Business Monthly - March, 2011 issue
If you're trying to stand out on the entrepreneurial bookshelf, you might as well shoot for utopia. Dave Pollard does both. Within the first few pages of Sweet Spot, one understands that this isn't going to be another book of practical tips for would-be entrepreneurs. Instead, Pollard combines anthropology, economics, sociology and historical analysis to project a utopia made of "natural enterprises," which he defines as businesses that bring joy and a sense of community to the entrepreneur.
For a small-business entrepreneur who's just sat up half the night trying to make sure she makes payroll, Pollard's view initially might seem a bit, well, "pie in the sky."
But he does have a point regarding how today's increasingly specialized, depersonalized workplace-at-large is squeezing out many entrepreneurs before they even start. "The system has let us down badly," he writes. "It is in the interest of those who control the current economic system ... that we do not know that there is a better way to make a living than working for them."
A Web of 'Natural Entrepreneurs'
Pollard not only encourages individuals to follow their passion and create a natural enterprise, he also invites entrepreneurs to make a pledge to join others in embarking on natural enterprises. If enough people collectively join the effort, he theorizes, the economic structure itself will change.
Unlike many other entrepreneurial book authors out there, Pollard acknowledges the clichˇd sound of the recommendation: "Follow your passion." It's a good idea, he says, but clearly we've heard it before.
Instead, he recommends would-be entrepreneurs ask themselves the following question: "Who needs our gifts now?"
Notice the word "our." Pollard is a big advocate for businesses operated by partners and groups as opposed to sole proprietors. For someone dreaming of sole proprietorship, he's downright discouraging. "In my experience, sole proprietorship, trying to do everything in your enterprise yourself, is unnecessarily tedious, risky, exhausting and stressful."
He spends a chapter delving into how to find the right partners. They must share your purpose, have gifts that complement and not overlap your gifts, and be able to agree on an operating vision and principles. Sounds doable on paper, but if one follows the recommendations of the entire chapter, in the end it's easier to arrange a marriage than it is to find a business partner who meets all of Pollard's prerequisites.
Observing the Customer
At times Pollard makes his reader cheer aloud, such as when he bluntly states that those irritating marketing surveys simply fail to identify unmet needs among potential customers. Instead, he advocates what he calls "customer anthropology," or close observation of potential customers in a real setting. After enough time, an observer could figure out if people are using workarounds, if there is physical or psychological discomfort, if there are physical or procedural obstacles, and the list goes on.
Marketers still tend to think in terms of demographics, he notes, such as "twenty-one- to forty-nine-year-old white males." Well, those marketers need to revise their thinking, Pollard says, because our population doesn't work - or buy - in that pattern any longer.
"Demographics are no longer the best way to parse your market: The days when a product could be made for a certain specific homogenous age group, cultural group or gender are long gone."
Case studies help clarify Pollard's points and also serve as encouraging examples that his vision of a natural enterprise can be - and has been - reached.
Improvisation - Or Making It Up as You Go Along
During the recession, small businesses that were able to change as they went along consistently stayed stronger than those who didn't show the same resiliency. At the heart of the ability to improvise, says Pollard, is trust. "First, respect and trust your partners, your customers, and those in your community and your networks."
To succeed, ironically, an entrepreneur must learn to "fail fast," that is, give up on experiments that aren't working, then go on to experiment some more. Being organized for agility is the specialty of small, natural enterprises - not big, army-like corporations, Pollard observes.
Don't depend on any one person or function, and be able to redeploy people or resources quickly and easily. The capacity for "emotional intelligence" shouldn't end within an individual, Pollard says, but should spread to an entire enterprise. Business owners should be able to sense what's coming next, sense how someone really feels and sense how best to respond.
Pollard's small section on "organic financing" might be the most difficult for the entrepreneur to digest. He discourages dependence on share offerings, banks and venture capitalists, and encourages financing from customers and partners. Easier said than done - but this is utopia, remember?
Read the original review.
Publishers Discover Green Careers
April 14, 2009
Green careers are in. No wonder there’s been a mini-stampede of books addressing what they are and how to get one.
The books tend to cluster at one of two poles: Those that provide resources or information about a green career and those that are more of a handbook or guide for landing a job (or figuring out what you want to do).
Start with Yourself
Dave Pollard, in Finding the Sweet Spot: The Natural Entrepreneur’s Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work, starts not with the opportunities, but with you. The sweet spot refers to the place where your gifts (what you do uniquely well), passions (what you love to do), and purpose (what’s needed that you care about) overlap. By showing how to identify your sweet spot, providing guidance on finding unmet needs in the marketplace, connecting with partners, and making your enterprise sustainable, it’s the least formulaic of this group of books.
Where Cassio and Rush reveal the topography of defined opportunities, Pollard offers a methodology for creating your own opportunity. This can be far more challenging than landing a job that others have defined for us. It can also be infinitely more liberating.
