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Small Business Advice: Are You Enlightened?

lao-tzu.jpg

I was reading from Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching last night when I ran across an interesting quote:

He who knows others is wise;
He who knows himself is enlightened.

The passage made me stop and contemplate my own life. How well do I know myself? I went down that path for a bit of time; looking at my aspects and considering what I might be blind about.

Naturally, I soon turned to business. I thought about how much of marketing is focused on the consumer or the client. I wondered what I might learn about my business if I applied Lao-tzu’s words to marketing. So I rewrote the passage to say:

He who knows his customer is wise;
But he who knows his business is enlightened.

Then I started thinking about my clients, my colleagues, my friends, etc. How many of them really know what they do? I don’t mean can they explain their business in some marketing lingo that drives sales. I’m talking about do they understand what they REALLY do for their clients? What impact do they make?

For instance, I’m a web developer, a marketing coach, a business advisor and a strategist. I help my clients understand how to use the internet to reach their business goals. Pretty simple.

But if I think about the client’s I’ve worked with over the past year, it’s evident that I have a much broader and deeper impact on my client’s life than I first think about. While I certainly help them build their website, clarify their marketing message or build a campaign, I also help them create space in their lives for their business. As well, I help them overcome their fears and uncertainties about using the web, and I educate them in how to measure their success. What’s more, I teach them anything they really need or want to know about using the web to grow their business.

But it doesn’t stop there. Most of my clients and I also develop a strong bond; a working relationship that seems to increase their trust in themselves. They know, for instance, they’re not doing this alone in their process. I also freely share my idea, concepts, vision and excitement about their business – something that often motivates them to get the next bit of work done.

When I think about it, I do far more than just develop web-based businesses. I have an impact on my client’s lives. And I need to remember that in my business. Perhaps even explore that more and understand how I can express more of what I offer my clients. And maybe, just maybe, I can find more of the light in my business.

So what about you? How well do you know what you do? How much do you understand the impact you have on your clients or customers? How enlightened are you in your business?

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Comments

  1. SEO for Yahoo Small Business - Terry Reeves says:

    Speaking from experience, I know that when people want to buy, having the idea that the person they want to buy from knows his stuff will definitely make a difference. In many instances, especially big ticket purchases, people don’t buy the product/service, they buy the most likable, knowledgeable seller.

    Who wants to do business with someone who only knows the lingo and the pitch?

  2. After all these years I know myself fairly well, but I’m always trying new things so I’m continually changing. I don’t have a business, so my purpose in blogging is to connect with other people. I’ve already made an impact on other people’s lives through my teaching and leading support groups, so blogging is another way of reaching out. One thing I’ve been doing is reading a lot of blogs and deciding what my two blogs have to offer. I’ve decided to write about what I deeply care about in the spirit of sharing. I’ve been finding that bloggers who set themselves up as experts turn me off. We each have to become the expert of our own lives, so I write about what works for me, then my readers can decide if it resonates with them or not. Either way they learn something. Anyway, it’s just an experiment, and I’m getting more interaction than I expected. It’s a fun trip. Thanks for asking. :)

  3. Terry,
    I couldn’t agree more. So often it comes down to likability rather than knowledge. And I think that’s a good thing. You should like the people you do business with. And specifically, you should like (and trust) anyone you entrust your business with.

    I know I don’t want just lingo and a sales pitch. Sounds like you feel the same…

    Jean,
    Certainly. Are you saying blogging is a fun trip? Or life? Or both?

  4. Thanks to a strange and wonderful experiment I conducted earlier this month, I have a very good idea of what I do for my “customers” (where “customers” is defined as “consumers of my content”).

    That Lao Tzu was a bit of alright, wasn’t he? Understanding the nexus between ourselves and others–which pretty much demands we know ourselves–is the key to the game.

    Anyway, I know that from me, people want illumination with levity. Or a sparkle. Or however you want to define enlightment + entertainment. (enlightainment? inspirevity?) Oy! What in tarnation have I gotten myself into in this incarnation?

  5. North Dallas Condos says:

    I love the passage, I also enjoyed how you implemented into our businesses.

