Sustainable Business Learning Community Conversations - Archives I
Two primary questions ...
1) What do we really mean by sustainable business?
2) What kind of role will sustainable businesses have in creating a sustainable future for Detroit?
What can we learn from each other?
How do we support each other in growing our respective businesses to be more sustainable?
- 1 May 24, 2012 Topic: Communication
- 2 May 17, 2012 Topic: Failure
- 3 May 10, 2012 Topic: Process
- 4 May 3, 2012 Topic: Trust
- 5 April 26, 2012 Topic: Evaluating and Guiding Emerging Business Relationships
- 6 April 19,2012 Topic: Identifying Positive Business Relationships
- 7 April 12, 2012 Topic: Unresolvable Conflicts
- 8 April 5, 2012 Topic: Resolving Conflicts Within Relationships - Both Personal and Business
- 9 March 29, 2012 Topic: Handling Conflict in Business Relationships
- 10 March 22, 2012 Topic: Fast vs. Slow
- 11 March 15, 2012 Topic: Relationships and Exclusivity
- 12 March 8, 2012 Topic: Collaboration
- 13 March 1, 2012 Topic: Growing Businesses Organically
- 14 February 23, 2012 Topic: Relationships vs. Profitability
- 15 February 16, 2012 Topic: Hiring an Employee
- 16 February 9, 2012 Topic: Relationships
May 24, 2012 Topic: Communication
Comments from last week's conversation on failure:
- Failure as built-in part of the learning process.
- Failure is good early in the process, but bad late. Also dependent on circumstances (failure in bridge building, e.g.)
- When failure is systemic, 85% of the time the problems lies in management. This is one of the signs of non-sustainable management.
- Even if you have failed, keep pushing forward because you can learn so much from your failed experiences.
- Incorrect attitude: There's never time to do it right, but there's always time to do it over. :)
Today's topic: Communication
- Communicating is the most spontaneous thing we do as humans, but it can be difficult to reach a really good level of communication.
- Even when it gets tough, you have to keep communicating until both parties are satisfied.
- Our language is shaped by our own realities - not all of us use language in the same way (even if we speak the same language). We work on the assumption that others will understand what we are trying to say. Have you noticed that sometimes people don't answer the question you asked?
- Studies show that over 70% of communication is non verbal. Lots of communicating happens in silence.
- Often, pictures, diagrams, visuals help us to communicate. Some people are better at understanding spoken language, others need visual aids.
- Words can resonate differently with people. We try to find the appropriate language for a certain situation ("weak" neighborhood vs. "inactive" neighborhood). What we call things is really important and can make a big difference in the success of a project.
- Glossary of terms: Try to avoid using a glossary of technical terms when communicating with others, especially when this is language that they wouldn't normally use or understand.
- Listening is possible the most important part of good communication. We are sometimes impatient and don't let the other person get their thought/idea out completely.
- Just putting your idea into words and identifying it is enough. You aren't always looking for a response from the other person.
- Communication and learning: The best kind of learning happens in interactive experiences rather than in the kind of exchange where one person feeds the information and the other spits it back.
- Communication is different for different people and we can have different ways of communicating and learning, (i.e. spoken word, visual aids, demonstrations). Create environments where learning can happen in a more natural way.
- The Unstated (Non communication): Don't write scenarios. It is better to engage in conversation and learn to understand. We all have a tendency to assume and elaborate, interpret what the other person did or said. You end up having a whole conversation in your head which doesn't necessarily reflect the truth of what was communicated.
- Trying to be absolutely clear in your communication without communicating absolutes. Absolute truths close the door to further conversation.
Topic for next week: How to communicate externally (what you're doing internally).
Other topics: Team work, Creating Change
May 17, 2012 Topic: Failure
Last week's discussion on process:
- On highest level, each company should have a process that is "their way". The process has to be as important as outcome - has to be in sync with what you want your outcome to be.
- Deming says that if you have a process that is out of control, anything you try to do to improve outcomes will make it worse. Once processes are under control, your outcomes will be more positive.
- Sometimes business managers' actions are completely reactive rather than proactive (preplanning) so their business process is out of control.
Today's topic: Dealing with failure
In the city of Detroit we have to improve our ability to confront and deal with failure - grow our acceptance of learning-based failure.
We need to learn from failure rather than react to it. Just admitting that the failure is there (not ignoring it) and learning from it is positive.
Schools and universities take a dim view of failure and only really celebrate the students who don't fail. This is not a healthy environment.
It's important to be aware before you move forward - stepping back before you act helps you to avoid failure.
The 6 why's (Japan) vs. the 6 who's (America) In Japan, it is said that you have to ask why 6X before you find the root cause of a problem or failure. This is what starts the learning from failure process. In this country, we typically ask not why, but who - Who messed up in the process? Whose fault is it? This approach does not get to the root of the failure.
Why don't more people feel comfortable admitting their mistakes? Fear of reprisals at work? Maybe it depends on how you defend your mistake. Sometimes the "system" is puts people under working conditions in which the error rate will be higher (excessive hours,e.g.), so you can't really blame the person for making a mistake.
Complexity and Risk:
A relationship exists between error rate and complexity. Before modern computer technology, everything was analog and simpler - now working on the factory line, for example, you have robots and computers. Everything is much more complex and therefore more difficult to fix. The 2008 financial crisis was result of increasing complexity in our financial industry. In our businesses, we tend to push risk to the periphery and try to ignore it. If you identify risk ahead of time, and everyone agrees on what the risk is, you can really take it out of the equation. Risk is the variability in process.
Most managers manage cost and revenue, but they do not manage risk - but managing risk up front and as part of the process relieves most of the stress. Risk management should permeate the organization - everyone becomes a risk manager - the whole organization is on board. Integrating procedures into your process that eliminate risk just becomes the work that you do.
Examples of failure: Post it notes came out of a failed attempt at a new type of glue by 3M. Edison's many failed attempts to create the incandescent light bulb.
There are areas where we should have very little tolerance for risk (buildings, bridges, etc), but this doesn't necessarily apply to every activity. Where is failure acceptable and helpful? Where is it not? When you're working on a project, think to yourself "OK, over the next 3 months, this is the time to take chances and try things - it's OK to fail right now - later, failure is not going to be as easy to deal with. Where can high failure rates produce benefits? (Edison) We need a more sophisticated view of failure.
Think about failure containment - how do you fail without it being fatal? It can depend on the nature of the business (not brain surgery, for example). Understanding where the risks are in a process, and then building the laboratory around it to take the risk out is vital. You might launch something (product, software) on small scale just to test it out, expecting that it will probably fail (controlled failure) but knowing that you'll learn something valuable about the work you're trying to do. Figure out a way to do your business that controls risk and manages possibility of failure.
