Moving Forward By Refusing To Go

February 8, 2008

There was a business expo in town today. In fact, it was called an Entrepreneurs’ Expo. I’ve been getting e-mail notices for a couple of months. The closer it got the more I thought about attending. I even told my wife I might go to it. But I told her I would go “if I figure out a plan.”

I thought about it last night, and I thought about it this morning while driving one of our dogs to a vet appointment. I figured out when I could leave, how long I could be there before I would need to leave to pick up my son from school, and even how to have a good lunch choice on the way.

But I couldn’t ever think of what I was going for.

I thought about having a small notebook and meeting people and striking up conversations about how they became a business owner or became self-employed. I thought about ways to find the people who would be there just to get ideas, because that’s a big part of the crowd. They are intrigued by business ownership or self-employment but aren’t sure how to go about it. Sounds like exactly the people I should be meeting!

The problem is, I knew what to expect. I’ve been to the Expo before. Back when my family and I got conned into buying a fraudulent “business opportunity.” Yes, conned; the people who ran the company were being pursued by the FTC the last I heard for close to a hundred million dollars worth of fraud.

Maybe that really bad association carried over to my thoughts about the Expo. Maybe, added to that, was the fact the person who talked us into going to the Expo was a marketing consultant from the same marketing training group that I blew thousands of dollars on just two years after the first debacle, and just one year after my second, much less expensive, debacle. (As a happy aside, I got notification that the people who ran scam number two were sentenced to several years and placed securely in a federal penitentiary.)

The marketing training wasn’t a scam, but the people I paid money to join a marketing consulting business only stuck with it seven weeks before leaving the formal partnership and keeping all my money. So maybe there was a second-degree carry-over effect of despising the Expo. But that’s not the main reason I decided not to go!

I thought about who would be there. I read the list of exhibitors. Lots of print shops, janitorial supply companies, suppliers to builders, home-based business “opportunities,” and of course multi-level marketing people.

I thought about the people I met when I went there before. They were small business owners looking for business-to-business customers, and they were opportunity-hawking salespeople. The ones looking into starting a business weren’t at all thinking about their personal gifts or passions or interests. They were looking for a low-cost, low-effort way to make money so they could quit their jobs.

They were in debt and looking for a way out, or in low-pay jobs and thinking it would be easier to find a quick moneymaker on the side that it would be to build their careers.

The thing is, if there really were a quick and easy system to make money with little effort and low overhead, what FOOL would be selling it at a business expo? He (or she) would be setting the system up several times over and becoming stupidly rich.

Self-employment and home-based business ideas that are marketed primarily, or exclusively, on the basis of getting rich and being able to “fire your boss” tend to be shallow. And the people drawn to them aren’t looking for a way to have a meaningful life and meaningful work. They’re looking for an easy fix that’s just a little more expensive and takes slightly more effort than playing the lotto.

I realized I probably wouldn’t find “my people” there, or not many of them—the creative types who know how they like to interact with the world and what they want to offer. And I realized I would be dragged down by all the people desperately grasping at clients or trying to hook a few more people on their “business opportunities” so they could make a quick commission.

We’ve been discussing this dilemma on the career change forum at the Fast Track Your Dream forum. A lot of people offer “systems” and “steps” to take to start a business. They sell plans and how-to books. But cookie cutter plans don’t work for creative people trying to develop businesses that reflect their personalities and values.

For people who don’t feel connected to technology, building an online business is not the right path. For people who want to do individual creative work, setting up a free newsletter and building a mailing or e-mail list might not work.

And for a personal development coach and trainer, walking into a gathering place for the moneychangers from the temple isn’t a good way to find people seeking meaningful change.

So I decided not to go! And I moved myself forward by not moving. Instead of just going because it seemed reasonably connected to my business plan, I thought about it carefully. That helped me define my target market more narrowly and get a clearer idea of my future clients. And the Expo didn’t seem like the place to find them.

May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,

Steve Coxsey

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