  6. I am now retired from active business life after a very eventful one. Enlightenment for me has meant that I dropped all the load that I was carrying on my shoulders and became lighter for it. It is afterwards that I realized that I was carrying the load on my shoulders but was traveling in a high speed vehicle. It never occurred to me to keep the load down on the vehicle. I now know better.

    I mentor some young entrepreneurs as part of a local chamber of commerce initiative. Being detached has helped me give these young people better advise than I would have been able to when I was actually involved on a hands on basis.

    These young people have a different and in my opinion, better platform to launch their enterprises from, as they have the benefit of having a rich exposure to successful and failed businesses as part of their growing up process. Their instinctive concern for their customers is a direct response to such a background. They automatically look at problems from the point of view of how a solution would affect customer relations/service. As a long time employee at that age, I did not ever react like that. I always looked at problems to solve to benefit the organization.

    As I had mentioned earlier in another context, wisdom is always by hindsight. I am now in a position to enjoy such wisdom, including such as expressed by you in posts like these. Actually, it gladdens my heart to read such posts and some very enlightened comments from other like minded people who visit your site. To that extent, perhaps for me blogging is a fun trip as the Cheerful Monk and you so eloquently put it!

  7. Shama Hyder says:

    Love the quote!

    I do think however that your business and clients are constantly evolving, so one can never be “enlightened” completely.

    It’s a learning process.

  8. communicatrix,
    Don’t we all ask the same thing from time to time? And if we don’t, we should (rarely do I say should). What else do we really have in our lives, our relationships or our businesses if we don’t understand ourselves; if we’re not continually looking for that understanding?

    Home Recording,
    Lovely insights. Isn’t it incredible the seeming natural shift in people’s consciousness to caring about other more? This is where real-life and business cross-over each other, I believe. Great customer service and client relationships come from within. It’s an intrinsic manifestation of our natural caring about others. It just flows into what we do – business, personal, otherwise.

    Living ‘it’ is and will always be the biggest key to success. If we live what we believe, know and feel to be right – by live I mean exemplify in our daily movements – it’s not, then, a sales technique or business approach. It’s just who we are. And as I say again and again – people want to do business with people, not with businesses. Be what we know is good and we’re more than half-way there.

  9. North Dallas,
    Thanks. For me, running a business and living my life are the same thing. I don’t mean that my business is my life. What I mean is that my business is a part of my life – just as my family, recreation and spirituality. I can’t separate one out from the other. But I can bring all that I am to each part of my life. That’s one of the reasons I feel it’s so important to know yourself in your business.

    Thoughts?

    Shama,
    We/they are always evolving – hopefully. But I may think of the word ‘enlighten’ differently that you might think. I don’t see ‘enlightenment’ as a destination. Rather I see it as merely becoming aware or awake. That by not means constitutes arrival. Instead, I feel it’s important to understanding that you’ll continually unfold in life. And being aware of where you are and what’s unfolding inside is what I see enlightenment to be.

    So being enlightened is the journey itself, not the destination. What do you think?

  10. When i had first stepped into advertising, i was really excited on what I was going to learn. And I must say I have been very enlightened with what I do. It has open up many horizons for me. I never knew there were so many different mannerisms to convey a message, which is also very exciting to see the possibilities. Sad part is that maybe advertising is not where i would want to stay forever.

    Good post man. :)

  11. So being enlightened is the journey itself, not the destination. What do you think?
    That is just one of the beautiful statements in this exchange of views. Of course, I entirely agree and I hope that Shama does too.
    Your responses to the comments above have been more elaborate and I could not have put it in any better way.

  12. I’d say I’m still away from true enlightenment. Everyday brings new ideas, thoughts, work processes and newer people to deal and interact with. The process of learning goes on throughout life, and taking stock of all your achievements, relationships, progress in work etc is something I really look forward to doing some years hence.

