In the old economy, there were three leadership rules to set up your own business in collaboration with your staff:

  1. Define your vision in less than five words to let the world know what your company’s business is all about.

  2. Tell your people the exact mission of your business so that any member of your team can share your value to capture value.

  3. Set the business goals you and your staff members are committed to.

These three steps, taught to us as part of Peter Drucker’s basics of modern leadership, worked quite well.

But nowadays it’s different.

In the digital world, the way to success demands five steps you likely don’t like. But, as an entrepreneur of a small business, you capture value by making presents – free gifts to a lot of potential customers.

No, we aren’t talking about traditional promotion; you have to give what is essential to your business.

Step 1: Write a white paper. Tell people what you think about the challenges companies face on the market. Explain the opportunities and threats, as you would do in an old-fashioned Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis.

And don’t be shy. Defend your point of view and your approach to fix problems. That’s the way to show how people could benefit from you personally. It’s an idea you share.

Yes, you get feedback. Yes, you earn critics. But it’s the cheapest way to rethink your business, and you can adjust your approach quite easily.

A white paper offers not only an idea of what the market thinks about you, but also provides the first contacts with prospective customers – you gain and collect leads. That’s worth more than the time you spend to structure your thoughts in writing.

The Chicago-based company 37signals became famous for this special path. The company even goes so far as to publish these ideas and convictions in an eBook, and the PDF version is free and became a manifesto.

It’s so simple to publish a white paper or any other kind of presentation, such as my own, free SlideShare channel.

Step 2: Publish a book. To deepen your insights, a book, even an eBook, helps create a manifesto of your market approach. The leads you gained in Step No. 1 turn into customers, because you can charge them for the work you offer.

Jeff Jarvis did this with his book, “What Would Google Do?” It’s just a collection of the ideas, observations, thoughts, and insights he amassed over the years.

But people love this kind of overview of what is going on in the digital world of Google. It gives them lots of things to talk about. (See the next step.)

Step 3: Start Webinars. In a video Webinar, people can easily get access to you and your ideas. They share their thoughts on your work in a way you couldn’t experience in the past. From all over the world, they sit and listen to you discuss your written work. 

You can defend yourself or learn by yourself; it doesn’t matter for the following process. What’s more important: Imagine what kind of close relationship is created here! And you just need a computer to get in touch with the audience we call “potential customers.”

Step 4: Join workshops, conferences, and panels. Peter Drucker’s approach was to send a message to different target groups inside or outside the company. That’s fine. But after the first three steps, your leads and customers are so deeply involved that no official mission statement is needed any longer.

People themselves are part of the process and ambassadors of your thoughts. Talk with them about your products, in workshops and conferences, as a speaker or as a participant on public panels. Now, you have a voice people want to hear and can show them the solutions they need.

Step 5: Become an author. Write about your experience – as I do here on the Media Entrepreneur blog – regarding the way entrepreneurial business is done nowadays.