Why Carvana is doing well and why that is a problem.

Do you know why Carvana is revolutionizing the way people are buying and selling cars? Their offer is well-crafted and their service seems to be great, but the thing that is at the heart of their success goes much deeper than that.

 For decades, the car sales industry has done such an incredibly poor job at humanizing car-buying. The experience can be soul-sucking, demeaning and exhausting. It’s gotten so bad that people dread having to interact with car salespeople, and so, they’ve found creative ways around having to speak to sales agents. Nowadays, buyers don’t really believe that a human being can do a better job at selling them a car than an algorithm. This is how far it has come. And it is mostly the car dealers’ fault. Had they put their human potential first and used it to craft a value-based experience that makes people appreciate them, we would not be having this conversation. But they didn’t. Be it out of laziness, complacency, tradition. It doesn’t matter. The fact is, their time is up. And when you lose your right to exist and you are out of excuses to stick around, you have to pack your bags and leave. We will see a lot more of this happen because many business owners and leaders don’t invest in human value based experiences.

If our potential is not used to build businesses that deliver a real human experience that puts people at its center (by people I mean- staff, clients, suppliers, HUMANS), then there is no reason for us to exist. This is basically what Carvana is saying to all the dealers in America right now: Since you have failed at being human, the machines are taking over, and they are doing a marvelous job.

Let’s learn from this and dedicate ourselves to delivering real, human value.

Your core belief matters most

Inside of us lives a conviction, or belief, that is as old as we are. Whether it was given to us or we developed it through influence doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we have it and that most of us are either unaware of it, or we are not using it to build a better life through meaningful work.

A core belief is something that can neither be explained nor argued about. It is something that is so intricately linked to our being that we have to simply take it as is and defend it with fervor. Steve Jobs never knew where his obsession for ‘thinking different(ly)’ came from. But fortunately he was aware of it and also capable of turning it into work. All the people we tend to honor and admire for their great impact and their almost obsessive focus on creating value from nothing- whether they are in politics, economics, humanitarian aid or the arts- share this: awareness of and alignment with their core belief. 

You might be asking yourself, how do I discover my core belief? The answer is not that fancy: by looking closely. We each have a story from the past. There are many moments which shaped us, intrigued us, impacted us. The moments where we feel we gained confidence and growth are the ones that are infused with our core belief because a core belief is the way we see the world: The way we believe we can grow, the way we seek to contribute and the experiences we seek to have. A core belief covers all three areas. Can you look back and identify those moments inside of your own story? Did something happen that propelled your understanding of growth? Were you at some point triggered more than usual to defend something you believed in with such fervor that you had to either walk away or crush the other party with your sheer conviction? 

There are many faces to our core belief. But a relentless burning desire to defend it is always a part of it. While many acquired beliefs can be diluted, discussed and sometimes even lost, the core belief survives every impact because it is embedded in our DNA. Those that are in full awareness of their core belief act from it. They build things that matter on a foundation of total self accountability and responsibility, which creates trust in those that decide to work with you and buy from you.

Remember, all you have to do to discover your core belief is look closely. It presents itself in your daily life more often than you might think.

You are what you promise.

A business is about making a promise and then making good on that promise. The more meaningful and relatable the promise, the more meaningful the business. 

If we can abide by this simple, but challenging principle, we fulfill our duty in the most impeccable of ways. A promise for betterment is the safety switch transactional businesses lack. Without such a switch you are exposed to market swings, trends, innovation and disruption of the market and many more unpredictable forces. The goal is not to be vulnerable at all. 

A promise requires deep understanding of where your clients stand today. This is a difficult exercise because it is unclear what people need. People only know what they want. These wants tend to be quite predictable: the new, flashy car a neighbor has, the expensive clothes a favorite celebrity wears, the lavish vacation everyone else seems to be able to afford…

If you want your promise to your client to be meaningful, you need to dig deep and be clear on what that person truly needs. And this requires something that does not come easily, but makes all the difference: Listening with intent.

First listen, then promise. 

This principle is embedded in the company culture of almost every successful company that has been around for a while. Those who deliver promises that satisfy shallow customer desires are actually making things worse because the promise is not rooted in betterment. There is no betterment in yet another detergent with more bleach power. There is no betterment in a “3 for the price of 1” baloney sandwich. When you hear an ad say “our customers asked and we delivered,” you can bet money that the product built out of that is without any real value. It’s just there to pull money out of your wallet and satisfy shareholder expectations. 

 Your promises need to be bigger. They need to be a strong counterweight to the situation your customers are currently in. If you serve a community that is disabled by their poor financial choices, then financial freedom is a truly valid promise. Promising to show them how to make more money does not solve their problem. But, promising to teach them how to make better and smarter decisions that bring freedom is a step towards betterment. A person may want to lose 40lbs FAST, but what they may really need is to feel well about themselves FIRST. But you need to listen in order to find out how to deliver your promise. If you see hunger, the promise of food comes to mind. It’s natural. But the true need is not to be fed, but to stay fed. The promise is to show them how.

