If I were a carpenter, what would I build? I think of carpenter’s a builder’s, in fact, I think of entrepreneur’s the same way. Business owner’s used to be builder’s, but something happened, they were lulled into management mode. Carpenter’s are also builder’s from the industrial age, the art of carpentry is a dieing art, well at least the way we think of it. But that’s the point, how we think.

I have said many times, over and over again, it’s the tag on this blog, Mindset trumps skillset everytime. How we think about building, how we think about our business, how we think about everything really, it’s all changing and we are not. I was sharing with Chris Brogan on Kitchen Table Talks last week about how the this area has yet to embrace a new way of doing business. The new way? Becoming a social business, a human business. What are we so afraid of?

If I were a carpenter, I would build a business that opens your mind, that shares this new concept, this new open & free business model….wait….I have built it, but is it done? There’s another problem, we think in terms of being finished, social businesses, human businesses are never done. Do you think your relationships with people and businesses are ever finished, no. So why do we think, just because we are building a business, it will be finished someday? If you think you are finished, you will be. Think about that for a moment, let it settle for a moment.

You see, my business, I hope it is never done, I hope it draws you in, I hope it causes you to question the status quo….always. My prayer is that you will want to learn new ways of adopting the new way of doing business, if you don’t, someone else will, and your business will be finished.

There are some incredible people out here on the Internet sharing, (far too many too mention here) all the time, teaching you to see business differently, you want to but….you seem to fall back to what you’ve always done. It happens everytime you get into management mode, new ways are too hard to implement and maintain in your head, so you do what you’ve always done. Push back as hard as you try, time gets you everytime.

Imagine if you, just for a moment, what if being a carpenter was just invented today, what would you build? You build something that no longer works, or would you invent something new?

I challenge you, ask yourself the question based as if being a carpenter was invented today. If you were a carpenter, what would you build? A traditional business? probably, but I would suggest a different model. I would build a very open and free business model, a social business, a human business. What say you?

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I wrestled with this question for some time, I mean the whole idea of charging for my content was foreign to me when I started running my first site. In studying the trends of online commerce, and the Open & Free Business Model, it was clear that many people were asking the same question, what should I be writing about and what content should I be charging for.

In working with local business owners, they aren’t even paying attention to what’s really going on, online commerce is just a nice to have rather than a strong component of their business. Meaning, they think it won’t get much bigger than another advertising medium or to just make a few extra dollars. They still practice the price & item approach, the control business model is what they know and trust. My goal is to help as many local businesses understand a different way, and to see the tidal wave that is coming, to pay attention and change the way they think.

A simple exercise is to walk through following:

1.) What is your CORE business about? The first question I usually ask is, what does your business do? Normally, the answer coming back is a description of what the person does or a very high level answer. I would say I am a Technology Strategist, that really doesn’t tell you much does it? You have to ask that question differently two or three times before you get to an answer that gives you a much better understanding. Keeping asking yourself until you get to the real thing that you do.

Knowing what your CORE business is about, helps you with your content, it will help you focus on what the free part might be over the paid part. This seems overly simplistic but it’s not, working through this is much tougher than I’m writing it.

2.) What’s your vision? This is the WHY, why are you doing what your doing and where are you going. That’s pretty simple isn’t it, not really, there is a process to working through what your vision might be.

3.) What is your Mission? Again, something that seems simple but really isn’t. What’s your mantra, your war cry? You want everyone to know it and to be shouting it throughout your organization, even if it’s just you.

You might ask these questions in reverse, whatever makes sense to you. Someone once said recently, keep it simple, simple is hard enough, I try to keep it simple by asking simple questions to tough problems.

These three questions can help you, and it can help you determine what will be free and what will be paid. Keep in mind, there are only three ways to get paid…I pay, you pay, they pay.

This is one way of figuring out what should be free, if you are a writer, write! But write about the thing you are passionate about. Write short stories for free and offer paid for lessons on how to write short stories properly, or writing construct, get creative. Hold writing workshops that are paid for and offer writing tips for free on your blog or newsletter, help your community get what they want, and they will help you get what you want.

This is just one small part of the Open & Free Business Model, the framework is actually straight forward but the details are much harder to figure out. The sooner you start, the better your Blogging experience, and knowing what content should be free makes your blogging life alittle easier.

I came away from a business meeting today and I couldn’t stop shaking my head, it seems business owners just can’t see past the next project or payroll deadline. Yes payroll is important, but only looking two weeks out seems like a bad strategy to me, call me crazy. The other funny thing I find with business owners is, they love to be social, take you out lunch, buy coffee and go to business conferences. But why can’t they see there business as social, leveraging their current base of customers through social networks. It seems the “social” part is only something they do personally rather than letting their business be open and social.

Being a social business means you are listening to, interacting with, and letting the conversation be the sell for your business. I understand that scares the day lights out of business owners but, imagine what might happen if you let your client base communicate with you in a more intimate way. Being a social business means you are open and transparent, collaborating instead of dominating, making it easy for your customers to do business with you without the controlling red tape. Giving them simple and easy ways to make payment, providing packaging that’s attention getting and making sure the interface is appealing and easy to navigate. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it, then why isn’t it happening with more regularity?

If you ask a business owner if their customers are the most important part of their business, what do you think they would say? I bet they pat their backs raw with a glowing report on how they support and give their customers the best service. But if you gave the customer an opportunity to answer that question would it be the same glowing review? Allowing your customers to express themselves, and share their experiences in dealing with your brand (you) is a scary thing isn’t it, why? You don’t really believe that you are giving the best service and providing the best products, thats why. If you did you would let your customers speak for you, it’s called word of mouth, and that’s at the very center of what a social business is.

The more digital we get, the more it’s about the experience with a brand, then asking the very people that had that experience, what they thought and how they felt about dealing with you. This is where the trust begins to show itself, if your customers trust your brand and service, you get a good grade, but if not…..

The truth is, business owners have to make a paradigm shift, we are in a connected world and getting more connected each and every day. A connected and networked audience is dramatically different than the audience you used to be able to control. The control mechanism is breaking apart and business owners don’t know how to deal with that problem. You cannot control a connected audience, pure and simple. Why? People are re-grouping on the fly that’s why, they are fickle and always on the move. To keep them you have to do something special, create a magnetic brand that builds attraction and trust, then you can turn that attraction into a transaction.

Business owners think about this, the more in control we (you) are, the more out of touch we become with our customers. Don’t just be a business, be a social business and get connected with them.

So is your business just a business, or is it a social business? If you don’t know or would like to learn what that might look like for your business, attend my workshop April 30th. Send me an e-mail for details and to reserve a seat: owen@owengreaves.com