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“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

–C. S. Lewis [1]

 
The Year in Review
We have spent a lot of time together. Over the last year we systematically discussed the critical areas small business people need to master. Here is what we covered:
 
The Foundation
We began with building a foundation. The first four chapters were focused on understanding yourself. We used the three roles from the E-Myth (Entrepreneurial, technical, and managerial skills). Small business people, especially entrepreneurs, tend to have much greater technical skills than managerial skills. We talked about learning these skills from management books and even from television shows such as The Apprentice and The Profit. You took the Meyers-Briggs test and developed your USP
 
The Support Team
In the next section we focused on building your support team. You learned from Benjamin Franklin, William Wilberforce, C.S. Lewis and Albert Einstein how important support systems are to success. You learned lessons about the strength of weak ties from Rosa Parks and the Israeli Tech boom. You also learned from Fredrich Hayek that you have knowledge problem, but you can overcome this knowledge problem using the six sources of influence.
 
Building Visibility
In the next section you learned how to increase your visibility. You learned all about Google search, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and how to create a website. You learned the differences between a blog and ecommerce site and you learned how to use each of these to be found by potential customers.
 
Marketing
Then we shifted gears to talk about marketing. We discussed the 4 Ps of marketing: product, place, promotion, and price. You learned the importance of marketing segmentation by comparing Henry Ford to Alfred Sloan of General Motors. We discussed Polaroid and Hallmark Cards. You learned how to use a marketing funnel and the importance of attracting customers by being valuable.
 
Social Media Marketing
Next we turned our attention to Social media Marketing. We combined what we learned about social media with what we learned about marketing.  You learned that permission marketing is best. You learned how social media works and you heard about a number of experiences of those who used social media marketing effectively. Finally, we discussed the importance of specific actions and activities—using correct keywords, becoming a thought leader in your industry and the use of a publishing schedule.
 
Networking
From there we transitioned to networking. Networking is about recognizing the value of other people. We established the importance of character and reputation in networking. We also learned that the key to effective networking is adding value to others. Networking is built on the foundation of relationship. From numerous examples, you learned that what you give is what you get. Reciprocity is the order of the day.
From the gold rush, you learned that it is better to serve others, providing them with the tools that they need to be successful than it is to directly mine for gold. You also learned how to create a Networking Action Plan to be more effective in connecting with others, but you were reminded that any attempt to game the system or use the other party falls flat.
 
Running Your Business
We then turned our attention to the financial concepts you need to understand to run your business. We covered the vocabulary of business. In plain English, we reviewed the three key statements—the income statement, the cash flow statement, and the balance sheet.
We discussed other important concepts such as return on Investment (ROI), margin, and why you need to learn to let the numbers tell you the story about the health of the business. This appears to be the most difficult part of business for most small business people.
 
Strategy
Then we discussed the importance of strategy. We covered the three major strategies, illustrating cost, differentiation, and focus strategies through the auto insurance business. We reviewed Porter’s five forces and SWOT analysis.  We talked about Vision, mission, and values and discussed the importance of alignment. Then we dove deeper and covered KPIs, benchmarking, competitive strengths analysis, strategic group maps, PERT charts and Gantt charts. We illustrated scenario planning through the events leading up to hurricane Matthew. We concluded the section on strategy with an overview of the Four Disciplines of Execution.
 
Personal Effectiveness
Finally, we turned our attention to personal effectiveness. We talked about the importance of making a decision and how Lieutenant Colonel Moore and Rick Rescorla influenced action in Vietnam and on 9/11.  We covered the academic literature on goal setting and found that goals should be specific, difficult, aligned with personal values, monitored, and made public.
We learned that to be our most productive, we must focus on that which is most important and eliminate or procrastinate on the rest. We concluded by learning to mange our time effectively.
 
Where Do We Go From Here?
The purpose of our education program was to equip you with all of the basics that will provide you a stable base as you grow your business.  If you missed any of the lessons, circle back and reread those sections.
If you have digested these lessons, you are ready to move forward. If you have been applying what you learned, your business should be growing (or at minimum, being properly positioned to grow). From here, you will need to learn all you can about leadership and management. Moving forward, that will be our focus.
 
The End of The Matter
Before we conclude, let me remind you to focus on what matters. In The 7 Habits, Covey wrote:
It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busyness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it’s leaning against the wrong wall. It is possible to be busy—very busy—without being very effective.
People often find themselves achieving victories that are empty, successes that have come at the expense of things they suddenly realize were far more valuable to them. People from every walk of life—doctors, academicians, actors, politicians, business professionals, athletes, and plumbers—often struggle to achieve a higher income, more recognition of a certain degree of professional competence, only to find that their drive to achieve their goal blinded them to the things that really mattered most and are now gone.
How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and, keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most. If the latter is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.[2]
Covey’s advice is profound. It reminded me of what Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes in about 935 BC.  He was the third king of Israel, author of most of the biblical proverbs, and identified as the wisest man on earth. He set out to taste and touch and see all that the world had to offer, and Ecclesiastes is his account of his journey.
Solomon had it all—success, fame, women, riches, but he found that it was ultimately meaningless.[3]  In fact, he wrote, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”[4]
So why did we spend all of this time working toward success if everything is meaningless? Are we trapped in an existentialist world like those imagined by Kafka or Camus? No, There is something greater.
After cataloging everything that did not satisfy, Solomon concluded the book of Ecclesiastes with these words: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”[5]
A thousand years later, when a Pharisee asked Jesus which of the commandments was most important,
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”[6]
This is an alignment issue. If you get these two concepts right, you naturally strive to act in ways where you keep the other commandments (e.g., not lying, stealing, or in other ways, violating your neighbor’s rights) and, in keeping the other commandments, you will live a life of integrity that makes success possible.
Two thousand years later, Google famously adopted the motto, “Don’t be evil” in their code of conduct.  Their new parent company, Alphabet, upgraded that motto to “Do the right thing.” The full statement is: “Employees of Alphabet and its subsidiaries and controlled affiliates (‘Alphabet’) should do the right thing—follow the law, act honorably, and treat each other with respect.”[7]  “Don’t be evil,” and “Do the right thing,” are just secular recitations of a spiritual truth.
In sum, there is something beyond your personal success—a bigger picture. As Rick Warren explained in The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not all about you.”[8]  If we are spiritual beings with purpose beyond this present existence, how you treat people extends far beyond your next sale. Other people matter because they are more than matter. In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis explained:
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.[9]
In each lesson, we have focused on the importance of relationship—the importance of others. That was no accident. It is not just an expedient way to success, but it is also the right thing to do.
 
 

Actionable items:

 
Do you value others as you should? Why or why not?
 
 
What do you need to review?
 
What do you need to learn as you move forward?
 
 
 

End Notes

[1] Lewis, C. S. (1942). The weight of glory. Retrieved from http://www.verber.com/mark/xian/weight-of-glory.pdf. (p. 9).
[2] Covey, S. R. (1990). The seven habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic. New York: Fireside books.
[3] Ecclesiastes 1:2
[4] Ecclesiastes 1:14
[5] Ecclesiastes 12:13,14, English Standard Version
[6] Matthew 22:37-40
[7] Barr, A. (2015, Oct 2). Google’s ‘don’t be evil’ becomes Alphabet’s ‘do the right thing’ The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2015/10/02/as-google-becomes-alphabet-dont-be-evil-vanishes/
[8] Warren, R. (2002). The purpose-driven life: What on earth am I here for? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan.
[9] Lewis, C. S. (1942). The weight of glory. Retrieved from http://www.verber.com/mark/xian/weight-of-glory.pdf. (p. 9).