Some People Like to Serve Others
I think I figured out why some people, like me, are serial entrepreneurs: We miss not having customers to serve.
Technically, I’ve only begun one real business (360Conferences) with paying customers. However, I also built up a technical user group that served hundreds of (non-paying) customers. In addition, I’ve done some independent consulting where the customer was another business. The point is this: I’ve done a lot of things where the endpoint is providing service for someone.
I like to cook elaborate meals to achieve an unspoken give and take:
- I provide them sustenance, which fills a basic need to help keep them alive
- They provide the time to eat the meal, which fills a basic need of helping our relationship grow
This is true of my wife, kids, family and friends. It’s an unspoken contract where everyone benefits, unless I give them food poisoning and they yap on their cell the whole time. Neither have occurred yet though and hopefully never will. :)
Business is a Special Give and Take
In business, there’s also an unspoken give and take, but it looks like this:
- I provide a product/service, which fills a basic need that the customer wants/needs
- They provide the time/money, which fills a basic need of helping our relationship grow
Note that money isn’t a necessary aspect of business. I ran my user group which affected the lives of many individuals and not one cent, much less dollar, exchanged hands. What I gave was time in creating something for others to come spend their time participating in. With 360Conferences, John and I created conferences which changed people’s lives completely (as was demonstrated by three different people on stage during a keynote). Sure some of them gave us money, but the act of them giving us several hundred dollars really had very little impact on the grand scheme of things.
Customers Really Need to be Perceived as Old Friends, Not Dollar Signs
It’s a fact that I’m horrible with names. I’m working on it, but I just have issues with names. I think it’s because most names have nothing to do with who you are. I’m Tom, but the word “Tom” doesn’t describe me. In programming terms, it’s just a pointer and a badly named one at that. During my tenure at places, I was bad at remembering names, but great at remembering people’s stories and their faces.
I could see one customer’s face and remember he had a sick mom that almost prevented him from coming. I’d see another face and know he was from another country where there wasn’t another programmer in sight for miles. Another face would bring to mind stories of their kids. One face would be that of a new manager looking for ways to better his team, out of genuine concern. All these faces spoke (and still speak) to me, but what they never represented was a dollar amount.
Now, don’t think I’m some free-loving, “Down with the system, we don’t need money” kinda hippy. I realize that money is necessary. It’s necessary to live. It’s necessary to deliver the kind of business you want to deliver. Customers provide that money, but that doesn’t mean they equal money.
I’m Starting Up Again
I have a few things in the works.
- (Fairly) New Job: I work with a small, but dedicated team over at Locus Technologies. I’m finding ways to help and serve not only Locus’ customers, but also my peers inside of Locus. I’ve been told that’s rare: desiring to serve your peers. If that’s true, it’s a sad statement on the workforce.
- New Diet Plan: I was fat, but decided I really shouldn’t be. I looked at why I was fat, found out what the cause was, and started One Minute Bite to see if I can solve that. If I lose weight on it, then others can read about it and hopefully also lose weight.
- New Business Ideas: I’ve started Area 161 with a friend of mine to conquer the world of video games. We need startup capital though. We need to hire people to bring the games we want to fruition. Therefore, I’m tossing around some other ideas that will hopefully help provide that much-needed startup cash. Not ready to share those ideas yet, but come back in a couple of weeks.
We Humans are Meant to Serve
The thing I’m noticing in common with all of these is the people I hopefully get to serve. To me, we have one purpose for being on this planet: to serve our fellow-man. If we don’t take the time to do that, we will never find true happiness. Monetary success will find its way to us because of our desire to serve, not because we desire the money. I think that’s where most of us go wrong. Hopefully, I will never forget that.