A Manifesto for Independent Business
At indie.biz, we’re on a mission to change the way that people start and run their own independent businesses. We believe this has the potential to make life better and more prosperous for tens of millions of people. But being on a mission means having clarity as well as conviction. Here are the principles that guide not just what we believe, but what we’re trying to do and why.
Goals are paramount
Having clear and specific goals is the single most important thing anyone can do to ensure their success. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’ve gotten there?
Everyone has their own mix of reasons for starting their own business. And yet it’s too easy to lose sight of these reasons or make fuzzy assumptions about why we’re doing it.
What’s more, people tend to be naturally passive when it comes to defining “success” for themselves. Perhaps it’s because we’re so constantly bombarded with images of other people's definition of success, we lose sight of our own. Or perhaps it’s just because we’re not accustomed to writing our own rules.
So, keep in mind first that a business is a tool with a job to do. At its best, it works at least as hard for you as you work for it. Know why you’re doing it and what you want from yours.
Put business in human terms
Innovation today means re-thinking what business can do for us as individuals and as a society.
Independents everywhere are re-writing the rules of business in human terms. They’re moving beyond zero-sum thinking and economic measures that account for everything “except that which makes life worthwhile.”
Over the last two years, I’ve steeped myself in business thinking: business books, seminars, meetups, gurus, online courses and countless hours in the library. There’s lots of great information out there, but getting to the heart of it takes some digging. Like any area of specialization, business thinkers tend to go deep on the jargon. They talk in the language of insiders which can sound like gobbledygook to anyone coming in from the outside.
We want to cut through the noise with clear-minded expression of the stuff you need to know. This is the heart of what we do. But it’s more than just simplification, it’s about a new kind of ambition, built on new ideas about who these tools are for, what they can do for us and why they matter.
We’re independent, not alone
Being independent shouldn’t mean being alone. With tens of millions of us out there, we can be stronger together—independent while interdependent. In other words, our success is mutual, not mutually exclusive.
Over the last two years I’ve talked with hundreds of independents and aspiring independents. The single most consistent theme that’s emerged from these conversations is the difficulty of feeling isolated while “going it alone”.
We live in the most networked period in human history. We have more ways to connect than ever before, including tools like Meetup, LinkedIn and Townsquared. And yet paradoxically these connections can end up making life noisier and more disconnected.
Having a new sense of who we are as a community of creators, makers, builders and doers will make us all more resilient. It will give us the confidence to persevere despite the difficulties and new ways to help each other along our common path.
Better intel creates better choices
Human intuition is a powerful guide, but our beliefs are strongest when backed by good intel. We believe that making better data and intelligence available to independents can help level the playing field.
In our digital world, all our actions and interactions create a huge trail of data. Large companies use this data to create accurate pictures of broad human tendencies as well as individual preferences. This data, and the ability to interpret it, is an invaluable resource and a huge advantage.
Independents have largely been left out of this data revolution. They rely mostly on hunches, experience and the advice they receive. Does it have to be that way? More importantly, is it sustainable for it to stay that way?
Thinking through this is both a technical and organizational challenge. What would happen if millions of independents were able to share their data in ways that made the whole smarter and stronger? By coming together to pool our data, we could create new opportunities based on the power of our collective intelligence.
Adapt to thrive
Fortune favors those who can adapt. The healthiest businesses, and people, are those that continue to learn and grow. True prosperity is not a destination, it’s a way of being that changes with changing circumstances.
Today it’s essential as we live in an era defined by an accelerating pace of change. It can feel exhilarating but also relentless and disorienting. It can be a struggle to keep up.
And change is hard. It can be emotional. Error goes along with trial. Our reaction to all this can blind us to the real opportunities that come along with growth and learning. But if our projects are defined by our creativity and alertness, we’ll see how the best plans shift when realities change. We can have our eyes wide open, run good experiments and know when it’s time to adapt.
These are the things that we believe matter. We’re using them as a blueprint of what we’re building and as the yardstick to measure our success. No set of principles will answer every question, but they can keep us focused, keep us honest and keep us making progress. We invite you to play along at home.