Category Archives for "IBD"

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Moving from Theory to Praxis

The fifth movement for Intentional Business Development concerns the actions we take.  Many people spend time theorising and fail to act.  Others act without reflection on what they do.  Praxis is a balanced action reflection approach.

Learning and Discipleship

In religious traditions, students are called disciples.  The call to discipleship is a call to learning.  The same is just as important in business.

In business coaching means much the same thing.  Few operate at their best if they are not guided by those with more experience.  It’s not that the coach or mentor knows all the answers.  In fact, avoid those who claim to do so.  The best coaches know what to do when they don’t know the answer.

It’s all very well having a technical solution to a particular problem but knowing how to tackle the intractable problem is far more valuable.  These problems lead to new solutions that move everyone forward.

We Do Not Learn from Experience

We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflection upon experience and from passing on what we learn to others.

Many business people, myself included, have experienced being unable to launch something because they believe it is not good enough.  Let’s look at it this way.

Two business people have an offer that is 30% of the best it could be.  One launches it and the other delays a launch to spend more time improving it and gets it to 80%.  Who does best?

Actually, it is almost certainly the one who launches first.  You know if you don’t launch, you will earn nothing.  So, even if the offer is a bit rubbish the one who launches early may get a few clients.

But you might object – the other when they do launch, might do better with a better product.  But how likely is that in practice?  What if 100% is possible only with feedback?  The one who launches early may have a poorer product but they have the big advantage of feedback.

Maybe most of the feedback will be negative but that’s OK; it is all valuable information.  The one who launches can still work on their offer and chances are with feedback they’ll make more progress than the one who doesn’t.

Early Adopters

Ah yes, but what if someone buys the inferior product?  You have a number of options.  You could charge a low-priced early adopter fee.  This may be a little risky, if you label the offer somehow inferior.

But perhaps a better option is to make sure the early adopters do not fail.  Make sure you meet their expectations.  This way you not only avoid bad publicity but also learn in detail what the early adopters want from the offer.

If you reflect on experience, the chances are you will have a better offer that sells better too!

Lifelong Learning

In business, we learn all the time.  The best learning comes from launching offers.  This is how we learn and tweak our offers so they become excellent.

Intentional Business Development emerges from this stance.  When we have an end in sight and ready to put in the work to perfect it, we commit to lifelong learning.

You can improve most offers.  In need of improvement is their natural state.  It isn’t about bending to every whim of every customer but seeing how simple tweaks lead to improvements that appeal to prospects across the board.

It is about entering a pact with your customers so together you seek the best solutions.  Your client won’t want the same thing as you do but working together you can tread the same road and learn together for mutual benefit.

This is the sixth and final post in a short sequence about intentional business development.  It’s all a part of Market Together.  Sign up below so you don’t miss a post and visit my new website by following the link.

Dream big and make it happen

Moving from Cognitive to Behavioural Approaches

This fourth of five movements is about taking action.  Some commentators on marketing talk about shipping.  They don’t just mean wrapping parcels and sending them to their customers.  Shipping is about getting an offer into the market.  Coaching is not just in the mind, you need to embody behavioural approaches. The best idea in the world is no use at all if it is not in the marketplace.

Not Just Courses

It’s true, especially for coaches, when you start in business, however good you are at what you offer, it is never enough.  The skills you need to get people to pay for your offer are completely different from the skills you need to deliver it!

Businesses that deliver products are lucky because all they need is packaging and a stamp.  They still need to market their offer, of course but they can focus on their marketing.

Mostly a coach’s offer is harder to deliver and their marketing is on top of that.  Marketing requires very different skills to coaching.

So, you have done your training and qualified in coaching.  Now you discover you need a lot of other skills to make clear what you offer your market.  You soon discover what works in theory rarely works in the real world.

Body, Mind and Spirit

The thing about getting your offer out there is it requires a completely different skill set to delivering coaching.  It engages the whole person; mind, body and spirit.

Of course, coaching itself may be equally all-embracing but by then the focus is on the paying customer.  When marketing your focus is on how you present yourself to prospective clients.

So, it involves your body and how you present yourself.  It is first impressions.  To a degree, marketing is showmanship – you need to look and play the part.

It involves the mind in the sense you need to show something more than your offer.  One thing I find very common is a focus on features.  You have a method, you know it works and you want to tell the world about it.  However the world is not even remotely interested in your method.  The world will take interest when you offer something they actually want!  They need to see potential benefits.

And the whole needs to be embodied through spirit.  You must show the way and lead by example.  This is more than an academic exercise, you offer something life changing and that needs to be embodied in your practice.

The extra you need to show is your common cause.  A new client does not merely recieve your wisdom, they become a participant in your vision.  Your spirit points beyond you and the client to some agreed goal, something you can work on together.


