Bill Warner gave a wonderful presentation at the Mass Inno Breakfast on Friday, one that I know a lot of people have seen. But if you haven't, you need to go. Bill begins the talk by pointing out how he founded two companies (Avid Technologies and Wildfire), one from the heart and the other... well... not so much. One (Avid) is still in business. The other (Wildfire) had some financial success for investors, but ultimately shut down without reaching its goal. Both had great technology, but one failed. He then goes on to encourage all of us to work from the heart, not just from the mind.
Often in the social media world you hear people make similar comments, that they should capture their "passion." The concept isn't new, for years people have told me to follow your passion and the money will come.
But most importantly, Bill asked the people in the audience to think about who it is that we're helping and to keep those people in mind as we build our business. It's not an easy exercise, as you don't want to define the people you're helping as a demographic, nor do you want to define them in business terms, but you want to define them as people. You need to tell a story about them.
Let me tell you mine.
I want to help James (identities changed). James works in a retail store and has a passion for what he's selling. He doesn't plan to be there forever, but still, working with stereo products and music is something he cares deeply about. It's why he's there. Still, the owners of the shop think like marketers in that they only want certain people tweeting, blogging, Facebooking, etc. James works on the shop floor, he's not in that management area that has been "blessed" by the owners. But when I go into the shop, I work with James, I like him, he gives me great advice, to me, he is the face of the store.
Despite his relatively low level, James wants the store to succeed. He loves working there, he cares about his work, he has a job satisfaction that goes well beyond money. Still, his bosses don't see it as something that can help them.
My job is to help James and, by default, help his bosses. I believe that people like James are the key to making businesses, all businesses, successful. Helping James is no easy task, of course. A lot of education must go on from the top down and from the bottom up. Companies need to identify the "James" within their employee base. Frankly, they need to look for more James' when they go to hire. They also need to give James the tools and guidance so he can help them grow by bringing his passion to the public.
One person who understands this is Jules Pieri, founder and CEO of the Daily Grommet. She has a wonderful piece on her blog about pitching VCs with feeling. Originally she'd gone in with a by-the-numbers type of presentation, but then one day she said "I want to change the world...."
The VC told her the presentation gave him chills.
That passion comes through in ways that go well beyond VCs. Check out a post by an anthropologist who notes "As you can see from this post, the story of The Daily Grommet resonated with me. Jules and her team appear to be very passionate about and good at what they do, and it feels to me like Jules is ‘following her bliss’, so to speak."
But it's not just Jules, her employees are all out there in the public talking about their passion and lovingly describing the products they're finding.
That's why her site is, and will continue to be, successful.