If you are like most competitive entrepreneurs, you are probably engaged in an almost constant search for what will help your business move forward as quickly as possible. You've probably signed up for newsletters, subscribed to podcasts, joint e-mail lists and attended events and seminars. As lifelong learners, we are always eager to learn valuable tactics and strategies for our businesses.
Unfortunately, we also make easy targets for persuasive marketing.
I'm sure you've seen these types of messages: "Passion + Purpose = Profits!" or "take the first step toward success and the rest is easy!" The market for business information today is inundated with these types of messages designed to get you excited and promise wild results with simple, easy-to-follow systems or strategies.
Marketing messages are intended to be persuasive and to propel you into action, usually buying or subscribing to a product that you may or may not have a need for. The danger in this occurs when you enthusiastically adopt someone else's marketing as your mantra. It's easy to do --most of these marketing messages are phrased as catchy headlines so that we'll remember them. Therefore, they tend to stick pretty easily, and it's usually a message we want to hear. Business is a challenge, but so much of the information out there involves oversimplified concepts that others tout as a panacea for your business ills. But without a deep understanding of your own business, you can easily get overwhelmed and even manipulated by these marketing mantras, and that can and will damage your business. Even worse, if you adopt conflicting mantras from marketers, you can pull your business apart without even realizing it until it's too late.
Never adjust core values to fit marketing mantras. Strategic leaders create their own.
This isn't to suggest that a message touting the importance of passion, purpose and other important concepts aren't necessarily a foundational part of business. But businesses are complex. They require solid plans, a vision, goals, milestones, metrics, a capable well-managed team and accountability. Success requires transparency and communication and an understanding of how to tactically and strategically move things forward. While having passion and purpose are essential elements of a successful and lasting business, those things fall flat on their own.
We believe that there are essentially four types of business information available to entrepreneurs:
1. Tactical Information: The "how to" of any business. This information is usually detailed and focused on operational aspects within a business. The challenge with much of this information is that it's too specific to fit most businesses, and provides a more or less myopic view of what is required to grow a business.
2. Strategic Tactical Information: This is not just a "how-to," but more of developing systems for your "how-tos." This kind of information takes a step back and gives guidelines on how to set up effective, tactical processes.
3. Leadership Information: This is usually aimed at managers, entrepreneurs and small business owners and is focused on guiding people to create and manage their own tactical solutions. While valuable, this kind of information usually lacks a larger strategic perspective, and is more involved in tangible leadership technique.
4. Strategic Leadership Information: This kind of information is least common. It focuses on strategies (not marketing mantras) for growing businesses and the people within those businesses, identifying leaders, determining long-term strategies and how to implement and measure those strategies, and moving forward.
Number four of the list above is the type of information that provides the most leverage for an entrepreneur. When given flexible models and tools backed by systems of accountability and implementation, Strategic Leadership Information works from within a business to strengthen it, rather than dictating a mantra from the outside.
When digesting information on how to improve your business (and there's a lot of it available these days), be sure to vet and understand what it is you're getting. Too often we fall for quick tactics and persuasive marketing because it sounds good and seems easy. Information that can strengthen your business from within through solid and flexible principles may not sound as flashy or seem as easy, but in the long run it will be the type of information that helps your business thrive for years to come.
Alex & Cadey Charfen are the co-founders of the Charfen Institute.