Relationship and risk:
If you have a good relationship with someone, your communication will be at a high level, and that person may be more willing to accept a certain amount of risk with you because they have a clear and realistic understanding of what you're doing and what the risks are. All of this will have been clearly communicated.
When you have a good working relationship with someone, they won't want you to fail and will be willing to help you work through failures. On the transaction level, you won't get this kind of time investment in helping you to resolve failures. Long term relationships lead to working things out together.
Our B-schools do not teach how to work through situations in which there is a failure. No training going on for these kinds of situations.
Lose faith in an organization when they keep making same mistakes and connote demonstrate that they are trying to work out why a failure occurred.
Success is meeting or exceeding expectations - so if you manage the level of expectations, you can have more success!
Next week's topic: Communications
Also coming up: UM Students are working on managing things that we can't measure. Are the only things we can manage are the things we can measure? Are they the only things that are important?
May 10, 2012 Topic: Process
Comments from last week's meeting:
Topic: Trust Bob's prescription for a simple way to build trust: share your own problems and failures with them, showing them that, even if they are experiencing difficulties with their business, this is normal and can be resolved. Failed experiments are learning opportunities. This goes along with being transparent and sharing yourself with others.
Topic for today: Process
Process is one of the most powerful things in business.
W. Edwards Deming (statistician): Spent time studying business processes. He presented his ideas to American business leaders who weren't interested in what he had to say. He found the Japanese more receptive to his ideas and he began working with them. His philosophy was that all humans have the right to joy in their work. What's on your balance sheet and income statement is simply a result of the processes you have in place in your business. He showed that if your processes were unstable (undefined, not measured…), any decision that management might take to correct problems will only make them worse. 85% of errors in a business have to do with management and poor processes. It is vital to learn to manage the process. Leadership and management should be part of defining process and making it valuable. Managing just the outcome (output) doesn't work. By creating a focus on process, the outcome will take care of itself.
Our culture of rush tends to focus on outcome and not process. How do you eliminate non-value added elements from a process?
Managing a process with clients who have very different personalities can present a big challenge:
- It's important to be clear up front about what you can and can't do.
- You may want to serve and accommodate your client without them getting involved in the process. Some clients want to be heavily involved in the process (perhaps a result of lack of trust your skills). You want to be open to input and ideas without letting others take control of your process: "You hired us for a reason…"
- There can be an educational aspect to presenting a process to a client. Sure, we can let you come along with us on the process, but this is what it will cost you for my time…
- This could be one of the questions businesses ask potential clients up front: How do you like to work? How involved do you like to be?
- It's surprising how many clients are actually interested in process as much as outcome.
Chad: His furniture making business has been a "stumbling" process. He has been learning by successes and failures all of which lead to a refinement of his process. Imperfect but adjustable processes - very natural. Deming talks about the normal cycle of working: plan - do - learn. This cycle should be everywhere in your organization. Make it pervasive - small loops, short cycle times. Chad's has his own work cycle: design - build - refine - repeat.
We each trust our own process because we've had a good outcome. But when you begin working with someone else, do you ask them to show you their process? Do you share your own process? Do you work together to lay out a common process? How much time is spent on developing a common work process? If you spend the time up front to arrive at a mutual process, you will waste less time later problem solving, dealing with bail outs, failed projects, etc. Work stuff out early - concerns, failures, etc.
Non profit funding is very much attached to outcome numbers, far less on process. What the funder wants as an outcome is sometimes very different from what the community really needs or wants. But their funding depends on their view. Perhaps if they saw the process, it would change the funders expectations of outcome.
How do you measure the benefit of a result of a process? Is it something that is quantifiable? What kind of tools/language could you use to measure that?
Making a visual representation of your work process:
- You can make processes visual by using charts or graphs.
- You can use Post -it notes: each step of the process is put onto a Post-it note and can be added, moved, eliminated.
Processes can exist in a hierarchy: Management processes (linked to outcomes), and worker processes (smaller processes that don't always match management outcome targets).
As the processes in an organization get bigger, can they move as fast as the world is moving? Can they keep up? (think auto design which requires a lot of lead time).
Balance between the art and the science of process:
In information technology, the prevailing thought says that every 7 years, everything changes. There are always truisms or fundamentals that have to be there. Then there is the connection of that with the reality of the world as it is at that time. Parts of the process will need to be adapted to new situations. Fundamental backbone elements of a process may last for a very long time and will only change infrequently. The process will just need to be adapted to current changes. ButeEvery once in a while, a fundamental will change. All of these adjustments are necessary to keeping the process alive. Can we raise process up to the level of outcome? Can they be part of the same conversation with your clients? can we get to that balance point between process and outcome?
Prototyping: Processes for refining outcome before you get to the processes that will get you to your outcome.
Recommended reading: Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields, how fear and uncertainty can be fuel for creative genius.
May 3, 2012 Topic: Trust
Today's topic: Trust
1. Nothing really sustainable can be created without trust. 2. Trust is involved in every facet of our lives. Road design, builders, architects, lots of areas of trust of which we aren't even aware.
Questions: What does trust (in your business) mean to you? Do you recall a time in your business when someone trusted you for the first time? How do we build trust?
What does trust mean to you in a business context?
Trust exists in relationship to reputation. People are referred to you by someone who has known and trusted you before, creating a web of trust: a friend trusts you and your business reputation, another person trusts that friend, an so on. One bad experience or relationship can create a web of distrust. Bad reputation (distrust) seems to spread more quickly than news of a good reputation (trust) in business. It can be really easy to hurt a business with bad talk.
Are we relying more today on online reviews of a business (technology) than on information that we get directly from other people?
How do you show trust? How do you build it?
- Trust involves an element of risk.
- Trust begets trust. Start with initial low-level interaction. If that goes well, you can then take the next step, move to the next level, building more trust as you go.
- You may attempt to do a job for someone that you didn't even trust yourself to do. If you succeed at that job, this helps you to learn to trust yourself and others to trust you, too.
- Sharing your openness about how you make your decisions is a big confidence builder for people. "You're making the same level of decisions, place the same level of importance on safety as we do…" This sharing opens up your priorities for the other person; sharing your values and priorities is a huge trust builder.
Hannah (massage therapy) encountered a problem with an employee over scheduling appointments. She has learned that there is a difference between trust and competency. As you get to know someone else, you come to understand what they're good at and what they're not good at. This employee was not too good at keeping track of a calendar, for example. So Hannah wants to figure out who she is and what she can expect of her. She trusts her to be HER, but needs to understand her well and know how she works and learns. Hannah needs to understand how to find a way to make her scheduling system work while understanding that this employee wants to be a massage therapist and not an office manager.
