A Solopreneur’s Approach to Values-Based Business

digital nomad

Solopreneurs have a historical, life-changing opportunity to build businesses molded around their personality.

That means a business that is a reflection -and an extension- of who they are.

The Historical Opportunity for VBB

There is already a word for values-based business.

And that’s “values-based organization”.

But that’s different, because an organization, with many people in it, cannot be as laser-focused as a business run by one single individual.

As a matter of fact, as a social scientist, I contend if it’s even possible to talk about “values-based business” for team-based organizations.

I believe that the true essence of values-based businesses is limited to solo-preneurship and very small teams of like-minded individuals.
And we are now living in the dawn of values-based businesses.

Values-Based Business Philosophy

A values-based business is the extension of the entrepreneur’s persona.

What he loves doing, what he values, and how he wants to shape the world -or at least, his small contribution to it-.

The difference with a normal business is that, in the values-based organization, the entrepreneur’s values and vision come before business considerations.

Now let’s get a bit into the basic tenets of a values-based business through the philosophy of this very own business:

#1. A Values-Based Business Is The Reflection of Your Life

A values-based business intrinsically starts with doing what you love.

Not because it’s hip these days, but because your business is a reflection of who you are, including what you love doing.

My business is based on me doing what I love doing: studying, living life while I reflect on it and write about it, and learning about people and strategies.

#2. A Values-Based Business Is The Reflection of Your Values

Your business inherits your values.

It couldn’t be otherwise: your values are part of your business because the business is an extension of who you are.

That means that you do what you think is right to do, not what’s expedient.

This not to say that business decisions are not part of the equation.
A business must be financially viable to exist. But one can choose financially viable options within the value-viable options that are available.

Furthermore, the better the business is going, the less the financial side of the equation will restrain your decision-making.

#3. A Values-Based Business Seeks Values-Based Customers

A values-based business want individuals who feel the same about life.

In my case, that means that I don’t want bullies, freeloaders, or abusive customers.
Knowing that someone might be using this website’s information for exploiting others bothers me, so I don’t want these people here.

Keep in mind that one of the values of this website is to assert individuals’ freedoms and standing up to life’s bullies, abusive individuals, and tyrants of all kinds.

My philosophy when it comes to selling and customers is this:

  • I’d rather not sell than sell this material to a SOB 
  • I’m happy to help good people for free

Of course, life is not black and white.
Bad people can do good things and good people can do bad things. But I think you can still largely differentiate between “mostly value-taking individuals” and “mostly value-adding individuals”.

Freeloaders-Free Products

My products are structured to be freeloaders-proof.

My course is designed to drip over time, and the last pieces of content drip after the refund period ends.

That way, honest customers can try out the product without risking their money.
But the bad apples can’t get the whole value without at least joining in the exchange-based system.

I also constantly update the ebooks, and customers who went for a refund don’t get the updates.
If they truly didn’t like the ebook, the transaction ends there and we’re both cool. If they wanted to game the system, they don’t get the latest information.

#4. Money Loses Appeal Above The “Living My Way” Threshold

If you seek riches, then you run a business, not a values-based business.

My philosophy towards money, in general, is this:

  • Any income above what guarantees a “good life” is superfluous

“Good life” is relative, so you must define yours.
To me, it’s defined by: the freedom to structure my day as I please, to do an say as I please, to wake up whenever I wake up, to travel whenever I want to travel, to live wherever I want to live, to get a non-luxury accommodation in good parts of town, and to sit down at a restaurant whenever I want -plus a good wine from time to time-.

It might sound like a long list, but in truth, it requires relatively little income for Western standards.
Probably around $3k a month is all that’s needed.

Now, what happens when you reach the “living your way threshold”?
Once you reach the “living you way threshold”, time becomes more important than money.
So you optimize less on financial income, and more on time-saving.

This has major repercussions on ThePowerMoves from an actual business point of view.
See Next Point:

#5. Prioritize Quality Over Sales & Marketing

The website is far from optimized, as some customers very nicely pointed out to me:

example of great customer
I love these readers! Feedback is much appreciated and the best support

And yet, while I do want to fix those issues, I do not prioritize them (unless they bring me below my “living my way threshold”).

What do I prioritize, then?
I prioritize the value, quality, and content of that course.
If fewer people sign up for it while I do that, I’m totally cool with it.

In my worldview, it’s immoral to ask for more money or seek more customers without first taking care of your side of the exchange (ie.: the product you give back for that money).
Taking care of your side of the exchange means that you must provide the best product you can provide. In my view, it’s immoral to sell something that is not thoroughly researched and tested, or that doesn’t work.