So, your offer at some level is an offer of yourself.  Perhaps this is less true if your offer is a thing.  But if you seek sales, you need customers who buy into your enterprise.

Whilst sometimes, you seek complete commitment from the customer, usually there are limits.  But the point is you need coherence between all aspects of your offer and it is this congruence your customer buys.

They expect complete commitment from you, even though they may not commit to you to the same extent.   You offer a service and so must show you can deliver it.  You take the initiative, seek a good match and share your customer’s values.

The promise to the client is always they can do so much more with your help.

This is the fifth post in a short sequence about intentional business development.  It’s all a part of Market Together.  Sign up below so you don’t miss a post and visit my new website by following the link.

  • Chris
  • December 18, 2017
  • IBD
Multi-coloured dandelion clocks

Moving from Technical to Adaptive Solutions

Intentional businesses seek more than clients.  They promote real change in the world.  They may aim for change to a particular industry, eg to help people in the printing industry enjoy healthier lifestyles.  Or maybe to see their neighbourhood transformed.  So, they need both technical and adaptive solutions.

Technical and Adaptive Solutions

Businesses need both technical and adaptive solutions.  Mostly we depend upon technical solutions.  This is particularly true for marketing, where we have seen a massive increase in technical solutions, in recent years.  All businesses market and so the change for society is profound.

So let’s define terms:

Technical solutions:

  • A pre-determined outcome where, perhaps you try to increase traffic to your website using seo. You can be more specific and aim for a minimum percentage increase in traffic.
  • This happens according to an agreed plan. You seek a plan of action to optimise seo to drive traffic to your website.  Everyone involved understands and agrees the plan.
  • The plan is based on previous positive experience. If there is research to back up your plan, so much the better.  A good technical solution reduces risk.

Adaptive solutions:

  • There is no agreed outcome – the mindset is more experimental – try something and see what happens. Imagine a few businesses get together to design something new.
  • So, this involves limited risk taking, which means risk informed by experience.  There is no risk involved when you attempt something known not to work! Your intention is to develop something from which everyone benefits financially and so good business practice limits risk taking.
  • Your aim is to create community – where people invest in change. The businesses seek an approach that creates community in the marketplace by finding people who benefit from what the businesses offer.
  • And in so doing they seek to change the subject and the object of the change. This new community has a stake in the outcomes.  They define who and what needs to change as well as the purpose of the change.

The business world needs both technical and adaptive solutions.  Too often the claims of technical solutions drown out adaptive solutions.

Left Behind in a Changing World

Advocates of technical change often use the image of a toolbox.  Hunt around and you shall find the right tool for the job.  You have a flat tyre and so you need certain tools to replace the tyre.  There is some skill involved but after a few repetitions, you can become expert at replacing tyres.

But no matter how proficient you become at car maintenance, you will not find any way to cross a river in spate that has washed the bridge away.  Now you need an alternative means of transport.  Can you adapt to sailing a boat or flying a helicopter?

Technical solutions are efficient and when applied to the right problem, effective.  Without adaptive solutions, however, you are left with tools not appropriate to a changing world.  You discover new technical solutions through adaptive solutions.

Adaptive solutions are effective where they genuinely take into account the changes happening in their context.  Sometimes they take and apply a technical solution from another context.  As technical solutions develop, they open up possibilities for new applications.

Problems arise where you apply technical instead of adaptive solutions.  It is tempting to assume proven methods always work.  This is a real problem for businesses, who use off-the-shelf solutions, where innovation is called for.


Intentional business development is about transformation.  We develop something new that transforms the context within which we operate.  Every business does this to some degree.  Where there is clear demand for a product that can be manufactured and distributed, maybe less so.  But for the coach or consultant, the chances are they offer something different, something that addresses issues where the market is not fully aware.

In marketing there are many technical solutions.  The problem is many people have no grounds for choosing one instead of another.  You don’t have to be around for long before you’re told you need to use a website, social media, seo, a sales funnel.

You may need some or all these but without understanding what you sell, what you want to achieve, the chances are these methods will not work for you.

Your clients seek transformation of some aspect of their lives.  They seek a solution to a unique problem.  When you sit down together the chances are there is no clear idea of where your work together will take you.  The clarion demands of the marketplace do not help.

This is the fourth post in a short sequence about intentional business development.  It’s all a part of Market Together.  Sign up below so you don’t miss a post and visit my new website by following the link.

  • Chris
  • December 11, 2017
  • IBD
Stylised speaker and listener

Moving from Individual to Collaborative Business

I recently completed a series of posts about working in private (Otium) and public (Negotium).  This is different because it is a movement in how we understand business.  All business involves movement between private and public.  This post is about how we perceive business itself – is it for self-enrichment or enrichment of many?

Private and Public

It may be tempting, once you identify your business through discernment, to set out as a self-employed person to make your fortune.  Indeed, it may be essential.  Even if you can sustain outgoings exceeding income for a period, actually making a living is pressing.

