Steve Mouzon on the New Business of Business
If you are willing to be patient, giving things away can often help your bottom line
The green-building movement proved resilient during the Great Recession and beyond. While conventional builders went bankrupt, many green builders thrived. This trend continues, so when I heard that green-building guru Steve Mouzon, author of The Original Green, was holding a seminar on new approaches to building up green business, I wanted to know more.
I spoke with Steve while he was on the road in Birmingham, Alabama, and I asked him, "What's different about the new green business plan from the traditional builder's approach?"
His answer surprised me: "The building business, and really all business," he said, "has changed more in the last ten years than it has since the Industrial Revolution." I was skeptical.
He went on, "For last 250 years it's about better, faster, and cheaper," he explained, "but now there's a new business model that, in many ways, represents just the opposite."
The new business model is based on three very new-age sounding virtues that may not appeal to the hard-nosed businessman right away. But once you hear him out, Steve makes a lot of sense, as you consider how and why today's super successful companies prosper.
The three new business drivers, according to Steve, involve patience, generosity, and connectedness. If this makes as little sense to you as it did to me on first hearing, read on, because you will be convinced.
The new business model
Patience: New Media is arguably a powerful way for any business to reach new prospects today. But social media works very slowly and cumulatively. If you start tweeting tomorrow, it won't have an impact immediately. However, in time you will see more results from this effort than you will ever see with traditional marketing. Patience is exactly the opposite of faster.
Generosity: Generosity is the opposite of cheapness. People have a hard time letting go of their money today, so you must be willing to give things away ... on the internet. Even when you know that the majority of the people that will benefit won't ever contact you or do business with you.
Nowadays, traditional advertising teasers are considered spam, and spam turns people off. Traditional media is having trouble attracting advertisers because people skip past the commercials, or seek non-commercial media for entertainment. To engage potential clients you have to start an interesting conversation with them, and then they will engage you.
The old way was to hold your cards close to your chest, protecting trade secrets. The new way is to get up on YouTube and explain exactly what you do and how. Eventually you will get known for this, and customers will come to you not because of your mysterious secret sauce, but precisely because they know exactly what you do and how you do it. They trust you.
Connectedness: Connectedness is not the exact opposite of "better," but it's got a funky relationship to the concept of "new and improved." To explain this "funky relationship," Steve sited an example: "I founded a group called 'The New Urban Guild.' It's a voluntary work group, a think tank of sorts, with some of the best designers I know. By working with this group of people, who are my heroes, I have gotten much better myself.
"It used to be that if you got really good, you got really famous and everyone wanted to contact you, at which point you got 'connected.' Unfortunately, you also likely developed arrogance, which nobody likes. But if you start connected and get better through the connectedness, you understand where your expertise came from and it develops humility."
Putting it in practice
By this point in the conversation, I was sold on the new business plan. It gave a hard-nosed basis to something I'm keenly drawn to by nature, which is being a nice guy. But Steve warned me, "Much of this is anathema to the old ways, so you have to decide what your prime virtues of business are. You can't just do a part of it. You have to do it all or none. You have to decide if you're part of the old or part of the new."
So I asked Steve for some practical examples of what it means to be "part of the new."
"When I am trying to get better by going to a conference, I listen and take notes. But instead of taking notes on paper, I take notes with Twitter. This not only gives me access to my notes later, it gives me public access as well. Not only am I getting better, but I am also getting 20 to 30 new followers each day because I am giving things always. So I am connected to and learning from my community while being generous, which brings new clients, and exercising patience because all of this may not bring immediate results," Steve explained, wrapping all the virtues into one simple tip: take notes on Twitter.
When a builder is sharing what he learns through social media, that builder becomes a lot more interesting than the other guy to a prospective client. And once a builder gets hooked on sharing what he learns, he becomes addicted to learning. The need for content forces him to develop expertise, becoming even more attractive to clients.
The net effect of Steve's three new business principles have is that you will learn; in time, people will find out that you know stuff; and you and your business will grow
To learn more about Steve's approach, check out "New Media for Designers and Builders." True to his word, you'll find two thirds of Steve's material on the web absolutely free. A few of you will buy what's missing.
Fernando Pagés Ruiz is a builder and author. He has developed, built, and remodeled homes in California, Nebraska, and Wyoming, and has won a number of awards, including recognition from the National Association of Home Builders.