Are there people you trust immediately?
- People who know themselves well. They will be open and honest about what they can and cannot do. If they have a challenge, you know they will come to you and ask for help. You have to be able to recognize that when people are still in the process of learning about themselves, you may not be able to place trust in their ability to deliver in business.
Elysia's 3 T's for growing trust: Time: Nurturing a relationship - taking the time to get to know someone Transparency: Being really honest about who you are and what you are capable of doing Talk: When you reach a level of understanding through conversation, trust can be developed
When you know yourself or your business' ability to do a job, you can be honest about what people can rely on you to do and what they can't rely on you to do. Take the time to set expectations - be clear.
Nic's story: Software and mechanical engineers were working separately to resolve a problem but were making little progress. They seemed to be working against one another and there was no trust between the two groups. Finally they were brought together to work out the problem and trust developed naturally. Working together then became easier and problem was quickly resolved. They realized that both hardware and software had to change. Once you let the truth come through, you can begin solving the problem. Being clear about what the goal is makes things easier. It allows people to reach a decision which is the best answer, but not necessarily perfect. People can trust a process rather than people: you trust that this process will get you to an answer. Sometimes when there is distrust between people, the process is the only thing you can trust to bring you to the answer, the truth.
Chris working in bank - entire career has been built around trust. Clients had to trust him to handle their money, bank had to trust him to do million dollar deals and not let it blow up. A career built on trust.
Is there a conflict between trust and power? Differential of power can be mitigated through trust in a process. If you understand the process and how it works, you can trust that it will work for you, even if the "entity" has more control (power).
Conflict is the grain of sand in the clam that makes the pearl. Conflicts are great areas for growth and learning. Raising your capacity to resolve conflict makes it easier to develop trust and understanding. Biggest cancer in a company is when conflict is just covered up. Building capacity in the people closest to the conflict to resolve it is so much better than having to go to the top in order for conflict to be resolved.
Process, failure, communication
April 26, 2012 Topic: Evaluating and Guiding Emerging Business Relationships
Comments from last week: There can be 2 types of business relationships:
- People with whom you are completely in sync - kindred spirits
- People who think and work differently from you; this can open up the potential for learning and growing - sometimes fosters creativity.
Recognize who you are, what kind of worker you are and what kind of people you like and are willing to work with. Even if you work differently from someone else, having a business relationship with them can help you to grow in learning. In a relationship of differences, does there need to be a leader? A person who pushes more?
You threaten the sustainability of what you're doing if you bring together all the same kind of businesses. Having a variety of businesses at the GG actually makes it a healthier ecosystem. So having a variety of relationships can actually be healthier.
Today's Topic: Evaluating and Guiding Emerging Relationships:
Elysia: Elysia is an artist. She wants to be able to work in an environment with people doing all kinds of different art media - she feels that she will learn more, there will be more sharing which will open up more possibilities for her.
She is considering going into partnership with another artist. So, what is she looking for? Because she has some doubts, she's not going to just jump into it. There hasn't been enough time and communication put into it for her to make a decision, so she has decided that she will continue to work with this artist and see how things go and then reevaluate in a couple months. She is taking more time and letting things unfold naturally: an organic approach vs. a linear approach. If you create a relationship based on shared vision and values (organic), your contract will very simple to write and easy to agree on.
Here, Elysia talks about evaluating and nurturing emerging business relationships:
There are concrete thinkers and visionaries - they may think and work differently, but they certainly can complement each other.
When working with start ups, Bob would ask? *What is your philosophy of business/life? *What are your goals for your business? *What are your business values?
If your values above aren't in sync, it will be difficult to have a long term relationship. You could, however, have an effective transactional short term relationship.
What's the next step when you think you can work together? Do you give it away all at one time, or give it away incrementally and build your working relationship slowly?
What about bartering? Bartering poses challenges in measuring and equivalency of value, and carrying out the barter long term. When you start bartering on services rather than on products, that's where it gets messy. Are you talking about quality service, mediocre service? How hard are they working to provide a service to you?
Jess and the formation of FoodLab:
How to deal with a collection of relationships? When you hire a person, how do we know that that person working with all the other people involved will work and be healthy and viable?
Foodlab started with group who knew and trusted each other. They had a shared vision and set of values. They then started to talk about collective action - what should we do now? They began talking with a wider group, but those people weren't in a relationship with everyone else and there ended up being a lot of conflict - not enough common language and trust to actually be able to make progress and do something. It took time and some discussion and relationship building. How do we establish what we want to do, how we are going to work and still have a permeable enough periphery to allow growth? How do you know that you're getting to something that's healthy? One question Jess asks of the people she is considering working with: are they legal, licensed? What's the relationship of the business to the person? In evaluating relationships between people in Foodlab, there are qualitative instances giving evidence to Jess that relationships are working and are being strengthened. Motivations are nourished, values nourished and brought to the fore, rather than just thinking about the bottom line. There are sometimes tensions in the group and they try to let these coexist and help them to learn from each other, even if they have some differences. Also sometimes businesses are in direct competition with each other. Even so, they may still be able to cooperate with one another to their mutual benefit. For example, they might buy supplies together because they can get them cheaper in bulk.
Foodlab is a network and it's about the needs and wants of the network and not Jess's vision necessarily - it's clear that it won't be one person deciding but the group deciding.
Next week's topic:
Trust - how do you work on building trust? how do you know when you have it or not? What form does trust take in your work? What is the relationship between trust and vision?
April 19,2012 Topic: Identifying Positive Business Relationships
Jess: What makes her want to develop a business relationship with someone else?
- She perceives a need or weakness in herself and finds people to fill that void
- She sees values in the connection and the positive impact on her and her business
Aaron: (musician): Essential to establish relationships that allow to you continue to do what you want/love to do.
Why do some relationships work out so well? What makes them so positive?
- Personalities sync
- Respect for one another
- Some intangible quality of personalty that helps you to work well with another person.
- Reading each other's mind
Good relationships make for efficient work - time not wasted in explaining, discussing, etc. Each person can be focused on the same objectives rather than people working side by side but focusing on their own objectives.
Competition within a company is not necessarily bad: If well managed, competition can foster creativity. If poorly managed, it may not work out well, pitting one employee against another.
Jess sees two types of relationships:
- Closure type relationships: These are relationships built through friends that you trust - your inner circle.