 Slow down and listen with intent. What problem are you really solving and what promise are you truly delivering.

The 4As to Selling Value

The sales aspect of entrepreneurship is an important step in fueling our mission, because it makes it possible for us to do more of what we love and want to do.

But, how do we set up an optimal sales strategy that involves meaningful persuasion versus the usual manipulation?

What I firmly believe in and share with clients asking for clarity on their sales strategy is what I call ‘The 4 As,’ which takes the elements of a powerful business mission, and applies it to a genuinely human sales funnel:

1: Attention

How do you get people to lend you their ear? If you can’t cut through the noise and grab the attention of the right people, they will pass you by and your value will remain unused. Attention occurs when you are able to promise an outcome that really resonates with people. When you meet people and tell them ‘Imagine a life where…’ you bypass petty cravings and you cut to the chase. Once they have heard you, your goal is to get people thinking, “yes, that would be a life worth living…”

They may not trust you yet, but you’ve piqued their interest.

2: Agreement

For a relationship to happen, it’s not enough to have open ears; our hearts must be open too. And for that, trust needs to be established. Trust can only grow where there is true empathy. That is why in this second step, you have to become an active listener and show how you relate to the experienced pain your potential clients are in. If you can’t show them that you understand their pain, they will back out.

3: Alignment

With trust in place, it’s time to create a shift. This is the hardest but most gratifying part. You have to move the perspective away from what they believe their problem is to the real problem. If someone thinks they will always have health issues, you have to reframe the problem and show them what’s underneath that belief. Re-align their perspective. Pain always originates from somewhere. And recognizing the true cause can be an immense realization for your client.

4: Action

When you have alignment with the root problem, it’s time to take action and present the proposal of value: What is it that you can offer them that takes care of the real issue? Is it rebuilding self-understanding? Is it conscious lifestyle choices? Is it peace of mind? Whatever it is you have decided to deliver (your offer), this is where you make it happen.

3 steps to finding the right employee

If you are running a business, then you know that you have to deal with people.

The people you choose to represent your business are ambassadors of your cause, the face of your company, the spokesperson of your brand, the true carriers of your torch. As such, you have to choose who you bring into your company wisely. We are so used to looking for the “best” employee, we become blind to the “right” employee. We tend to focus on what looks good on paper. The thing of it is, degrees don’t make a person; neither does experience. It can help, but it’s not everything.

Here’s how to find the ideal match quicker and easier:

Be open and transparent about your business mission

Your business seeks to achieve something. There is a conviction living at the heart of it that infuses everything you do and stand for. This conviction declares what problem you are tackling, what promise you are making to the world and how you are going about it. When you look for new people, this should be the first thing they learn about you because if someone has 10 PHDs but no connection to your cause, their impact equals zero.

Share your business culture immediately

The way things are done are key to making people feel like they belong. Most businesses do not share their culture early in the hiring process. Culture- the definition of how actions are carried out, how growth is achieved and how conflicts are resolved within your company- is critical when building a team. Once you have developed your culture compass, you can use tools and methods to find candidates that agree with your HOW, and support your culture.

Make your top level vision part of the conversation

If people want to work for and with you, they need to agree on the destination you have defined in your vision. It’s not enough to lure them in with perks and promises, they need to feel engaged in walking towards the same vision as you are. Many businesses shy away from sharing a visualized dream with candidates, which is too bad because an inspiring vision is so important to build connection.

A vision to become number one or grow by 15% by X time is so basic and kind of a buzz kill. It’s not really engaging. Here’s a tip: my most successful clients use actual pictures to describe their vision and wrap a story around it.

The bottom line:

You are in the people business, we all are. So, you need people to deliver your promise. Make the hiring and on boarding process as human as possible by sharing values that are relevant to people’s notion of meaning. Mission – Culture – Vision are three key pillars that only work if you are open and clear about them. Make them part of the process and you will be blessed with the right people who truly believe in what you stand for and will give their all to your mission and vision.

The beauty of unpredictability in entrepreneurship

Exploration and safety: It is the sensible balance of the two that makes us grow and feel fulfilled. It is a beautiful and natural sequence of risk and consolidation of learnings.

However, modern society has conditioned us to only follow the path of maximum safety, disregarding the value of healthy unpredictability. Foresight seems key in entrepreneurship. But let’s face it, anyone who has ever walked the path of starting their own business knows that there is no safety in this process. Exposure and vulnerability are on the menu every day. As they should be because anything great requires pain. Even birth itself.

