The amazing thing about any kind of TED event is that each person attending views it through a different lens. TEDx Birmingham was no different. I am not a native of Birmingham, but I am a native of Alabama. I love the Magic City. I met my wife here. I studied here. Twice. I started my business here. I serve businesses here. There was an amazing sampling of the Birmingham community at TEDx Birmingham. At the event I met entrepreneurs, educators, and students. After TEDx Birmingham, I woke up and couldn’t get the ideas out of my head. I started processing everything I heard and reliving the moments. I can’t wait to watch some of the talks again to catch some of the amazing moments I missed. I started writing out some ideas and began to see how everything at TEDx Birmingham wove together to create a beautiful tapestry of actionable ideas we can take to transform the Magic City (or wherever you happen to be). It is amazing to me how all of the talks on various topics from many different types or presenters wove together to teach us a lesson about changing the community where we live. As I put together my thoughts, I began to see how the amazing ideas presented at TEDx Birmingham can apply to your business as well as you personally. After all, we are all in this together.
“What we are mining today are our people and their creativity.” Laura Kate Whitney
Whether you are in Birmingham or anywhere else, the ideas shared at TEDx Birmingham should help ignite a passion in you to help you transform your community, transform yourself, and transform your business. I want to show you a few ways you can take action on the ideas presented at TEDx Birmingham and transform your business by transforming your community. How do ideas about technology, education, and sustainable food work together with the business lessons we learned? Because your business is part of your community. Because your business should be about more than money. If you are simply in business to make money, you will not leave much of a legacy. Legacy. That is what I left TEDx Birmingham thinking about. I couldn’t get Jim Cavale’s talk about living with intent out of my head. As I relived the day, I put everything I thought of into the formula Jim gave us. (You can find Jim’s notes from his talk here)Jim Cavale of Iron Tribe Fitness taught us how to leave a legacy. You can use the same formula for your business as you do for yourself. Your business is only part of your personal legacy, but your business will leave a legacy of its own. Jim’s formula works just as well for a business owner planning how to have an intentional business that changes the community around it as it does for a person who is trying to make his own change in the world.
What is your vision?
What is your mission?
What are your values?
You need to answer these questions in your business. Vision is about where your business is going. What change do you seek to make in the world? Mission is about more than your business, it is the purpose for your business. It is the actionable plan you create to make your vision happen? The values are what drive your business. What matters in your business? Do you value customer service? high quality products? community change? life change in your customers?
What is important to your business?
No matter what your business and your mission, if you can’t sustain your business model it can’t make lasting change. You must create a business that serves a need. A business that can make enough money to support your vision, mission, and values. You must be intentional about how your business does that. You must make sure your business makes money in line with your vision, mission, and values. No matter how you cut it, to do that you need customers. But first, you need an audience. Whether you are business to business or business to consumer, you are dealing with people. People are what make up your community. And people are the multiplier of the formula.
“There is no more B2B or B2C. It’s H2H: Human to Human.” – Bryan Kramer
Once you know your VMV, you need to pour into people. Your initial thought for your business might be that it will be your customers.
But, is your business really that narrowly focused?
Your business is about more than serving customers. Yes, as I said, you must make money through your customers to sustain yourself. But that is only a means to the end of pouring your vision, mission, and values into people. But, in this part of the formula, the customers are not the only ones who benefit. You can’t think so narrowly. Using TEDx Birmingham as an example, most of the speakers have some kind of business they run or own. They were not pouring their vision, mission, or values into their customers. They were pouring them into the community of Birmingham. Into the TED community. Into everyone who watched the live stream and everyone who will watch the videos when they go live on YouTube.
They were living with intent.
