A business is an entity that exists to serve its customers. The beating heart of any business is the sales transaction. Revenue is the lifeblood that pumps oxygen throughout the ecosystem of the enterprise. Without it, no business can sustain itself. Man may not live by bread alone, but we still need bread to live.
The nucleus of a beating heart is the efficient management of resources. Individual contributors come together to rally behind a shared vision. They can do more together than they ever could alone.
The lifeblood of all business transactions is an exchange of energy. To fuel this energy exchange, the enterprise has to offer a service or a product that a customer needs and is willing to pay for. If any of those elements is missing, there is no transaction and no business.
Every business deserves a beating heart. Yours is no different.
Businesses flourish in a web of connectivity. From suppliers, to distributors, to employees, to customers–everyone brings a piece of the puzzle to make the organisation a thriving place of bustling activity and exchange.
For new business owners, the challenge is to bring together the various pieces of the puzzle so that the sum of its parts is far superior to the individual pieces that stand alone. In the early days, each puzzle piece takes up a greater share of the whole picture.
As the business grows, matures and scales, the individual puzzle pieces diminish in importance. For large entities, it is the glue–also known as the system–that holds the many tiny pieces together. It’s one of the main reasons why so many people feel unfulfilled working in large corporations in spite of the financial benefits.
As an entrepreneur building a business during its early days, it is worth thinking seriously about where you’d like to invest your energy. From supplier to product to distributor to customer… All of these elements have to be in place in a way that it is a win-win situation for everyone involved.
The key question is: how do you decide who are the right pieces to exchange energy with?
Let us begin at the very beginning. Let us begin with the number 0.
The Power of Zero
The number 0 is a fascinating invention. It is not nothing. It is the possibility of everything.
There is no shame in starting out with very little. There is no shame in starting with zero. Zero is where it all begins and where it all ends. But staying in that nothingness in the in-between journey called life is the real problem. Who you are today is not who you will be tomorrow or even the day after. We never know which tide is making its way towards us from the other shore.
The obstacles we view as obstructions can either vanish of their own accord or be overcome by our own resourcefulness. Change is an incredibly painful process. It is why most people are reluctant when presented with an opportunity they have never encountered.
But by embracing ‘zero’, you welcome infinity. Many entrepreneurs start with virtually nothing. Countless immigrants in new countries start their lives in the exact same way. When I moved to Japan in 2014, I didn’t even speak the language. By the time I left in 2018, I could not only converse, but even speak in front of 200 people.
If I didn’t embrace 0, I wouldn’t have had that 200.
The Power of Incentives
Now, I’m going to give you two choices.
- A guaranteed base salary + 5% commission on all sales
- Zero base salary + 40% commission on all sales
Which would you choose? Take a moment to make the decision.
Are you done yet? What went through your mind? What was your thought process? What was the criteria you chose to make your decision? And lastly, which was the right decision?
Talk to all entrepreneurs and they will give you the same answer.
The person who expects that they will be unsuccessful will choose option one. The person who wants to save their own skin should they fail will choose option one. The person who expects ‘to get something’ out of their employer for minimal concern for the business and its customers will choose option one.
It really is that simple.
The person who yearns for a greater scope of possibilities will choose option two. Anyone who is willing to settle for a set amount and is afraid of risk simply doesn’t possess the hunger, the drive and the tenacity to achieve more than what is in front of their eyes.
It is the possibility of the infinite that drives the entrepreneurial venture. It is what forces and pushes businesses to find even better ways of serving their customers. It is what drives the economy and creates new sources of never-before-seen wealth.
The Power of Connection
How did so many people come to adopt the view that benefiting from the good that one does somehow diminishes your inner virtue? How did so many people come to adopt the view that for someone to win, someone has to lose?
The power of a win-win situation cannot be underestimated.
If someone in your life–be it a customer, a business partner or an employee–is draining you or subjecting you to a situation where you have been consistently unhappy, then it is simply not the right ‘connection’ for you. In the initial stages, it is normal for things not to be smooth sailing. But if it stays that way for a prolonged period of time, then you know that there’s something fundamentally ‘wrong’ in the energy exchange that is taking place.
It may be the case that both parties are unhappy. Or it may be the case that one party is unhappy and one party is happy. Neither situation is good news. This unsustainable situation will only lead to the inevitable: a beating heart that stops pumping blood.
Entrepreneurs–and businesses in general–are not here to take or to give. They are here to create value for their customers.
When I worked in Japan, I was sometimes selective about the clients that I took on. I understood that it was not just about earning a pay check, but about the right fit for both parties. You may be a perfectly good puzzle piece, but if you can’t fit into the jigsaw puzzle in front of you–it’s best you find another one that’s more suited to you.
In any market, there exist an unlimited number of potential transactions. If you’re not finding what you’re looking for in one place, other options do exist. By limiting yourself to the opportunity that is in front of you, you forgo all future possibilities that could have arisen. In economics, this concept is called opportunity cost.
One small caveat. Much like a professional skill, relationships also require investment and care. There will be hard days and difficult times in any relationship. Many businesses invest heavily in customer service for a reason. The relationship with the customer doesn’t end after the transaction has taken place. It is easier to retain a customer than to get a new one. Statistics show that it costs 5 times more money to attract new customers than it does to retain an existing one.
Once an entity has successfully created a connection, it must invest and re-invest to keep the blood flowing.
The Power of the Windfall
Suddenly receiving a large sum of money, a position or a relationship that you did not have to earn isn’t going to magically cure all the problems in your life. What it does and can do is provide is a period of short-lived bliss. Unearned windfalls have a way of quickly catapulting into a curse. People subconsciously tend to squander what is not rightfully theirs to keep.
A windfall cannot establish the fundamentals of a strong business. It cannot magically nurture a strong team. It cannot even buy you dinner for the rest of your life.
What a windfall does provide is opportunities that lead to other opportunities. Many businesses that are described as ‘overnight successes’ have in fact spent a significant amount of time investing in and laying down a strong foundation… till things exponentially took off. With strong fundamentals in place, the business was able to harness the sudden windfall into a series of long-term gains in order to build a business of enduring value.
If a huge opportunity lands in your lap without the key elements in place, most people will simply not know what to do with it. That’s why the world is so full of fads that fade and one-hit wonders.
The Beating Heart
A business is an entity that has customers. Individual contributors are people who serve businesses so that the organisation may serve its customers. Without the sale, the beating heart of any business cannot expect to continue beating.
We entrepreneurs may start from scratch with the all powerful zero. But that is only the beginning. By establishing incentives for growth, creating connections and harnessing the expected opportunities in our environment–we set up that heart to beat… and continue beating for a long time to come.
About the Author
Dipa Sanatani is the Publisher at Mith Books and the author of The Little Light and The Merchant of Stories. In The Merchant of Stories, Dipa takes the reader on a personal journey–narrated through a series of candid journal entries–on what it takes for entrepreneurs and creatives to start their very first venture.