Business requires exposure and risk. Business requires excitement in it. Entrepreneurs thrive on unpredictability. We are explorers by nature, even if we don’t admit it. We don’t do things so we are met with exactly what we expect. We do things so that other things can happen. We ask for surprise, even when we insure ourselves against it. We yearn for experiences. We are hungry for stories we can share and for the small wounds that are a testament to our courage.

Nobody actually wants a pre-scripted life, even if predictability soothes that scared little part of our brain. The key is to find a balance between these two things: embracing unpredictability and knowing your boundaries. It’s no fun to be hit with surprise when you are not open to it. Ownership of risk and change is what you need to have.

Risk needs to be taken consciously and with excitement. The exciting part is not to know exactly what’s going to happen next, but to have a response when it happens. This requires clarity and focus on your mission. Your reaction bandwidth, your flexibility to respond to change and surprise, is dictated by the knowledge of who you are and what you need to do. Compare it to a captain on his ship: No amount of experience can afford him with the exact knowledge of every single occurrence at sea. And yet, he takes the risk of exposing himself, his life and the ones he’s entrusted with because he knows deep in his heart what his mission is, and what needs to be done.

Why do we wish for our work to be without exposure? Why do we seek predictability where there is none? Why do we want certainty even though our hearts ache for a plot twist? Embrace unpredictability with open arms. If you don’t, it will roll over you anyway and drag you down. Redefine entrepreneurship as the willingness to face surprise and unpredictability with grace because your mission has prepared you for it.

Our entrepreneurial duty towards society

Our world is divided. There are many walls that segregate groups from each other, and as time progresses many of us feel like the walls get taller, the trenches deeper and the disparities greater.

Most of our society is made up of people who have been turned into products and assets. They sit at one side of the wall. They lend their time and energy by way of work to powerful entities, and are rewarded with the “freedom” to consume. Although these individuals have tremendous buying power, they are completely powerless when it comes to making a choice of empowerment.

On the other side of the wall sit those who control and manage the entities that exploit people. They have grown so fast and massive that they have lost all connection to what life is like “at the bottom.” They don’t understand the problems and obstacles that plague people on the other side. Their blinders force them to focus solely on maintaining and growing that which they already have plenty of.

When we zoom out of this picture we can grasp the imbalance of the situation. It is simply NOT GOOD. It is bound to either completely crumble, or continue on as it is, with people barely scraping by. Nature calls for balance to be created, for entropy to take place. But this is not a call to arms to try and take down an establishment. Quite the opposite. Balance should not be created with an act of violence, or out of lust for retaliation. Balance needs to come from empowerment through guidance. It’s not about tearing someone down, it’s about lifting someone up!

And this is where we, as entrepreneurs, enter the picture. Entrepreneurs are facilitators and enablers of change. We are the ones who have been given the duty and excellence to empower those who need guidance because they cannot seem to activate their own potential. We are the ones who carry the spark to ignite change and betterment. Entrepreneurs who understand this become catalysts for lasting progress by bringing value when and where it is truly needed. This is our unique chance as founders and owners to contribute to the balance that needs to take place.

Do not build a business because you want to sit atop a wall that looks down at others. Your duty is not to “make it” and cruise on autopilot. Your duty is to stay alert, to stay driven and push your cause forward- to stand on that wall so that you can level it. Level the playing field so that potential is possible. Make good on your mission, deploy your value into your products and services and get it to those whose lives become better because of them.

By doing this, you are fulfilling your duty towards yourself and others: to uplift those who feel stuck and hold themselves back from their potential. Your business can empower, it can put smiles on faces, joy in hearts and create success and fulfillment that lasts a lifetime.

Find your artistry as an entrepreneur

Have you ever looked at artists in wonder or maybe even been a little jealous at how freely and easily they seem to create things out of thin air and find satisfaction and great success in it?

As business people, we tend to think that there is a clear line between the world of artistry and entrepreneurship. One seems to serve the fabulous and imagination-driven right side of the mind that is full of wonder and experimentation. While the other is embedded in the cold and rational left side of the mind where precise data and computational reason informs our decisions.

Luckily, as human beings we don’t have to restrain ourselves from either world. We actually have a strong choice to make that will impact EVERYTHING about our work. Are we going to use our work for craftsmanship or for artistry?

Craftsmen are fine people. They work with great experience and knowledge according to the guiding rules and laws they have been taught. They run their operations with great rationale. Their main focus is the creation and replication of the final piece to conclude a transactional obligation.

Artists, on the other hand, have a solid knowledge of their craft, but they abandon the “normal way of doing things” to serve a bigger mission. They seek to explore in their own way how they can create something unique that serves a purpose. If you are an entrepreneur who is hungry to bring betterment, this is a unique path that only art can cover. The art of understanding human problems and finding solutions based on human value. This requires completely different tools and approaches that craftsmanship cannot offer. As an artist, you need to question the standards, break the rules, throw away tried and tested tools and build your own.

