When It Comes to Business, Be Yourself
Written by:Tara A. Collison, Ph.D.
You probably read articles and attend events where terms like “best practice” and “industry standard” are thrown around. More often than not, they’re trying to answer one big question — what’s the best way to do business? But it’s not a cookie cutter process to repackage and repeat. At the end of the day, there is no standard method. Even if two companies have similar goals, the path to success will always be unique. So if you ask Meddlers for our opinion, we’ll tell you: Be yourself! It’s the best and only way to do business.
This philosophy is its own “best practice.” Authenticity helps you build cohesive teams and attract the ideal customer. No matters its size, your company is a living, breathing entity made up of diverse individuals with unique backgrounds, experiences, and opinions. They should feel free to embrace those differences. However, this should not come at the expense of a shared vision. What do you all care about? What does the group want from your collective culture? That’s team alignment, and its where you start to figure out who you are as a company.
Ultimately, being yourself in any industry is a two-part job: be yourself on an individual basis, and once you are familiar with your company’s identity, be united and proud as a group — one that is even greater than the sum of its parts.
Being yourself in business communicates authenticity. It may seem cliche, but customers want to know who they’re doing business with and forcing yourself and your staff to forego their personalities and/or style often reads as disingenuine. Greg Shugar, cofounder of Thread Experiment, notes in an article for Entrepreneur, “Whether or not [potential clients] like me as a friend isn't important. People simply respect that I’m just me in a business meeting. Not business me. Just me. And I’m convinced this is the right way to conduct yourself in business.”
In Shugar’s example, this meant ordering a rum and coke at a meeting with a potential investor instead of trying to impress with a fancy cocktail. But there are other ways you can be yourself. The way you dress, speak, and promote your business should all feel comfortable and natural. People can pick up on this. Give your customers and clients a little credit. They want to work with the real you.
Again, it boils down to authenticity. Even more important than presentation, being yourself means saying what you believe and believing what you say. While any entrepreneur, business owner, or team leader should strive to learn from others’ success, there’s a fine line between imitation and emulation. In other words, it’s a great idea to incorporate learned business and teamwork practices into your company’s culture, but not at the expense of your own identity. You’ve obtained success because of your own great ideas. Why change horses midstream?
Allow Your Team to Be Itself
In addition to presenting the truest version of your individual self, it’s important to recognize the characteristics that make your team unique. Why? Let’s say you base your entire business model on what your competitors do — competitors who have a good sense of who they are. Instead of using your own personal approach, and the individual talents of your team, you’re now doing business someone else’s way, a way that might be counterintuitive to your company’s best version of itself.
Again, take what you’ve learned from mentors and peers, conferences, and articles and fit them into your team’s dynamic. Don’t force your team to conform to a strategy that might not be ideal. Unreasonable’s Corey Kohn notes that doing so could lead to lower morale, less new business, and an overall decline in the health of your company. Kohn believes that defining a company culture and letting your team be itself makes sure you hold on to the right talent and attract new team members who will be well-suited to your team.
It’s important to note, however, that allowing your team members to be themselves does not give them license to step on others. There’s room for everyone’s personality at the table, as long as it’s being harnessed in a productive way. If Todd from accounting just likes attention for his off-color jokes, he may be being himself, but to what end? Does this facet of his personality help the company? If Jennifer from marketing constantly interrupts because she is passionate and has great ideas, it may be useful, but over time has a negative impact to the contributions others will make. Don’t worry, we can help you sort that out.
When you let your team be itself, you build an environment of trust and loyalty. People are recognized for their talent, not how well they conform to someone else’s ideals. At the same time, individuality works best when there is also a shared culture with everyone striving to reach the same goals. That’s where Meddlers comes in.
How Meddlers Practices a “Be Yourself” Philosophy
A big part of the Meddlers company identity is the way we work with you to help align your company’s team. How do we do this? By being ourselves! We’re not binder droppers. In other words, we’re a group of hardworking individuals focused on helping you and your team work better together by aligning your teamwork strategy to your business strategy. We do the work with you; we don’t promise that it’s always easy or clear cut, but you will always know we are in the boat with you working to find the right solutions. We want to help you get the best out of your team to become a stronger company overall. We’re not here to tell you what you’re doing wrong, or insist you do things a certain way. You know your team best. When you’re ready to invite us in, we’re more than happy to meddle with you!
Our team likes to get its hands dirty and poke around under the hood to discover what makes your company, well, your company. We’re Meddlers. This philosophy didn’t arise randomly. It’s something we worked at. Everyone on the Meddlers team brings a unique set of skills, opinions, and perspectives to the table. Our challenge, as with any company’s, was to forge a cohesive identity out of so many individual ones. For us, that starts with team alignment.
We want to help you execute long-term strategy in a way that’s meaningful for you and your team. We’re not here to tell you what to do, but help you unleash the potential you’ve already cultivated.