They were pouring into people. Your business is about more than customers. It gives your mission voice. It creates a platform for you to share your vision. Through your business, you can create a community of people who listen to your story. The community of people you have the pleasure of serving are the people in the equation for your business. Not everyone pays you for your message. But, you must be intentional with your mission. You are spreading your vision. You are pouring into people whether they are paying you or not. Remember this is about legacy, not money. This is the reason I created the Legal to English community. It is a part of my vision. A part of my mission. I want to educate entrepreneurs and small business owners on the legal that affects their business everyday. If I didn’t give it away for free, I would be limiting the number of people I could serve. I wouldn’t have enough time to leave any kind of impact. This is about helping you. I am pouring what I have learned, what I have experienced into the Legal to English community. I do this to leave an impact on the business community. To leave an impact on the startup world. I want to leave a legacy of entrepreneurs who understand the legal that impacts their business. Entrepreneurs who understand how to legally protect their business, so they can function with intent. My mission is to help you fulfill yours. Maybe you aren’t sure of your voice. Maybe you aren’t ready to get behind the microphone or share your story in your own words yet. You can still pour into people through your business by using your advertising dollars with intent. Like, the sponsors of TEDx Birmingham, you can sponsor a cause that falls in line with your vision, mission, or values. Even though it serves the function of growing your business, sponsoring an event that can change the community, that impacts your city, is being intentional with your business.
“Don’t just get out your pen and paper, put the pen to paper” Jim Cavale
Go ahead, think of your Vision. Your Mission. Your Values. Write them down. Hold yourself accountable. Hold your team accountable. Understand why you are here. What it is you are trying to accomplish. Then, start pouring into some people.
“Stories are the basic equipment for life” Michele Forman
At TEDx Birmingham, we talked a lot about stories. How stories are what people want to hear. How stories change lives. Isn’t that what you want to hear about? On the way to TEDx Birmingham on Saturday, I was listening to the New Rainmaker Podcast, and they were discussing this same concept. The idea that stories are what people rely on. That’s one of the reasons people want to shop locally. It is why people like to support small business. They latch on to your story.
How are you telling your story to impact people?
How are you sharing your vision, mission, and values with people? Tell your story. That is why content marketing is on the rise in businesses. That is why it is possible for small businesses to grow rapidly without the advertising dollars of the larger conglomerates. It is good business. It is good advertising.
But, isn’t your business about more than that.
Content marketing spreads your story. Your story that tells of your vision, mission, and values. Content marketing can help you get your story out. The internet gives us the ability to tell our stories to more people. And isn’t that the multiplier in Jim’s formula? Get your story out. Don’t be afraid to share it. You need to live with intent. After all, none of us know how much time we have. So, we must live with enthusiasm and share with as many people as we can. You must operate your business with this kind of enthusiasm. Sure, it is a good way to grow your business. But, it is also an amazing way to get your story out to as many people as you can. That is how you change the world. That is how you make an impact. That is how you leave a legacy. Telling your story isn’t enough. Jan Mattingly showed us in her talk that you must get your audience engaged and excited about what you are teaching them. What you are offering them. Jan works with students. She teaches them what is often viewed as boring information in a new and exciting way. But, she does it by thinking about what will engage her audience. About what will excite her audience. Can’t you do the same in your business? Larry Lawal, in his talk, talked about funding science research. How it is in decline. How the government is cutting funding and how so many great ideas are left undeveloped because no one would invest in them. He offered an explanation: scientists are focused on the how, but they ignore the why. His new startup, HealthFundit helps tell those stories. Larry is using his vision, mission, and values to help scientists fund the research that could change the world. He is being intentional. He is helping others spread their vision, mission, and values by helping scientists tell the why of their research. That offers hope and helps fund important research that could change the world.
Whatever you do, be Authentic.
Your story must be authentic. It must be your story. People will know if you are not authentic. Graham Boettcher spoke about a different kind of authenticity: how art is designed to mystify us and evoke emotions. Anything that does that is a certain kind of authentic. But, authentic people must be truly authentic. Though the copies of great pieces of art may provide value to those who view it, when compared to the real thing, they don’t hold a candle.
What does that mean for you?
You must be authentic in your business. You must tell an authentic story. People want to work with people. You can’t create an inauthentic copy of yourself to share your story. You will fail in sharing your vision, mission, and values to people because it will not provide value to the people who hear your story. They will not see your real vision, mission, and values. That means your legacy won’t be the one you are trying to leave. And if you do not tell an authentic story, someone else will.
Face the Negatives. Be Brave.
