In almost every industry there are byproducts – secondary products created during the manufacture of something else. Sawdust is an obvious one – the stuff that piles up in a sawmill as lumber is cut (credit to Ian Stanley for this one). Carpenters and stone masons have off cuts, landscapers end up with leaf litter (can you believe that they get charged by the truck-load to dispose of future mulch!) If you look closely at virtually any business, there are useful byproducts being created every day – perhaps even more so in information businesses even though there are no physical goods or traditional manufacturing.
A theme we live by at FIXnotes is to “welcome serendipity” and the best way to be a magnet for opportunities and success is to put yourself out there. By creating content and publishing it online, we can create connections with like-minded investors, business partners, vendors and other counter-parties. Finding the “sawdust” of your business will give you the raw materials you need to publish more content, more often to create serendipity that leads to your future success!
Identifying the “sawdust” in your operation
Your sawdust might not be as obvious at first but if you look closely you’ll find it. It’s a little more difficult to identify when it isn’t a tangible byproduct like wood scraps, pulp, empty boxes or plastic – but when you think outside the box, you’ll start seeing saw dust everywhere!
Here’s an obvious one that works for pretty much every information business – the stories from the trenches. The details behind a successful borrower resolution, a profitable (or perhaps more interesting – unprofitable) workout process, an attempt at raising capital or approach a new source of loans for sale. The list of interesting content is endless, each topic can help others in the industry navigate similar situations.
Business Processes & Procedures
Although sharing your internal processes can be a bit more difficult to reveal without giving away too much, a high-level outline of your operation can be beneficial to others while establishing or improving your reputation with investors, clients & future employees. A well documented process exudes organization and efficiency. The real “secret sauce” is in the action and implementation of the process.
Lists: Vendors, Markets, Resources, Events, etc
Since you’re already preparing it internally, perhaps it would be acceptable to share some of the resources your team is already aggregating. Don’t share everything as soon as it is created – utilize it to it’s fullest internally, then as diminishing returns begin to set-in, breathe new life into the utility by publishing it to the industry.
Document templates, webforms & business tools
The general theme here is simple: if you’re already creating and using it internally, why not find an external use for all the content you develop. There are some big caveats of course, which we’ll discuss in the next section, but I think you’ll find the benefits of sharing information to outweigh the alternative.
Industry news & relevant research
In a constantly evolving industry like the secondary mortgage market, staying on top of the regulations, underlying real estate trends, best practices and market activity can be a full-time job. In fact, depending on the size of your operation, you may have a team member already focused on developing these insights. Many note buyers hire companies like Cornerstone Support for licensing and regulation and of course we work with local attorneys & realtors that stay on top of their subset of the larger market.
Proprietary IP versus sawdust
An oversimplification of what drives our actions as humans can be broken down into “seeking pleasure or avoiding pain”. In business, this is perhaps better understood as a balance between “abundance or scarcity”. A scarcity mindset can lead you into a defensive stance that eliminates opportunities, threatens relationships and stymies growth. Abundance is the attitude that drives innovation, creates strategic partnerships and shares the wealth. All this is to say – what you believe is proprietary intellectual property might not be as important to protect as you might think.
However, there is a certainly a limit to what you can share. For starters, if you have investors or partners that aren’t onboard with this approach, don’t undermine those relationships by giving away “confidential” intel. Depending on the investment made into developing certain content, you may think twice about giving it away before the maximum utility is extracted by your internal teams.
As a general practice, the best in the business are always seeking to improve themselves and their organizations. As a result of this iterative improvement, we find ourselves with an abundance of old versions, superseded by the latest & greatest. If you are on the fence about sharing the most current iterations of your internal resources, consider releasing a previous version.
Packaging your byproduct to add value
The final step in the process is to prepare your “sawdust” for consumption. At FIXnotes we recycle case-studies completed by our portfolio management operation into a regular segment of our YouTube show. We also expand on those case-studies in blog posts where more in-depth analysis and education can be extracted.
We also share our industry event calendar, vendor rolodex, state/county level database and more for our Mastermind Members. An added benefit of the relationship with our members is the fact that everyone has signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement, so we can share more of the sensitive, valuable intel that isn’t possible to reveal to those outside of the group.
For your own publishing process, here are a few content types to get you started:
- Social Media Post: image + text to share an insight or useful resource
- Blog Article: longer-form narrative to dig deeper into a topic or story
- Video Essay or Tutorial: can be as simple as a screen-share with monologue
- Publish a Book: simpler than you might realize and builds credibility
- Create a Presentation: write a session to present live or on a webinar
- Pitch Book: turn your sawdust into a capital-raising tool
The list goes on but these six ideas should kick-start your brainstorming process. I hope you now see the win-win benefits of our philosophy to spread the wealth and freely share information. Leave a comment below with the “sawdust” from your business and how you can turn these scraps into something valuable!