Wanna Change the World?

Here’s an obvious statement – entrepreneurs want to build successful businesses. But there’s something more that drives many of us. In some cases this objective is just as important as building the business itself. It’s a notion that invokes strong emotions and can be a driving force. Yes, many entrepreneurs want to make a difference in the world. They want to help change lives in a positive way. This is especially true of the millennial generation but also strikes a multi-generational chord for many.

While making a difference sounds great, how do we go about creating a company that does good work? A strong set of core values and a vision that embraces changing the world are critical factors. But to truly move forward to effectively and sustainably implement this concept we must start . . . with ourselves. Making a difference must become a mindset and a lifestyle. Think about it this way. If we want to lose weight permanently we don’t go on a diet, we change our lifestyle. It works the same way when we want to make a difference – we must change our lifestyle.

There is a simple yet powerful method that will help us move in the direction we desire. It revolves around a daily journal that we keep in which we record each attempt we make to do something that positively impacts one or more people. Here’s something else to think about. Making a difference doesn’t have to involve massive sweeping changes in the world. It starts with a lot of little steps that eventually have a cumulative effect. One of the mistakes that lead to frustration for entrepreneurs is believing that they can be the catalyst for major transformations overnight. Sure, every once in a while this can happen. But shooting for the stars without enough fuel is certainly going to end up in a fizzling disappointment.

What sort of baby steps should we be taking to develop a difference-making lifestyle and mindset? Look at all of the opportunities we have to make a positive impact on the lives of others every single day. In the restaurant where we are having breakfast or lunch, we can compliment our waitperson on providing excellent service. We can hold the door open so that another person can enter or exit. Perhaps we even anonymously pay for someone else’s meal in that restaurant from time-to-time. Maybe we handwrite a thank-you note to someone who has done something nice for us. Or we call a person with best wishes for their birthday. Do we always remember to acknowledge others with a smile and a warm greeting when we see them? Are our “please” and “thank you” manners always on display?

The little every day habits we develop to brighten the day of another individual are foundational toward taking bigger steps. Suppose one of our team members is apparently in distress. We can lend a sympathetic ear. Volunteering is a terrific way to make a positive difference in the lives we touch and can run the gamut of activities. Helping at a homeless shelter, mentoring other entrepreneurs, reading to sick kids in a children’s hospital and providing assistance to scouting organizations are examples of such bigger steps.

To keep ourselves on track, we utilize the Daily Difference Journal to record what we have done each day toward our lifestyle change. While it may seem trite to make an entry like, “told Olivia that her smile brightened the day,” the act of keeping such a tally reinforces the intentionality of our desire to do good things for our world. Repeating this process day-in and day-out helps set the pattern that we desire. Initially it pushes us to remember to look for opportunities to say and do things that create a positive experience for others. Eventually it becomes second nature and we don’t have to remember anything. We simply live each day looking for ways to make others happy and live better lives.

Making a difference in the world is a terrific benefit of being an entrepreneur. A Daily Difference Journal puts us on the path to accomplishing this with gusto!

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 55 – F-.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

All Else Being Equal . . .

Question: Competition is tougher than ever. What is the most effective way to be different?

Answer: You have certainly asked the right question. Whether we are selling a product, a service or looking for a job, the key is differentiation. Think for a moment about great companies in America today and how they are different. Walmart is known for huge selection and low prices. Nordstrom is a champion of customer service but sells at a higher price point. TOMS Shoes donates one pair of shoes to a needy person for every pair of shoes a customer purchases.

Identify your niche and figure out how you can be the absolute master of that niche. But don’t stop there. Make sure that everything about your company, your product/service and about you – is reflective of this mastery. Allow me to share an example. One of our companies acquires, owns and operates apartment communities across the country. Buying apartments is a very competitive business these days. We have chosen to focus on purchasing properties that were initially developed using affordable housing tax credits. There aren’t as many buyers for this type of property due to the complexity of the tax credit program. We have become known as a buyer that understands the program and will pay a fair price.

We’ve taken the niche a step further. We market extensively to prospective apartment sellers and have attempted to be just as unique about the way we go about doing this. We don’t use e-mail – everyone does that now. Instead we send personally addressed high-quality marketing materials via snail mail. Our kick-off piece was a gold cardboard tube that contained a cover letter and a black velvet bag. Inside the bag was a gold dollar coin with a message saying, “Consider this to be a down payment on a profitable relationship.” Every three weeks an announcement of an apartment acquisition is sent to our prospective sellers. And one of our associates makes follow-up phone calls every 60 days. Believe me it is having the desired effect.

Here’s the takeaway. Do your homework and find that area in which you can specialize. Get creative and devise unique ways to deliver your message. Remember that those who win are able to convey a value proposition that resonates with their customers (or prospective employers). Above all remember that life is about making a difference in the lives of others. From an entrepreneurial perspective, those who follow through and truly make a difference will prosper.