Time to Ask the Adult Questions for Social Business

You all know uber-smart Sameer Patel.  If you don’t, you must.

He tweeted something yesterday that stuck with me through my excellent meetings and phone conversations (if I talked to you yesterday, please consider yourself thanked for restoring my faith in technology and business – it was a most awesome day as Bill & Ted would say — no, not that TED – the other one).  He said:

In case you are wondering, he is referring to this post he wrote post Lotusphere ’11.  A very good read that provides an interesting perspective (European interesting, not American interesting) on Social Business.

What stuck with me was the term adult questions.  I kept thinking about  how it applies here, what it means.  Does it mean that we need to prove ROI? Create a business plan? Design a 10-year strategy? Then I remembered a story that happened to me.

When I was 19 a good friend of mine was absorbed in a magnificent business opportunity.

With a very small initial investment she could make millions, yes – millions, in a very short time.  all she had to do was bring people into her organization to help her sell an amazing product, so good it sold itself.  She could then keep a commission on what she sold – even on what the people in her organization sold.  Even better, if her salespeople brought in more people to build their own organization, she could keep a percentage of their sales as well.  The key, as you can imagine, is to build a very large organization quickly and sit back and enjoy the rewards.

They even had an ROI calculator what I could use to see when I would get my return back based on how many people I could bring in, and how fast.  Why, the worse case scenario had me breaking-even within 3-4  months, making some serious money within a year.

It was a golden dream come true.

Of course, you know it is a multi-level marketing “scam”, but I did not know that at the time.  Sounded good, went to a meeting, pitch was interesting, investment was not that much ($200 for entry level).  However, if I wanted to, I could buy my way into a distributor level immediately since they were looking for someone to grow my friend’s network rapidly.  I was lucky to be offered this opportunity, since it would’ve taken me at least two or three years to get there by myself.  To seal the deal, if I could act that week I could attend the party for distributors where I would be taught how to grow my network even faster, and many other secrets of the business.  Investment was just $400 more.

I did not have the money, but I wanted to do it so bad.  I was going to ask my father to give me the money – after all, I always got what I wanted (yeah, I was spoiled as a kid – deal with it).

I went to see Dad and ask for the money, explained the model and the need, the desire to become a distributor and build my business, and how it was a limited time offer – I needed to act fast!  I was ready for him to hand me the money right then and there, say let me know how it goes – as he had done many times in the past.

Instead he said “Let me ask you some Adult questions”.  Uh-oh, what was going on there.  This was not the way we did things… let’s see where it goes.

He said “You are now out of high school, going to college and learning how to run the rest of your life.  It is time to stop making investments into the latest and greatest thing that comes you way, time to begin to face reality as a maturing adult.  Let me ask you a few questions about this business opportunity:

  • How exactly does it work? What is the purpose?
  • What are other investments you have to make?
  • How do sales work? Who is going to do it? How?
  • How much time is it going to require? When will you be able to do it?
  • How much money can you make in exchange for that time?
  • Who will work with you? Who is the president, vice president, manager of this business? When can I meet them?
  • When am I going to get my money back?”

Wow, what happened to daddy? Now he was being mean, he was no longer interested in financing my dreams of grandeur – he wanted me to think of it as a business endeavor.  I was shocked.  Since I did not have all the answers (and the ROI calculator was “cute”, but not real), I promised I would think about it, get the answers and come back to him.  You can imagine the rest – answers were not very satisfactory once I started looking into it.  There was, still there is not – in case you are thinking about it, a way to make money or even survive long-term in a MLM scheme.

It was those darn adult questions that made me figure out the real business value and model behind it.

Are you asking the adult questions for your Social Business?

4 thoughts on “Time to Ask the Adult Questions for Social Business”

  1. I haven’t done nearly enough to deserve such accolade but you’re very kind. Must be the Lamb Burgers w/ Rosemary Aioli? 🙂

    Great personal story here. The space is growing up, no doubt. And that’s what many of us have been working to shape, for a long time.

    With this maturity comes 2 things: As the discussion moves up the food chain, enterprise 2.0 and social business finally gets the attention it always deserved. Great. The other edge of that sword, as you correctly illustrate, is that the kinds of data points that the higher end of the food chain expects, based on decades of experience signing (and sometimes getting burned) big big checks for technology-enabled process transformation.

    Nothing to fret about. It wouldn’t be the first time this happened as new concepts and technology enter the next maturity stage. And done correctly, the proof points are there. But you’ve gotta be ready.

    Thanks again.

    1. Sameer,

      Excellent points, I specially like the double-edge sword analogy. Lots of people in this industry are chasing the attention of the end-user so hard, they forget that after they get it they need to deliver.

      Great point.

      Thanks for the read and the comment!

Comments are closed.