Everything You Need to Know About Business, I Learned in Nairobi.

The Cycle of Poverty is a Mindset, not a Condition.

We drove out of the airport at 9pm into the deep Kenyan night, so much blacker this near the equator. The driver did 5-20mph because anything more would have broken the suspension on the Land Rover. To the left of the airport entrance bonfires blazed 50 feet into air as tires were burned away for the metal chords in them. It was my first encounter of the close kind with the Cycle of Poverty.

After 10 days living on the poor side of Nairobi and spending every day in the slums working with business owners, I was numb from the experience of so much poverty, so many people, and such great attitudes in the midst of this unending uphill climb.

It wasn’t until I was home and the numbness had worn off that I finally realized the Cycle of Poverty isn’t a physical condition, but a mindset; that it is everywhere, and that most rich Americans suffer from it even more than my new friends in Nairobi, Kenya.

My new friends in Nairobi don’t plan for tomorrow because they’re too busy surviving today. So they make just enough money to get through the month, then they go out and do it again – an endless cycle of just trying to make ends meet. They can’t plan for tomorrow because they are truly in basic survival mode.

In the rich west we have exactly the same problem – except we choose it and they don’t. We regularly PUT OURSELVES in survival mode by simply filling our day with things that will make us money today, with no regard for tomorrow.

We’re so busy making money today just to make ends meet that we don’t have time to plan to build a business that will make money when we’re not around. And we’ve done it so long that we actually think there is some outside force that is making us live this way – I don’t have any choice but to focus solely on paying this month’s bills. Really?

You get what you intend, not what you hope for.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had more time to smell the roses or help someone else be successful? Wouldn’t it be great if we had money to help fix some problems in the world around us? But we don’t have either time or money, not because we can’t get it, but because we don’t actually intend to. We intend to work hard and make some money, and so we get what we intend – HARD work and SOME money – just enough to keep us on the treadmill – The Cycle of Poverty.

A sad irony – there is no question that the average indebtedness of the American business owner is exponentially higher than the business owner in the slums of Kibera in Nairobi. The Cycle of Poverty has had a bigger effect on us than on them, except that we choose to live this way and they don’t. We got exactly what we intended, a treadmill.

Reflecting again this week on my experience in Kenya, I see more and more everyday the title of my book is confirmed – Making Money Is Killing Your Business. It really should have been titled “Making Money Is Killing Your Future”, but I wanted business owners to see that it was written to help them get off the treadmill and get out of their self-imposed Cycle of Poverty.

Change your intention, decide that your Lifetime Goals and Ideal Lifestyle are the reason you are in business and intend to build a Mature Business in support of those Lifetime Goals. Anybody can do it; we just need to intend to do so.

I would love to hear below how you are working your way out of the Cycle of Poverty. Let’s do it together!

“Experts” & “Gurus” Won’t Help You Succeed

Get an advisor, not an expert.

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Charles H. Duell, commissioner, US Office of Patents. 1899

The problem with experts and gurus is they already know everything. If you ask them for help, you’ll often get stale, static advice based on a narrow view, bad assumptions and old ideas. How do you find good advice? Get an advisor, not an expert.

“The telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” Western Union internal memo, 1876.

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.” Ken Olsen, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. 1977

Advisors vs. Experts/Gurus
An expert or guru already knows everything, which usually makes them a terrible place to find help. An advisor knows the only way to get to a good plan is to start with a bad plan and work constantly to make it better.

Never use an expert or a guru. Here’s some “advice” on how to find an advisor instead:

Look for an advisor who:

  1. Doesn’t have 12 easy steps to success. That expert/guru has no idea how to succeed.
  2. Sees possibilities, and understands that almost no new business is going to land on the product it will make money at right away. It takes 5-10 iterations to find the money-maker. An “expert” will tell you how bad your idea is. An advisor will help you get from your initial idea to the money-maker.
  3. Doesn’t start by seeing if the numbers work. The numbers almost NEVER work early on. It’s about resolve and commitment first, the numbers second.
  4. Helps you test your resolve to somehow make it work in the face of great odds and your mother’s voice in your head telling you not to take risks.
  5. Leads you to gain clarity about the end result you really want.
  6. Gives you tools to keep that end result directly in front of you at all times to effect every decision you make.
  7. Promotes a sane assessment of where you are right now – doesn’t blow smoke about the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
  8. Helps you define the next few steps to get from where you are to where you are going.
  9. Doesn’t confuse you with defining every single step between where you are and where you want to go. Don’t do a Business Plan – it’s a huge waste of time. Just know clearly the end result and the next few steps to get there.
  10. Keeps you focused on three simple things – 1) Where am I? 2) Where do I want to go? 3) What are the next few steps?
  11. Keeps you from doing useless and endless research about what could happen if you ever did something.
  12. Gets you MOVING and helps you plan as you go – Implement now. Perfect as you go. (not Implement now. Never perfect; or “Perfect now. Never implement).

I’m a big fan of Outside Eyes on your business. Get advice, just don’t get it from people who have it all figured out. Find somebody who says they’ve made a lot of mistakes and knows that life is more like a stream than a canal – it’s messy and flows all over the place on the way to the ocean. Business is the same – it’s messy and flows all over the place on the way to success.

People with easy answers haven’t faced the hard questions. Get an advisor, not an expert. You’ll be much more likely to get where you’re going.

