A Gift for UK Entrepreneurs: The Secret of Selling Something You Love

29 NOV 2012

(Written by Doug Richard in 2009)

Many of my articles and blogs are about the hard realities of starting a business. For example, you can’t borrow your way to success. Loans, grants and outside investment won’t help you buy a business model that works and they might well prevent you from ever acquiring one. Your business plan is probably less valuable than confetti, and most of the people who buy your products will do so for all the wrong reasons. But, in honor of the season, I have decided to write you something uplifting . . .

As entrepreneurs we so often feel rather guilty that we love our businesses and it’s offerings so much. Most of us could get a “real job” if looked long enough and searched hard enough. New businesses suck up so much time, and so many personal resources, we really do have to ask ourselves over and over again if it is right to be investing ourselves this way. This question becomes particularly pressing when we have a family to care for and support. Well, this year’s Christmas present from me to you is . . .

You Have Permission to Be Obsessed

One of the reasons that I work with entrepreneurs is that I just like them so much. Most often they are like new parents with babies just home from the hospital or five-year-olds just starting school. Their businesses are shiny new and just a little nebulous, and the proud parents can’t stop talking about them even when they can’t figure out exactly what to say. Sometimes it seems to me like these little nascent ventures are dressed up in all the wrong clothes, and some have big ears but I find their progenitors charming anyway.

In the heart of all good startups is some insight into human need, human desire, or human capacity for enjoyment. A new set of tools for helping kids learn math more quickly speaks to years of helping children struggle through mountains of equations. A book with a built in tape-recorder that parents can read a story into, speaks to children who sometimes have a parent that can’t read them to sleep. A print shop that works twenty-four hours speaks to exciting last minute business preparations, a new website dedicated to marketing family B&B’s worldwide speaks to charming vacations abroad.

By and large every passionate entrepreneur I meet has a venture clutched to his chest that just wants to do something good. And I, like everyone else I know, can see that passion and it always makes me expect something wonderful. I wonder . . . “What is this guy so excited about?”

Why Your Passion Sells So Very Well

If you’ve ever seen the Pieta in Rome or Michaelangelo’s David, you can’t help but be overwhelmed by their perfection. Eternal stone smoothed and sanded by a master over thousands of hours . . . to create something larger than life and yet just a human instant. Nothing left undone. Not one atom out of place.

A good startup gives me that sense, even when its still just represented by an elegant little website, a few hundred customers, and a few thousand in revenue. Though the business is still a work in progress, I can see the master at work.

I can see that whoever is making this thing has an understanding of the product, the service, the solution he is trying to present. He knows who he is trying to help. He knows, or thinks he knows, exactly what they need. He’s working hard to make this thing the very best of its kind through sheer sweat and effort of will.

I’m not a big fan of working hard. But I am a big fan of thinking hard. And good startups, good small businesses, seem elegant and well considered because the people working on them really believe they have nothing better to do than make this thing they’ve envisioned become something wonderful in the real world.

If I ask them, they will talk for two hours about all the ways they’ve tried reaching out to their customers. They will tell me twenty misconceptions they had about their product or service that they’ve recently addressed. They will describe in harrowing detail all they plan to do. And before long I’ll feel like a party guest forced to page through book after book of holiday snapshots.

And I’ll be happy too . . .

Because I’ll have found one of my entrepreneurs. The guy with the good idea who just wait to bring his baby to life. I’ll do my best to tell that guy, and all the folks I can find who are like him, whatever I can tell them that might help them on their way. I want to see their businesses grow up as much as they do.

So Here’s Your Gift for the Year Ahead

Its OK to be a little crazy about your business, to talk about it at parties and to spend just a little too long every night working to make it just that little bit better. Because that’s what makes it good.

If you stay true to a vision that seeks to help people, to amuse or educate them to the very best of your considerable ability, you are putting something priceless into your products and services. You are giving it something that I and others most in a position to help you will recognize as remarkable.

I hope you enjoy your gift and the exciting year ahead, and that I’ll see you at School for Startups online for face to face event sometime soon. We offer new ones every month and you can always find us at www.schoolforstartups.co.uk.

  1. Hi Doug

    i’ve been following your teachings since I saw you at the Olympia exhibition last month. That presentation persuaded my that you know what are you talking about, and therefore decided to learn more about what you have to say.

    i’ve come to two main points, that are a kind of questions that i’d like to explore:

    1. social media. I’ve been a complete ignorant about the importance of the social media revolution happening in front of me. However I am spending some productive time learning how to kick off. So, I am getting into the good habit of opening up to other people in order to do networking by offering something entertaining. By the way I am a photographer.

    2. I am not sure if I am an entrepeneur. as well as you I didn’t became a trader as soon as I jumped out of the woumb. But considering where I come from ( a small city in the south west of Venezuela + a non-business oriented family) and that I’ve been in the UK for the last 7 years (many of them as a student), I became a photographer with a very primitive conception of running business. Fortunately for me, I married a more business oriented woman from Beijing (China) , who has helping me a lot to mature about the running of an individual & professional activity AND since I am in London AND I got under the influence of a much more Business oriented environment, I have became a bit of a entrepeneur. And after 6 years as a photographer and 2 years as a Director I have built a small but solid group of loyal customers that keep me and my family warm and fed, if you know what I mean. So, why I write you all this stuff, first because I want to learn more, and despite the fact that I consider myself a good student – when the master is good – I am willing to go through the whole program of your School for Start ups (the 5 days) starting from the 19/01/2010.

    now, you mentioned – do something people want -

    when we did the photos of the children of a nursery (as we did last month),
    I understood that. The parents loved it, and they bough twice as much as our previous nursery job. So it was a success. However, I am starting to think about what’s next. Certainly I can produce more than just plain photography (see the latest work on video in our website), even more successful. It all seems to come down to marketing and networking.

    despite all that, I’d like to jump out of that and create something else. To solve a problem. But about photography and video, what problem could be solved?

    i’ll leave it till here now. Thanks for your good articles. Hope to see you on the 19th. Happy Christmas.

    Enrique Sanguino

  2. Amazing, found your post on Yahoo!.Glad I finally tested it out. Unsure if its my Firefox browser,but sometimes when I visit your site, the fonts are really tiny? However, love your blog and will be back.See Ya

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