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The Secret to Confidence in Business

No one—not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses — ever makes it alone.

― Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers

Working with new people is one of my favorite things about starting a company. Watching your crew engage with your vision is a beautiful thing. I love it when I hear employees say “we” and “our.” To me, that means they’ve taken ownership, and that’s how I want them to feel.

I think most entrepreneurs can relate to that. But I think most would agree that my perfect employee is different from yours.

Businesses are as unique as individuals. That’s why finding your own perfect employees is so important. They’ll be as unique as you are, and they’ll fit in as well as you do. The sum is much greater than the parts.

The More Things Change...

It’s true that technology -- and even new business models -- have changed the way we find our people. 

But even still, one thing will always remain the same: 

To attract the right ones, you need to have confidence in yourself, and you need to have confidence in your future.

It’s really important that you don’t leave this up to chance. 

You have to accept that "business confidence" is different from "everyday confidence." Being confident when you’re at a networking event, or coaching your kid’s team, or hanging out with friends, is an easier kind of confidence. You can do it in real-time, and you're probably really good at it.

Business confidence is different. It requires a lot more planning. It requires research and thoughtful consideration. It requires several gut checks. 

And today, if you do it well, it requires help from an unexpected source.

The Art of Business

We'll get to that in a minute. First, let me also tell you that business confidence requires a lot more creativity than usual in today's world. 

It's not enough to wonder how to handle the next season or the next product launch or the next marketing campaign.

Today, you need wonder about your business model itself. 

This is a cringe-worthy thought for most entrepreneurs. But for you to be confident in your business, you need to look at the high-speed change happening in many industries around the world.

One major example is the subscription business model.

It seems to be taking over everything. It's top of mind for me because I’ve been making a lot of presentations about it lately.

One of the first successes with the subscription model was Salesforce.com, which was founded in 1999. When they started, people laughed at the idea of renting software and putting their critical sales data into a website.

At the time, the gold standard in customer relationship management was Seibel Systems, which ran on a company's own computers. The same year Salesforce.com launched, Fortune Magazine said Siebel was the fastest growing company in the U.S.

But, as an article in the Harvard Business Review put it recently, “...disruptions in society cause an orthodoxy to lose traction."

The orthodoxy was that you had to run all your software on your own computers. The orthodoxy said you would never trust a website.

But, as the authors explained, "Consumers begin searching for alternatives, which opens up an opportunity for innovative brands to push forward a new ideology...”

The new ideology was that company should be able to have all the advantages of a huge IT department and a room full of servers, but without a huge IT department or a room full of servers.

Salesforce.com gave them exactly that. And six years after they started their new ideology, Oracle bought Siebel for a fraction of what it was worth in 1999.

Salesforce.com went on to became a USD $46 billion company. Every year they have a conference near our offices in San Francisco that attracts thousands. Last year The Foo Fighters, no less,  played an exclusive gig.

They've became one of the most widely admired - and imitated - companies in thier space. 

A New Source of Business Confidence

The subscription model worked so well it's still changing entire industries. Today you can subscribe to businesses that play you music, deliver your dinner, or even provide you with health care. 

If you’re wondering how a subscription model will change your industry, I’d say you were thinking on the right question. 

Or, you might facing some other, equally huge, shift to keep up with rapidly evolving markets. 

I've worked with CEOs who let these things get to them. They let major challenges affect their business confidence. 

But there's no need to let this shake you -- if you have the right people around you. All the confidence you need could come from them.

If you bring them in, you'll be surprised. Explain the situation, tell them your thoughts, and then listen. 

Your people won't question your leadership. They'll rally around you.

And they'll start thinking with you.

They’ll say, “We could do this….”

They’ll say, “Our customers want that....”

They will feed your business confidence. the experience will increase their own business confidence. And, almost without exception, they'll help you come up with the plan of action that will work best.

Take the Time to Leap Into the Future

An article in Venturebeat put it like this: 

Achieving [your] vision at an organizational level requires a well-functioning company. Critically, success is created with strong employee relationships and leadership.

Take care of those relationships. You want to be sure their sense of ownership stays strong.

Beleive it or not, your honesty and transparency will  make you a better leader. Asking for input will protect your business, and your future, much more thant than bunch of top-down directives.

Give people time to understand, and when they do, they’ll buy in. They’ll collaborate more effectively. And the sum of their efforts will be a lot greater than the parts.