Article originally posted by Kristi Porter on Rank & File
Last year, we welcomed Kristi Porter on one of our Edinburgh Tours. From it, she took valuable lessons for her business and her life and decided to write an article detailing her experience. These are her own words:
Last year, I eagerly checked three destinations off of my bucket list: England, Scotland and Ireland. To be honest, Scotland was on my list because it’s part of my family’s heritage, but unlike England and Ireland, I didn’t actually have a chocked-full itinerary for when my friend and I landed in the wild and windy country. And while I thoroughly enjoyed London and Dublin, it was Edinburgh that caught me off-guard in the best way possible. Before visiting, I didn’t know that Scotland would have the friendliest citizens, the most efficient airport I’d ever step foot in, the best cold medication (being sick while travelling sucks), and quite possibly, the highest affinity for social enterprise in the UK.
There are a lot of really remarkable social enterprises doing amazing work in the world, but this idea was one of those that stood out in a lot of ways to me. Simply put, it grabbed my imagination and held it. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since touching back down in Atlanta.
One of my favourite aspects of Invisible Cities, the thing that first caught my attention, is the centrepiece of their model, training homeless people to be walking tour guides. It’s so simple and so brilliant.
Who knows the streets better than the homeless? Invisible Cities is utilising the resources they already have at their disposal to make a difference in the lives of those they help, along with their community and the people who take their tours. It’s not a flashy business model. It’s not overly complex. It requires no extraordinary skills. And yet, they are doing extraordinary work.
In fact, it’s the relative simplicity that continues to inspire me in my own business. In a world where “it’s complicated” has become commonplace, getting back to the basics is a breath of fresh air. So, as I reflect on that tour, I’m reminded that, as a startup, learning and holding onto the fundamentals is essential for growing and scaling.
I don’t know about you, but I continually get distracted by what I don’t have. If I only had more money, more time, more influence . . . then I can help more nonprofits and social enterprises. I often lose perspective by focusing not on the people I’ve helped and the ways I’ve grown over the last couple of years since starting my business, but the people I haven’t helped and the goals I haven’t met.
Goals are great until they keep you from being grateful and seeing new opportunities.
For Invisible Cities, it’s not about what they don’t have. It starts with their available resources and grows from there. I want to follow in their footsteps. Truthfully, I don’t think this is any different from what the rest of us do, but it was a good reminder for me. I needed to see it in action to bring myself back to a point of gratefulness for what I have and what I’ve already done.
I don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on advertising. I do, however, have amazing clients, generous friends and loving family members. And when they referred new clients to me, I’d send them a gift card as a thank you. But last year, I created a formal program that paid them in cash or free consulting hours for each referral.
One more example to get your wheels turning. I think business coaches are a terrific idea. As a solopreneur, I only know so much and I can only learn so much. Despite that, I still seem to hoard PDF downloads and webinar links like the internet is going to run out of space. But collective knowledge always beats my individual knowledge. So, I found mentors to provide learning shortcuts and created a mastermind of fellow solopreneurs to provide feedback, insight and accountability. Even though I’m an introvert, I know that the greatest resources available to me are relationships. They give to me, and I gratefully give back to them. It serves us all well, and in the end, allows me to serve my clients better, too.
Invisible Cities not only empowers the homeless to design their tours, but to tell their own stories as well as the city’s. This is another factor that makes their excursions different from any others you’ll find.
It’s not only your “why” that sets you apart. It’s also your “who.” Even if someone else is doing exactly what you’re doing, and even if they managed to rip off your signature process or business model, they still can’t replicate you and your story. Your “who” is as unique as it comes, and your story deserves to be shared.
Remember the show “Behind The Music” on VH1? I’m totally dating myself here, but my best friend and I used to love that show in college. In each episode, they profiled a musician and how they became famous. It didn’t matter who the episode was about, all of them were utterly fascinating! I’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t had a great story.
I absolutely need to tell the stories of the people that I’ve helped, but I also have to tell my own story. It’s part of what makes my business remarkable—and the same goes for you.
In listening to our tour guide, talk about her struggles, her triumphs, her past and her future, I came to appreciate my own story more. As much as her tale made her tour unique, my history makes my business different from anyone else’s business. It’s the foundation I’m building my future on, and it’s up to me to share it.
I only had three days in Scotland, and only about half of that time was in Edinburgh, but it had a significant effect on me, my business and my impact. In fact, I can’t wait to return. Until then, I’ll remember the warm people, the cold gusts of wind and the “invisible” people that revealed so much. Come to think of it, maybe Scotland isn’t coming off my bucket list after all.
Thank you Kristi for sharing these words. We are so glad you took so much away from your experience with us.
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