I let the snake oil salesmen prioritize marketing over quality. There’s enough of those, I think.

5.1. Prioritize Personal Growth Over Sales & Marketing

It’s not that I don’t want to sell more.
But life is a question of priorities. And marketing is not very high in that priority’s list.

This is also the reason why I am not going to join any “entrepreneur’s mastermind”.
I already know their first question:

What are your numbers?

And by “numbers”, they mean analytics. 
Where do your customers come from, what pages they visit, how they look like, how you’re going to retarget them, etc.

If I had all the time in the world, I’d love to look into that.
But I don’t have time all the time in the world. And forced to choose between using my time to dig deep into the analytics and learning more about my core topics, I prioritize learning more -which in turn helps me develop better products-. 
So far, I prioritized learning literally hundreds of times already. And I plan on keep doing so.

#6. Freedom Is The Most Important Value

At the core, solopreneurs love freedom.

They are somewhat idealists and they cannot stand the hypocrisy and constrictions of organizations.

My philosophy towards freedom is what allowed me to get into entrepreneurship without many fears:

  • I’d rather die living my way than living restrained in a golden cage of safety and luxury

6.1. Intellectual Freedom: The Power Move’s Core Value

Intellectual freedom is one of the core values of this website.

In my opinion, intellectual freedom must form the foundation of any knowledge-based organization.
It can’t be otherwise.

As someone said:

You can never trust someone who is not free.

Of course, it’s easier to “only say good things” about others. 
But to me, that’s not “being nice”. To me, that’s being the worst kind of coward. 
It’s the fake niceness for selfish ends.

To me, all those people who say “only say good things or don’t say anything” are sellouts.
You are a sellout if you have good reasons to disagree but you purposefully choose to only say good things.
Why?
Because you are betraying the trust of those who are following you. 

You owe it to the world to always tell the truth about the product / theories / people / books you review. Especially when your truth is criticism.

Intellectual freedom requires some strength and willpower, because it can become costly.
And that’s one of the reasons why I keep expenses as low as possible here: financial independence underpins my intellectual freedom.

And as long as I’m above my “living my way threshold”, I don’t need any more money, so I can keep saying whatever I need to say.

I quote one of my favorite authors, Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

This is sometimes called “fuck you money,” which, in spite of its coarseness, means that it allows you to act like a Victorian gentleman, free from slavery.
(…)
Large enough to give you the freedom to choose a new occupation without excessive consideration of the financial rewards.
It shields you from prostituting your mind and frees you from outside authority–any outside authority.

I couldn’t agree more.

6.2. Pay the price of your intellectual freedom

The way I see it, greed can never be intellectually free.

I know, “greed” has a negative connotation, and I don’t like that word. There is nothing wrong in wanting money -money is power and enables your intellectual freedom-.
BUT… If you prioritize money, then you can hardly be intellectually free.

Why?
Because speaking the truth will eventually come to cost something.

Take this website and the red pill, for example.
This blog is one of just a handful of blogs to be officially archived in the “TheRedArchive.com”:

the red pill archieve with the power moves blog in it

That’s because there is some obvious overlap between this website’s content, and the red pill.

And since the red pill is SO popular among men, it would pay off well if I winked at it. 
It does not pay off well instead when red pill guys stumble upon here and are put off of my criticism of “The Rational Male“, or of The Red Pill in general.
But I am very happy to pay that price. To me, it’s a badge of honor.
When I see nonsense, I call it out.

#7. Your Customers Are Your Kindred Souls

When you sell from your values, your customers are just like you are.

You automatically sell to a tribe of people with whom you get along.

I love the people who transact with this website, because I feel we share similar goals and values.
And I am deeply grateful for their support for the financial side of it. 

For that, I also feel indebted to my customers. I feel the obligation to provide great value for them, and I place them very high in my priority list.

This has several consequences which make the approach to customers VS prospects highly atypical in the business world:

  • My products are lifetime products

To begin with, I never consider a product “done”. Whenever I can improve it, I do it, so my products grow with me.

As I learn and develop more, so do my products.

  • Customers command high priority

Contrary to many other entrepreneurs, I always prioritize current and past customers to potential ones.

It’s not smart, in a way, but that’s what I do because, again, I’m not in the business of maximizing profits.
My business is the reflection of my life and values, not the other way around.

