When I first started in business, I made a HUGE mistake. More than once, in fact. Over and over again, I looked to what other people had done to build their business and copied them. I didn’t do anything as wise as looking around me for people I admired and copying them, oh no. I read books, I read ebooks and I copied people who had almost nothing in common with me. And I ended up with… a business I didn’t recognise, that felt wrong and made me wonder where I was going wrong.
The Slipper Police
My daughter loves rules. She loves being rewarded for being good, and she loves telling me when her brother is doing something he shouldn’t be doing. And sometimes that comes in handy: “Mummy, he’s eating conkers” was a time when her tell-tale nature really came into its own. She was shocked last year when she noticed a Christmas tree still up in the middle of January – “you can’t do that” she cried indignantly. I reminded her gently (through my giggles) that there are no Christmas Tree Police.
This morning she was at it again – everyone had their slippers on, except her brother. “Put them on!” she ordered, as the self-appointed first ever member of The Slipper Police!
And as my smile died on my face, I couldn’t help but ponder just how many times I have listened to advice and added it to a long exhaustive list of THOU SHALT OBEYs that impact every single aspect of running my business.
Most authors want to tell you how to do things. All the books and ebooks I read when I started my business told me everything I needed to do – without a shred of doubt or wiggle room.
Thou Shalt Have a Website!
and yet I believe that businesses have thrived perfectly well for thousands of years before the internet was invented. People are equally evangelistic about all the other online forums for building connections, be it Instagram, DoodleFugYourCat or the next new thing to leech your time away from actually getting to know people in your own street.
Yet if we all read the same books and take the same steps, all we create are cookie-cutter businesses that are just slightly different versions of each other. And then we wonder why no-one notices us. Why should they, when we all look and sound the same?
What if you want to create a Quirky Business, a Pink Haired Business?
Rules Squish Your Pink Hair
Let’s take a simple example: most business books agree that you need a business card. Maybe you do, and maybe you don’t.
Even if you decide it is a good idea to have a business card (there are no rules), the very phrase business card will limit your interpretation of what yours could look/ feel/ taste/ smell/ sound like. I love the idea of a card that smells like a brand new car (if you are a car showroom) or play like a miniature guitar (if you are a guitar shop or teacher) or sound like waves lapping on pebbles if you are beach-side B&B. Just writing “what your card sounds like” brought a burst of inspiration to this post.
Break out of prison by starting OUTSIDE the walls.
Give yourself a blank piece of paper and put a word in the centre. Definitely not “business card” (and not just because that is two words) as that has too many limiting (predictable) associations with it. Use “thing” if you want it to be a physical something you can hand over. Put “feel” if you want it to be an experience people don’t forget, and keep only in their memories. Put “Floogy” if you don’t want to give it any boundaries at all.
What you want that Floogy to create? What experience do you want people to have when you Floogy them? When you hand over your thing, what do you want people to feel? What do you want people to do with it?
I decided that business cards are all too easily filed into a desk drawer and then chucked into the recycling twice a year when you have forgotten who the person was. So I decided I wanted something that made people feel good about themselves, so that they would want to keep it. Now I give out glass diamonds and say “you are special, this is to remind you to bright like a diamond”.
And it does exactly what I set out to do.
A few years ago, a lady came up to me with this plea: “Can I have another Diamond please? My daughter was sad and having a bad day, so I told her how special she was, and gave her my Diamond to cheer her up and keep it with her.”
Has anyone ever done that to your business card?
Think Pink Hair and remind yourself “The Business Card Police Do Not Exist”