  13. And btw, Wish you a rocking New Year! Hope the coming year takes you to greater heights of success.

  14. Continuing to seek enlightenment and knowledge seems to be the most reliable way to stay relevant and youthful!

  15. Laser Hair Removal says:

    Very nice post and I loved reading everybody’s comments on the same. I think in todays world we have forgotten self enlightenment. We have become so commercial and life has become so fast and stressful that people have no time to sit back and think about their own personal lives.
    I think we should make a new year resolution to look into ourself and try and change what is not correct in ourselves. If we can start with doing this once a week also I feel it would be a great achievement.

  16. Where are you Dawood? You started off a nice topic and have dropped off! I hope that you are coming up with another great blog!

  17. Aronil,
    Sounds like you’ve got a lot of juice for advertising. Why not stay in it?

    Home Recording,
    I’ve seen over and over again that westerners look at ‘enlightenment’ differently than do Asians or Middle Easterners. We see it as a point of arrival where everything is just good. Yet, that’s not the way it’s held by many others around the world. Enlightenment, if I could be so bold, is a way of being…a way of living…an everyday process of unfolding understandings about out experiences – all with a deep level of acceptance.

    And…sorry for taking a few days away. I’m still trying to balance having three kids with my wife’s needs, work and the crazy holiday season we had.

    Dining Room,
    I hear you. I think much of ‘enlightenment’ has to deal with acceptance, maybe even surrender, to what is. How we manage ourselves in the face of what life brings us. So it will always be a process.

    And thanks for your kindness. Have a blessed year.

    Jason,
    Absolutely. I think one of the things that defines youth is flexibility and the willingness to accept change. Most people, as they age, seem to stop accepting change. And I’ve wondered if that’s why some age differently than others. What do you think?

    Laser Hair,
    That’s what I see as well. For instance, I’m very different than my sister. She doesn’t do too much introspection. She’s a great person – loving, caring, kind. Yet it’s easy to see that something’s missing for her. It’s just behind her eyes. But rather than search it out, she just buys another widget or takes another vacation. And that’s just who she is right now.

    But we’re very different. I’m always looking at things inside myself. I see the purpose of my life is to know, as fully as I can, who I am – internally and externally – and neither have an end point. So for me, I can’t live another way than to question things, to stay open to new ideas and to continually learn about myself. It’s just who I am.

  18. Heya again..

    Well as much as I find it a really interesting industry, it’s not exactly where my passion lies. Basically I have other things which i hope to go forward with. Hehehe but who knows maybe i will come back to advertising :P

  19. Aronil,
    Got it. Is there a way you could incorporate your enjoyment of advertising with some of your other interests? In other words….niche?

  20. most porbably it can, but in a round about way. See i’m heading more toward performing arts.. hehe.. so while it can be related to some aspect, but it will be tad bit different in terms of the industry. Although i have no doubt that they can be intertwined together ^_^

  21. aronil,
    But what about using your advertising knowledge to help theaters and artists promote themselves? Sounds like a niche to me.

  22. The problem is that maybe advertising is not where i would prefer to stay on the long term.

  23. He who knows his customer is wise;
    But he who knows his business is enlightened.

  24. John,
    I can understand. Yet is there a way you can leverage your advertising knowledge to create a niche business for yourself that isn’t directly in advertising?

    search engine,
    I think somewhat true. I’d rephrase as he who positions his business correctly is wise, but he who comprehends the needs of his audience, and how his business fills those needs, is enlighten – and successful.

  25. MP3 Lyrics says:

    By Advertising you lose nothing if you can aleast put ads in ur pages,, before conversion.

  26. I’m not really in that zone…

    I think all I know is that I get money for something that I do in which I’m good at.

    That is what I think… Great post! It was different.

  27. Satellite TV on Your PC says:

    Advertising today costs very cheap if done perfectly, and will benefit so much if converted by studies.

  28. arab programs says:

    small business in the world trend these days after economic fall down.

  29. Rauch Wardrobe says:

    Understand client & giving better services is what is our motto should be.

  30. Listening to clients makes one be able to understand their role in business. What they come for will tell you what you’re worth.

