When we examine entrepreneurs from all walks of life, whether at the start-up stage, scaling toward success or becoming serial entrepreneurs, many exhibit similar recognizable qualities. Successful entrepreneurs are able to recognize talent, are focused on growth, are purpose-driven and are agile in an ever-changing business environment.
However, another X-Factor that’s often not recognized, and that truly is a differentiating factor for entrepreneurs who transform into “serial-preneurs,” is the ability to overcome the “exchange barrier.”
The exchange barrier is a term that I coined to refer to a common issue in today’s business environment. It relates to the lack of awareness in recognizing the different forms of exchange and the value that can be delivered beyond the fiscal exchange. It also refers to the barriers that exist when we go “out of exchange” with our employees, our customers and, most of all, ourselves.
As we look at overcoming the exchange barrier, it’s important to explore the whole picture of exchange, because exchange can come in all shapes and sizes. Here are a handful of the most common exchanges to keep in mind:
1. Monetary Exchange – The benefit of this exchange is that it’s a fairly black and white exchange, so it gets “quick results.” But the disadvantage of this benefit is that someone that’s driven on the monetary exchange will always find a better offer at some point in time. As a result, retention becomes a common core issue, or you get priced out of your business model.
2. Value Exchange – Similar to monetary exchange, a value exchange tends to attract others quickly, and is often the vehicle to increasing a business model’s scalability. However, it’s common that the value exchange will catch up with an entrepreneur, and it’s not sustainable over time.
3. The “Experience” or “Culture” Exchange – Over the past twenty years, the experience exchange has become one of the fastest growing trends for entrepreneurs to tap into. Entrepreneurs are drawing on this exchange first and foremost for their team by focusing on work-life balance and ultimately taking responsibility for how they share in the way their team feels before, during and after work. In addition, entrepreneurs have been utilizing this approach for customer acquisition and retention by building a brand around the experience rather than just the product or service.
4. Purpose Exchange – In recent years, our society has become hypersensitive to the role humans play in our world and has become driven to unite around purpose. Among the top employee engagement strategies of the 21st Century are engaging a team in delivering community-based services and fundraising for a cause to give back to others and unite as a team. Entrepreneurs are tapping into this exchange with their customer base by promoting the philanthropy that their organization stands for and tying it directly to the organization’s values.
5. Education Exchange – This is the most undervalued exchange currently. The role that education plays in growing the human condition has been recognized as one of the major contributors to the success in the United States today. However, entrepreneurs aren’t spending enough time identifying the role that education, mentorship, training and support can play in the exchange with both their workforce and their customers.
The five types of exchanges outlined above are just a few among an assortment of exchanges that exist in today’s business environment. One of the challenges that entrepreneurs face is the ability to identify the different exchanges their organization offers, and to communicate them effectively in their messaging.
In addition, it’s important to recognize the several “conditions of exchange” that often go overlooked. Here’s a sampling of conditions of exchange:
1. Criminal Exchange – This is when someone is basically stealing from you. If you’re pirating videos, then you could classify that as “criminal exchange” because you’re stealing something that doesn’t belong to you. If an employee is sleeping on the job every day, then you could say there’s a criminal exchange.
2. Out of Exchange – This is someone that isn’t criminal, but the “exchange” is not equal and, ultimately, is adversely favored to one side of the exchange. If an employee is getting paid to create 10 widgets per day and is averaging only 8 widgets, that employee would be out of exchange.
3. Equal Exchange – Just as it sounds, this is someone or something that is living up to the terms of the exchange.
4. Exchange in Abundance – This is one area where entrepreneurs can stand out. Like the saying, “Under promise and over deliver,” staff or customers will appreciate that they got the better end of the deal.
For anyone involved in entrepreneurship research or consulting, it’s common knowledge that entrepreneurs have a substantial chance of failure. The bottom line is that the odds are stacked against most entrepreneurs. However, the one defining X-Factor for the 21st Century entrepreneur is the ability to overcome the exchange barrier.
**Originally published at Strategy Driven