- Bridging relationships: These are relationships outside your inner circle (building bridges to other businesses). These can help to foster creativity by bringing in new ideas.
What makes that inner circle safe, secure and healthy? Shared values, trust, and the old "Golden Rule". There are people who will have a positive effect on your business relationship by contributing and sharing rather than always taking away from the business. Others will have a negative effect and drain the energy and good feeling from an organization.
How do you begin working with someone else when you have no history of working together, and no trust built up yet? Start small. Test them out on a small scale first. Reliability in those initial small jobs is a big test. Referrals and internet reviews can also be helpful sometimes. If a person will actually do what they have contracted to do, this could indicate that your relationship with them will be positive. Introductory conversations can also help to show you how well (or not) you will work with each other. Gut reactions are often valid and important - do not ignore them.
You have to allow some amount of dynamic change within any group/organization for it to grow and evolve. Just keep your eye on the goal (heading north) even if your path to attaining that goal changes somewhat.
Different kinds of relationships - how much intention do we put into our relationships? Do we seek to collaborate, to spark creativity, to support one another, to achieve a shared goal?
Next week's topic: How to Guide Emerging Relationships? Evaluating Potential Relationships
April 12, 2012 Topic: Unresolvable Conflicts
Topic for today: What about conflicts you don't think can be resolved? How to identify? How to deal with them?
Jeff's continuing discussion of the DARPA issue (see last week's discussion):
Since DARPA's priority is to serve defense and the military, Jeff has a problem with them involving children in this, even if the work that is accomplished can have benefits to the wider society. How would parents feel about this? Their kids could have a valuable learning experience, but would they want them participating in a program like this?
Jeff continues to have a hard time articulating why he feels that this working relationship is wrong for him and his maker space, but that he will continue to do some deep thinking about his values. He says that this conflict is causing a division in the emerging community of maker spaces that could really cause some problems.
- Jeff's values are to work for yourself, the community and the world. Can DARPA say the same?
- Jeff's objection is mainly the age of the kids involved. When is it appropriate for people to contribute to defense?
- Politics: Loss of control of the purpose of the work done in his space? Not being sure of the intentions of political leadership? DARPA desires unlimited rights to all products developed.
- Is trust the most fundamental thing? Even if you can agree on values and come to some level of compromise, what if you don't really trust them to do what they say they'll do? Is DARPA trying to encourage kids to become involved in the military someday?
- Assumptions: The assumption that Jeff is making of Make's values is that the ends justify the means - they should carry on at any cost. Why take money from DARPA when there is so much money available from other non-controversial sources? Is Make magazine is making a compromise where a compromise is not necessary?
Clarity is holding jeff up and he feels he is taking too long to formulate his voice into a more cohesive opinion. Here is how he will proceed at this point:
- He'll continue sharing on his website but won't send his stuff to Make magazine.
- He has politely declined to help with Make magazine's events.
Next week's topic:
How to identify business relationships that have value
April 5, 2012 Topic: Resolving Conflicts Within Relationships - Both Personal and Business
Try to clarify your values and mission even before conflicts arise.
Is conflict necessarily bad??
- Conflict can be an exercise of the intellect, opening up your mind to new possibilities.
- Of course, any benefit to conflict is dependent on how you approach it. If you try to avoid conflict or ignore it, it will get worse, so it is important to try to resolve it. Both sides may not perceive conflict the same, or at the same level of importance.
Can you have a relationship with a person/business with whom you have a conflict? What can you live with? Is there a perfect, conflict-free relationship? Is it ok to compromise?
Sometimes when we experience conflict with another person/business, we have an initial emotional or "gut" reaction. Recognize this for what it is and let it pass. Then you'll be able to think more clearly and communicate calmly.
Elysia remarked that spending a lot of time with another person can bring out personality quirks that can create conflict. If you know that you have personality differences or differences in temperament or working styles, you might ask yourself if you should still go into business with that person. Look at the big picture and try to determine if the value and reward of the work outweigh these smaller conflicts. These kinds of conflicts, if dealt with honestly and up front, might be easily resolved. It is important to address and define the conflict right away; ignoring it is not an option.
Is there a language of conflict that we can identify?
Conflict brings opportunity:
- Working through a conflict can teach you better communication skills - you can become more able to communicate your own ideas, feelings and values as well as learn to listen and understand the point of view of others.
- Opportunity for learning: Some companies develop contra teams, essentially to play devil's advocate. They question everything and force you to make sure that the work you're doing, or the solution you've come up with is the best possible. Putting people of different philosophies together can engender tremendous creativity. You can gain knowledge and get down to the truth in working out these types of conflicts.
- Conflict helps us to develop strength and caring in our relationships with others: if everything's great, nothing's great. Good analogy: a viral infection builds up the immune system and strengthens the body.
Breaking down assumptions:
- Sometimes a conflict is simply an opportunity to reevaluate your way of thinking and it forces you to examine the assumptions upon which your thinking/point of view is based. When Don first saw the building that would eventually become the Green Garage, he said that his training as an architect taught him that tearing down and building new would be most cost effective. The GG project forced him to reevaluate his philosophy as a architect. He remarked that as you go through the process of reevaluation, you're actually fighting against yourself, too, as you redefine your own ideas and philosophy.
When is it ok to let the conflict go unresolved and to agree to disagree? How do we decide that?
- We are probably more willing to work through a lot of conflict if we value the relationship - we might be more willing to change our own philosophy in order to get along with the other person. Perhaps what most helpful in conflict resolution is having a good relationship with the other person.
Are there entity conflicts? Yes, for example, PETA & NRA. Can there be corporate conflict without corporate values? probably not. Need something to base the conflict on.
When running a business, you can even be conflicted with yourself. For example, Hannah does a lot of laundry with her massage therapy business and buys laundry detergent from Target. She feels conflicted about this because her money is not going into the community. However, at this point she hasn't found a better solution and she realizes that, with everything she has to think about, she realizes that she has to pick her battles.
How do you resolve a conflict when the parties don't have the option to walk away from each other?
- That's where leadership comes in: A facilitator can be used to help get the two parties to go down the path and get the work done.
- Also, in some unresolvable conflicts, someone will win and the other will lose.
If you're in conflict with your business partner and your partner refuses to work it out or to leave, do you have to be the one to leave? You may have to start all over again, but you will have probably learned a lot. You may not be leaving everything behind, but just the partnership behind. Starting one degree off can lead to a really big gap/difference in the future.
Topic for next time:
Dealing with conflicts that we don't believe can be resolved:
- How do we identify and deal with these situations?
- Do we treat these conflicts differently if they are "personal" vs. "business?"
