Why business owners should stay true to themselves
Excellent leaders know their ambitions and harness their desires to fulfil them.
As a teacher, my life often felt satisfactory. In a place where the very language used contradicted its etymology, where satisfactory meant anything but, and unsatisfactory was pretty much a death sentence; there were times when semantics shot me down. I dare say, in turn, my students too. I loved the job: seeing students become empowered by understanding, listening to their unfolding creativity; developing and nurturing a love of language. Yet, like many teachers, I spent many hours battling with marking and hierarchy and homogenisation until I realised mainstream schooling was just not where my talents lay.
Navigating what was uncharted territory of business management for me; I started a business. To be more precise, I started freelancing as a writer. I was motivated by finding a way to play around with words all day and be the boss of my own schedule. To start with those were my business goals. Pretty simple.
Of course, they didn’t get me masses of work, and so I started then obsessively reading small business publications; searching for marketing techniques and trying to understand how to be a writer in a professional capacity. I did social media posting and scribed scores of list-style blogs for myself and clients. It was all too easy; playing down the very thing I love the most about language: its playfulness, agility, flexibility; duplicity. And I started falling out of love with words.
It was time to rethink things.
What are your values?
You need to truly understand your personal values to build a set of business values. What do you stand for and what does your brand stand for? What actually motivates you to set up a business in the first place?
What I loved most about teaching was seeing young people realise their potential; offering them new opportunities. Cornwall is still an area of extremes: the Hockney blues of sky and sea, the bleak moors; mist seeping into your bones. The sharp divide of wealth and poverty. These things helped me to shape a business motivation with more focus, more ambition, more drive.
To discover what your values are, you need to have an internal conversation and really think long and hard about what you want your business to represent. What needs do you want to meet: of your own and of your consumer market? Matching your values to those of a potential client creates an audience for your brand, and actually help you to deliver a better, well honed product. If possible, converse with a selection of previous clients to softly test how your new image appears in their eyes?
Feeling let down by the lack of support for teachers, and understanding the financial disparity in my area, drove me to want two things for my business that were outside of personal financial and creative growth and development. These were to provide opportunities for young people in disadvantaged situations and to provide support for local businesses. One of my key focuses in life is independence. It’s woven through everything I do. Encouraging and fostering that in other people sends me a-shiver.
What do you love?
Your personal passions will drive your idea, your business forward. You’re going to need them to. With the sleepless nights, endless monologuing and fears about its growth and development; a business really is like having a baby. It can be mentally and physically exhausting in a way you had never perceived. You’ll find yourself sneaking looks at twitter and reading emails even when you should be out relaxing and stepping away from it all.
Some of my very early client work was highly corporate in an area of little interest to me. Whilst I was able to garner reasonable results from it, it wasn’t the type of work I was passionate about enough to sing from the rooftops and post all over social media channels with reckless abandon. Adding press release creation and distribution to my skills meant I began to connect with some small local businesses and real people. Developing these relationships, understanding these brands meant I finally understood what mattered to me: making a difference in my community. I work best when I can see results and when I know that what I do makes a difference to people’s lives.
Through working with local business owners and getting intimate with branding, I can create content I am really proud of; content that is original, targeted and speaks to people. Ultimately, communications within brands mean developing relationships and this is what converts visitors into buyers and holds them there..
What do customers want?
Customers want something that adds value to their lives. The world of consumerism and business is constantly evolving, but how you learn to embrace and respond to those changes will affect your success. You need to stick to what you love, even if this needs to be balanced with some of what you love less. I still write corporate copy; reams of it in fact. I’m still creative with language. Luckily, through forging relationships with small businesses, I can use the sounds of the sea and our beautiful landscape to inspire my corporate writing, as much as my own.
Here, the things that drive me and the clients’ needs meet together and this is what makes successful branding. The very things that language itself was created for: communication and cooperation.
To speak to me about consulting for your brand’s voice, or for any writing job big or small, please send me an email or call on 07729263818