Serving human needs cannot happen with off-the-shelf equipment or knowledge that was passed on to you. It requires the total exposure and risk only an artist is willing to take, because they are not in this to play it safe, but to make a difference.

There is nothing wrong with impeccable craftsmanship. We all rely on it daily: we get our cars fixed, houses built, our food grown. There are plenty of fine ice cream parlors out there that get the job done, that is: they sell tasty ice cream. They are all exemplary craftsmen of their trade. But, every now and then an artist appears. They don’t sell ice cream… they make someone’s life better by the means of it. They turn it into art. You can cure heartbreak with a cup of frozen solace, or uplift someone’s day with a scoop of happiness, or remind someone of their childhood with a cup of nostalgia. It’s about reframing that which is common into a whole new context. When this happens, you leave the path of tried and tested craftsmanship and enter the curvy, dangerous and steep path of artistry, where everything is possible and the rewards are infinite.

Kiss retirement goodbye

We are being told to work towards our retirement, to save up for what comes after, to hold on tight until we can finally enjoy the rest of our life. Isn’t that a horrific statement?

What this tells us is that we are not meant to enjoy our lives until we actually reach that moment. Second, and that’s the real kicker, it imposes an expiration date on our purpose. It draws a clear line beyond which a person’s value to society ends, and we can see it. Many people of “retirement age,” or older, lose a deep sense of purpose once they retire. Many seem to fall into a semi coma, living each day exactly as the one before; others get anxious because everything has become still. Sure, many fill their days with activities that keep them busy. But it’s really just a long wait for the big nothing. In many ways, retirement is a slow and invisible killer. One that we consent to. One that we agree on. Well..I don’t. Not at all. And here is why:

It is completely unnatural to put an expiration date on your life’s work. Nature does not retire, ever. There is no hardcoded data within the apple tree that tells it that it’s time to retire- to basically live out the last of its life in full awareness that some end is near, and contribute nothing as it awaits the end. What a sad thing to believe! What a strange thing to work towards when we know that contribution is life itself.

But, when we get into the working world, we sign that agreement and we perpetuate the belief. For many, it’s a light at the end of the tunnel: The liberation from the necessity to work, leaving a job that they hate, abandoning the struggle. But that would also mean that we agree to 40+ years of struggle in a workplace we potentially hate. IF we even make it that far! I am sorry my friends, but this isn’t good enough. This is barely survival. We deserve more. We deserve to fix this.

What if, instead of endorsing a life of imprisonment, and a late pardon into a life without purpose (retirement), we flip things around and make our life about purpose from the beginning to end?

You see, there is no end to our purpose. It is false to believe that our commitment to our purpose ends on day X. Our purpose is with us until the day we die, and we don’t necessarily die at the age of 65. Yes, the ways in which we will bring our purpose to life might change. This can be due to our age and fitness or to the development of the times. But the purpose in our heart stays the same. Abandon the notion that ‘work is purpose’ and flip it around: Turn your purpose into your work and scrap the word ‘retirement,’ and use the phrase ‘evolution of your purposeful work,” instead.

Make a plan today.

1) Invest time into understanding your life’s purpose. 2) Make a plan on how to turn this purpose into actionable work. 3) Build a vision for how your purposeful work could change over time. 4) Rinse and repeat until it becomes so embedded and clear to you that you can finally kiss the weird notion of retirement goodbye.

How are you the spokesperson for the change that will survive you?

As business owners, we are vessels of the value that we bring into this world. Once we understand that we have been gifted with a unique belief and the tools to turn it into business-magic, we see that the impact we can bring is much bigger than the person we are. The impact will survive us long after we have become dust. We still remember Steve Jobs, and in the faraway future, his legacy will carry on because he was clear and focused enough to work hard at making his purpose immortal. And this is where our true work lies. If we give all the attention to the petty personal desires we want to fulfill through our work, we limit the scope of change we can make, to the mortal person that we are. But as literature or art has shown us, the art the artist creates supersedes the artist himself because the artist is the channel through which his change is brought into the world.

Please consider this for a moment in your own life. How are you the spokesperson for the change that will survive you? And how are you embracing that eternal value in your work and in your thoughts?

This reflects in the way we see success: If we work to buy a Lamborghini, we diminish our impact. And just like the Lamborghini, it loses value by the day. If we work to fuel change, we increase our impact beyond ourselves. This is why entrepreneurs of value invest in their impact- to deepen and widen it.The attitude of “serving our cause more than ourselves” is reflected in the way we deal with our clients. We are not here for them to tap us on the back. We are here to uplift them, guide them, lead them so that they feel like they are the ones that made the right choice. We are then remembered for the value we brought to their lives (and they let others know it).

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