I (relatively) often get emails from people who failed to pay, and I either fail to reply (sorry guys!) or do so very late:

Most people prioritize the “funnel”, but as I don’t have sales as my #1 priority, I prioritize the current customers and users

Exceptions apply (read on).

#8. You’re OK With Haters

A values-based business will easily step on someone’s toes.

Especially the toes of the people who have different values.

Some of my personal values that put me in a collision course with people are: 

  • Ripping people off is immoral, and when I see it, it’s my duty to call it out

So in my book reviews, you see a few cases of me tearing apart some people’s work when I believe they are selling snake oil

That does not make me friends.
And it cost me a few threats of lawsuits -so far luckily no actual lawsuits-.

But if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be living my values.

  • Seek the truth (and there aren’t infinite truths)

The value is “seek the truth” and the belief is “for many topics and subjects, there aren’t infinite truths”.

That again leads me to openly criticize some people’s work when I believe that what they are saying goes against the evidence.

  • Help people empower and free themselves

How does that put me in collision with some others?

Well, I think that some self-help gurus or self-help based groups don’t really want to empower and free their respective followers and members.

In part, it’s human nature.
We all want others to be dependent on us.
Still, I prefer people to develop critical thinking skills, carve their own path, and become “their own (wo)men”.

That often leads me to warn people against groups, including some groups with lots of potential customers from this website.

#9. Independence Means Independence From Any Single Source

Values-based business is driven by the fire of a mission that goes beyond money.

Sending their message out is about the expression of their personality. Values-based entrepreneurs are like artists.

Their mission must not necessarily be the “helping people” trite BS that we so often hear these days.
It can simply be living life way, doing your art or, as well it can be helping people or starting a movement.

But to truly express and speak your values, you must be free.

If you are dependent on anything specific, you will have to adapt to it -or die if it dries up-.

That’s why I went for a subscription model here -need to keep the details under the hood for now-.

Customer Care

A values-based entrepreneur’s time is sacred.

Unless his value is to “bond with people”, customer care must be done efficiently or it takes time away from his art.

And here is the truth:

Efficient inbound lead management often means not replying to the questions at all.

So here are the rules of VBB:

#1. Don’t Do 1:1 Sales

Your time is the most important resource in the world.

So structure your business in a way that you don’t have to in-person and 1:1 sales.

I take this notion to an extreme.
Some emails I get would be so easy to asnwer, and some of them are already set up to make the sale.
For example:

  • I love your work, how long will the access to Power University last?
  • I’m thinking to buy, will the access to the private forum last for ever?

These are set-up questions that are sometimes only asking for a little nudge before purchasing.
And I still don’t reply to them.

incoming email with question about Power University
Easy answer would be: “the course is already discounted to deliver 10x the value of the price, and the access is unlimited”

Or:

customer asking about black friday offer for power university

Sometimes, I feel bad, as some of these are easy questions.
But it’s a matter of principle.

Instead, I set up an automated reply that says “check the sales page, check the forum FAQs, and if the question is not answered, ask in the forum”.
Nobody does.
And nobody buys either, after my non-reply.
And I’m totally cool with that.

Non replying saves time, of course.
But replying would also set a bad dynamic.

Replying to personal emails sets the expectation that you’re available for private questions, and sets the expectation for future replies as well.
It gets even worse: if you reply to pre-sales emails, after customers purchase the produce, they will think:

Oh, so this guy replies as long as he needs to make a sale, but now that I need advice for my life, he doesn’t anymore, eh?

And actually, they’d have a point!
So don’t even get cornered into that one: make a rule to never do private sales, and stick to it.

1:1 Sales Is Inefficient

I set up this rule very early one.

Still, you know, the first couple of emails, it felt like a big novelty.
And I did reply.

And this is where this interesting example comes from:

efficient customer management
And that’s why I dropped it right there and then

When the customer missed the chance to buy he went into second-guessing mode.
There was no point in me “telling him more about the program”.
All the information is online, what could I tell him more?

And from a power dynamics point of view, that was the equivalent of telling me “jump through my hoops and sell to me some more”.

But I’m no (more) a salesman. 

The program is there, there is a 30 days trial period and I stand by my word. 
Give it a try and if you don’t like it, you get your money back, no need to make any hard sale.

If that prospect had actually bought the course, he would have understood the dynamics at play there -but it was my fault for having a buggier system back then- :).

#2. Save Time By Expecting Prospect to Do Their Own Research

Luckily, Power Moves customers are smart people.

So it’s rare that people ask silly questions.

