Authenticity has become a big buzzword these days. If you want to build a strong personal brand, it’s a major must to be authentic. Because everyone has their BS detectors on high alert, anything less and people will undoubtedly see right through you. Same thing if you want to build a well-regarded business in your community. People want to do business with people they feel they can trust, so if it seems like there’s some kind of disconnect, they will figure it out! This seems to be especially true with food-related operations because nobody wants to doubt the quality of food they’re taking in.
Here’s the thing… when small businesses are just getting started, the owner will often be the face of the brand, and the lines between personal and business are blurred. If you are building your business from the ground up, working it all day, everyday like I did the first year or two, you need to be aware of the vibe you’re putting out. Why? Because if you create a business just for the money or because it’s trendy but you hate it, everyone including you will be miserable.
What is awesome though, my starry-eyed entrepreneurial friend, is that you have the unique opportunity to create a business culture or vibe that gels with your values. This is critical for you, the direction of your business, and for the good of humanity! Yup, you heard me right! See, I have this theory that tapping into what energizes and intensifies you is where your highest potential and impact on the world may find common ground. More on that at another time!
So, how do you really tap into your authenticity and then harness it to shape a business environment? Do you have to go on a retreat to “find yourself”, do a bunch of personality tests, or talk to a therapist to assess who you really are? Personally, I’ve tried all of these tactics, and can confidently say there is no magic bullet, but I DO have some tips that will help you get clear. Here goes:
1) Turn down the noise and tune in to what’s already inside of you.
Early on we are all shaped & molded by parents, teachers, friends and society into how we should be, and it’s easy to go along with that version of you without further questioning.
For example, maybe you grew up in a ranch-style home so when it’s time to buy your own home you automatically gravitate towards what you know. That is, until you step into the charming bungalow of your dreams and that’s when you realize that you never wanted a ranch at all! So, if you want to unlock authenticity, you need to separate what you have blindly absorbed with what really resonates with you.
2) Be honest with yourself and notice what really lights you up!
I am NOT advocating that you latch onto a belief system and build an identity fortress around it because that will only create discord. Rather, really tune in to your personal preferences in order to work with them. What styles, settings, colors, sights and sounds do you like? Where are you unwilling to compromise? What would you do even if you weren’t paid? What drives you?
I’ll share some of mine: I’ve long been fascinated by tiny homes. Quality over quantity every time. Yoga pants over business attire. I’ve always had a drive to create. I love making and eating pretty food. Green is clean! I dread too much structure & routine. And finally, I’ve come to believe that love & kindness is waaayy underrepresented in business.
Here’s how this translates to my business: I operate a small, quality-focused coffee shop with a relaxed vibe that produces beautiful hand-crafted beverages. We specialize in organically-grown or natural products and operate sustainably. I get to wear many different hats (and casual wear), and each day is different. And although I didn’t open my business with the primary goal of spreading love and building community, that has become a primary reason for being.
3) Reflect on your authentic experience of the world.
We each see things through a particular lens based on our background and experiences. What are some interesting things about you that could be harnessed as unique vantage points?
In my case, here are two things: I’m bilingual and a female coffee roaster. Research indicates that only about 25% of the U.S. population is bilingual, and as of 2012 only about 13% of coffee roasters were female. These were traits that helped shape the vibe and culture at my shop.
What are some things authentically you? Challenge yourself to list out 8-10 traits, then research them to find out which ones are most remarkable. Explore how you can use them to infuse your business with its own personality.
If you try these three things, I guarantee you’ll be well on your way to a small business culture like none other!
Do you have a unique business culture you’d like to share? Tell me about it at firstname.lastname@example.org. You and your business could be featured on a future blog post!
Photo Credit @nikkiclosser