When I was younger I thought going into the business world was akin to being tortured. As a musician and an actor it felt like the most boring profession in the world, the place where ideas go to die.
To be a businessperson meant being proper and respectable. It meant button down shirts and suits, and uncomfortable shoes. It meant being incorporated into the 9-5 grind and following a path paved with static tradition. Innovation was out there, but nobody talked about it, not really except for a few lucky companies who had “made it,” giving the idea that true innovation was only attainable by an elite few. To me the concept of going into business felt like conformity, forcing you to leave your passions and self behind.
The Art of Doing Business
Of course I now know that none of that is true, or at least it doesn’t have to be. There are so many ways to build a business, and the path to get there is every bit as creative and fulfilling as the pursuit of more traditional art forms.
Creating a business that is authentic and filled with personality truly is like creating a work of art, complete with all of the struggles and triumphs along the way.
When you study the Arts you can spend your entire life striving for perfection, but the truth of the matter is that nothing is ever really perfect. Even the most skilled and talented masters in their field, still have something to learn. But, that’s the beauty of it.
I believe that learning is one of the greatest privileges of being alive and no matter what you do there is always room to grow and try something new. This mentality isn’t just for the more traditional arts though, this is also applicable to developing a business. There is always room for improvement and new ideas, or ways to reinvent established ones to make them better than ever before.
There is Only One You
I am passionate about helping others create and share their stories and show up in the world as their most true and authentic selves. For businesses, the idea of sharing your story translates to having a strong brand complete with a clear “why”, a succinct mission, authentic values, and a consistent voice.
The world has millions of businesses but there will only ever be one YOU.
Even if you can name 100 other companies who sell the same product or service, nobody else can do it the way you can. To create a business is to show up both when you have a face full of make-up, but also when you strip all of that away showing the world the beautiful soul lying underneath the surface.
Professional Doesn’t Mean Boring!
Now at this point you might be thinking, no way! I am a business owner and I need to look and act professional at all times, because if I don’t nobody will take me seriously and my business will fail. Ok, I get that, but I’m not telling you to run naked through the forest shouting obscenities, unless of course that’s on brand for you and your business in which case goodbye clothes, and to the forest you go!
Instead, I’m asking you to rethink what it means to be a professional.
Merriam-Webster defines the word “professional” as “one that engages in a pursuit or activity professionally.” The dictionary definition also says that professional is “characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession” or “exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.” Nowhere, in that definition does it say you need to be like everybody else. Yes, the word conform is used in part of the definition, but only in terms of following technical or ethical standards, things we should be aware of anyway in a chosen field, but that doesn’t preclude you from creating the business that you truly want and sharing it with the world in a way that feels real and true.
I Have a Secret to Tell You
Let me ask you this. If you authentically show up in your business as yourself do you think you will be seen as discourteous? Do you think your authenticity will be taken as callous or rude? Will your ideas or demeanor be considered offensive or not taken seriously? Maybe. But, if you are truly being yourself and showing up as the real you, I’d make the argument that it’s OK if there are some that don’t consider you to be professional, or who don’t appreciate what you have to offer.
I’m going to share a little secret with you that might be difficult to hear.
“You don’t need everybody to like you!”
There, I said it. Now, for a people pleaser like myself that is very hard to stomach, but it’s true. It’s also one of the best and hardest lessons I’ve had to learn on the journey to becoming an entrepreneur. As a business owner, if how you choose to show up professionally doesn’t resonate with someone, then they probably aren’t your people. They likely aren’t your ideal customer and they probably won’t appreciate you as much as others will.
It’s OK to Be Yourself
It’s OK if everybody doesn’t like you. One of the best pieces of advice I have received in the past year was from a podcast I heard from a fiery female entrepreneur named Jasmine Star. She made the great point that if you have followers or customers who leave you, it just makes more space for YOUR people to find you.
Even though there might be others doing what you do, nobody else can claim to be YOU. Nobody else has your exact voice or your perspective. They might have shared experiences, or interests, but at the end of the day there is only one you and the world deserves to know who you really are, and I promise you your business will thrive as a result.
It’s Time to Talk about Your Website
As business owners one of the ways we show up in the world is through our website. Over the past year that I have been building my business, I have looked at a LOT of websites. I have also spent a large chunk of time and effort creating my own.
During this process I noticed something important that more business owners need to be aware of, and it’s something I have observed with companies of all shapes and sizes covering a hugely diverse variety of products and services. In the quest to show up professionally projecting out what you think the world expects of you and what it means to be a business, you are actually creating something I call the Jeckyl and Hyde Effect.
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
No, I am not implying that you are putting out content that is both good and evil, but you are likely using two very different voices on your site, essentially making your business look like two different people or companies.
I have found that there is often a huge difference between the copy people use on the main pages of their website and how they communicate via blog posts or newsletters.
Not only that, but the voice that comes through in those blog posts and newsletters is more reflective of the company’s brand, and frankly more engaging and interesting to their customers.
More often than not, the copy on a company’s main website pages is typically boring and filled with jargon, more in line with my earlier perception of what it meant to run a business.
The blog posts on the other hand are usually more interesting, tell a better story, and feel authentic. The voice behind the blogs and newsletters is who I as a customer want to engage with. I want to know what the people behind a company think and feel and when done well, it fosters a greater level of respect and enthusiasm from a customer standpoint.
Time to Make a Change
When I see a company website that has a consistent voice between the blogs and newsletters as well as the main website pages, I want to stand up and cheer. When a company has a well defined brand and isn’t afraid to show up authentically no matter what everything thinks, that is what it means to be professional. Not only that, but those are the people that I as a customer want to work with, and those are the companies that inspire me
Business isn’t where ideas go to die. It’s where you as the business owner get to come alive.
Never be afraid to tell your story. After all, you’re the only one who can!