March 29, 2012 Topic: Handling Conflict in Business Relationships
Comments from last week's conversation:
- Chad remarked that the culture of rush that has become part of our society has resulted in our treating people like machines. Even our educational system processes kids like they're factory output rather than allowing for differences in learning styles and readiness.
- Tom has noticed that in looking at how long is really takes to develop a building in Midtown, it ends up averaging about 4 -10 years. Everyone in Midtown Inc has rather relaxed on the fast vs. slow question and are not in such a hurry. The GG project, which took about 4 years from design to finish, was actually completed quickly compared to some of the Midtown Inc. projects.
Today's topic: Effective Approaches to Handling Conflicts in Relationships: Jeff gets critical.
If sustainable businesses are made up of the relationships we've developed, how do we effectively resolve conflicts?
One of the primary goals of Jeff's maker space (Mt Elliott Maker Space) is youth education. Jeff has been working with Make magazine and they have been very supportive of his work. Recently, Make received a grant from a military agency, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). He is conflicted about whether the military should be involved in K-12 youth projects because he believes they'll bring an agenda with them. Will they have teenagers design weapons, for example? Jeff wondered why the magazine would choose to work with DARPA. He understands that it was probably a decision based on economics - a good source of funding - but this decision doesn't set well with Jeff. He has decided not to participate in the maker fair in San Franciso because of this connection with military funding. Jeff wonders how to move forward now in his relationship with Make magazine. How do you become and stay a supportive member of the community and yet be able draw lines between what you will do and what you won't do?
The MIT maker space model, Fab Lab, includes a statement in their grants that no one can make anything that can hurt someone, and that they don't own anything that is made in Fab Lab. DARPA's written agreement is less clear, and this makes Jeff uncomfortable.
There are a lot of levels of conflict which can arise in a business relationship: Schedule conflicts, price conflicts, quality conflicts, etc. Jeff's example is a mission/values conflict. Someone in the relationship group with Jeff has made a decision that money (and their existence) is more important than a value (not making things that can hurt people). How do you deal with these kinds of conflicts as the lowest value level? Jeff feels that the way that the people from Make are going about trying to achieve their mutual ends will, in fact, lead to a different end. They'll end up in different places.
This kind of values conflict can force you to get extremely clear about your own values. If you asked the people with whom you have a working relationship to write down a list of their values and goals, would they be in sync with yours? One of Jeff's goals is transparency. Can Make say the same? Being one degree off can be a lot off.
Going through this values conflict with Make has helped Jeff to clarify his identity even more. The group recommended that he identify his values first and then write them down. Then he can respond to Make magazine. Once you have identified your values clearly, it is easier to then decide what action(s) to take.
Jeff asks, when something becomes unresolvable, what do you do with that relationship? Bob remarked that you can still have a relationship with the other person/business, but that, perhaps, that relationship will just be different now. For Jeff, that may mean that he just won't be doing maker space anymore with "Make." Not all your relationships have to be the same. Strong relationships will be with people with whom you share values/mission. But you can have other relationships as well.
If you have a deep emotional gut reaction to something, you are operating out of a values judgment. Advice: Let that moment occur - then shift your focus onto your clarity - figure out your values. Don't tell the other person that their values are wrong, just communicate clearly YOUR values to them, taking judgement out of your response to the other person.
How does power play into relationships? We'd like to think that we decide on our values despite what those who are powerful try to influence us to. Not like Make mag doing it their way is a bad thing. It's just that it doesn't resonate with Jeff.
Another thing to consider: Are you speaking for yourself? Or are you trying to speak on behalf of a group? You need to get clear on that as this could be a source of tremendous confusion. This needs to be clear - is Jeff speaking for himself, Mt. Elliot maker space, other local maker spaces? Just to start, get clear on your values first.
Answer will always be messy and imperfect.
Jeff talks about what he's learned through our conversation about how best to deal with a conflict of values in business relationships:
Next Week's Topic: Resolving Conflicts in Communities
March 22, 2012 Topic: Fast vs. Slow
Observations and comments from last week's conversation:
- Sometimes the "fringes" of your business will operate on a transaction level. This is different than people coming in and immediately having shared values and goals and working style.
- Tom's story about Ali, a man who works at the corner store here by the GG: Ali once told him, "it's about work and being part of the machine". In Europe, it's more about quality of life rather than making the most money. In general, Europeans would rather have a higher quality of life and have less material wealth. But this has caused some problems; high levels of unemployment, for example, and they are not always competitive with other countries. How so you work more efficiently and not waste time?
- Is it so important to "get ahead" and make more money? Is "climbing the ladder" the primary goal? How much is enough? If you work so hard and so many hours, does that mean that someone else won't have work? Are you taking away someone else's opportunity to work if you are doing the work of 2 people? Is your work really work to you? Work can be a great source of pleasure - self actualization. Meaningful work is important.
- If you love what you do, you don't mind spending lots of time doing it. How do you build time for relaxation and moderation into your normal work routine, each week? How do you slow down? Take purposeful rest - scheduling down time is actually productive and restorative. It is ok to let people know that you may not be able to accommodate them because you're taking a day off. The more important priorities bubble to the top when you make planned down time. The important relationships/people will wait to work with you and won't have a problem with your down time.
- We live in a culture of rush: this can have a negative impact on projects. It is better to not rush decision making and to take time to think first. Let people know when you might be able to respond to a request or an email - set expectations.
- Words of Fr. Jack Trese: If you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else. People who don't take care of themselves tend to poorer quality work - you can't do your best work if you aren't taking care of yourself and your spirit. Know how much time you need off from your work in order to work optimally. Everyone is different. Getting away from your work can help to give you perspective. You need time for non-linear thinking. It's also beneficial to get together with different people.
Today's topic: Fast vs. slow
Culture of rush: What do we mean by slow and fast? How can we really define these terms?
GG went slow (built foundational elements, first) before presenting plans to the city, That's why plans were approved in just 7 business days. They worked slowly through the planning process to go fast through the approval process. Often buildings are designed and built quickly but then have a lot of repairs and tweaks after the fact because the up front planning wasn't given enough time. So in the end, was the design and building process at the GG really slow? How do we define fast and slow?
Prioritizing is vital so that you are not trying to be everything for everybody. Knowing where you're headed can eliminate a lot of options and save you time. It is more fulfilling if your work meets your goals, if you have a clear image of where you're going. You can have a feeling of being rushed if you don't have that clarity. Knowing where you're headed will save you time.
Is it okay to sometimes not have a specific goal? Depends on the scale of the project you're working on - if the project is very large and complex, important to have the goal (with check-ins to allow for adjustments and changes in course if necessary). Need built-in mechanisms that allow for change.
