When you do something meaningful for yourself that also does good for others, you work twice as hard at it. But if your heart isn’t in what you do everyday, you’ll burn out much faster, become less creative, and make more mistakes. It’s hard to create value if you don’t care—and it’s almost impossible for others to value you when you feel that way.
This new attitude is what our cheeky friend Branson—whose heart is as big as his genius for building brands—irreverently calls Screw Business as Usual. He and his Virgin Unite Foundation are driving a social movement of entrepreneurs and corporate managers who believe it’s in their enlightened self-interest to create value in their career, and in doing so create more value in a business that does well (financially) and does good (for the world). The breakthrough idea here is that it’s not one or the other. It’s both.
When our national survey revealed that Americans feel a disconnect between what’s meaningful in their life and their career ambitions, it made sense that most respondents said they are disengaged in their work. But there’s a cure. You will be more courageous in following your dreams, and feel hugely engaged in your work and creating value, if you’re doing work that matters to you.
“I’ve felt overwhelmed on too many occasions to count,” Branson sighed as he shared photos of his cherished home burning down. It was not the first time he had his dream blown away. More than 350 companies carry the Virgin Brand, but many have failed to survive. If it had been easy for Branson, he would not be nearly so inspiring as a leader. Even when they’re bored, scared, disappointed, or exhausted, successful leaders cling to the knowledge that their time is limited and focus intensely on contributing value and remaining creative.
How to Build Value
The secret to creating value is to find some mission that speaks to you. When you do, you’ll have more energy and courage to do something that other people value, respect, and eventually, admire. It doesn’t have to be world hunger; but it does have to be personal to you and useful to other people who will hire you or buy the product.
The following are eight strategies for isolating what is meaningful to you and building more value into your work.
Value Builder #1: Don’t try to be all things to all people.
Trying to serve too many MVPs only results in you adding less value to more people. Be clear about who you want to be valuable to. Help those people define their success and achieve it.
Value Builder #2: Be simple, convenient, and usable.
Focus on making the service or product as easy to use and intuitive as possible. Think about what you want your target audience to be, do, or have. How could you help them achieve that? Observe how your target audience uses what you have to sell and how they solve problems.
Value Builder #3: Get known and showcase what is valuable.
How are you getting the word out about what you do? How are you presenting yourself or your services in a way that makes it attractive to customers?
Value Builder #4: Give a sense of security.
Protect what your target audience believes is valuable.
Value Builder #5: Define “quality.”
Your customer may define “quality” differently than you do. For some retail items, for example, quality may mean that something looks chic or expensive, not whether it’s the most advanced technology.
Value Builder #6: Be in the right place at the right time.
To be available to your customer you’ve got to be where they are. It’s also good career advice: We have a dear friend who wanted to be a Hollywood writer and producer. It was much easier for him to pursue that dream once he moved to Southern California so that he could actually meet with and learn from the people involved in that industry.
Value Builder #7: Dump the mission statement.
Instead create a manifesto that is real to your customer and that you and your team actually believe and are willing to be held responsible to deliver. When I was reviewing entries as one of six global judges selected by Richard Branson for his Virgin Unite entrepreneurship competition, I was impressed by the meaningful manifesto created by an organization called, “A Lot to Say.” What made Sir Richard’s event different was that all of the start-ups that entered, including “A Lot to Say,” were equally committed to a social mission as they were to creating a profitable business, a concept that’s been catching momentum in recent years and becoming bankable.
Here’s the A Lot to Say Manifesto:
If you think something, say it.
If you believe something, say it.
If you want something, say it.
Because saying it creates new awareness. Awareness sparks new behavior.
And new behavior inspires us all to be better. If we speak out, others will act out.
To vote. Recycle. Save.
To think a little more.
To try a little harder.
To live more honestly. Thoughtfully. Joyfully. You have a lot to say.
So never be afraid to say it. Or wear it.
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