Why I’m going to the Congo on Wednesday.

Live well by doing good.

Four and half years ago we started The Crankset Group and 3to5 Clubs to help business owners get to their Ideal Lifestyle, and to fulfill my vision of focusing on solutions to poverty. On the latter, we’re taking a radically different approach.

Non-profits vs. Capitalism
500 million people (1 2/3 U.S’s) have come out of poverty in JUST 20 YEARS in China and India alone. And it wasn’t the result of non-profits or other traditional means. It was achieved through [ugly, evil, horrible, by some accounts] capitalism, which has been exponentially more effective in attacking poverty in those countries than any other methods.

In the last 100+ years of well-meaning non-profit intervention in Africa – a few trillion dollars and tens of thousands of incredibly dedicated lives later – the rosiest of studies says the long-term impact on economic growth is not “tranformative” and “peters out” (The Effects of Foreign Aid in Sub-Saharan Africa, Aug 4, 2010). Some research says Africa is actually worse off economically then it was 100 years ago.

Using Business to Effect Change
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the second poorest country on earth . We’ve been asked by business leaders and the government to come get involved. I’m doing it by getting personally involved, long-term, with national as well as local business leaders and government there, and starting a company in the Congo with an investment where I will purposely take a minority position to native Congolese.

We intend to effect permanent change by rebuilding the economy with the revenues from the business, and by working to build and rebuild many businesses around that one by the velocity of the dollar (capitalism). This is when the same dollar moves through multiple businesses in a local area and creates wealth multiple times for many people. We’re looking forward to using it to kick start local economies in the DR Congo.

It’s Time to Give Local Capitalism a Try
Some people and some non-profits have a negative view of capitalism because of the high visibility of giant corporations making bad macro decisions for micro (local) problems – see my blog on The Problem of Big . But capitalism at the local level is a very positive, stabilizing, long-term solution, as demonstrated by the incredible successes in China and India.

One of the big issues in the DR Congo has been giant corporations coming in, pulling out resources and money for a few years or more, then leaving. Because there was no local or national ownership, the net effect was never sustainable. We intend to create local ownership, keep a significant portion of profits local, and see the Congo transformed one business/locality at a time.

I could have given this money to any number of charities that do incredible work to solve short-term problems (hunger, disaster, health, etc.). And we’ve been offered thousands of dollars by non-profits to fund the large potable water project and the clinic we’re putting in before we do any business. We’ve also been offered millions in loans by the U.S. government to accelerate the start up process exponentially.

But in both cases my Congolese friend and I believe these improvements should come from the profits (and in this case the initial investment) of the company. It will provide a “no strings attached” approach, but more importantly it will show people the direct benefit of having capitalism and our company working in their area.

Giving Money or Building a Business Are Both Risks
As with any investment, there are risks, and with this kind of investment, the risks are much higher than normal. However, this isn’t a typical investment in a company, but the decision to focus on capitalism instead of charities to build a different future for the DR Congo. If we were giving these funds to a charity, I would expect no return. If our company grows and prospers we will be able to give this money (in the form of starting other locally owned companies) many, many times over.

Intending to Succeed
My Congolese friend and I intend to change the Congo. He said, “I want you to see the Congo today because I want to stand with you on the edge of Kinshasa 10 years from now and say, “See what we have done!””.

If we succeed we’ll see a very different Congo down the road. If we don’t, we’ll call it practice and go back to the drawing board to see what else we can try. Either way, we will Live Well by Doing Good.

We intend to succeed.

Leaders are reactive, not proactive.

Number of Buns Sold…

The objective of every business owner should be to do as little managing and as much leading as possible. We think good leaders should be highly proactive. In some ways that shows they aren’t really leaders, but managers. What’s the difference?

Leading vs. Managing
In short, managers are proactive, and great leaders are, in some very important ways, reactive.

Managers take the responsibility to go out on the shop floor with a clipboard and watch what everyone is doing, count the productivity cycles, carefully measure the waste, write it all on the clipboard, transfer it to a highly detailed spreadsheet, analyze it all, and come up with ways to improve the whole process.

That’s great management, but questionable leadership.

Number of Buns Sold
A leader does it quite differently. The founder of Wendy’s hamburgers, Dave Thomas, didn’t do any of that. Instead he was given one number every day to react to – number of buns sold. From the one number he could tell how many hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, french fries, Frosties, and soft drinks had been sold that day, and what the profits per bun were. Dave Thomas did not go looking for any of this – it all came and found him, and all he had to do was react to it.

I’m sure Dave Thomas was very involved in setting up the systems and metrics that would get him his bun number every day. But from then on all he had to do was react. The responsibility for all the clip board stuff and for getting him the report was all on someone else’s plate. That allowed Dave to focus on the strategic parts of his business.