There is a difference between structure and discipline. Certain areas of design do not permit subjectivity - the building has to stand and be held up - laws of physics have to be respected. Chad's working style in designing and building his furniture and interiors allows for more "wiggle room" and subjectivity. He's often not sure when it will be done, what it will look like when its done, etc. But real disciplines (structural engineering, for example) have to be respected in a process. On the continuum, you do have that play space (where Chad is), but there are areas where the experts have to be in charge and we have to be respectful of the people that are in that field. The natural approach cannot be applied to everything (building, surgery, e.g.). Have to be respectful of people's history and expertise, but sometimes, while respecting a discipline, we can have people work in a new or innovative way. There can be a meeting of discipline and creativity. Some plumbers and engineers can be very creative!
People need to be honest about what their skill level is and what their ability is to do a job (time, equipment, skill level). If you have low skill and no time for learning on the job because the pace is fast, this will result in a low quality outcome.
For any project, there is time for risk and time for certainty - know what you are risking. Time and place for "going with the flow". Where in the process can you be allowed to mess up and where can you not afford to?
So, in the end, it's not so much a question of slow and fast - it's just that it takes "this long" to do work properly and well.
How does the slow/fast thing work when the whole industry is built on getting things done quickly? If you want to do something slowly and well, will a client even consider you? In many situations you're fighting against the lay person who is hiring the expert and doesn't understand.
If we are coming up with new and better ways to do things, it's up to us to articulate why this way is better. There will be niches that will have an appreciation for why you are working in a different way. We're taking on the job of educating others. We will be able to reach those who know that the way things are being done isn't making sense and we can show them what we have learned about working in a new way. This is why building relationships in business is so important.
Sometimes it is hard to articulate what you do and how and why you do things differently. Education is important. Create a culture of quality - coming out of a culture of speed and poor quality. Is there a resurgence in appreciation for quality today?
Chad talks about the true cost of cheaper furniture (IKEA). The furniture that Chad builds costs more than you would pay at a place like IKEA. However, what is the true cost of IKEA furniture? How does their way of doing business affect the environment, energy, the people who make their products? Do they enjoy their work, their lives, are they well paid?
Elysia's topic in a couple of weeks - care and communication
Next week's topic: Effective approaches to handling conflict in relationships… Jeff gets critical >:(
March 15, 2012 Topic: Relationships and Exclusivity
Today's Topic: Relationships and exclusivity
Chad recaps today's topic on relationships in business, and the idea of working in "the fringes."
For people moving into the city of Detroit, their expectations about level of inclusivity vs. exclusivity may not be accurate. Jeff observed that people in the city doing social justice work sometimes have different means of achieving their ends. They may believe their ends are the same, but their methods of working may not be aligned. This can be difficult if you're coming into this environment from the outside and people working there are discouraging you to proceed in your own way. Radical inclusivity vs. radical exclusivity.
How narrowly you decide to focus your values and mission can lead to varying levels of inclusivity and exclusivity.
This is a non-convergent problem: you are always living the inclusivity vs. exclusivity problem.
One of the most important parts of your business are the fringes. When you initially meet someone (you are working at the edges or "fringes" of your business), you want there to be an exchange, conversation and sharing - you don't want to immediately get into an in-depth discussion about your values. You don't want to get down to business right away but, rather, just have an exchange that allows you to get to know the other person and them to get to know you. It is an effective way of determining who you might want to work with and who would not be a good fit with your business.
The tendency in our business culture is to get right down to business, hand someone your resume and give them your "elevator pitch." This is how business students are taught to approach business interactions. Exclusivity shows up in the job application process where you have to know someone or have a connection to even be seen or offered an interview.
Your business can either have a hard and impenetrable barrier (exclusive) or one that is really easy to come through (inclusive, an open door). A good example is our Friday lunches at the Green Garage. Everyone is welcome to come and share lunch and conversation. Many relationships, both social and business, have resulted from these lunches. Hannah calls this a structured radical inclusivity mechanism. This is a mechanism that allows people to navigate the local business environment and to learn about businesses. It allows people to come, explore, unintimidated, and under no obligation - they are just there to learn and be informed. Are there other ways (like the Friday lunches) for businesses to connect with each other and develop relationships?
Do you want to be a high transaction city (on steroids) like NY? Are the people who work in an environment like that really fulfilled? Where do we want to go in Detroit? What do we want a sustainable Detroit future to be like?
Ted remarks that it is easier to be closer to people in Detroit than in NY. He sees it as almost a reflection of the physical Detroit: smaller pockets of like-minded people with communication within and between pockets.
Rarely is there a means to "hang out" (work in the fringes) and get to know others and about their work and businesses. Maybe this is why there are so many people working for corporate America who are dissatisfied with their jobs. Hiring is done on the transaction level, not on the deeper relationship level and maybe the real costs of this problem are not being measured. That's why we have cities like Flint; those running the industry operated on the transaction level. But for those living in that community, it was their lives that were affected - it wasn't just a transaction for them.
Have you created an environment where people are comfortable staying to talk with others? Then you are building relationships , and YOU don't have to be at the center of things.
Next week's topic: Fast vs. slow
March 8, 2012 Topic: Collaboration
Comments from last week's conversation:
- The more you know and understand the "seed" of your business, the more you can make sense of the complexity around you. How do you turn all the energy of the things going on around you into positive energy for you and your business?
- It is important and helpful to have a "centered - ness" to what you're about.
This week's topic: Collaboration
Jess discusses how she thinks about collaborations in her business, FoodLab:
Collaboration Model (see image at right):
Transaction vs. Relationship: When you meet someone who wants to connect with you and your business, ask yourself: Is this just going be a transaction, or will it be a relationship? Relationships are longer term.
Shared capacity: You share equipment, supplies, and space. If you are going to share workspace, you have to ask yourself if you have the same working styles (cleaning up, etc)?
Business: You are one business, working together, but maybe having different areas of responsibility within the business.
Brand: Both of you doing exactly the same work.
As you go down this list, from transaction to brand, the amount of time spent in your interaction/collaboration with another person or business increases. Your values have to become more and more aligned and you have fewer and fewer people with whom you are collaborating (many people with whom you have transactions, very few if any where you are doing the same work). The closer your collaboration, the more trust you must develop.
Where do you like to be in this process? Would you like to have a business partner, or would you rather collaborate with others on the transaction level and do your deeper work alone? Where do you want to be? Be aware that it takes a long time to build a good enough relationship with someone to actually go into business with them.
Transactional relationships can often be accomplished through a commons (internet,e.g.)
