Friday, February 27, 2015

You are Your Business

For most people, the line between their professional life and their personal life is clear: what happens at the office is professional, and everything else is not.

For entrepreneurs, and especially solopreneurs (people whose business employs only themselves), those lines can be much more fuzzy. When you are both your brand and your product, when do you stop being on the clock? Are you ever really not working?

Everything we as solopreneurs put into the public sphere is a representation of ourselves as both people and companies. Every blog post I write, every call I make, every event I attend reflects my business, even if the blog post is about my family, the call is setting up a doctor's appointment, and the event is a gardening class. I'm still my business, everywhere I go, and in everything I do.

This blending of the personal and professional has its benefits. When we represent ourselves authentically, we draw to us the kinds of people we work best with. The vulnerability we create by inviting our customers and clients to share in our story enriches those relationships and helps people relate to us. Our natural energy attracts those with similar interests, whether we're salsa dancing, sitting on the beach, hosting a murder mystery party, or riding horses on a wooded trail.

Yet we must also ensure we are being careful and responsible. Am I taking proper care to consider the people in my life when I interact with the public? Am I looking out for those I do business with? My friends and family? What is comfortable for me may not be comfortable for others, and in business, mismatched comfort levels can have devastating effects.

We must equally always be as open and honest as possible with our partners, clients, and customers. Concealing from those we do business with what we're really like can result in their feeling misled and taken advantage of. No one likes a bait-and-switch.

Thus, we as entrepreneurs must find a balance. We must walk the line between being openly expressive in showing our true natures to the world, and being carefully conscious that our true natures may reflect on those we work with and for. This balance isn't always easy to find. Sometimes, we will learn only too late that our careless actions caused harm: a lost opportunity, a disgruntled client, an angry collaborator. Sometimes, we can see the consequences of our decisions before we make them, and choose the action that is best for ourselves and our business.

Readers: how do you ensure you are both authentic and careful in your interactions with the world?

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