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How to Be Elon Musk

elon-musk-iron-man

Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors and inspiration for the movie version of Iron Man (Tony Stark), just announced that a new generation of batteries will be available to store solar power in your garage.

That was not the important part of the announcement.

The important side note was that Tesla Motors will open source their patent, meaning anyone can use their technology to build competition products. In fact, ALL Tesla patents are open to the public.

Why would Iron Man give away his secrets and create competition? To change the world.

Musk’s goal is move the world from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The more people who make the switch, the faster the world will change.

Tesla is creating a new industry. By creating competition, he is growing the industry. A bigger industry means more customers for Tesla and the competition.

Your business can be Tesla Motors. Develop excitement for what you do, create competition and grow the market. Along the way, you might just change the world.

Internet Balloons from Google

Tesla is not the only business looking to grow their industry’s “pie” so that their slice of the market is larger. Google recently struck a deal with a local South Dakota company to fly air balloons over remote parts of the world to provide Internet.

Why would Google spend millions to provide Internet access?

Simple. The more people who use the Internet, the more people search (and click Google’s ads). By increasing access to the Internet and the world’s information, they are making the pie bigger. It’s likely the majority of the use of the Internet will not go to Google, but some will.

Google is growing their business and their competitor’s business. More excitingly, along the way, they are providing opportunity to those who have not been connected before.

More Bicyclists Mean More Bike Sales

Locally the same lessons hold true. If you are a bicycle shop, the number one focus should not be convincing people to shop at your store. It should be to get more people on bikes. Promoting bike lanes, bike sharing and bike collectives for repair all have one effect: it helps people think more about biking.

When I’m in my car and wait for someone to cycle past, I think one thing: man, I should bike instead of driving.

If more people have this thought in their head, more people will buy bikes. If more people buy bikes, some of them will end up buying at the local bike shop.

3 Ways to Grow a Market

The three biggest hurdles for someone to adopt a new behavior is:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Fear of looking stupid
  3. Lack of social proof

As a business, focus on overcoming these barriers for your potential clients. Here’s how:

Teach
If you are a yoga instructor, but no one in your community knows how to do yoga, it will be hard to fill your classroom. Instead of waiting for students to appear, offer your knowledge for free. The goal is to make potential students feel comfortable, even if they have never done it before.

Consider free trials, training sessions, workshops and YouTube videos showing people how to use your product or service. Elon Musk will provide blueprints and specs others should use to make his batteries. The bicycle shop could teach people how to repair their bike. Your business can teach people first, so they know the value of what you do and are not afraid of it due to lack of experience or knowledge.

This teaching snowballs as others begin teaching the same skills. This exponential growth in knowledge leads to a fast growing market. If you are at the forefront of teaching, you will be poised to capture the new found interest in your industry.

Make It Economical
Spending money on something you have never tried before is scary. Make it easy for someone to start by taking away the financial risk.

A money-back guarantee, a free trial or a first yoga class free are all ways to get people in the door. If they learn how to do something and can try it without financial risk, they will be much more likely to start (and continue).

Create a Social Group
Starting is the first step, continuing is the second and often more difficult step. What helps most is social support.

This classic video shows how movements begin. Someone takes a leap to start, but the second person who joins arguably takes an even bigger risk by joining in.

As you teach and grow your market, you need to create the support for your industry.

This means creating the groups that will talk about and be passionate about your industry. For Elon Musk, it might be engineers sharing ideas online. For the bicycle shop, it might be a monthly bike ride group. For your business, you can create and lead a group of people interested in your service. Provide a way for them to get together and share ideas and passion.

Many professions have these groups, whether it is a group of dentists that talk shop over lunch like my dad, or digital geeks like me who get together at conferences throughout the country.

With a network of people with similar interests, people will push the limits of your industry, get more excited about the industry and ultimately drive business back to you.

Change the World (and your business)

Elon Musk’s goal is to move the world from fossil fuels to renewable energy. He knows that to change the world, he has to enable others to promote the idea of renewable energy and sell the technology that will enable the shift.

These companies will be competitors to Tesla, and that’s great. The more businesses promoting renewable energy, the faster the world will change.

If you are doing work that can change the world, think like Iron Man. Enable others to share your ideas and passion. Welcome competition.

The more people interested in your industry, the more business will grow and the faster the world will change.

Image: Art Streiber

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