It starts with the why
If you haven't seen Simon Sinek's record breaking TED talk about the Golden Circle yet, open another tab watch this and come straight back!
OK great - so we are all on the same page now - what did you think? Whilst alot of this seems so obvious when you point it out I have to say for me it changed the way I talk about my business.
I have worked with many socially minded businesses and in sustainability over the past 10 years. My job was to convince business owners that they had a responsibility to the community and that its not only the nice thing to do to contribute back to the community you operate in but also the right and smart thing to do. I have to say that when I was talking to city based businesses this was also a much harder pitch than it was to rural businesses. You don't have to convince rural business owners that there is a direct link between their business and the broader community. They get it. They get it because they live it. Everything is interlinked. Community, Business, Family.
So when I first watched this TED talk some years ago it clicked. I was nodding at the screen. But one thing I realised is that whilst this has always been the genesis behind the development of my ideas and indeed this business and I was very clear on my why, I wasn't leading with that when I talked about it.
I think a big part of this is because when people ask you about your work they inevitably say 'WHAT do you do?'. So the autopilot in my brain reacts to that WHAT in the question and starts talking about the what. I am yet to hear someone lead with 'WHY do you do?'. It takes some conscious effort to ensure that you craft your response leading with the why.
When talking about the Rural Business Collective up until launch day I have been constantly asked 'What is the Rural Business Collective?'. I noticed once I changed the way I spoke about the project I got a much better reception and level of excitement from the people I was talking to. I'll give you the two responses and see what you think (you'll have to imagine my excessive hand gestures and slight lisp).
"Fleur tell me, What is the Rural Business Collective?"
"Rural Business Collective is a membership network that provides support and skills to small business owners and entrepreneurs in the bush. Members join up and receive online resources, access to mentoring programs, workshops and we are going on our first International Study Tour in March 2017. There's also mentoring groups and lots of opportunities to connect with other members. There's a website with a member area that will deliver most of the material, starting with the member library which we will continually add to each week. The podcast 'Beating Around The Bush' is available online and also through iTunes. I am really excited about it because I have a real passion for community and business in rural areas and this is where the two passions can combine to make a real difference in the future direction for many small towns around the country."
Not bad, answers the question but I still feel a little underwhelmed. I have a picture of the business model in my head, but the picture of the outcomes is a bit blurry. I've sold the sausage but not the sizzle I guess you could say. I found even writing that I ran out of things to say. Number 2 however...
Rural Business Collective is a membership network that works to help build a vibrant and healthy rural, regional and remote Australia. I am a small town addict - I am passionate about the future of small towns and I think there's simply no better place to live than rural Australia.
I strongly believe that the key to unlocking the potential in rural Australia is to create diversity and growth in our small businesses and a culture of entrepreneurship. I think for too long we have banked on the development of industry and infrastructure projects to be the fix all solution for our rural towns and we have taken our eye off the area where the sustainable growth, employment and community contribution comes from and that's the main street. I thought it was time to bring the power back to businesses operating in these small towns across Australia and make them not just great places to live and grow families but great places to live and grow businesses too.
We aim to do this by creating a network where small business owners and entrepreneurs can access the support, skills and experiences they need to achieve their business goals and make a great contribution to the economic development of rural Australia. What we offer will shape and grow as the networks needs require, we want to really customise the experience to the needs of the membership base. From Day 1 we are offering an online library of resources, online and physical workshops and courses and our signature events are going to be our 2 day Bootcamps and our Annual Study Tour. The other jewel in our crown is going to be our small business mentoring groups. I'm really excited about it and I cant wait to see the impact we can have on businesses and communities."
Ok so it might be a little lengthy and to be honest I don't usually get through all of that because the person I am talking to immediately starts interacting with the idea. They'll say 'yes I agree, I see that in my town etc...' and we end up with this great chat about some town and how great it is and all the opportunity that exists there. All of a sudden they are saying 'you know I have had this idea for a while....' and then before you know it we are talking about this great new venture and all the resources at their fingertips to bring this to life, and this person I know that they need to talk to and ......... (by this stage my hand gestures are out of control and I've knocked the coffee clean out of this person's hands). You get the idea!
How do you answer that question that inevitably comes up 'what do you do'? When you are talking to potential customers or partners - do you jump straight to the actual services you provide? Most people do. Have a go at asking yourself Why and see what comes up and then have a go at working that into the answer somehow. Let me know how you go. Actually even better, why not practice your why right here and comment below.
(If you have trouble asking yourself 'Why' - I will gladly lend you my 3 year old - he's got that DOWN PAT!)