This conspires to focus on self-interest at the expense of others; to miss the possibility that self-interest may be better served collaborating with others.

While discernment requires private contemplation (Otium), movement into public (Negotium) should naturally involve movement into collaboration with others.  It is not simply making an offer.  The sustainable approach is to enter into conversation with your market.

Your first step is to identify your market, which can be difficult.   Fortunately, you have competitors and they can show you the way.  Competitors offer similar products and services to yours.  Unless you offer something unique, you have competitors.   Your challenge is to find a market they are missing and enter into conversation with that market.

Your market and your competitors’ markets share the same problem.  You work together to increase awareness of the problem.  This is likely to increase the size of everyone’s target market.

Listening into Free Speech

Your next step is to enter conversation with your market.  You do this by meeting people who express interest in your offer, for a one-to-one.

The aim of this meeting is for both of you to hear what your prospect is saying.  This is really important for two reasons.

  1. The prospect needs to articulate their problem. Most people live with their problems and never share them.  They hardly know what the problem is themselves.  They hear you speak or see your offer and it triggers recognition of their problem.  Now they seek a space where they can hear what they are saying.    This is free speech, not in the political sense of permission to speak in public but in the personal sense of voicing the problem.
  2. Listen to what they say for two reasons. Their way of describing their problem helps you develop a solution that genuinely helps your market.  The more listening you do, the more likely it is you find solutions that have a better fit for your market.  The second reason is you may find this prospect has a better fit with one of your competitors.  Usually it is better to work with those who have a good fit and pass on those who do not.  This reduces the possibility of dissatisfied customers and enhances your profile in the business community.

I am because we are

We live in a Cartesian society.  You will remember the philosopher Descartes rationalised thinking through “I think therefore I am”.  This principle of modern philosophy is common ground for most thinkers today.

But what if it is not the entire story?  We experience formarion in language and culture by listening to others.  So, it is not a massive leap to see that we function at our best when we are intentionally part of some community.

The key to this movement is “listening” but telling (or selling) is modern business’s primary goal.  We need time in private to work on our offer of something different.  But when we move into the public sphere, our aim is to build community, if our business is to be intentional.

The point of intentional business is sustainability, building a community who help one another by doing business.  If we aim to make loads of money, we may succeed.  But what we succeed at is effectively reducing the money in circulation.

Together businesses can meet the needs of their markets.  In doing so, they create relationships that enable communities to flourish.  This needs to be the focus of the business-owner’s intention.  How do we create the spaces where businesses flourish and build community together?

This is the third post in a short sequence about intentional business development.  It’s all a part of Market Together.  Sign up below so you don’t miss a post and visit my new website by following the link.


Moving from Self-Centred to World-Centred Business

There are five movements in Intentional Business Development.  The first moves from self-centred to world-centred business.

Here and Now

The focus is upon here and now.  It is not about looking to some idealised past or a fantasy future.  There is no business in paradise.

Perhaps our greatest problem is solipsism; the belief I am my sole concern and the world revolves around me.  The traditional way to deal with this is to encourage focus on God, not self.  Solipsism assumes a primitive understanding God.  God, understood as a man above the clouds, is a childish image many carry into adult life.

The danger is we get bogged down in a debate about whether God exists. Perhaps it is better to seek common ground; appreciation of here and now.

Solipsism presumes some idealised past or future.  Take a popular idea “Make America Great Again”.  This slippery slogan can never deliver for these reasons.

  • The least essential word is “America”.  Substitute “Britain” and you have a rallying call for Brexiteers.  Substitute “Christianity” or any faith and fundamentalists everywhere spring to attention.  The phrase is ultimately devoid of meaning.
  • Notice too “Great” is devoid of content.  What exactly does it mean?  How would anyone know when the task is complete (or even started)?
  • But the most powerful word in the phrase is not “Make” (who is asked to do what exactly?) but “Again”.
  • The phrase invites not action but a nostalgic imagining of what America was like in those halcyon days when it was great.  It is an invitation to live not in the present but in an imagined past.

When we turn attention inwards, we lose touch with reality, here and now.

Paying Attention

This is not to say we should avoid inner work.  Inner work avoids fantasies and teaches us to focus on here and now.  Religious traditions have many tools for this.  Prayer and meditation connect with what is real.

Let’s take it away from religion and strip paying attention down to basics.  What’s your relationship with silence?  Can you abide in stillness?  Listen to your breathing, feel the sensations in your body?

Are you adept at stilling thoughts?  Are you even aware of the clamour of your thoughts?

Do you reflect on your day or your life?  How do you express gratitude?

You can do this by keeping a daily journal where you note concerns, gratitude and anything else that’s on your mind.  Or take a walk and allow your thoughts space to develop in response to the reality around you.