Elysia and Chad have been talking about collaborating on a product made of both clay and wood (her expertise is clay, his is wood). They have had several conversations over time, getting to know each other and sharing knowledge of their expertise. They are discussing their shared values (hand made vs. mass production) and finding out if they work the same way. They believe that it is important to spend time getting to know one another and making sure that their collaboration will actually work. They want more than a transaction - they want a relationship. Will it be a good fit?
FoodLab's story (Jess):
FoodLab is designing spaces for people who are working in collaboration. It is important to think about the kinds of collaboration you may have in your business: are you are doing transactions, or are you building relationships?
FoodLab started as a small pop-up noodle shop. Jess met a lot of people who were starting up similar businesses, and they started meeting as a group for mutual support. They began to discuss what kinds of projects they might do together, and how to help others to start up businesses. Jess says that she started out with "lofty goals" but that she wasn't really sure that the various people and businesses were really in sync on the values end. So she scaled back, turned FoodLab into a learning community and began doing workshops. It started out as transactional business and now is turning into a business based more relationship connections. What they really want to do is find other people who have energy, food products and ideas, but not enough skills or funding to turn them into real businesses. This group shares values (helping to grow their community, not "going national"). As people in this group have collaborated more and done workshops together, their relationships have deepened. Jess has found that, with FoodLab, initial collaborations with people/businesses begin on a transaction level, but can, over time, evolve into a relationship. It is important to find the balance between transactions and relationships - a balance that works for you.
All true organic growth comes through relationships and not through transactions.
How do you balance out having strong relationships, developing quality products and having a profitable business and an affordable product?
Trust your intuition - if you feel that something isn't going to work, dig deeper and look into it. Have you ever felt like you were in a relationship and found out that you really were not? You and the person you are collaborating with might have the same mission, but not the same values.
How many people can you really be close to and have a good relationship with? Quality vs. quantity?
If sustainably-based businesses are rich below the transaction level then what kind of community will a sustainable Detroit be ? Will the person coming from out of town be landing in a transaction town or a relationship town? It is vitally important to train people (entrepreneurs) in relationship building, because if they are trained only in a transaction-based model, that is what they will perpetuate throughout their community.
Where are relationships moving in FoodLab? Now, as new projects come in, Jess is thinking more intentionally about where they will fall in the continuum of relationships (see chart) and then asks herself where she wants these collaborations to go. She sees clusters of relationships and connections between the clusters (to avoid exclusivity).
Next week's topic:
Is the flip side of relationships built on trust exclusivity? When you get down to core values, are they really exclusive?
If you're coming into a relationship-based business environment, does it make it harder to break into from the outside or easier? Do you have to "know" people, develop relationships first before you can make any headway?
March 1, 2012 Topic: Growing Businesses Organically
Comments from last week's discussion on relationships:
- Focus on the core of your business idea and passion. Take it one aspect at a time; bounce ideas off others to see if your idea is viable.
- You have to think about what you want to do. Think about the things that you are doing that you probably shouldn't be doing. What do you really like to do vs. all the other stuff (or things your good at but don't really enjoy).
- Sometimes it's hard to distinguish what you really like to do. Many activities can have grey areas and it can be hard to isolate components of what you do because it can be really complex.
- Instead of looking for someone who fits a job description, find people who will fit in well with your business and see what they can bring to the business.
- What is the one biggest mistake managers make? The don't realize how error-prone their hiring decisions are. People don't realize that their "batting average" is really low. How do you address all the "mistake" hires? Hire people on a temporary "trial" basis.
- Don't try to be everything to everyone. Know what kind of customer you want and do the work you want to do.
- The best relationship you can have is with yourself. If you know and trust yourself, you will be more successful.
- Is it better to hire/work with someone more experienced/competent, or someone who is really enthusiastic, who loves the work? It can depend on what you're hiring them to do. A less experienced person might be a better hire because you can train them in your technique/method. A more experienced person might be better for running the business end of things.
- It is important to know if you are going in the same direction from a values standpoint. If your values aren't the same, then it probably won't work with that employee. You all have to be going in the same direction (over and above skill sets). If you don't share values, how do you motivate someone?
Today's topic: Organic growth - growing businesses organically:
Elysia discusses the changing focus of growing her business:
How do you grow a business organically? Businesses are living organisms, so what is the photosynthesis process of a business?
It starts with a seed: What is this business really about? What is the value that you're trying to attain? Always revisit the deepest part of the business and the value it gives. Anytime you want to go bigger or expand, revisit the seed of your business.
When your business isn't designed in this natural way, you can sit back and see which things don't fit or make sense. It is "painfully obvious" what isn't natural in your business system.
If you build a community that you don't want to belong to, then it will feel wrong and plastic to everyone. Community might be very small, and that would be just fine
Steps: Seed, competencies, resources, capacities needed (see chart):
Chad's original seed has changed a lot over the past year because: 1 - he has changed a lot, and 2 - he has worked in the real world and has gotten feedback from others. Sometimes you figure out the seed just by planting it, you figure out the seed of your business just by doing. Our nature is to stick with something no matter what rather than evolving with changing circumstances. Take your "seed" to the real world, and the real world will show you what your seed can become.
Use the ecosystem to help you hone in on the seed of your business - find out what you want to do and where you fit. Maybe the seed didn't change, but the expression of the seed has. The basic truth of the seed still exists intact, but how that seed is expressed is different from what you originally imagined.
The what and why of the seed stays intact, the how can change depending on ecosystem, community, etc. As an example, for Fresh Corner Cafe, the why is access to healthier food for community members. Find what your "north star" is and always aim for that. Be open to changing the how and adapting to your business's ecosystem; learn from the ecosystem.
By sticking to your own business idea/seed, you aren't trying to fit into a specific market, but you are creating your own niche. Naturally designed businesses will fall into their own niche.
Topic for next week: Business collaboration patterns
February 23, 2012 Topic: Relationships vs. Profitability
Comments from last week's conversation on hiring employees:
- Make hiring a thoughtful process; increase your odds of hiring the right employee. Replacing a person after you've trained and invested in them is really difficult.
- Decide what you like to do vs. what you're just good at, and hire someone to do the things you would rather not do.
- How do you get employees to be as passionate as you are about your business and how do you help them to share your vision? You must start by being clear about your own vision - even if that vision changes. Written information, personal presence, and video can be used to communicate what you do and what you're passionate about.
- Two people can be doing the same work for different reasons - your employee doesn't necessarily have to be doing the work for the same reasons you do.
- How do you build a culture that encourages long-term employees (rather than a swinging door).