Why Purell is Bad for Your Business

Eat Dirt. Be Strong.

I walked into the bread shop and there it was – a Purell hand sanitizer dispenser on a pedestal right in the middle of my path; not up against a wall somewhere, but standing like a security guard five feet inside the entrance, loudly reminding me that life is full to the brim of things that just might go wrong. Dodging that sad monument to the sterile life I realized it was symbolic of so many things that keep us from being successful.

Hand sanitizers may kill your germs, but the hand-sanitizer mindset is a deadly germ-ridden disease for business owners.

The hand-sanitizer mindset is so logical. Why wouldn’t you want clean hands? Are you looking for trouble? Do you want to invite sickness? Shouldn’t a business owner have the same safe, secure view of their business? Wouldn’t you want a business that is all cleaned up, sterilized from potential trouble and running without risk of sickness?

Two big problems with this mindset:

  1. When you focus all your energy on mitigating risk, you also remove the opportunity for reward.
  2. When you focus all your energy on mitigating risk, you can never remove it – it’s still there in spades.

Removing Reward
Outside of winning the lottery, which has the same odds as getting hit by lightning, great reward doesn’t come without being willing to take a risk. Living without risk means living without significant reward. The desire to live without the possibility that bad things could happen ensures that nothing much of significance will happen either. Living without risk condemns us to the great unwashed “middle” where nothing remarkable happens.

Removing Risk
You can’t – that’s the sad truth. People who live focused on removing risk, never do. A friend of mine told of good friends of his who were looking for the safest place in the world to retire to in 1980. After a year of research, in 1981 they moved from the U.S. to a bucolic set of islands. Six months later war broke out all around them and 1,000 people died in the Falkland Islands war between Argentina and Great Britain.

No matter how much you sanitize your life and business, you can’t completely remove risk, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. I know someone who used skin sanitizers to remove risk so much that it affected their immune system. The only cure was to go cold turkey for many months with no sanitizers at all so the good germs (reward) could grow again.

The hand-sanitizer mindset in business has at least the following negative results, along with some you’ll come up with on your own:

A hand-sanitizer mindset:

  1. Kills the good germs (reward) as well as the bad (risk). When we remove risk, we also remove reward.
  2. Reminds us to live defensively and reactively, not proactively and with forward movement.
  3. Dries things up – destroys the creative, innovative part of us.
  4. Creates co-dependency. When the good germs are gone, the need for the sanitizer continues to increase all the time.

Sanitized living creates victims, not strong fighters.

There is an epidemic of allergies among young children. A 10 year study found that one of the biggest causes was that we were keeping our kids too clean, keeping them from confronting risk and developing the strong immune systems that would allow them to function in a healthy way in the world around them.

Our kids need to eat dirt in order to become strong! Your business is no different. If you’re business is set up to run without risk, you’re going to experience a 40 year run on the treadmill with no chance of building a strong, healthy business that runs without you.

The irony of it all – you’re the Purell sanitizer that keeps your business from growing up healthy!

Why do we crave the Purell approach in business? Because the bankrupt Industrial Age mindset we’re all suffering from taught us that the highest values in life were safety and security. Achieving safety and security as the OBJECTIVE ensures we will achieve nothing remarkable. The highest values in your life should be to live a life of significance, to be the creative business owner you were meant to be and be fully committed to building a business in support of your Ideal Lifestyle. You won’t get that without risk.

Eat Dirt. Be Strong.

Business as Community.

Are you part of something bigger than yourself?

We’re all supposed to think the rugged individualist is the great American way to do business. I’m a reformed rugged individualist and can tell you that if you want to build a successful business, going it alone is a bad idea.

When you go to college you have all kinds of community available to you. When you get an apartment you meet some friends, have a BBQ and build community. When you buy a bike, there’s a bike club in your area ready to provide community. But when you start a business, well, good luck with that, you’re on your own.

The rugged individualist is among the worst cultural myths we’ve come up with. Business owners who understand the value of Outside Eyes on their business are much more likely to be successful than those who go it alone. If you aren’t connected to other businesses in your area via a mastermind group or other committed community, find one fast and get involved. You can’t afford not to. We’re expanding our 3to5 Clubs worldwide as fast as we can to be part of meeting that need.

Internet technology has also accelerated our ability to benefit from being in a local area together. I’m on the Board of Advisors for ShopCity.com, which has invested years putting together an unparalleled infrastructure for local businesses to band together and develop their local communities and create the combined strength to compete successfully against giant corporations planting big box retail shops in their towns.

Even better, instead of operating like a giant corporation themselves, they are selling the local rights to every area one of their thousands of local markets worldwide (ShopSydney.com, ShopDenver.com, etc.) to local businesses and individuals who can keep their dollars local. I’ve never promoted a product or service on my blog but this is one of those unusual services that is built with very intentional good consequences for building local community that needs to be promoted.

If you know someone interested in helping local business owners work together to grow their own communities who would want to own exclusive right to a great local business, have them visit ShopCity.com and connect to talk about becoming the gate opener, or what ShopCity calls a ShopCity Manager, for building community in their local area. Every local business owner who participates will make more money and build a better lifestyle and the ShopCity Manager will live well by doing good.

Stop going it alone. Get into community any way you can. And band together with other local owners to help each other get to your Business Maturity Date and build your Ideal Lifestyle. We’ll all get there a lot faster together.