Change Catalyst with Shanna Mann: Strategy & Support for Sane Self-Employment

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Crazy Love

I had an epiphany last week.

You might know that I run, in addition to Change Catalyst, a couple of other businesses. One of them, an e-commerce operation, is gearing up for the final third of the year, which comprises about half the sales we’ll have. As you might imagine, it’s a pretty important time of the year for us, and so I was doing some research to get our ducks in a row– I want to be able to maximize any opportunities we have.

In the three years we’ve been doing this, there’s been a proliferation of blogs associated with the market pop up. Lots of them are really good, and I enjoyed reading them.

But I didn’t feel any kinship with them.

It was weird. I blog. I write infoproducts. I have in-depth industry knowledge. Why wasn’t my “this is an opportunity” sense tingling? Why didn’t I consider these guys My People?

And it’s not even like these people (let’s call them “flippers”) could come to Change Catalyst and get meaningful advice– there’s something totally different about flippers that makes my stuff pretty much useless to them.

But I couldn’t figure out what that something was.

On the face of it, it seemed like it should be fine. Flippers are very efficiency oriented, very process-oriented. So it seems like we should be a fit, right?

But we’re not.

I was musing about this to Erin, and she said:

“I think maybe one group (flippers, etc.) is primarily in it to make money, whereas the other (service providers…at least, the ones you and I work with) wants to make money but needs some additional sense of purpose or stimulation from their work. Logically, the flipper approach is great, but it doesn’t fulfill the service providers. They want to serve somehow. Whereas the flippers are like “heck yes, I can cover my finances this way and have the rest of my time for myself.” Maybe?

And the flippers are like, “Why would you trade your time for money? Why would you want to spend so much energy convincing people to buy your thing and marketing and giving away information and help for free? Sounds awful.”

Yeah…those people have no use for what you really excel at, that blend of business + owner. They care less about being “the kind of business owner they want to be” and more about tweaking their processes or whatever so they can sell more. Which is totally fine, of course. But the reason your people like you is that you’re NOT that way.”

Look, I consider myself to be pretty business-minded. I’m not like, the Wolf of Wall Street or anything, but I’m pretty unsentimental. You want a business knitting tea cozies because that’s what you really love to do? Um, no. But feel free to try selling whatever it is you’re smoking.

But it turns out that I have a soft spot for the people who just want to make their corner of the world better.

The flippers, for all that they have a very profitable and efficient business model, are not particularly concerned with the impact they have on the world. While they do usually have some idea about how to make their business suit their lives, they aren’t concerned about things like servant-leadership, thought-leadership, zone of genius, or making sure their work is soul-satisfying.

(Flipping is very enjoyable, the way that winning is enjoyable. If you’re a good flipper, you win a lot. But it’s not satisfying in the sense that you wake up every morning with the deep certainty that this is what you were meant to do. You just make good money and have no boss. Yay!)

Soul-Work is a Societal Force for Good

I can’t prove it, like I want to do when I make a grand proclamation like this, but I firmly believe that people who do their soul-work have a positive impact on society.

It works on both the micro and the macro-level.

Let me give you an example. Erin is an editor and idea architect. As a mere editor, the kind that works for Bloomsbury, she would perform the valuable and necessary task of helping authors develop stronger narratives. She might even have a hand in deciding which narratives we as a society will be exposed to. It’s not a bad role.

But as an idea architect in her business, Erin helps people who are not writers to convey their wisdom and insight to the world in the form of text. She’s the crucial interface that takes a sketchy framework of an idea and helps us to flesh it out so that the people who need to hear what we have to say will receive it in a way that’s going to be useful and engaging to them.

This means that the information spreads more freely, and that it’s more likely to be put to use. You could say that Erin is a dispersion mechanism, like the wind that transports the dandelion seeds. And because she only works with values-driven business owners (just like me!) she’s in a position to lend that ‘lift’ to the kind of people we would most like to see succeed.

In this way, values-driven business becomes self-reinforcing. Over time, I expect we’ll see a groundswell of values-driven economies– tiny, self-supporting niche ecosystems that operate on a shared understanding of what business can be.

Micro and macro.

We want to have a positive impact on those around us.

There’s nothing wrong with doing something because it makes you money. That’s what I do with my e-commerce business.

But most people, certainly My People, eventually come to a point where they think less about how to make money and more about how they are making money. Of course when you’re broke you don’t have a lot of latitude to make this distinction, but I believe there’s a reason so many people want to run bakeries and cafes and restaurants: There’s something nurturing and soul-satisfying about the idea of these businesses. Quite literally, you are feeding people.

But restaurants and cafes, and especially bakeries are terrible ideas for businesses if you want to have a life. But I sympathize with the impulse. And I want to help.

I’ve often wondered why I keep on with Change Catalyst– from a pure efficiency perspective, I have other avenues that make me more money. And I like them. It’s not like I’m comparing consulting with my mortuary sideline. I love flipping, and I love building businesses. So I should just cut loose the business that requires the most outsized time investment, right? And yet, even though that’s where the logic lead me, I always knew that was something I didn’t want to do.

I just didn’t know why.

But now I do. Now I know why I persist in a high-touch, high-marketing, long-sales-funnel, high-input business model. I just love you idealistic bastards. You’re crazy, and statistically you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of success, especially to the impossibly high-minded definition of success you’re aiming for. But it’s so crazy, it might work. So even though I want to stipulate the fact that you’re insane– I will do everything in my power to help you.

That’s why I run my crazy, unreasonably-demanding business. To see more people like My People succeed.