Josh Kaufman Illustrates Your Path to The Personal MBA

By Mo Bunnell
Josh Kaufman shares the fundamental frameworks that amplify business development success and breaks them down into actionable strategies that you can start implementing today.

Josh Kaufman shares the fundamental frameworks that amplify business development success and breaks them down into actionable strategies that you can start implementing today. Learn how to speak the language of business so you can understand your clients on a deeper level, solve their problems more effectively, and determine which opportunities to pursue and which to pass over so you can make the most impact possible.


Mo asks Josh Kaufman: What big idea do you have to help business developers be more successful?

  • Regardless of what industry or market you are in, understanding business at a fundamental level is a significant advantage. It will help you deliver more effectively as well as the business development.
  • Having an accurate understanding of what businesses are and how they work will help you do your job better and serve your customers better as well.
  • Organizations are good at teaching a deep understanding of a specific specialty, but they are not necessarily good at teaching the general business language and communicating that to a client.
  • Most employees know their job very well, but they don’t know how they or their boss fits into the bigger picture of the organization. Having a comprehensive understanding of the entire business system is where you get to the strategic and practical insight that can really make a difference.
  • The decision-maker in an organization has to think of all five parts of the business, the value creation side, the marketing, the sales, the delivery, and the financial side when deciding what actions to take. Expanding beyond a narrow view of the business helps you understand your client and sell your services, but it also helps operate within your own organization.
  • Thinking into the future and anticipating issues before they arise will make you a better business person and make you more valuable to your organization.
  • As we communicate with clients we should do so with their priorities in mind and in their words. All aspects of business development get meaningfully better if you can talk the language of business.
  • Business development is about trust. Everything you can do to convey that you understand a client at a fundamental level, the more they are going to trust you, the more effectively you are going to be able to work with them, and the more effectively you will be able to close business.


Mo asks Josh Kaufman: How can the ideas of The Personal MBA help people manage their opportunities?

  • Begin with a thought experiment. “What would it look like if…?” Counterfactual questions can be extremely useful for understanding what is true in the given moment, and what could be a way of making things better in the future.
  • Business development is all about the future. Asking this sort of question takes you out of the present situation and gives you clarity on what’s possible.
  • All of the most valuable questions in business start with that question. These questions allow you to supply your brain with a destination which is how you start formulating a plan to get there.
  • This is a powerful tool to get unstuck and figure out what your next action should be regarding an opportunity. Most of the breakthroughs in Josh’s career have come from posing this thought experiment.
  • As you are planning out the next quarter and figuring out how to reach your financial or personal goals, the way you get your brain in gear to solve the problem is by asking yourself a counterfactual question.
  • Starting from the question allows you to avoid being mired in self-criticism and doubt. You will come up with ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise because you weren’t framing the problem in that particular way.


Mo asks Josh Kaufman: Great relationships are something we should invest in. How can someone be more effective at managing relationships?

  • When you enter into any new relationship, trust is something that needs to be built over time.
  • Trust is earned by showing up and demonstrating that you understand someone, and what’s important to them. Even before someone becomes a prospect, you can keep adding value to a relationship and building that trust. This is known as earned regard, and all business development activities will be more effective as the trust grows.
  • You earn the trust and regard of your team in the same way that you earn the trust of a prospect or client. Keep showing up and providing value, and demonstrating your trustworthiness.
  • There are three methods of building trust known as the Golden Trifecta: essentially, you treat people with appreciation, courtesy, and respect. The more you interact with people in those three ways the more likely you are to produce a positive result. In a business environment, you layer adding value on top of those three fundamental approaches to interacting with people.
  • The effect of this accumulates, as well as behaving in the opposite. Respect compounds and leads to a trusted and valued relationship, constant disrespect or discourteousness destroys relationships over time.
  • The combination of earned regard and the Golden Trifecta are very effective at deepening relationships in all areas of your life.


Mo asks Josh Kaufman: How can someone hack their own habits and accomplish more when it comes to business development?

  • Most of us imagine a world in the undefined future where all our tasks are completed and there’s nothing left to do. Fortunately for us, that’s not the way the world works.
  • We live in a finite world of tradeoffs with limited energy and attention. As a consequence of that, we have limited opportunities to get things done.
  • We can make ourselves miserable by not realizing that we live in a world of tradeoffs. We must make choices between competing alternatives.
  • You must be clear on your personal values and priorities to know what choices to pursue. They become the lens that helps you decide which opportunities will make the biggest difference in your life long term.
  • You don’t want to spend all your time and energy climbing a ladder, to only discover at the top that it was leaning against the wrong wall.
  • Being clear about what you want helps eliminate some of the existential pressure. You’re only responsible for figuring out what you should be doing to get to the end result you desire is instead of doing everything all at once.
  • No is a complete sentence. It’s okay to pass on certain opportunities.
  • There is a certain amount of status consciousness that doesn’t serve us when it comes to opportunity, but we have to keep our values in mind and use them to choose our direction.
  • Most people try to avoid making a decision until absolutely forced to. When presented with multiple opportunities, most people will say they are all important. We don’t need to feel bad about the opportunities we are passing on, because that’s a necessary part of the process. It’s what allows us to enjoy the benefits of the things we value the most, and the more we can do that the more effective and happy we’ll be.
  • We all have an unlimited opportunity, and we all have limited time, so creating a mechanism that allows you to embrace that is crucial.
  • Business developers need to be proactive and make things happen, and that means making the right choices.


Mo shares his insights from the habits of Josh Kaufman.

  • Speaking the language of business seems obvious, but most people don’t realize how important this is to business development. Specifically speaking with your prospects’ words and language and understanding them on a deep level.
  • Get out of the mindset that you speak internally because that can come off as jargon. Talking with the language of a client is a differentiator that will set you apart from other competitors. Adding that to every aspect of the business development process is an incredible advantage.
  • Counterfactual questions like “what would have to be true for X to happen?” are great for opening up your thought process to possibilities. It’s also a great tool that you can use with clients in their business.
  • Asking the right question can open the door to making it a reality. Use those kinds of questions to start a conversation that can create incredible results.
  • We have unlimited opportunities as humans, but we have limited time. We need a mechanism that catalogs the opportunities available to us and a system to triage the ones you are going to focus on.
  • It’s okay to say no to some ideas so that you can say yes to the ideas that will make a major impact.


Mentioned in this Episode:

The Personal MBA

How to Fight a Hydra