“I could call the mayor in the middle of the night and he would answer his phone,” a Rotarian friend of mine told me. Then she amended, “…Well, it wouldn’t be me, it would be one of my pastor friends, but they would do it, and the mayor would answer!”

My friend wasn’t boasting, she was just explaining the depth of her network that she’d built over six years volunteering in service to non-violence causes in Portland.

A working theory that I’m playing with is business as service.

The theory goes something like this:

When you create products in service to a market’s needs, it’s easier to grow and especially through word of mouth.

That seems like sort of a “no duh” statement, but I think that most of us don’t take that orientation. Instead, we start from a product and work our way back to a market.

We think, “How do I market and sell this product? What sort of funnel do I need to build?”

When you’re trying to help solve your market’s problems, you transition into a leadership stance. You have to learn more about your market, take risks with experiments and research, and connect with people, even competitors, in attempting to serve.

This leads to better products, good will from customers and non-customers, and connections with the authorities in your market.

How would you change your approach to business if you thought of it in service of your market?

Featured image is Mark Twain in Nikola Tesla’s South Fifth Avenue laboratory, 1894. Used under public domain.