Entrepreneurs and startups are driven by innovation and big ideas. But are we overlooking the biggest idea of all: prioritizing how we make our customers feel?
Author and business trailblazer Grant Muller shares how to set your business up for success by taking on a human-centered mindset. We sent him a few questions about why this simple strategy works so well in today’s businesses.
Grit Daily: Many startups dream of disrupting and revolutionizing stale, old-school industries. In your new book, Top of Heart: How a New Approach to Business Saved My Life, and Could Save Yours Too, you challenge long-held beliefs about how business is done. Could you tell us more about that?
Grant Muller: I tend to view “disruption” in more humanistic terms than startup teams might, though I’m sure most founders would run circles around me with their tech expertise and innovative minds! My approach, Top of Heart, is a shift away from traditional business mindsets. It’s about prioritizing human connection and the quality of every business relationship while letting go of the “numbers and prospects” game too many of us are used to playing.
Putting relationships with customers first may not make tech and startup headlines, but at its core, it’s a fundamentally human, revolutionary business tool we all have at our disposal. This is especially true as tech becomes more complex and people in business mistakenly believe that technology can replace the power of human connection.
The great news is we can have both: technology to advance our daily lives and personal relationships in business that allow tech businesses to be successful and serve more people than ever.
Grit Daily: Since the proof is in the pudding, how has this worldview transformed your life and business?
Grant Muller: I was quite successful in corporate America and then at an internet startup in the late 90s. But nothing compares to the success that being Top of Heart has brought me.
Let me share a story. When I was first starting out in the real estate industry — and before I’d developed this worldview — I was hustling hard. I spent every hour of every day meeting new people, filling my sales funnel, and hoping I’d be “top of mind” to enough buyers and sellers that I could somehow piece together a living. It was exhausting.
I soon realized that I couldn’t keep up the pace of being everything to everyone. I could only meet so many people and keep it all straight. Even though I was running around like crazy, I wasn’t closing more deals. In fact, my business was declining despite my efforts and hefty investments in coaching, radio ads, and internet leads.
I took a long, hard look at my business. I scrutinized every deal I’d closed in the past 12 months and realized that over 90% of my business came from past clients and their referrals, not from the people I was “in front of” at networking events.
I realized then that I had to let go of staying at the top of someone’s mind. I had to dig deeper and build meaningful relationships if I was going to make it.
And that was when I made the shift from my head to my heart. I changed my worldview. As a result of this momentous shift, I’m ranked in the top 1.5% of realtors nationwide and built a seven-figure real estate practice, a business I still enjoy to this day.
Grit Daily: Prioritizing relationships may sound like a slow-burn sales strategy, but it’s clear it works in fast-paced, high-stakes environments. How does a top-of-heart approach play out in startups?
Grant Muller: Top of Heart works in startups the same way it does in more established businesses like my own, primarily because it all comes down to a shift in perspective: moving from a top-of-mind focus to being at the top of someone’s heart.
Still, startups have one advantage I didn’t: they can operate like this from day one! They’re less likely, as growing organizations, to have to unlearn or undo old ways of thinking. From the very beginning, they get to establish a worldview (and workflow) that generates the most successful and profitable relationships possible.
In this way, Top of Heart might be a founder’s secret weapon. Imagine forging more authentic and lucrative relationships, from relationships with VCs, angel investors, and board members to relationships with new clients to equally strong relationships within your business among employees and team members!
Imagine creating a supercharged, Top of Heart-fueled organization with everyone operating from the same frame of mind: that everything begins with authentic human connection, no exceptions. Think of how you’ll be able to grow faster and better, from your culture to your balance sheet. Many of the challenges startups typically face are potentially solved with this powerful shift in perspective.
Grit Daily: Let’s look at this shift from a sales perspective. Most salespeople often wonder, “When my customers need X, will they think of me first?” However, you advise they should be asking, “Will my customers think of me, and will they feel good when they do?” Could you elaborate on this?
Grant Muller: Absolutely! This concept you’re describing, of thinking of someone first, is the top-of-mind sales training so many of us in business have received. This old-school thinking led to the impersonal concepts we hear in sales, like turning people into prospects, dropping them into a funnel, and then closing them. This all falls under “What can I do to make a prospect think of me first so I can close them as quickly as possible?”
On the other hand, your customers feeling good when they think of you, that’s a top-of-heart approach. And it only happens when you make human connections a business priority. It’s dependent on the steps you take to make your customers feel like they belong in the relationship and that they’re special — which is something we all want, right?
This approach is so simple, yet we shy away from it. We’re afraid to make ourselves too “real,” too vulnerable, or too human, so we automatically fall back onto more familiar sales strategies where we don’t have to put ourselves out there.
I’m here to inspire you to take the road less traveled, to do the harder thing. It will feel easier and more natural the more you do it.
Grit Daily: What can Grit Daily readers start doing today to create their own authentic connections?
Grant Muller: First, create an authentic connection with yourself by getting real, present, and open. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What are five adjectives people would use to describe you?
- What inspires you about the world we live in?
- When do you feel most alive? What beliefs are present when you feel this way?
The next step is about impacting others. Here’s a simple but powerful daily exercise to try:
- Each morning, choose one to three people who are in need of love or joy.
- Ask yourself: “How can I be a blessing for them today?” Imagine being in their shoes. What might be valuable for them today?
- Write this item of value next to their name and make it happen. Keep it simple.
Finally comes your heartset, which is about changing your perspective from “me” to “we.” Try preparing for your next business meeting like this:
- Check how you’re feeling and note your mood.
- Decide which personal experiences you’re willing to share with others.
- Prepare one or two stories that will allow you to safely share your current experience and create deeper connections.
This is a simplified version of what I cover in my book, but it will get you off to the right start.
Grit Daily: In the age of AI, your book reminds us that technology isn’t a substitute for human connection. Do you believe this will always be the case?
Grant Muller: Unless there’s some future development in what makes a human being a human being, then my answer is yes, technology will never be a substitute for human connection.
It’s true: We’re in an age where AI and automation are replacing many of the moving parts in sales transactions. For instance, clients no longer follow me to the next house during showings; they simply look up the address on their phone, and I end up following them.
But as helpful as AI is, it can’t replace our human ability to forge human connections (and all the things that come from those connections). AI can respond accurately based on the right inputs. Even so, it will be a very long time, if at all, before AI can “read between the lines,” notice a subtle shift in facial expressions, or pick up on nonverbal cues. We are much more than inputs; the heart and soul of our human experience will be the very last piece for AI to conquer.
In the meantime, AI is a fantastic tool to manage our least human tasks, freeing us to manage the most human ones.
Published First on GritDaily; Read Here.
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Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending
London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.
According to an Oct. 10 tech.eu report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.
The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:
“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”
The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:
“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”
The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.
The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.
Featured Image Credit: Photo from Kennek.io; Thank you!
Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs
As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.
Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI
In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.
According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.
One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.
To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.
Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.
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UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations
As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.
Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation
To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.
The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.
Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.
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