That’s not true for any business, though.
So I will give you now a few examples mixed from this business + some Airbnb requests where I had to resort to more ruthless time-saving:

example of a poor power university alumni

He asks me if the flat is near the Carnival.
But he’s got the address of both, it’s something he can check himself, and do a much better job at it.

In my value system approaching strangers expecting them to do most of the work is immoral.
Customers asking for these questions are not being Machiavellian or pulling social power moves on you. They are more like “socially unskilled” power moves.
But they are power moves nonetheless because they ask you to invest and work for them.

My point of view on this?

It’s your life, do your homework, don’t expect others to carry out your tasks.

#3. Don’t Waste Time With High-Effort Requests

Some people will approach you putting all the burden of exchange on you.

And unless you’re selling products in the tens of thousands, that’s not an effective way of conducting business.

Examples of high-effort requests are:

  • Too general questions
  • Too many questions
  • Discount requests
  • Requests of getting in touch with them
  • Requests in non-English languages

This one was a mix of both of the last two:

efficient customer management

Of course, maybe he’s not a bad guy!

But still, he’s clueless about how the social exchange system works and he hasn’t read my description that doesn’t list the German language.

Not worth the exchange.

And understand this: “non-replying”, at least for me, is not the equivalent of “F U”.
Not replying means:t “life is short mate, let’s focus on what matters”.

The art of non-replying says “life is short mate, let’s focus on what matters”.

#4. Don’t Serve “Future Complaint” Customers

Here is a very general rule of thumb:

The more questions they ask upfront, the more likely it is they will either complain later, or find a way to take up much more of your time

Plus, it can also be a power move.
Some people pose questions just to make it easier for them to complain later.

customer questions you don't want to reply to

In this example, it was: “is it soft enough”.
Then once they can easily complain the product is not as soft as they wanted it.

The trick here is partially a manipulative negotiation technique against you, you, and partially, self-manipulation.

When they complain later you feel guilty because you made them buy and now they’re not happy (guilt-tripping).
And for them, it’s easier to complain because, “hey, they had warned you that softness was important for them”.

Even the ones that are not out to defraud you are usually “difficult customers”.
If you can choose, better getting easy and good customers.

#5. Drop “High-Complaint” Customers Early

If some high-complaint customers got through, don’t keep them!

Here is an example.

Power University is online and accessible 99.9% of the time.

And most of the times, the issue is on the customer’s side.
But issues with the product are crucial moments to understand who you’re dealing with.

Look at this example:

Puts “URGENT”, capitalized, on the subject.
Sprinkles exclamation points and demands action “ASAP”.

I call this “bitch attitude“.

The technique is to yell and scream to put pressure on others to act.
It seeks to override other people’s priorities to get served first, and before anyone else.

Generally, it is my responsibility to serve and fix customers’ problems and I do take that responsibility very seriously.

But this is a different case.
The bitch attitude is manipulative, selfish, and rude (plus, bitches are annoying). And I don’t intend to keep these customers.
Given the bitch-style emotional incontinency showed on the first email, I knew exactly what was coming right after, and I was expecting it very soon, too.
A few minutes later indeed:

And that was it. Money is not worth a bad attitude.

From a business perspective, my behavior is stupid.

Had I taken immediate action, I could have probably kept this customer.
But, again, I don’t run this place to maximize profits.

The way I see it, allowing people to get away with manipulative and poor behavior is a disservice you do to yourself, to the world, and to them as well. You teach them that acting like a yelling bitch works.
And this website is not in the business of nurturing bitches.

Same applies to ahole.
Which leads us to:

6. Only Serve Humans

Some time ago the course was having accessibility issues.

It only happened once and it was a few hours only, but a recent new customer noticed.
And how they reacted to it said a lot about them.

How I reacted to it also says a lot about a values-based business:

example of banned applicant to power university

The Great People Out-There

I’m thankful to say that, in this world, there are plenty of non-free riders (in social science they’re called “altruists”… And in English too :).

Here is one example:

the power moves supporter

Which leads me to my last value:

7. Never Take Free Money If You Don’t Need It (Or If You Can Sell)

I removed Patreon from all my online presence.

Why? 

Things can change at the drop of a hat, but this business is getting closer to becoming self-sustaining and I don’t think it’s fair to take anyone’s money unless you need it.

If you are making enough but want more, then work on making your product and business better, rather than asking for people’s money. There are probably others who need it more in the world.

SUMMARY

A values-based business is a way of life.
A way of living life your way and make a living while you live your way.

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