If you are authentic and tell your story, there will be naysayers. You will face people who disagree with you. Some may not be kind. Jordan Reeves talked to us about fighting those naysayers, about facing them head on. You can’t sink to the level of the naysayers, but you can’t run away from them either. If you are telling your authentic story and living with intent, you can’t run from the naysayers. You must face them. Continue to be authentic. Continue to tell your story. Don’t be ashamed of that story. Put yourself out there.
But, what if I fail?
You will. But, you must be brave. You can’t not do something because you are afraid of failing. Jen Barnett talked to us about bravery. She talked about being bold and making decisions and trying something. “What could happen?” But, Jen told us, when you decide to do something, you must give it everything you have, or you will always wonder what might have happened.
“Innovation is when success follows a long line of failures.” Pat Hymel
Failure is part of the process. Your business may fail. Your product may fail. But, your mission won’t. You must own your errors. You must learn from them, and you must move forward. That is how you will reach success. That is how you will innovate. That is how you will change the world. Pat Hymel reminds us that we must not give up on our mission. Sometimes we must give up a product; sometimes we must pivot our original plan, but “once you find where you should be digging, don’t stop.” Sometimes it isn’t about failure. It’s about set back. Sometimes, something outside of your control changes where you are going. But it doesn’t change your mission. Theresa Bruno shared a tear-jerking story about how she lost her ability to impact the world with her piano keys. But, she didn’t stop digging. She knew she had found the right spot, so she found another way to achieve her mission, to spread her vision, and to impact people with her values. She has changed the lives of children through art. She has worked with the medical community to use the arts to heal people. Only because she didn’t quit digging.
How Can Your Business Impact Your Community?
You can work with the the education systems in your area to develop shadow programs or intern programs to pour into the next generation. Think about the legacy you can build by offering opportunities for the next generation to learn what it means to be a part of the real world. After all, as Victoria Hollis told us, “a city cannot reach its full potential unless its children reach theirs.” Sometimes, it is about leaving where you are and doing something that is your passion. Like Glenny Brock who made it her life’s mission to “Light up the Lyric”. The passion that comes from her when she weaves the pictures of the past into your mind as if you had memories of the vaudeville theatre from the 1920’s shows that this is truly her mission. She is impacting people by bringing entertainment back to the Magic City. By keeping the Lyric.
“This city, it chooses to lose things and mourn them forever. Instead of saving them for the future.” Glenny Brock
Sometimes, your mission is about educating people on how to help themselves. Cybercrime is a real problem without a real solution. Gary Warner works to help people know how to fight cybercrime. Gary’s mission is to educate people on how to protect themselves. What if you made sure your customers were protected online when they were using your products? It isn’t about money. It’s about vision, mission, and values. You want your customers to be protected right? Make sure you protect them online. It impacts those you have the pleasure to serve. Sometimes, art is its own message. Shariff Simmons surprised us all with a live rendition of his piece that goes with the amazing promo video created by UAB Digital Media for TEDx Birmingham. It was an excellent start to the day. It was better live than in the video, but the video is always worth a watch (even if you have already seen it). If you want your day made, you should check out this awesome video by Gabriel Tajeu, or listen to the amazing stylings of Malik Kofi or check out Quagswag. Their message is shared through music, lyrics, and choreography. Their art is changing people’s lives and telling stories. Though art can speak for itself, telling your story with authenticity can certainly help. If art is a part of your vision, mission, and values find a way to make it sustainable and pursue it with enthusiasm. Food, like art, can speak for itself, but Chris Hastings does more than that. Chris uses his amazing restaurant Hot and Hot Fish Club to help ensure that every member of the next generation of Alabamians has access to a healthy, sustainable food supply. He knows his mission. He has a vision. He shares his values. He pours that into people every day. Chris has received many (well-deserved) accolades for his food, but he doesn’t stop there. He wants to sit at your table and tell you how you can have that kind of food experience everyday. Chris wants everyone to know that good food starts with a good food supply. Chris uses every meal he serves and every event he caters to share that vision with others.
Intentionally Transform the Community
What I took away from TEDx Birmingham is that words only evoke emotions, transformation cannot happen unless you are taking action. All of the speakers took action. It’s our turn now. What action will you take to “rediscover the magic” and change your community? How will you live intentionally to impact the community around you? Let me know in the comments!