  31. That’s brilliant! I wonder what other quotes could be modified to relate to business…

  32. Cincinnati Chocolate Shop says:

    Great site! I can appreciate the fact that I know my product but have learned that sales/marketing and understanding my customers are critical to the success of my business and many of my friends trying to do the same. I have found that it’s key to stay on top of my product and my customers and the rest I can hire out! Thanks Randy

  33. James Simpson says:

    I enjoyed your story.
    I use the business thought in order to create my business the way I know it is right. Then my clients will come. I try not to copy ideas and create my own.

  34. Mike @ renewable energy information says:

    Treating your customers like mindless sheep is a surefire way to lose the intelligent ones. I hate going to a site that talks to me like I’m twelve…and I refuse to give my business to one.

  35. Hopefully, I am enlightened. It’s best to focus on what can we do, and strive to make it better.

  36. I really Appreciate your thoughts about the client. you are right every one has to think about client criteria to Grow your Business.
    Marketing is necessary but it is the second step.

  37. Danielle Lynn @ copywriter blog says:

    Hi Dawud,

    So true. It’s about more than making money – it’s about making sure you’re providing real value to your clients. After all, like you said, you’re directly impacting their lives, their livelihoods.

    Insightful post,
    Danielle

  38. You actually find a way to describe that phrase with business, and that is an excellent thought. Understanding your business and your customers will definitely enlighten many opportunities for both. Once both aspects blend well together, your business will achieve success.

    Great post. Thanks

  39. Being a successful businessman, first of all i should know my strength and second is about the services. If i a businessman who does not know what is his strength to be successful business then there is no chance to develop its business.

  40. Thank you really a lot for the fantastic details. There’s definately alot to understand and as I appear about I maintain hearing diverse points of view. Some that are very wise and other folks that are quite unbelievable. I’ll return with some far better feedback and an belief of my individual soon after I feel assured plenty of to kind an view value stating.

  41. On my website, I share my experience and knowledge with creative entrepreneurs to help them make a living on what they are passionate about—art and teaching are my passions.

    I find that fear of the unknown is what keeps people from pursuing and taking action on their dreams. What seems easy to me, is overwhelming for others.

    So in teaching and mentoring clients, I try to come from a place of understanding, because I also was once in their place, and take them step by step until the client gets comfortable and dives in and engages in the process.

  42. Love that quote Dawud. I think many times people look to make others happy before making themselves happy. When others may benefit from the person themselves being happy.

  43. I think most of us tend to sell ourselves a bit short on how impactful we are. Even a lot of the time thinking that what we do is easy without realizing that it’s only to us. It’s very intimidating to others and that’s often why they hire and outsource.

  44. Have to know about the customers and their needs are the success means for any business. if you dont know about the curiosity of the customers what they demand then you are gonna loos all your investment.

  45. Small business if engaged can beat big business. It’s like my dream of always wanting to make a small business but in large numbers. Can open a business with the same type but are in some places, or open a business with a different kind.

  46. It was good peice of information as far as business is concerned and i found it very valuable that how to handle the matters of the business when it is not going well.

  47. Lao Tzu was great philosopher of ancient and his wise advices can help us today too. Really, if you are wise your concessions will help you to solve your life problems

  48. And it goes even further. By writing this blog post you had an impact on me, that might change the impact I have on my clients and so on :-)

    What I personally do believe in, is that it is important the client himself realizes the impact you have had on their lives. If and when they do, you’ll have a (business) relationship for life.

  49. Love the quote!

    I do think however that your business and clients are constantly evolving, so one can never be “enlightened” completely.

    It’s a learning process.

  50. Wonderful and thoughtful quote. Seems like I have to invest in a copy of Tao Te Ching.

  51. Great post, and two great quotes! I would say I know myself pretty well, but I can always know myself even better, if that makes any sense. I think it’s a process, and I haven’t reached the end of it yet.

  52. 5130 temalari says:

    Understanding your business and your customers will definitely enlighten many opportunities for both. Once both aspects blend well together, your business will achieve success.

    Great post. Thanks

  53. Really nice points! I am actually a young professional trying to break in to this world. With my experience knowing who you really are gives you an advantage because you know where you stand. For the business side, it is a must to know your business ins and outs. To be able to sell to other people your brand you must be prepared to back it up with all the right information.

