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Solopreneurs have the historical, life-changing opportunity today 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.
The true essence of values-based businesses is solo-preneurship. 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 differences with a normal business is that, in the values-based organization, the entrepreneur’s personality shapes the business and not only -and not mostly- 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, not the opposite.
My business is based on me doing what I love doing: studying, enjoying life while I reflect on it and write about, and learning about people.
#2. A Values-Based Business Is The Reflection of Your Values
And the same is true for your values: your business inherits your values.
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.
Just to avoid any possibility someone might thnk this is value-signaling, I’m also somewhat of a relativist in life. I think values are subjective.
And “doing what’s right” also has to be tempered with reaching
#3. A Values-Based Business Seeks Values-Based Customers
In my case, that means protecting against freeloaders and abusive customers.
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.
Freeloaders are, in many ways, abusive.
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, please, for the love of God, don’t think that I’m an Angel.
I’m as far from “good” as you are, and who is deserving and who is not is up to me, which makes the system faaar from perfect and partial to all types of biases.
But it’s still a step forward to a free-for-all.
Of course, I can’t always be sure about who’s buying my products so I have limited control there.
But if I smell bad attitudes, I remove people from my emailing list.
And I can design my products to be freeloaders-free:
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 still 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 don’t offer refunds on the ebooks.
That means fewer sales, but as I said: I’m not about maximizing profits. Upholding my system of values comes before profits.
#4. Money Is Superfluous Above The “Living My Way” Threshold
If you are seeking money accumulation, then you run a business, not a values-based on.
My philosophy towards money, in general, is this:
- Any income above what guarantees a “good life” is superfluous
“Good life” is relative, by to me it’s defined by the ability to do what I like, travel whenever I want, get a non-luxury accommodation in good parts of town and get a bottle of wine whenever I want a good meal -which is never at luxury restaurants-.
Probably around $3k a month is all that’s needed for that.
Once reached that level, my time because more important than money.
This has major repercussions on ThePowerMoves from an actual business point of view.
The website is far from optimized, as some customers very nicely pointed out to me:
And yet, I don’t prioritize fixing those issues unless they bring me below my “living my way threshold”.
#5. 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 normal 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 full of luxury
And I wholeheartedly quote one of my favorite author here, 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. Your Customers Are Your Idols
When you sell from your values, your customers are just like you are.
You automatically sell to a tribe of people with whom you would very easily get along.
They are not just buying your product, they are also endorsing, appreciating and sharing in your vision of life.
Personally, I am deeply grateful to anyone whom, with their business, support the operations of this website.
I love the people who transact with this website.
And I also feel indebted to my customres. 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 and 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 prority
#7. You’re OK With Haters & Enemies
A values-based business will necessarily step on someone’s toes.
Especially the toes of the people who have different values.
Some of my personal values that put in my collision course with people are:
- Money is not worth ripping people off
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-.
- 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 truth”.
That again leads me to tear apart some people’s work when I believe the are talking smack.
#8. Independence Means Independence From Any Single Source
Values-based business are 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 your values in their most honest form you must be free from any single source.
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-.
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
When you’re a solopreneur your time is your most important resource and most of the inbound questions do not translate into sales.
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 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. Don’t Waste Time Doing The Work For Them
But on average Power Moves customers are smart people.
So I will give you now a few examples from Airbnb where I need to resort more often to ruthless time saving:
In my value system approaching strangers expecting them to do most of the work is immoral.
These are not Machiavellian social power move, they are bonehead power moves. But power moves nonetheless.
#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:
Of course, maybe he’s not a bad guy!
But still, he’s clueless about how the 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”.
It only means “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
Keep in mind that some people pose questions just to make it easier for them to complain later.
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.
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:
Which leads me to my last value:
#9. Never Take Free Money If You Don’t Need It (Or If You Can Sell)
I removed Patreon from all my online presence.
Actually no, I only use it for people who can’t afford the current membership price.
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 better improving your conversion and your marketing rather than asking for people’s money. There are probably others who need it more in the world.
A values-based business is a way of life.
A way of living life your way and make a living while you do it.