Tell a great story!

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Are You “Job-ifying”?

“Job-ifying” is a game that people play.

The game consists of the following:

  • Comparing your clothes to others
  • Comparing who has the biggest car
  • Comparing who has the biggest house
  • Finding out who to please at work to get a “promotion”
  • Gossiping and spreading rumors about people you don’t like
  • Comparing how big your pay check is compared to others

The list is endless.  In short people who “job-ify” are people who think that resources are limited.  They think the end goal is to accumulate as much “stuff” as possible to try to impress people they don’t know..

But what if I told you there’s another way?  What if I told you that there’s a world where resources, happiness and wealth is not limited, but unlimited?  This world exists.  And you could live in it.

The only thing you need to do to live in this world is follow a new set of rules:

  • Be as generous as possible
  • Help others as much as possible
  • Share ideas as much as possible
  • Create as much as possible
  • Make as many meaningful connections as possible
  • Only compare yourself to who you were yesterday
  • Stand up for what’s right
  • Look others in the eye and with all sincerity say “I care”

I know which game I am playing.  Why not join me?

Science Vs Entrepreneurship

The impression I got when I was in school was that everything had an answer.  If the answer wasn’t obvious then you could always look in the back of the book or ask someone for it.  There was always a “correct” answer out there somewhere.

The mirage of certainty fades away the higher up you get in education.  When I was in University we would often reach a point in discussions where there were no answers, just questions and ongoing research trying to find the truth.

That’s what science does.  It searches for an agreeable “truth” using a method which makes this “truth” undeniable.  However, “educated” people go on to believe that there is a truth out there, which is yet to be discovered, for pretty much everything…

In this respect, science seems to be the opposite to business and perhaps this goes some way to explain why very educated people tend to make bad entrepreneurs.

Science = searching for a “truth” that we can all agree with.

 Entrepreneurship = searching for a business to prove everyone else in the market place wrong.

For a new business to work and thrive, it has to be overlooked by everyone else in the market place – otherwise there would be no point in creating a new business.  This means that you have to bet on something that no one agrees would make a good business.  This means that since something new is being done, the journey of an entrepreneur will always be full of hurdles, uncertainty, nay sayers and risk.

Realise, that there’s no hero in this story.  

There are no large businesses that will come and help you, there is no waiting for that “big deal”, there is no person that will get the sale for you, there is no one to introduce you to new prospects.

It’s all up to you.

“But, Money Can’t Buy Happiness!!!”

It’s interesting to note that the most precious things in life are intangible.  They don’t have a price, they aren’t things that you can hold in your hands and without them life would be pretty meaningless.

Love, family, relationships, purpose, happiness….All intangible.

But there is one thing in life which is intangible, but money can buy.

Time.

Time is impossible to put a price on.  Your time is precious, non-refundable and once you’ve spent your finite time on this Earth it’s gone forever.

Your time is worth fighting for.  Too many people aren’t close to their family and friends, have missed their children’s first steps and words due to not having the time – usually as they’ve tied their time to a 9-5 job.

And for what?

People stick to those 9-5 jobs so that one day they can buy a mediocre car, a mediocre house and receive a mediocre pension so that they can live the rest of their lives out doing what mediocre people do (reading the news, getting angry at politicians, complaining about why their life sucks).

Don’t fall for the “But, money can’t buy happiness*” argument, because no one is arguing for it.  But realise that you can buy one of the most precious things in your life: your time.

And it’s worth fighting for.  Your life is valuable and you can have it back if you create enough value for the world.

*When I first started to have the idea of starting a business when I was a junior doctor, I would always face the “But, money doesn’t buy happiness!” argument from other doctors when discussing my business ideas.  For some reason here in the UK, pseudo-socialist middle class doctors who are in the upper percentiles of income, don’t like the idea of one of their colleagues becoming even richer, as that would just be wrong and socially unjust…  To paraphrase Orwell:

“It’s not because they love the poor, it’s because they hate the rich”

It’s a knee jerk argument/reaction on their part, because they’re not willing to think things and do things which would make them uncomfortable.  It’s a form of laziness and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Judging Babies

If someone goes up to a baby and says:

What could this thing ever achieve??!! Look at it, it’s so weak and helpless! It will never accomplish anything!”

Then you would probably call that person an idiot.

But when some know it all looks at a young entrepreneur or an early stage startup and says:

What could this tiny business ever accomplish?!! They’re all so young, naive and inexperienced!”.

Then most people accept the criticism and stop going after their dream.

