The below is taken from my book “Progressive Partnerships – The Future of Business”. For a free copy, please see below:
Your vision of the future is more valuable than money
A great vision is a thing of extreme power. Your vision of the future is more valuable than money. It is what will start all partnerships, regardless of where you are. However, it needs to be a credible vision. Telling you to think big and aim for the moon may inspire you and get you excited, but I don’t care about that. What I care about is you getting results and creating some successful partnerships.
For every partner you approach, you must temper your vision. The more credibility you have, the bigger you can make the vision and the more compelling a partner you will be. However, if people don’t feel you have credibility then you will achieve the opposite effect.
Before I show you how you can master the credibility paradox, I want to share with you a story about how Peter Diamandis came up with the X Prize.
Back in olden times, royalty and other people of means would put up prizes in order to encourage people to solve problems. Many of the inventions we take for granted today came about as a result of these prizes.
Peter Diamandis decided to revisit this idea to try and solve a problem he had. He wanted to go and visit space, and it was clear that NASA wasn’t going to do that for him. So his idea was fairly simple: create a $10m prize for anyone who could create a commercial spaceship that would take three people to space and back, twice in a fortnight.
There was just one problem: he didn’t have $10m. However, what he did have was some wealthy friends, and with a relatively low chance of them actually losing their money, he went around selling the dream. Twenty people were happy to throw in $25k to make this happen. No small achievement, and clearly some good friends to have, but $500,000 wasn’t going to cut it. No one was going to invest millions and put people’s lives on the line for that. It needed to be $10m.
Out of options, Peter took the $500k and spent it all on the launch of the X Prize. He used the money to invite and pay for the head of NASA to come to the launch. Also he invited twenty former and current astronauts. The rest of the money he spent on PR, inviting the world’s media to come and see the launch.
With the credibility of having NASA’s finest lined up on either side of him, and with the world’s media watching, it seems people forgot to ask whether he actually had the $10m. He didn’t. But what was important was that he was now credible. He had built his credibility through the others he had on stage with him. And with the world’s media talking about him, he was able to attract the Hamid Ansari family to put up the $10m.
Credibility and trust
While a great vision is essential, it must be a credible vision. What makes it credible will change from person to person, and can also change from day to day, but it must always be credible.
There are so many elements that make up business success it is difficult to single out one, but an easy way to assess the importance of any element is to try taking it away.
Commerce is built on a promise. On trust. Take that trust away and markets fail. When the market stops trusting the value of something, whether that is property, other assets or even money itself, then the value plummets.
The very notes we use as cash are based on the promise from a bank that it will honour that value. If you don’t trust the bank, or the country behind it, then you will not trade your products or services for it. At time of writing, BitCoin is looking to establish itself as a new means of value transfer, but what’s holding it back is trust. Is it a credible means of accepting payment?
Trading products in a marketplace when you are face-to-face with the vendor doesn’t require much trust. You want to buy some fruit. The fruit looks good, you pick it up, squeeze it, it feels ripe, so you hand over money and the transaction is done.
Yet there is a huge amount of business transacted that is not nearly as straightforward. The word entrepreneurship is said to originate from the Old French entreprendre, ‘to undertake’, and the Dutch schipp, or ship. While we think starting a business today is risky, back in the seventeenth century and before, sailing into unchartered seas to find new treasures was literally a life or death decision. And then, like now, finding someone to back that voyage financially was never easy.
Why would a member of royalty, and in those days it was mostly royalty who controlled the money, pick one person over another to trust them with their boats? It wasn’t because they thought big. It was because they had credibility. Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan and the other great explorers of their time were not just amazing sailors and leaders of men, they were hugely adapt at building influence. And to be truly influential you need to be credible. There has to be the sense that if I am going to trust you with my money, my time, my energy or my brand, you are someone who can be trusted to do good with it. It is not a guarantee, but betting on someone without credibility is a sure fire way to lose.
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