Seven Steps to Building a Business Utopia

[guestpost]Today's post is a Guest Post by Andy Traub.[/guestpost]

When you own your own business you have a fantastic opportunity. Do you realize what you can and should build?


“When you make a business, you get to make a little universe where you control all the laws. This is your utopia.”

Derek Sivers’ book Anything You Want is less than 100 pages but it’s packed full of wisdom on how to build a business. I’ve run my own business for five years and I’m starting to see my utopia become real. Here are seven things you can do to build a business utopia.

  1. Don’t start with a business plan – Start with the question, “How can I help people and are they willing to pay me for it?” Make a business out of the answer to that question.
  2. Stop being comfortable – If you aren’t doing something that scares you in your business then you’re not going to grow your business. Seek projects and execute on ideas that scare you. Comfort won’t make you smarter, more wealthy or more reliant on God. Pursue ideas bigger than yourself and you’ll improve. You won’t always succeed but if you pay attention you’ll always improve.
  3. Trust your gut when saying “No” – If it doesn’t feel right then it usually isn’t.
  4. Don’t trust yourself when saying “Yes” – Before you say yes to an opportunity, client or project make sure you have a filter in place. Before I do an interview I make the interviewer complete a questionnaire. Before I submit a proposal I ask my sales coach for advice. Before I spend more than $100 I ask my wife if it’s a wise purchase. Before I start a new project I consider the time commitment to build, launch, grow and possibly end the project.
  5. Get awesome at something – People are drawn to awesome and you’ll never be awesome unless you do the hard work of building a skill. Strengthfinders is a great book for identifying the talents God wired you with. Talented people who add focus to their abilities become skilled. You want to be awesome? Get focused and get to work.
  6. Become the best in the world – When you grow in many different areas you are building your sweet spot. Scott Adams of Dilbert fame teaches that we can take three areas of passion and combine them into a unique service that no one else in the world can do as well as we can. When our passions overlap they have the potential to create a unique product or service only we can offer.
  7. Once you have enough customers stop trying to get more – It’s easy to think you need to go get new people to keep your customer pipeline full. You don’t need to do that if you take care of your current customers. “It's counterintuitive, but the way to grow your business is to focus entirely on your existing customers. Just thrill them, and they'll tell everyone.” Sivers is right. The same people who paid you money for your product or service will become your sales team when you treat them right.

Question – What does your business utopia look like?

  • Steve Young

    This is a great post! Thanks Andy (& Ray)!! I’m in the middle of an interesting book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport. I’m still processing some of Cal’s ideas regarding passion and his challenge that we may well be putting too much emphasis on a “passion mindset.” He’s not discounting passion but he suggests that when our whole emphasis in starting a business or finding our next job is on following our passion, our focus can become entirely on ourselves and not on what benefits others. He invites us to consider growing a “craftsman mindset” which, instead, focuses us on becoming really good at something that will benefit and serve others. Your first point lays out some of that same mentality….to find something that will really help/serve others. Great and timely thoughts for me. Thanks again!

    • Glad you enjoyed it Steve!

    • Too often people want to get but they don’t want to get good at anything first. It never works that way unless you’re playing the lotto.

      • Steve Young

        By the Andy…I’m a fellow South Dakotan (Sioux Falls)! Great to see the impact you’re making and looking forward to learning from you as I do from Ray.

        • Thanks Steve. Stick with Ray for sure. He’s one of the wisest men I know.

  • Kirk Bowman

    Andy, my favorite idea is “Stop being comfortable”. I use it as a measuring stick to decide whether what I am doing is really new. It is ironic that authors and speakers who challenge others to get outside their comfort zone, also face the same struggle. From a spiritual perspective, it reminds me to ask “to which voice am I listening?” Thanks for the article and congrats for guest posting for Ray.

    • Thanks Kirk. I’ve been very uncomfortable lately. Business has never been better. Not a coincidence.

  • Kathleen Thompson

    Great points, Andy. I’ve been working on “practicing in the sweet spot” as Daniel Coyle calls it. He calls it the place on the edge of your ability between the Comfort Zone and the Survival Zone. It is distinctly uncomfortable, indeed. Keep it up. You’re a great role model for us.

  • Great list. There is something that jumped off the screen at me, and it wasn’t one of the main points listed. You said “….I ask my sales coach….” and “….I ask my wife….” I have the asking the wife part in place. I also have the desire to have the right coaches in place to ask. My question….where and how do I find the right coach? I need a sales coach, a speaking coach and a business coach in a big way.

  • Dan Tredo

    This is a fantastic list Andy. I really like the first point about chucking the business plan and asking the ‘how can I help people and are they willing to pay me’ question. That one hits home because I’m currently reading ‘The Go Giver’ by Bob Burg and I’m washed in the idea of serving and helping others. I think there is a quiet revival of this old princible happening in the online world and I want to be part of it. Thanks for this list Andy!

  • Thank you for this, I really like #6, “…we can take three areas of passion and combine them into a unique service that no one else in the world can do as well as we can.”

    Bringing our different areas of expertise together enables us to be unique, this makes so much sense.