- Your employees can sometimes more easily train your newer employees.
- Use more open-ended questions with your employees - i.e.,"tell me something good or bad about your working situation"
Topic for today: Relationships vs. profitability: Do I focus only on the relationships that will lead to financial return?
Tom's Accenture experience: Tom focused on building relationships with clients rather than writing proposals for work. He would not work with a client if he couldn't love the work and working with that particular client (focus was not profitability). If he could create value (value added fit) for that client and love the work and the client, then he would work with them. He built friendships/trust with his clients. Those relationships can be long term; the clients will call you back, refer you to other people, and business will develop in a natural way.
- Relationships aren't about making money, but about doing more of what you do. Learn what you do and what you don't do - be able to say no.
- Understand who you are.
- How do you determine if someone is good to partner with or not? How do you manage a split if the business relationship doesn't work? Develop an agreement at the beginning and work out how a split would be managed. Establish check points (we'll reassess after 90 days, i.e.). Let things develop naturally, let things unfold as they will and let it feel comfortable. Forced formality feels uncomfortable for many people.
- In terms of formal business structures, you shouldn't have to fit into a structure, the structure should fit you and your business.
- Strengths/motivation/fit. Understand your and your employee's strengths and weaknesses. Bring in people who complement your skills. Will a person "fit" with your company - many companies test out new employees by having them first do an internship and then evaluate whether or not they will be a good fit with their company.
- Hannah's clients: For some clients, a relationship happens right away, for others, it can take several sessions. Sometimes a client is not right for her (maybe has health or therapy needs that she can't fulfill). She'd like to be able to refine her business a bit more and have different employees with different specialties (prenatal massage - hot stones, for example).
- Could foundations take some of that money that they have to give out and use it to hire more people who can follow the businesses that you are funding in order to help make them more successful and profitable? Relationships are important for the success of an enterprise.
- Relationship vs. transaction. Working at the GG is a relationship, not a transaction. It takes a lot of time to build these relationships; it goes at a much slower pace. This is foundational.
- Listen to your gut. Trust your instincts.
Next week's topic: Trust your intuition. What do we mean when we say organic growth?
February 16, 2012 Topic: Hiring an Employee
Comments from last week's conversation:
- How do you measure the value of relationships? Is it worth quantifying?
- You don't necessarily want or need to pursue relationships just because they present themselves.
- If relationships were quantifiable, how would you use that information?
- Relationship value can be a tool for subjective judgement.
- Are we talking about numbers (of things, people, dollars) or quality/value, etc. ? How do you express the value of things without making them fit into a number?
- How do you find a balance between profitability and good relationships when one doesn't necessarily lead to the other? Is it better to do things quickly and twice or slowly and once, right the first time?
- Spontaneous process vs. intentionality
- There is a big difference between having a map and having a compass: you have a direction but not a firm path. You are open to opportunities. Are we spending time/money/energy or investing our time/money/energy ?
Topic of the day: Hiring an employee
Hannah's story: Hannah was being pressured into hiring an employee but wasn't yet ready. She didn't know how to go about hiring someone or what that would look like. She didn't know how it would function and what she was looking for in an employee. Someone like her? Someone different from her? Someone who has a different skill set? Also, there were scheduling conflicts, and she was always on call. The first change she made was to arrange shifts for herself - this gave her more focus and opened up her schedule to bring someone else in. She started by "casting a wide net" with a Craigslist ad. She had to figure out pay scales: how many clients an employee had per week was not of value to her. She was more interested in the quality of the work and not making employees compete for business. She assumed people (prospective employees) would know what they were looking for - but was mistaken. Found that she had to narrow her search and so she put up fliers wanting to find someone close by who could easily to get to work under all conditions. She believes it is good to work where you live so that relationships become relevant. She eventually found her new employee at the school at a student clinic. She realizes that she wouldn't have found her through the search methods she was using. It became immediately clear that she didn't have enough space and that she needed to be able to work with her new employee while she was learning. Hannah realizes that it is necessary for her to communicate everything (procedure/philosophy) to her employee.
- Most baffling question is "what kind of person do I want to hire"?
- If I'm hiring someone else, what do I want them to do and what do I want to spend my time doing? (Hannah)
- Jeff and Ted list the things they that do in their work and then rate them based on what makes them happy. What do I like to do and what activities are "burning me out"? Should you map out time chart of what you're doing?
- How many of us do things we are only good at or things we love to do?
- Do entrepreneur/business owners really have to do everything? Is it good to do all of it or can you limit yourself?
- Evaluate what kind of employee you need/want based on the "process"; what do I need? what do I want to do? what do I not want to do? Going over the process (how to do things, approach your clients) with a new employee.
- You must have an understanding what works best for you. Do you want to do 5 jobs a day (high quality) or 20 (low quality)? Relationships matter; pass these values on to your employees. It is important to broaden your experiences and connections (relationships) in your down time.
- Quality of service will often lead to better revenue because, even though you're not trying to fit in as many customers as possible (giving better quality massages takes time), your business might run entirely on referrals and require no advertising costs.
- You're in the triple bottom line world, whether you want to acknowledge it or not.
Next week's topic: Relationship building vs. profitability
February 9, 2012 Topic: Relationships
First in a series of meetings to discuss sustainable business. What do we mean by "sustainable business?" How can we learn from each other? How can we support each other in our learning?
Hannah Lewis (massage therapist)
Jeff Sturgis ( Omnicorps hacker space)
Martha Peterson (GG USL)
Nick Wetzler (ecowaste group)
Chad Dickenson (furniture maker)
Ted Sliwiski (Omnicorps)
Topic: Relationships (offered by Chad) What is the role quality relationships play in sustainable businesses? See video:
Chad said that when he gets down to the core of his business, he is finding that the relationships that he has developed are its most important aspect. How do you put a value on quality relationships in a business? Can this be measured? Put on a balance sheet?
Quality, meaningful relationships can better sustain a business than a large quantity of relationships that are not helpful or beneficial. (jeff)
Quality relationships serve a dual purpose: to help you to communicate the value of your business, and to minimize your risk (bob)
How do you improve quality of relationships that you enter into, and avoid relationships that aren't beneficial or are detrimental ? (ken)
Is casting a wide net really valuable? (tom) Trust relationships with people with similar and complementary values, rather than casting a wide net (i.e. advertising) and getting too many people with whom you do not want to work or have a relationship (transaction vs. relationship) Looking for a relationship rather than a transaction (Lon - wood supplier).
Ted remarked on the strength of relationships that he has found in Detroit that were not as evident to him on the East Coast.
Topic for next week:
Hannah - hiring an employee