After all, the majority of today’s green job opportunities are minor variations on jobs that existed before sustainability entered the mainstream lexicon. The successful engagement with global challenges like climate change and fresh water shortages will very likely require an entirely different relationship with production and consumption than the one we have today. The shift to a sustainable economy, and then to a restorative one, where many people’s everyday work helps revitalize ecosystems now in decline, and where social equity is elevated to a human value in practice as well as in theory, will not happen by doing what’s already been done. Instead, it will take people with a talent for finding new things to do and new ways to do them.
That’s the revolutionary potential for a green career.
Frank Marquardt wrote WetFeet's Green Careers and is currently working on a book about work in a age of potential environmental apocalypse.
Small Business Entrepreneur
Reviewing Dave Pollard’s book: Finding the Sweet Spot
Posted on March 30, 2009
I will start by saying that I find reviewing this book a little bit challenging. I’ve spent the last 2 days or so re-reading some chapters to see if I’ve got everything right - the book talks about a new way of doing business and as with everything that talks about doing things differently it might be a little hard to swallow at first. While in the beginning I’ve read it with a little disbelief, last Friday I realized I might be onto something (in fact the book is) because while I wasn’t ready to recognize it, all I’ve talked with my colleagues at work in the last week was in fact a reflection of the impact the book had on me.
The book talks about the "Natural Enterprise" - a new type of business that emerge - a subject that is made more and more valid by the current crisis and the changes that need to be made. There is only one way to read the book - don’t jump chapters - everything makes more sense when you turn the last page.
I think I’ve actually got interested in what the book is saying after reading the story of a dog that was treated badly by the owner and still, he returned day after day at home, because he didn’t know anything differently. Slowly the book goes on saying that we, like the dog, keep on doing jobs that we don’t like because we don’t know anything differently. Then you realize the meaning of the book subtitle: "A guide to finding where your gifts, passions and purpose intersect".
So there is a way to turn your hate for the job you have into a happy story by forming what the book calls "natural enterprise" - a better way to make a living. "Natural enterprises are flat, nonhierarchical, independent cooperative organizations with a shared Purpose, complementary Gifts and Passions, uncommon core capacities and a shared vision". "A sustainable self-organized, self-managed community based business partnership in which a group of people agree to make a living together as collaborators and peers, strive to attain what each member needs to achieve for this or her personal well being".
The book has 3 major chapters:
- Discovering what you are meant to do - what are your passions, gifts and purpose
- Creating natural work - how to apply your passions, gifts and purpose to create a new business
- Making it sustainable - the way the new enterprise would work.
I now have to come back to the story with the dog. That put me into heavy thinking the entire week. What if the values we are trying to achieve throughout our lives like getting a home, car, having a family with a dog or being in a top management position are just limitations imposed by the society? What if my destiny of being a middle manager is completely wrong and I didn’t actually found my real destiny yet? Am I going to be 50 when realizing I’ve spent most of my life worthless?
What if the book is right?
Internet Bookwatch: Volume 18, Number 11
Industry and Environmentalism do not have to be exclusive concepts. "Finding the Sweet Spot: The Natural Entrepreneur's Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work" tells readers that respecting the environment while making one's fortune is dually possible. Advice on starting these responsible businesses, finding people with similar views, sustaining when others ignore it, and many other aspects, it's good reading to establish the bases needed for a successful business. "Finding the Sweet Spot" is worth reading for any established or aspiring entrepreneur.
1 February 2009 at 8:37 pm
To further my search for a new way to get by I've started Dave Pollard's "Finding the Sweet Spot," a book that is ingenious in its' simplicity and common sense. Pollard encourages entrepreneurs to find like-minded folks with complementary skills and try to find work that combines your gifts (those things you're naturally good at), passions (the causes or things you feel most strongly about), with a purpose (what's needed in the world that you are uniquely qualified to deliver). When you look at those ingredients, it's easy to see how businesses that open with a lot of enthusiasm but no market for their product fail so easily. Pollard helps you find an actual, do-able thing that unifies those necessary qualities. It's like having checks and balances on your enthusiasm, which lets you think clearly. It's a great book, and a measured way forward for anyone who is particularly stuck.
Read whe whole review here.
By Warren Johnston
December 5, 2008
Dave Pollard's new book Finding the Sweet Spot is a guide for people who are seeking a first job, are aging and looking for a “second career,” and those who feel underemployed.
He follows three people who fit the categories throughout the book to illustrate that there is a “better way” than working in a job that is not satisfying. It is a path to overcoming the fears and anxieties of being a “natural entrepreneur” in an occupation that answers the question “What am I meant to do?”
Pollard, who worked for 27 years as an adviser to entrepreneurs, takes a pragmatic and logical approach to finding the dream job.