We can’t measure human potential. We can’t measure the potential of a startup.

Don’t stop.

It’s All Good

Learn to say “good”no matter what and I guarantee your life will improve.

Your diet isn’t going as well as you hoped.

Good, it means you can lift heavier weights for longer.

The development of your app is going slower than you thought.

Good, it means you have longer to get it just right.

You failed that exam.

Good, it means you get to learn more.

People disrespect you.

Good, you have the opportunity to improve yourself.

You didn’t get that job.

Good, you get to use that pain as fuel to get an even better job.

You’re a nobody.

Good, being poor and unknown means you have nothing to lose and that makes you dangerous.

You don’t have time.

Good, you’ll have to stop wasting time on things that really don’t matter.

It’s all good.

Second Order Discovery

Introduction

Second order thinking is hard.  It’s not a natural way of thinking.

First order thinking refers to the most simplistic method of analysis.  You can think of it as a form of thinking that most people engage in.  As most people have the same thoughts, which are automatic and go without any questioning, they come to the same conclusion.

Second order thinking is much rarer and only a small subset of people sit down to think about topics deeply and then come to conclusions which may be different from the majority.  Obviously, if you have unoriginal thoughts, then you will have the same actions as other people which is why second order thinking is so important.

An example of first order thinking would be how most of my patients think.  “I am depressed, therefore I need medication.”  Second order thinking is much deeper and takes into account a lot of different important aspects.  Second order thinkers may start to question their role in society, the role of society itself, value creation, what they value, being valuable, family, relationships with family and their neighbours and so on.  These people end up coming to conclusions which are different and most of the time (especially when it comes to more complex topics) more correct than first order thinkers.

I want to write today about second order discovery.  Something that I haven’t seen written about anywhere.  However, I think it is very relevant to business and entrepreneurship.  As this essay itself is a form of second order thinking (although much of it is derived from empiricism) it is quite axiomatic; reading the whole thing is the only way that you will be able to understand what I am trying to say.

Innovation & Entrepreneurship

There is a widespread misconception that “innovation” is the same as “entrepreneurship”.  It is not.  Many of the world’s most famous innovators died poor.  It’s not people’s fault that they presume “entrepreneurship” is the same as “innovation”.   These two terms are conflated by the popular press and in the public discourse.

However, if you look at the history of technological advancement, it is shocking to see how little entrepreneurship has contributed to it.  There is a very interesting page on the NASA website which shows the number of real life-changing innovations NASA have created as a result of space travel such as the development of artificial limbs and ventricular assist devices.

The reason entrepreneurship necessarily doesn’t lead to massive technological advancement is very simple: Entrepreneurs create businesses which have to be economically viable.  However, real impactful innovation most often occurs as a result of continuous government funding and experimentation by technologists in government institutions such as Universities.  The modern PC and the Internet for example arguably are the technologies that have had the most impact in the world in the last couple of decades.  These were both borne out of government institutions.  Once the technology is available, it’s up to entrepreneurs to then create products and services which the market will want to pay money for.

Note that also technological advancement and the discovery of its applications is always the result of random experimentation, serendipity and luck.  Most of the technologies we take for granted today, such as antibiotics were discovered by luck, not by design.  Indeed the technologies that NASA created are a perfect example of how random experimentation leads to useful byproducts.

A Word About Cognitive Dissonance & Political Leanings

When I speak to others through this line of thought, people usually fall in to two camps.

They either use it as more evidence that business and private companies are evil and simply extract money from consumers.  They argue that we don’t need private interests involved when the government can do everything.

Or they fall in to the camp of people who try to bring up private companies who have produced a lot of valuable technology and are therefore the only solution society needs.  They claim that Private Companies can solve all of the problems faced by society and that the government should step aside.

Yes, there are entrepreneurs out there who are truly innovative and are creating valuable technologies (Jeff Bezos springs to mind), but if you think about it, these types of entrepreneurs have billions of dollars at their disposal to start interesting side projects (e.g. Blue Origin, which is Jeff Bezos’ space programme), while also running a viable business (Amazon).  These entrepreneurs are in the minority.  Most entrepreneurs are in the game of running businesses and “Value Creation”.  And also, keep in mind that Jeff Bezos himself says that Amazon is such a success as all the “heavy lifting” had already been put in place such as the infrastructure for the Internet, roads, railways, delivery processes and worldwide travel, a lot of which is a result of government investment.

The point is that this observation is not a case for or against capitalism / socialism / private companies / government organisations.  It is just that; an observation.

