The Amish (the folks who ride around in buggies) are amazing entrepreneurs with a better than 90-percent success rate for new businesses in the first five years of operation. When you consider that in the U.S. half of new businesses fail in the first five years, it is clear the Amish are doing something right.
In fact, in 2010, CNN Money described Amish business owners as ‘America’s most successful entrepreneurs.’ So if you’re starting or growing a business, you might be wise to take a few pointers from this hard-working community.
Successful crowdfunders love their work. When you look at how some Amish business owners work, you see at least one, not-too-subtle difference between Amish work, if you will, and typical modern ideas of work-life-balance.
The Amish think about work differently. In his 1989 book, The Riddle of Amish Culture, Dr. Donald B. Kraybill, wrote: “family, community, and work are woven together in the fabric of Amish life. Work is not pitted against other spheres of life as often happens elsewhere. The rhythms of work are pursued for the sake of community, not just for individual profit and prestige. A great deal of work is done in small groups, where it blends effort and play in a celebration of togetherness.”
Compare this to the solitary work habits of many aspiring entrepreneurs and you see a stark contrast. Rather than separating work and family life, the Amish integrate it and enjoy themselves in the process.
To put this lesson in practice, try to find ways to include the important people in your life in your work. Your hard work may seem a little less hard. Perhaps you have a spouse or friend who can help brainstorm marketing ideas or even help to manage the business. When your work brings you closer to friends and family and allows you to share experiences with them, you may be more likely to stay at it, and, like the Amish, succeed.
Because the Amish integrate friends and family in their work, they see themselves as part of a larger community, and as business owners, they are very willing to rely on the community to help their businesses start and grow.
One clear example of this is Amish barn-raising. When an Amish farmer needs a new barn, he will purchase the material, and then invite his extended family and neighbors to come over and help build it. Working together, the community can erect a massive barn in a matter of hours. The video below is an awesome time-lapse that shows what the Amish can do in one afternoon when they approach a problem together
To apply this lesson to your business, look for ways to use your community to help the business grow. For instance, can you barter barter your product or service for a product or service you need? Can you crowdfund to raise capital rather than trying to finance your business with a credit card? Can you invite friends to come over and make products or help pack and ship orders in exchange for some beer and pizza?
As your business grows, you are going to need to hire some help, and the Amish might be able to guide you here too. The Amish manage humbly, often working to remove obstacles for employees so that those employees can do a better job. Rather than merely telling the employee what to do, they ask the employee, “what do you need?”
“There is an emphasis on humility and being a humble leader, and I think that has a lot to do with the longevity and the productivity that Amish managers get out of their employees,” said Erik Wesner, author of the book Success Made Simple, An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive, in a 2010 CNN Money interview.
Focus on empowering your employees, not just pushing them.
Amish folks have a reputation for being kind, honest, and decidedly modest. And these old-timey qualities make for a great customer experience. The same CNN Money report that asked Wesner about Amish success also featured an Amish deli owner, Ben Riehl. Riehl described his business like this: “[We] try to provide a quality product at a reasonable price, and we want to give the customers an experience that goes a little beyond spending money. So I mean if you enjoy what you’re doing, that certainly creates an atmosphere that is conducive to successful sales.”
Simple, right? Give the customer an experience that goes beyond just selling them something.