If you are one of the tens of thousands of people who have found themselves cast out into the unknown world of self-employment from your former corporate job, then this post is for you. Ii follows upon my last post, Understanding What You Have To Offer, where I show how to identify what are your marketable assets, strengths, talents, knowledge, expertise and skills.
If you have worked in a corporate environment, you know that initiative and risk taking create occupational vulnerability, not opportunity. Yet, it is through initiative and risk taking that new opportunities are discovered. For entrepreneurs and the self-employed, taking initiative and accepted risk are part of the game.
I'm not advocating risk-taking as a strategy, but rather the realization that all initiative to create impact involves a certain amount of risk-taking. Becoming more comfortable with taking initiative and risk is required if you are now self-employed.
Think of risk, not as dangerous, but rather as steps to explore the unknown. It is a way to take a different route that you would normally take. It is about stretching the boundaries of what is possible in your life and work.
Knowing More That What You Have To Offer
It is important to know what you have to offer, as I wrote about previously. However, that is not everything you need to know. At best, it is 30-40% of what you need to know.
Too many times I've met with someone who is trying to sell me their services, and all I hear from them is about how great and cool they are. They have a very polished sales pitch which comes across as artificial. There are three other things that are important to know that will help bridge the gap between what you have to offer and the need of the potential client.
When you walk into an interview or a meeting, where there is a possibility that you will be able to discuss what you have to offer, it is important to know where you are. Not just physically where you are, but socially and personally.
Physical context matters because there are some conversations that should not be conducted where your the conversation is either too public or too private.
For example, last week I was introduced to a bright, passionate entrepreneur whose core idea I immediately got. The synergy between us was tangible. A friend who was with me was amazed at how quickly we connected. The problem was, we were sitting in a busy coffee shop. There was too much noise and movement by people in the shop for either of us to concentrate on listening well to the other person. And we had a very limited period of time.
What did I do in this instance? After listening to her project idea, I briefly shared my Circle of Impact Leadership Guides (giving her a set, which I always carry with me, just in case). We established that there is a reason for us to continue our discussion.
This was able to happen because we both listened to the other person in the context of the other person's life and work, and what they had to offer.
It was important to understand the business context of the person.
Is she the owner of the business, or a hired executive? Is he a middle manager or a colleague of someone who could use your service. It is important to demonstrate an understanding of their specific business setting. The only way to learn this is to ask questions and listen.
This means that you are not starting with your story, but their story.
My rule of thumb is that before I ever say anything about what I have to offer, I'm going to try and find out what their situation is so I can specific speak to it. This is what understanding the context means. As a result, I only share what I think is necessary to carry the conversation to the next level of interest. As I once heard a farmer tell a minister on a cold, snowy Sunday with very few member present, "Son, if only one cow comes to feed, I don't give him the whole load."
2. Impact versus Deliverables:
If you are hired to provide a product or service to a client, it is important to understand the relation and difference between the impact that you want to achieve and the product that you are contractually obligated to deliver for payment.
Let's take my encounter with the entrepreneur in the coffee shop. I obviously want her to succeed. The question is what is success in this context?
For me, success is too vague a word. It has too many connotations for it to be helpful in designing a project plan. This is one reason why I rather talk about impact, rather than success or even results.
To talk about impact is to identify the change that you want to see happen. If we do a project together, what is it that we want to see that is different when we are done? Is it the receptivity of an idea? How do we know an idea has gained traction in the market place? Is it the number of times it shows up as a Twitter hashtag? Or is it something else. Determining impact is a key part of any strategic thinking process. If you can't say what is to change, then how do you know when you are successful.
Impact is the goal, but is not the deliverable.
An action plan or an application of technology to achieve that impact is the deliverable. In other words, when we provide a product or service to a client, there is a difference between what we are offer and what is achieved through what we offer. It is an important distinction that keeps us from over-promising and under-delivering.
Consider, then, what is it that first you offer, and how is it delivered. In the process of developing this understanding, you also answer, what is the impact that we should expect. And when you make your pitch, begin with the need and what is the desired change. That's when you can show what you have to offer, and how you will deliver it.
3. Value & Values:
Every discussion about a business opportunity is a discussion about value and values. The financial value of what you offer is the cost of the service to the client.
In other words, how do you value your talent, knowledge and expertise translated into a financial value that makes sense to you and your client?
It is not simply perceiving the impact that you want to achieve for people and their businesses. It is also how that impact is to be achieved.
You are selling a process that leads to the desired impact. This process is a balance of many different criteria, from time, degree of change required and whether the process creates a sustainable environment for the impact that is achieved. All these factors are calculated into how a project gets valued.
In every business discussion, values are constantly in play. You bring a specific set of values into the relationship with the client. They bring their values also. It is important that you understand yourself and what you have to offer well enough so that the value of your offering and the values that you bring are congruent and in alignment.
Long-term client relationships have as much to do with values as they do with the project deliverables.
For this reason, it is important to know what are the values that guide your decision-making and actions. It is important to be able to articulate them, not just as ideas that matter, but also how they affect your relationships with people and conduct of projects.
A final distinction about values is that they are not values as ideas, but rather values as practices. These are ideas that are acted upon by you every day.
Knowing Who You Are and What Matters To You
If you are one of the many who are now self-employed having spent your career in a corporate environment, it is important to know who you are, what matters to you and what you have to offer. This is a hard transition to make for many people. Its difficulty isn't in the skills department, but rather in how our self-perception changes as we go through a time of transition.
Clarity of knowing who we are, what we want to achieve, and how we want to achieve it is essential in being prepared to offer ourselves in service to others.