This Entrepreneur Says: Forget Your Why and Focus on Your IF

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This Entrepreneur Says: Forget Your Why and Focus on Your IF


Michael Roderick is a referral expert and founder of a consulting company called Small Pond Enterprises. Through his seminars, classes and events, Roderick supports solopreneurs, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs who want to accelerate the success of their business. He sat down with Jessica Abo to discuss why thinking about your “why” isn’t enough and what you should be focusing on instead.

Jessica Abo: Michael, what is a Referral Expert and can you tell us about the work you do at Small Pond Enterprises?

Michael Roderick:
A referral expert is someone who focuses on the idea of ​​what people will say about you when you’re not in the room. How are they going to get your content and your ideas shared without you even having to be there? And the work I do at Small Pond Enterprises is to help donors become thought leaders. Usually, the people who are very good at doing the work for their clients are the ones who don’t prioritize the packaging of their own intellectual property. So I help them develop these big ideas, these concepts and build them so that other people can talk about them when they’re not there.

Why do you think “why” is such a popular idea, and why do you think it’s not the best idea for entrepreneurs to focus on?

The reason why appeals to so many people is that it’s about you. You get the emotional component of sharing your why, why you’re doing this thing, sharing your passion, your excitement, but unfortunately, it’s all focused on you. This is “you show”. The thing is, your customer, unfortunately, doesn’t care. Your customer takes care of themselves. They are interested in what is in it for me, they want to know what transformation you will bring me. So if you spend all your time talking about your why and yourself, it actually turns your customer off because they’re listening to how you’re going to help me.

If it’s not about why, what is it about?

It’s about IF. It is about the innovative framework. It’s about taking the idea and making it so easy for other people to share it, and really breaking it down so that your audience thinks differently. They see your model, your frame of mind, your way of doing things and then they want to go and they want to share that with other people. That’s where we need to focus.

What do you mean when you say there is a big IF and a little IF?

The big IF is the larger innovation framework you have and is usually your first pitch to an audience. Because most people won’t want to engage with you about your mindset if you don’t give them a big idea to start with. You always need an access point. So your big IF is that you challenge a dominant narrative. You say this is the way everyone else says things should be done and I disagree and here’s why. And that’s what makes them lean back and they say, “Oh, well, if that’s the case, then tell me more about how it works.” And that’s when you go to the little IFs, because those little innovative frameworks, those very simple ways that you use to show your idea, that’s what’s going to basically help them see how that big idea connects. This is what will give them the tools to do the work they do. This is when you get out the pen and paper and draw the graph. Then you get out of the metaphor. Then you show them the three phases. All these different elements, but you have to start with that big IF. You have to start with that aspect of I’m challenging that dominant narrative just to get people to be willing to pay attention.

So for people wondering about the benefits of having an IF and the importance of having an IF, why are these frames such a big deal?

Basically, when people are out there trying to decide who they’re going to hire, who they’re going to work with, they’re looking for someone who has taken the time to determine how they’re actually going to work. And in much the same way that if you go to a store, even though Duane Reade’s version of Coke is exactly the same version of Coke, you’re going to buy Coke because it’s branded. They’ve taken the time to create an experience, a way to think about it, and for coaches, consultants, and subject matter experts, it’s the same thing. You can have the best expertise in the world, but if people don’t have a way to package that and somehow turn to you and think of you as the person who created this method or you as the person who has come up with a concept, you’ll just be in a line of other subject matter experts trying to sell their services.

How can people build these frameworks? What are some of your tips?

One of the best things is to find other people who are also working on their intellectual property, because you yourself are too close to your ideas. So you’re going to think something’s really interesting or you’re going to think something’s really powerful and you’re going to go out there and try to sell that thing and it might not pan out, it might not make sense, it might confuse people. But if you get around others who can see what you’re talking about and tell you and be honest like, “This is confusing to me. I don’t understand this This metaphor is strange. All of these different types of things will make you so much better. You will be able to refine things much better and you will be able to understand them. But the bonus to this is also that if someone asks you all these questions and helps you refine this process, now they understand your business even better, so they will be even better when it comes to referring new business , because they understand it inside out.

You run a class a few times a year to help people with their frameworks and they can do that with other entrepreneurs in real time, but could you walk us through how those classes actually work?

The way the classes work is that they’re like a thought leadership writer’s room where you walk into the room and at the same time you really share your ideas with everyone. They give you feedback and you work on the concept in the classes themselves. You’re actually doing the work there, and you get that opportunity to actually do the work, instead of just learning about something and then going, “Okay, well, I hope I get to that someday.”


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