Another observation is that it is the entrepreneurs who take the technology which has been created, make products and services for the market, distribute it and encourage widespread adoption.  This is what Apple did with the iPhone – the technology already existed for the first iPhone, but Apple put it all together in a marketable way.  As a result they created new value and therefore new wealth for society.

And yet another observation is that private companies and government organisations go hand in hand.  Without the private market, technology would just sit unused in government organisations and society as a whole would not benefit from technological advancement.

The argument that private companies can solve all the problems and create all the technologies needed to solve the worlds problems is the same as saying that governments can do it all by themselves.  They are the same in so far as that these are both “theories”.  What I have written about above is an observable fact which has been going on for centuries.

The Domain of the Entrepreneur

Peter Drucker once said that if the technology is not robust, well-tested and proven to work, then it is not ready for the market.  It is out of the domain of entrepreneurs who are concerned with making a marketable product.

Thinking of things in these terms is helpful.

Startups which are trying to create AI in the hopes of replacing physicians will likely fail as the technology behind AI is nowhere near marketable at present.  They have finite resources, unlike government organisations, so they will run out of cash before getting to those important discoveries.

So as an entrepreneur your thinking has to go along the lines of “what problem can I solve with technology that is accessible to me, which will also solve the problem in a better way than how it is solved now?”.

This is a very tricky question to answer as most businesses and entrepreneurs are on the lookout for them most of the time.  This is the reason that if you encounter an obvious problem that a lot of people will give you money for, it is likely a bad business idea.

Peter Thiel once said that the best startup ideas look like bad ideas, but actually they are really good ideas.  The reason is that if a business idea is obviously great, then a lot of entrepreneurs and businesses with a ton of capital backing them will have already created solutions or will be in the process of creating solutions that you, as a lone entrepreneur can’t compete against.

This leaves entrepreneurs with smaller, non-obvious problems to solve.  If it is non-obvious then the larger companies won’t be aware of the business opportunity.  If it is small, then large companies won’t even go after the business as the profits they would make would be too small to make business sense.  However, if you are a lone entrepreneur, then a small win (which could be up to a few million a year in profits), is likely more than enough encouragement needed to pursuit the idea.

First & Second Order Discovery

Paul Graham wrote an essay about having good startup ideas.  It can be summarised in a sentence: “Build cool stuff.”  He goes on to say that building cool stuff, will likely mean that you build new stuff.  If you do build cool and new stuff which solves a problem in your life then it is likely many others also have the same problems for which they will give you money for.

When I started my startup, this is exactly what I did.  I built something cool to solve a problem I experienced as a doctor.  I soon found out that no one would give me money for it.  The problem wasn’t serious enough for most organisations, although they did certainly think I was “cool” for building my own app which my patients now use.

However, what no one had told me when I started my startup is that this is actually the best way to discover something people will give you money for.  This is also the way to discover the elusive “bad idea which is actually a good idea”.

The fact is that coming up with an “idea which seems bad, but is actually good” is a form of second order discovery.  You start something which seems cool, but is likely a really bad business idea.  However, merely the act of starting the journey will get you to a place where no one else has ever been before – almost like an adventurer discovering a new land.  When you get to that place where you’ve built something cool, it is incredibly likely that you will discover problems and then come up with solutions which not only has no one thought about, but certainly that no entrepreneur/business has even addressed.  They simply don’t even know about it!

Let’s take the example of AirBnB.  The founders of the company needed to pay rent, so they put up their living room for rent online.  They figured that people would pay to stay in their living room when there was a convention on in their city and that they would provide their guests with an air-bed to sleep on and serve them breakfast in the morning (thus the name Air Bed & Breakfast).  They couldn’t believe it when it actually worked – so they decided to try to make it into a business.

Many years later, they discovered that they could actually disrupt the hotel market.  There was this whole new market of unused space that people had been looking over for years.  They didn’t have a clue at the beginning that they’d end up with a business worth $30 billion (and counting).

Is anyone in doubt that if Hilton Hotels knew about this untapped market that they wouldn’t have poured all their resources into this opportunity?  The fact is that as it seemed like a bad idea with a small market at first, they didn’t even attempt to address the problem.  But the fact that they wouldn’t address the initial problem meant that they never got to the position to discover this new market.

The myth is that there are geniuses out there who can predict the future and as a result they become wildly successful.  The fact however is that entrepreneurs discover things out of curiosity and luck.  These discoveries then lead to new discoveries and new markets which then puts them in a position to win.