Great leaders set up environments where all the important things come and find them. Managers put themselves right in the middle of the process.

If you are a business owner you need to figure out how to stop managing and start leading, and you need to start doing it as early in your business as you can. That’s going to be hard for the control freaks, or those who find their self-worth in being indispensable, or those who have trained their clients to think they have to work directly with the owner, or – etc.

Distributive Management
Think of work as laser beams. A leader’s job is to carry a mirror and deflect as many of those beams to someone else as possible. To do this, it’s not as simple as just assigning it to the next guy. It might take a lot of proactive work to set up the process, system, or report to make sure that the information will come find you going forward.

Successful business owners learn to lead as quickly as possible, and are constantly figuring out how they can get others to do the things they are doing. They are extremely proactive in figuring out how to get the business to come find them, instead of having to go get involved.

Business owners who stay on the treadmill are heavily involved in every detail, think that being responsible is having the company revolve around them, and they take being endlessly “proactive” as a badge of honor.

What is your “number of buns sold”, and how do you set up your business to feed those few important things to you? When you figure out how to stop managing and start leading you’ll have a better business and a lot more time to focus on the strategic development of your business. And that will make running a business a lot more fun.

Be very proactive in setting up a business to which you can be highly reactive. That’s the difference between a manager and a leader.

The joy of business.

Success is a positive thing.

Those who find joy in business have a clear vision for significance, believe they can actually get there, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, are running toward something, not away from something.

Too many people are in business because they have a mortgage to pay, or a payroll to meet, or to escape the drudgery of the cube and working for the man.

When we are driven by short term needs like these we are always running away from something – running away from poverty, moving away from mortgage default, from boredom, from fear, etc.

Running away from things will never bring you joy in your business and it will never give you enough momentum to move from survival to a really significant business that goes beyond the treadmill of paying the mortgage. The gravity of those things you are running from will eventually wear you out and relentlessly pull you back in. Running away from things is like trying to leave the gravitational pull of a planet. The only way to do it is to eventually begin to be pulled TOWARD something else.

In his book “Shift”, Peter Arnell tells about his business success but more importantly about moving from 407 lbs to 150 lbs. How did he lose 250+ pounds?
1) He says he decided to.
2) Then he said, “From that moment forward I saw myself as a 150 pound man, not a 407 pound man.” And every decision he made going forward was made through the eyes of someone who weighed 150 lbs, not 407 lbs. Peter was successful, not because he wanted to lose 250 lbs., which was simply moving away from something. Peter was successful because he was already a 150 lb. man in his head, and everything he did was to run toward that.

A study of severe heart attack victims called Change or Die” by Alan Deutschman found that, faced with the fear of early death, 90% of them went back to the same bad lifestyle that would assure that result. Running away from an early death wasn’t a strong enough motivation.

Dr. Dean Ornish, founder of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute, takes a very different and radical approach. He ignores the fear of death and focuses on helping heart attack victims find the joy of living. He gives them something to run to, not away from, and gets them to change everything at once, radically – not in tiny increments. And an astonishing 77% of his patients change their lives, permanently.

“Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear,” he says.

Things to run toward:
1) VISION – People are motivated by a more meaningful life. – not the fear of death, but the joy of life. Vision for where I’m heading and what that can mean to my lifestyle is critical for real change to happen. VISION is more important than anything.

2) INTERNAL CHANGE, not external. Structure, systems, processes, and other external things won’t make for a successful company. The right behavior will. Right behavior comes from a vision that is worth pursuing.

3) RADICAL, NOT INCREMENTAL CHANGE – Change should not be incremental – change everything at once. People who change radically are more likely to stick with it than people who change incrementally. Burn the bridges, sink the ships, shred the parachutes. Radical change with no intention of going back works.

4) COMMITTED COMMUNITY – Community is critical to sustain change. Ornish’s patients had ongoing weekly support groups and 77% of them experienced permanent changes of lifestyle.

A crises won’t change you, not permanently. Paying your mortgage or running from a cubicle won’t sustain you. People change when we have something to run toward, not away from – not the fear of death, but the joy of living.

I do a Lifetime Goals (The Big Why) workshop for business owners every few months. I do it because it is at the center of a hard-core success strategy to know what you are running toward. Everything rises and falls on your Big Why.

I’m running toward “Live well by doing good.” Every breath I take is to get my life and my business to conform with this vision. I can’t fail at it, I can only practice and get better every day. I’ll never fully get there, but I’ll always be running toward something worth pursuing with every fiber of my being. That creates joy in business for me.

What are you running toward? Will you share it with us here?