Successful entrepreneurs see themselves as servants. Dictionary.com defines a servant as “a person employed by another, especially to perform domestic duties.” The person who employs the servant see “domestic duties” as necessary tasks to be done, but don’t have time for them, don’t like to spend time doing them, or don’t know how to them. In the other hand, he or she has enough money to hire a qualified, professional and obedient servant to help out.
Another way of seeing entrepreneurship is to define it as a voluntary servitude, servitude defined as “a condition in which one lacks liberty especially to determine one’s course of action or way of life” – Merriam-webster.com
My deep belief, based on years of hustling is that the best and most successful businesses are those which act less as “change agents”, but more like “obedient and convenient servant” any customer could hire to do better what they have been already doing, but with frustration and pain points.
Defined in that way, the journey of an entrepreneur starts with the will to serve someone else with dedication, humility, and consistency, to the point that the entrepreneur is willing to lose the freedom to determine his or her one’s course of action or way of life, but would ground his or her service on the only one thing that supremely matters: customer satisfaction and retention.
This kind of mindset could be called the Servant Mindset.
Here are 7 great ways to successfully leverage the servant mindset for business success:
1. Select your master or the people you want to serve
“Choose your customers, choose your future. Your customers define what you make, how you make it, where you sell it, what you charge, who you hire and even how you fund your business. If your customer base changes over time but you fail to make changes in the rest of your organization, stress and failure will follow. Sell to angry cheapskates and your business will reflect that. On the other hand, when you find great customers, they will eagerly co-create with you. They will engage and invent and spread the word.It takes vision and guts to turn someone down and focus on a different segment, on people who might be more difficult to sell at first, but will lead you where you want to go over time.” – Seth Godin
2. Know your Master more than anyone else
Former GE CEO Jack Welch once said, “We have only two sources of competitive advantage: (1) the ability to learn more about our customers faster than the competition, and (2) the ability to turn that learning into action faster than the competition.
3. Remember the Future
“Remember the future” is all about “Begin with the end in mind” principle from Stephen Covey, which means you need to define in advance how you want you master to feel, perceive, and appreciate you after you have being serving him or her for 1 month, 1 year, or 10 years.
How do you want your master to feel after you have done a good job?
4. Make a list of things your master hate or don’t like
You could be doing a great job for your master, but if you walk like a crab, talk too fast or don’t wear descent clothes, you won’t be successful with your master.
Strategy is less about what you decide to do. A big part of it is about what you decide NOT to do. – Steve Jobs
5. Give a name to your Master
A Chinese proverb says “You don’t know until you give it name”. Naming give you the power to handle a person or a situation; naming creates a mental model or paradigm that helps you be more efficient, more effective.
The name should however reflects your master’s persona. Call him or her your “Prince”, “Princess”, “Field General” or “Mother Teresa”, Whatever!
6. Measure Your master satisfaction
“We are not in business to educate our customers, we are in business to make great products that make our customer’s life more simple” – Steve Jobs.
7. Commit to learn everyday something new about your master, and never take anything for granted
“Great enterprises can become insulated by success; accumulated momentum can carry an enterprise forward for a while, even if its leaders make poor decisions or lose discipline. Stage 1 kicks in when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement, and they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place. When the rhetoric of success (“We’re successful because we do these specific things”) replaces penetrating understanding and insight (“We’re successful because we understand why we do these specific things and under what conditions they would no longer work”), decline will very likely follow. Luck and chance play a role in many successful outcomes, and those who fail to acknowledge the role luck may have played in their success—and thereby overestimate their own merit and capabilities—have succumbed to hubris.” Jim Collins in How the mighty fall
These kind of behaviors, skills and mindset are extensively thought in the hospitality business, which has a lot to teach first time entrepreneurs about product design and customer service.
There are numerous tools to apply the servant mindset to every day business life. I’d recommend the book Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play by Luke Hohmann which contains numerous exercises and case studies.
Here is an excerpt of the 12 innovation games in the book that any company includes a startup could use to design a successful product or service in the marketplace.