Profit Is Not the Point

The goal is sustainability. We make money to cover our basic needs – food, water and shelter. The great businesses of our time have figured this out, too. Great product comes before profit – because only great product will keep customers coming back for more. We like steady paychecks and loyal patrons because we can sleep at night and know that life will go on.

The goal isn’t to make money; the goal is to exist. Once you’ve figured that part out, the next goal is to exist longer. Once you realize no one lives forever, the ultimate goal is to leave a legacy.

The only way you can leave a legacy is if you concern yourself less with profit and more with giving life all you’ve got. Sure, you should have a plan to make money. But if greatness comes first on your priority list, then have faith that the rest will follow.

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A New Form of Independence

First page of Constitution of the United States

Thomas Jefferson swore “upon the altar of god eternal hostility against any form of tyranny over the mind of man.” The United States of America was formed against the tyranny of dictatorship, a dictatorship that ruled over life, thought, and the soul. We celebrate our Independence from that dictatorship today.

Two hundred and thirty-five years later, we face a new form of tyranny — one less obvious and far more dangerous than the kings of old. Those tyrants ruled with pain and fear. We knew who they were and hated them for it. Today’s tyrants rule with something far more deceptive, manipulative, and resourceful: money. We have all been sold on the value of profiteering by our teachers, parents, media, and leaders who define success by the dollar. We have been raised with the drive for wealth. Money clouds our minds. Greed, our sin; the masters of Greed, our tyrants. And we are only making it worse.

As organized now, few (if any) businesses are democratic. Corporate structure is not unlike an Empire of old: a company’s Founder and/or CEO, its king; the Board of Directors and Executive Officers, its appointed officials; the Shareholders, aristocratic citizens with stake but marginal influence; and employees, the ruled. In this model, citizens do not have the power. Individuals hired into a company have little say in its operation, for fear of being fired; they are predominantly slaves to the will of the Owners.

We are servants, and they are our kings. We buy their products. We work for them to put food on our table. We hustle soulless moderate-wage jobs to cover health, rent, insurance, college loans, and car payments. We are dependent on corporations, so much so that our government twists our tax revenue to bail them out in time of need. And we do nothing to organize against them. Unions barely scratch the surface and have lost traction. Businesses continue to accumulate wealth and are now more powerful than ever before. Profits are going up while jobs and salaries are going down. Large corporations, wealthy elite, and corporatist officials are stockpiling cash to muscle, bribe, and buy us into their profit margins. Money dictates our electoral process. Personal and public debt is higher than ever. Millions of Americans and their freedoms are trapped in a ruthless money game.

Capitalism itself cannot be condemned because it is a free person’s right. And it shall not be blamed. But like all rights, the freedom to economize can be abused. It has been abused. Some organizations, namely conglomerates and banks, have become more powerful than the governments they are legally filed under. In 1999, the United States empowered commercial banks by allowing them investment banking privileges and stake over corporations. Many governments, including our own, are now indebted to, and therefore leveraged by, financial institutions here and abroad. World power now lies in the hands of those with capital wealth and to whom others are indebted. And we gave them that power: corporations are recognized by our laws as living entities with individuality. Unlike real human beings, however, we recognize companies as immortal. Businesses have been granted deity status under our laws. We write about, study, subscribe to, and praise them like prophets. Conglomerates are now our Gods.

Money is not holy, nor is it human. We cannot revere it above the human spirit. Greed now rules over the mind of man, and it must be defeated. However, declaring independence from greed will not be as easy as sailing to a new continent and bleeding the enemy dry. It will take a revolution. It will take an aggressive and confident democratic mass movement against corporatism.

The battle should not be between left and right, for that is a political cage match staged by elitists looking to turn a profit on the cultural war effort. No, the battle should be between corporatists and anticorporatists. Between the greedy and the charitable. Between profiteers and humanitarians. We can experience radical human progress in our lifetimes if we look past regressive profitability cycles to make more human investments. Our civilization could “go green” if natural resource and vehicle companies stop holding back in an effort to perpetuate profits. Our civilization could visit other worlds if investors looked past whether interstellar travel was a “good investment.”  Our civilization could cure countless diseases and save millions of lives if pharmaceutical companies shake their unfounded fear of putting themselves out of the drug business. Our civilization could do so much more if greed wasn’t tugging the reins.

We must wake from denial and the status quo and stand up to established powers. We must respect ourselves and each other. We must not rely on elected officials, for legislative processes are too slow and cumbersome for meaningful change. We must protect and better-educate our impressionable youth. We must reorganize our economy to respect different kinds of intelligence and education. We must empower leaders and businesses organized for efficient democratic progress. We must not lecture our friends, but instead inspire them to stand up to their jobs and their bosses. We must see the dollar as the enemy and look past our own checkbooks. And we must support each other in brotherhood and community.

Let us band together and see to it that our freedom survives through the night.

We are America. We are free. Happy Independence Day.

Fansource Five: How Your Fans Can Help Offset Risk

New trend: crowdsourcing. Inspiring the masses to perform a service for your company and engage them in your brand. Core systemsbrand identitycustomer service, logo design, commercial production, word of mouthproduct development, recipes and more. Cheaper, doubles as a marketing effort, and empowers your strongest audience.

It’s not always a good idea to call out to the whole world. Gap’s logo redesign failed in part because a large number of submission artists were not regular Gap customers; they were not familiar with the brand. Certainly not as familiar as the customers who lashed back and reset the logo.

Enter: fansourcing. Fansourcing is more focused than crowdsourcing because it challenges your fanbase directly – the people who know and care about you the most. A new record label in the UK invites fans to invest (for a share of the profits) in an album before the music is even recorded. This model threatens rule #4 of my true fans definition by blurring the line between fan support and ROI profiteering. Nevertheless, sharing profits with your strongest fans is an unrivaled channel for gratitude. It could empower your supporters and win you more true fans.

Fansource financing can offset considerable risk in your venture for the following five reasons:

Reason 1:  Upfront Recoupment

Traditionally, you raised money to produce and then recouped costs when customers paid for your product. With fansource financing, raising money and recouping costs happens simultaneously. Pay before or pay after? As long as you can deliver on your promise to produce, what’s the difference? Less risk when you’ve already satisfied expenses before the product is made.

Reason 2:  Less Emphasis on Profit
Investors expect a financial return. Fans expect an experiential return. When your investors are your fans, the product takes first chair to profit. Investors are very important and should not be undermined. But I promise you: fans will give you less hassle about the dollar – if you do good work, of course. Less pressure, less stress, less risk.

Reason 3:  Fans Have Skills
By building a community around your project, you have thousands of supports who have talents and connections that could help you. Be resourceful (or perhaps fansourceful?). Know your fans. Do not be afraid to ask. They might love you enough to lend a hand.

Reason 4:  The Quality Committee
Investors want your product to turn a profit. Fans want your product to be great. By bringing in fan investors, you are building a community populated by your toughest critics and most loyal supporters. Build a relationship with them, collect their expectations and improve your product. Better quality, less risk.

Reason 5:  Fans Have Friends
With their hard-earned money in the pot, fan investors have more at stake in and therefore more attachment to your project. They want their friends to support the project and fuel their return. Fans will help you do the marketing legwork and reach more people.

While fansourcing reduces financial risk on your part, it increases fan retention risk. A fan invests thousands of dollars into your project and your project fails, no return on investment. Uh oh. You will lose the fan. They may even tarnish your reputation, hurting your ability to adopt new fans. That is why it is imperative to earn true fans who do not expect a return. Churches are really good at this. Kickstarter is kickin’ ass.