Spotlight: What business are you really in?

I sat next to a charming 30-something this past week on a flight home to LAX. As we settled into our 10-hour flight, we talked about what we both do for a living.

As we were chatting, I realized this topic could be addressed with two very different questions:

What business are you in?
What business are you REALLY in?

I believe that the most successful people are those who realize they are NOT in the business of making the thing they make. The thing they make is the expression that activates the real business they are in (hang with me on this; I know it all sounds a bit jargon-like).

A better way to explain this is though some examples. Starbucks makes coffee, yet coffee has been around for hundreds of years. So what had them become so successful? I dare say, after reading some information on their thinking, that they are in the community building business, and coffee is the vehicle in which we get to experience a sense of belonging.

You probably already know that I reference Apple. A lot. This way of thinking could not apply more to their meteoric rise to global success. After failing at being in the computer business, both the hardware (Michael Dell and others won that game) and software (Bill Gates and Microsoft won that game), Steve Jobs had to reinvent and ask at a deep level this question, “What business are we really in?”

I believe that Apple went into the “entertainment” business. Its first success was the iPod. And we know where it has gone since. We now have instant access to endless entertainment and information at our fingertips 24/7/365 (we won’t know for years if that’s a good or bad thing, but right now it is certainly a successful thing!).

Recently I worked with an executive team on where to go next. Their leader knew that doing a standard strategy session about how to sell more was not going to cut it, due to global conditions, change in public opinions, etc. After 2 days of being guided through the “Bigger Game Conversation,” they realized they wanted to be and could be in the “design” business. Rather than just make stuff, they became excited that they could actually sell more of their materials if they offered “design ideas” to their clients on how to use it and create beautiful spaces with it. Now, mind you, this big paradigm shift will not change things over night (Apple took almost 10 years to recover from almost being bankrupt), yet this new idea grabbed their imagination and launched them into a whole new level of creative thinking and innovative excitement.

As a coach trainer I always ask the question “What business are you really in?” Coaching is what you do; yet dare to think that you are in a different business.

I am a trainer, keynoter, author, executive coach and team development leader, which are all great answers when the world needs a simple answer to what I do. Yet the business I am really in is “to make your Bigger Game real.” I just love saying that! It compels me, it creates me and it gets me out of bed fast (most mornings!).

So I ask you, “What business are you REALLY in?”

More to come-





  • Debby Doig Reply

    Making Magic!

  • Leza Danly Reply

    That’s great, Debby! I was going to say something similar. I am in the business of INSPIRATION, and specifically to inspire others to awaken and embrace the MAGIC within.

    • Janet Fontaine Reply

      Dearest Leza,

      I was blessed to be able to see you at the NoHo Arts Center and yes, you are living your calling. You truly inspire and awaken the magic within!
      Wishing you everything beautiful and bright!

  • Janet Fontaine Reply

    I am in entertainment, but my real business is spreading KINDNESS and bringing HOPE and HEALING.

  • Dwight Bailey Reply

    Helping people discover the best of what is possible.

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