  54. Uganda Safari says:

    Thank you for the insight. As business owners our life is always at stake so if you know the ins and out of your business you are better prepared for the worsts times.

  55. To be fair, I think the literal application of that statement to business would be something more like “He who’s studied marketing and learned from great teachers is wise, But he who truly understands his own business is enlightened”. On the other hand, I believe if Laozi could somehow react to his philosophy being applied to marketing in 21st century America, his reaction would be decidedly critical. This guy was the major religious holy-man of Ancient China after all :P

  56. I had found myself very immature after reading your blog post as far as my business marketing is concerned. I got the point that i dont as much as i should know and also my clients are not as much satisfied as much they should be.

  57. Yep, right on. Business is to bring money, which is time, which is energy source. How do we utilize our own energy?…that’s the question. Ancients knew their stuff.

  58. There are many business owners who does not know about their businesses and they started their businesses because they had money to invest on it and get profit from it as much as it is providing to the other business owners although he is not trying to find the reason that why they are earning so much either they also had the good investment to do or they already had the knowledge about the nature of the business and their customers needs.

  59. Knowing about the needs of the customer and its nature is more important than anything else. My only target is satisfy the customer whatever the scenario or condition is. Basically your customer satisfaction is the real backbone for the popularity of your business whether you have as much resources you needed. Its all about the tactics how you justify before your customers.

  60. We are all learner as far as the issues of life and business is concerned no body is a know it all.
    The day we stop learning ways to improve in what ever we do then stagnation and failure sets in.

  61. Yes, to give advices to clients is to give consultations concerning their marketing strategies & lead them for success, and framing them withing this process,and inspiring them…

  62. the interenet marketing is the cheapest while most effective way of promoting and driving sales for small businesses. The most important thing is that you really need to hair a good web designer to make your website more beautiful than others. Since your are a small business, the look of your website is where your credibility comes from.

  63. Great thoughts. It’s true, we don’t have a business just to earn money, but we have a business to serve customers. Whatever we cater, we should at least know the goal of our business.

  64. Some very good points. I am starting a Hypnotherapy business so a lot of thought has to go in to everything I say as everything I say is going to have some impact on their lives.

  65. It is after that I recognized that I was bearing the burden on my bears but was traveling in a high pace vehicle. It not ever appeared to me to hold the burden down on the vehicle. I now understand better.

  66. Basically when you are starting or running your business then you are not the owner. Your owner is your customer or client for whom you are working or providing services whatever your services are. So, be patient and careful when you have to serve your boss because he can be very angry but you have to bear and show the patience and cover it with your tactics or skills that how well you deal with your customers.

  67. Feels good to know that you’ve had a good influence on someone’s life. There’s a certain non material reward and warmth of soul when helping others and if you can achieve that through your business then you are accomplished.
    Take care,
    Stefan

  68. Web designers boggle me in that they spend weeks designing, but never look at usability tests. How are you meant to know your customer unless you watch them use it?

  69. Great lips! Great example through a quotation!
    There should be no compromise on quality and the customer preference should be our preference. The tactic is how to convince the client and how to make him/her satisfied is very compulsory to run any kind of business.
    Your post will help others.
    Thumbs up….

    Worthy post admin. :)

  70. I am so lucky reading your wonderful post. Thank you for the great topic discussed. I admire the writer for allotting their time for this impressive article. Thanks, Keep it up!

  71. Actually you have a very nice blog, I wish I could see everything you have all the time, I’m really entertained by your comments, and best wishes for your blog

  72. Nice information, I found your post really helpful . It helped me all the way in completing my assignment. I am also giving a reference link of your blog in my case study. Thanks for posting such informative content. Keep posting. Many thanks to the author…

  73. Comparison Shopping says:

    Your article also relates to the way I usually think, you say that when you understand yourself then you are enlightened, I think a better understanding of oneself comes with age. Applying your ideas to your own business tho is a good way to think as I believe if you run a business then the effects you have on your customers lives should definately be on your mind as the more positive impact you can make, the more likely it will be that they will trust you and be return customers in the future.

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