I’m a huge fan of Seth Godin, a prolific author and relentless blogger on business, with a concentration on marketing. He’s been a great source of inspiration to me over the years.
At least five years back I signed up to receive his daily blog posts via email. I’m shocked, frankly, at how often they’re relevant to me, personally. His confidence and style are provocative enough that I’m frequently tempted to either vociferously object or to trumpet his argument myself. But sometimes he stops me in my tracks, confronting me with a concept or an imperative that I simply don’t know what to do with, as he did with his 9/16/2012 post entitled “I want to put you in a category.”
I’ve accepted the tremendous honor of an invitation to the White House next Thursday to participate in The White House Forum on Business Innovation. This meeting will be an afternoon-long series of talks and breakout sessions with Administration and multiple federal agency officials. The discussions will center on “innovative American businesses [that] are strategically integrating social impact into their operations,” and “how these types of businesses…can play a distinct and essential role in driving economic recovery, expanding opportunity, and addressing our national challenges.” Businesses “that are driving both a positive impact and a financial return” will be highlighted.
Of course I have been considering how to prepare for this meeting. It occurred to me this event was the deadline [finally!] for me to finally complete my “elevator pitch,” my 30-second explanation of The Benefit Restaurant® Project – because SOMEBODY’s going to ask me why I’m there, and “what I do.” It was in this context that Seth’s [I've noted that people seem to refer to him simply as "Seth"] post left me stymied.
Seth Godin’s argument is that it is human nature to categorize new input, and that we strongly prefer to use existing categories because creating new ones takes too much effort. Good thing there’s still a week until the meeting, because I continue to struggle to boil down what being a Benefit Restaurant® means into a 30-second sound bite!
We are social entrepreneurs. We are social enterprises. We are social innovators. We are philanthropists. We are employers. We are educators. We are marketers. We are artists. We are good customers. We are good citizens. We are a community. We are good investments. And, yes, day-in and day-out, we are simply restaurants.
Okay, it’s just about time to commit, time to categorize this initiative. Because, Seth says, if I fail [refuse] to do so, we’ll probably be categorized anyway – and probably MIS-categorized…. “So choose,” he says. “Make it easy to categorize you and you’re likely to end up in the category you’re hoping for.”
Good thing I’ve still got a week, because I don’t know exactly where I want people to put me!
I think it’s going to help me if I re-phrase the question: Why was I invited to the White House next week? Because I’ve figured out an effective way to steadily and continuously grow the pool of funding for nonprofits. Because I’ve found a path to sustainable giving for small business people. Because I’ve developed a system for making restaurants more successful by turning them into social enterprises fighting poverty.
Okay, your turn: Categorize that!