How do I know what is fantasy and what is reality?  The act of telling truth from self-deception is discernment.

If paradise is truly the place where all our needs are met, then we know there is no need for business or indeed any form of relationship.  This is why many religious people do not believe in paradise.  We have need of one another and it is reaching out to the other that makes lives worthwhile.

Business is one expression of that need we have for each other.  Business conducted with integrity is the glue that holds communities together.  It depends on relationships of trust, keeps money circulating and contributes to all those activities that cannot generate income themselves (eg health and social care) from its wealth.

When we contemplate the world around us, we discover the needs of our fellows and develop the products and services to meet them.  Of course we don’t get them right.  This is why small businesses are important.  They are the people willing to try something at their own risk.

Many factors lead to successful business but the key factor that underlies all the others is: Do we have a viable business?  A viable business is where through discernment a business-owner identifies a real need.  They may not be competent or they may be outmanoeuvred by competitors, who have more capacity but if it isn’t viable it won’t survive the long-term.

This is the second in a sequence about intentional business development.  It’s all a part of Market Together.  Sign up below so you don’t miss a post and visit my new website by following the link.

  • Chris
  • November 27, 2017
  • IBD
Woman on ladder with giant post-it notes

What is Intentional Business Development?

I’ve based this sequence upon a talk I heard recently about intentional faith development (IFD).  As I listened, I found the points made mapped onto my understanding of business.  And so I invented this new phrase, intentional business development.

Everything I do relates to my Methodist faith.  Some posts in this blog are for those who share my faith or at least have sympathy with it.  This sequence is not part of that spirituality theme.

When I asked at the end of the talk about IFD and business, the speaker said he had drawn a lot from business.  This is no surprise.  Faith and business have a long history together.  However, my focus is on business and how insights from religious faith can help businesses understand what they do.

Understanding Intentional Business Development

Isn’t all business development intentional?  Well, yes and no.  In one sense anyone who sets up in business does it intentionally.  They may stumble upon some insight or product by accident but the decision to go ahead is intentional.

The real issue is keeping it intentional.  Your aim is to grow your business.  You may have stumbled upon something that offers immediate profit but then what?

In the next five posts, I shall explore five movements that apply just as much to business as it does to faith.  Before I outline the five movements, allow me to make a few points about faith.

What is Faith?

Faith does not mean belief.  I may believe in God but that does not mean I have faith.  The meaning of faith is more akin to trust.  Setting up in business is always an act of faith.  More usually we talk about risk.  You take a step into the unknown and cannot possibly know in advance your venture will work out.  You will never know if you don’t try it.

Therefore faith should never be confused with superstition.  If you believe the earth is flat, you are choosing to believe something in the teeth of the evidence.  All the evidence points away from the earth being flat.

Faith is in something that is not proven one way or the other.  To start a business venture is always an act of faith because there is no way of knowing in advance the venture will be successful.

Faith, Politics and Business

The reason so much political activity is not faith-based is many politicians are ideologues, believing their view is absolute.  We see this in politicians who believe Brexit will be a massive success.  The evidence mounts that it won’t.  The need is for politicians who are ready to find a compromise that works, even if it pleases no-one.

The truth is the only sand we have to build on us shifting.  This is as true for business as it is for politics.  The only certainty is change.  When we set up a business we seek to change things in a world already changing.  Without faith you are either moribund or absurd.

Faith is a Christian word and other religious traditions have their own words.  The five movements describe what intentional business development might look like.

Five Movements

  1. From self-centred to world-centred. The key word for this movement is discernment.  To be successful in business you need to focus on your market and their needs.  You seek mutual benefit out of self-interest and not self-centredness.
  2. From individual to collaborative. The key word for this movement is listening.  To go into business is to move from the private realm to the public.  As well as seeking mutual benefit between your business and your customers, it is also possible to work in partnership with other businesses.
  3. From technical to adaptive. The key word for this movement is transformation.  Being in business is never simply applying proven tools to a given situation.  The businesses that succeed are those ready to adapt without necessarily knowing the outcome.
  4. From cognitive to behavioural. The key word here is embodiment.  A successful business demands commitment from the whole person: mind, body and spirit.  It is not solely about what you know.
  5. From theory to practice. The key word here is Praxis (action / reflection).  An alternative key word might be learning.  No-one has ever learned from experience, they learn from experience reflected upon.

What Next?

There is no guarantee these five movements result in a successful business.  Perhaps some people have been successful through serendipity and never paid attention to any of this.

However, perhaps on reflection some would say: “Yes, actually these five movements were important.  I didn’t realise at the time but on reflection, I followed most of these movements.”

This is the first of a sequence about intentional business development.  It’s a part of Market Together.  Sign up below so you don’t miss a post and visit my new website by following the link.

  • Chris
  • November 20, 2017
  • IBD