It’s been three years from my sojourn near the blue coasts of the beautiful and warm French city of Nice. After my graduation from Master in Finance, I came to Germany and started officially what my parents would call the societal life.
According to my family, societal life only started when one had a full time job and had enough time to deal with serious problems. The mysterious veil with which they had covered work and business made me feel anxious and I had talked about it with a professor of mine. He said: “You shouldn’t worry. Working is not much different from college; you are not going to invent the wheel, even though you Chinese people actually did.” He had pacified the internal storm in me, and he was right in that no matter happened, there would be no tragedy: no blood and no corpses. I had promised myself to avoid them by abandoning the option of pursuing a medical career.
Still alive after my immersion in society, I have learnt several things about business; some which are well covered in business books and others from my personal experience. Three years into business can teach us a whole lot if we hold our eyes open; it is the same amount of time for pursuing a doctorate title, except that at the end of it, we end more humble.
Among other lessons I had, I experienced business live. It is like meeting your favourite author/idol face-to-face. You can see how she/he looks like, how she/he moves, and what he/she cares about. I have met “Mr. Business” and this is how he is:
Shape of business
- Mr. Business is a tall guy. We know that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If point A is where we are now and point B where we want to get, connecting these points through a straight line will be the shortest way for us to attain our objective, but alas! business is no straight line. Most projects take more time and sometimes more resources than a well crafted plan.
- Mr. Business looks like a cardiogram. Mr. Business has some up and downs. If it were flat, it would be as if life were ending; the hope is that it keeps moving.
- Mr. Business has the shape of a modelling clay. It can change quickly, and you can model it and help it take shape with your decisions and actions. One can be very creative with him.
Movement of business
- Mr. Business needs to be pushed. In a TED talk from Richard St. John he talk of push as one of the secrets of success. He says that it is not always easy to push ourselves, and that’s why they invented the mothers. Mr. Business needs to be pushed too; especially at the beginning of existence. In a start-up, there needs to be enough “push” in order to generate the searched “momentum” or “traction”.
- Mr. Business can fall if it jumps or falls into the air. In physics we know the gravity law. An apple can fall off a tree and hit on Newton’s head. In business, if there is no counterforce to “gravity” that keeps it flying, it will fall and hit all stakeholders’ head until they go home and think about why the “apple” fell.
- Mr. Business can move at different speeds. He can walk slowly as in Germany or run quickly as in San Francisco; or any pace in between. Sometimes he moves all day long and other days he is too tired. He can also accelerate if you give gas and someone needs to make sure it has enough fuel, i.e. resources to go on.
Core of business
“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two—and only two—basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” — Peter Drucker as quoted on Business Insider
Being someone who studied finance, I can not underestimate the importance of finance, but having experienced business, I have to say that at least inside Mr. Business we need:
- Marketing: getting customers is central, because it is how cash is ultimately generated and in the end cash is the king. No business can survive long term without customers and marketing attains precisely that, the obtention of customers through awareness generation, lead conversion, customer retention among other activities.
- Innovation: There will always be improvements to offerings, processes and solutions that should be implemented. They are often in the air waiting for us to grabbed. This function becomes a necessity in the process of what Schumpeter calls creative destruction.
If those are the functions at the core, the soul that turns all this possible is the:
- People in the company: with their values, beliefs and attitudes. Their abilities and their motivation will play a critical role to the final outcome, as well as the degree of fit into the team.
Isn’t Mr. Business interesting with his various shapes, eye-catching movements and inspiring core? This was just a very short introduction to Mr. Business in flesh and just as you can never finish knowing a person, so is business too: rich in meaning and always changing. You can get to know him deeper every day and every year and your interest will never cede, but increase instead. I have been very pleased to meet Mr. Business and I hope my introduction has made you more acquainted with him too.
The sun is shining and flowers on the streets are blossoming. What are wonderful time to do business with Mr. Business now that we know him? I am sure we can elaborate some plans and look forward to great experiences in this lovely season.