Over the years, Javan Bernakevitch and I have taught a lot of Permaculture Design Courses (~60 combined) and have encouraged many of our students to start businesses that fix the planet, the food system, and their communities.
After watching and hearing from a lot of these businesses, we’ve heard a lot of similar stories and noticed a few patterns both in successful businesses and struggling ones. We started to see why some businesses thrived while others failed. In many instances, people in businesses trying to do good tend to
- misunderstand their value or how to charge for their product or service,
- have a weak offering or compelling value proposition,
- are scared to set their terms based on what makes sense for their business and life,
- let their business run them instead of running their business,
- try to be everything to everyone instead of focusing on a specific niche, and/or
- hate marketing because it feels like they are selling out and being un-authentic.
We know all of this because we have lived this. The reason most new entrepreneurs go through this is because they were never taught how to run a business. According to Michael E. Geber, author of E-Myth Revisited (a great book for new entrepreneurs, BTW), most people that enter into business do so because they are incredible at what they do and think:
“I want to share these skills with the world and run my own company!”
What they don’t realize is that to be in your own successful business, you need to be incredible at what you do AND be good at business, which is a whole new subset of skills.
As two serial entrepreneurs, Javan and I experimented with the delivery of a business jam in a recent PDC. We created an open season session where students could ask us any question or advice on realizing their ideas for a new or existing business (or even about our own). We asked the students if they would be interested, and their reply was a resounding YES!
So we deployed a rapid prototype – a 1.5 hour session, right then and there that night. The results were incredible! Three quarters of the class didn’t want to leave, and it was twice as long as we planned. Several students told us:
“This was the most valuable session of the course, and perhaps the most useful stuff I heard this year.”
Both Javan and I love seeing our students get into regenerative businesses and succeeding. For the last several years, we have been featuring our students that have gone on to build unique green businesses. One thing I keep thinking about is this:
“How can I help to spawn more of these businesses and how can I make myself more available for the regenerative businesses around me?”
Which spawned the next question:
“What would have helped us best when we were starting out in our own businesses?”
We answered that question with a two-part program starting with an initial 3-month program called Regenerative Business Coaching. This program is based on what we would have needed to excel in our design, consulting, farm and education businesses, looking back to where we started and where we were in the middle.
It’s our first try at providing a more affordable service to help businesses that are doing incredible earth repair work. If you can’t make the program, here are three principles that would have completely changed how I started my business:
1) Focus on Quality, not Volume
There are really only two options in business, volume or quality. You can only produce so much with a given labour pool and land base before quality starts to erode. Every business needs a certain amount of volume, so the key is to figure out the sweet spot between volume and quality and then stay there. Bask in being sold out. Being sold out creates gravity toward your product, allows for price increases, encourages people to purchase early, and ultimately makes you profitable and increases your quality of life.
2) Communicate Values Clearly and Concisely
The confused mind says no. Products and their benefits should be communicated in a way that a grade 5 student can understand. We should spend time and effort crafting our story and explaining the value that we provide. If our products look like our competition’s, we will subconsciously be viewed as equivalent.
There’s no point in producing if you can’t sell it and it is harder to sell if you don’t have a good brand and reputation. If our price is our offer, we need to explain why we are charging this price by communicating the value of the product or service. Very successful enterprises put equivalent amounts of effort into crafting their story and marketing as they do into creating their products.
3) Be Selective about Clients
The moment you’re a fit for everyone you are a fit for no one. It’s important to know who you are producing for. Once you know who your perfect client is, you can then seek them out. For example, we grow beyond organic, nutrient-dense meat for high-performance athletes. It is important to be selective about who you produce for, as this makes it easier to focus your marketing dollars because it is easier to locate your clientele. In addition, you want to choose clients that will recognize the value that you provide. Think about Mercedes: they don’t produce cars for everyone, but almost everyone wants to drive one as they are viewed as the best.
These are three of the twelve principles we have identified as being crucial to building a successful business. Our goal is not just to spawn successful businesses, but to spawn successful businesses that regenerate the planet and her people.
For more information, check out this video or read about our program here.