If you own a business, especially if a portion of your prospecting is done online you have undoubtedly been asked, “What do you do exactly?” I struggle with this question myself, finding myself stumbling over my own words, feeling like I need to adjust my elevator speech based on who I am talking to. Often I get a little frustrated, doing my best to not show it of course, because I understand my business and my business model, but fact of the matter is, not everyone does. Plain and simple people are not in your head. They don’t read everything you write. And they definitely have no idea what you previously have said to other people. To avoid this awkward conversation AND to prepare yourself so that next time you are faced with this dreaded 5 words you have an answer and are confident with what you will say I have prepared 4 steps to clear the air.
1. Take Yourself Seriously
The biggest difference between my business now and my business 3 months ago is how I present myself. This is no longer a hobby, something I just do on the side or something I demystify by calling it freelance. This is my job and I am not afraid to tell the world this is what I do. I take myself and my business seriously. I am confident when speaking and feel comfortable sharing without hesitation. If you remain shy, lurking in the background, your business is likely to stay exactly where it is. If you want it to double, or even triple in size you have to be confident and have a plan in place to get it there.
2. Meet a Need and Beat a Standard
Your products or services have to be top notch. If you don’t use the best quality materials or pour all your heart and energy into your business people will likely see them for what they are…. Less than your top priority. If you focus first on creating products and services that meet the needs of your customers and then beat the standard they are used to they will obviously come back for more, tell all their friends and family and you will become the go-to. I know sometimes we would rather just create something that will get us by, make us that paycheck and be done, but if we can focus on having the best quality, ultimate customer service and a proven track record, anything is possible!
3. Showcase Your Purpose
Create a vision for your company… yes, I mean write a business plan, but I also mean dream big. Where do you want to be a month from now, 6-months from now, 3-years from now? If your company could do anything, tackle any problem (regardless of capital), what would it be doing? If you make the strides towards this vision, have a plan in place to get there, and add a sprinkle of blood, sweat and tears, you will get there. Do you think any fortune 500 company just happened to land into this arena? Sure they might have acquired VC funding or been blessed by an angel investor, but they didn’t just sit on it. They took action and had a plan to achieve their goals.
I pride myself in only working with clients who have a purpose and who want to showcase that purpose. If money is your bottom line, we probably aren’t going to work well together. If making a difference, or making a change in society is your motivation, we will likely get along… even if you are a for-profit company.
4. Light Other People’s Fire
If you take yourself seriously and have a killer product all targeted towards this inner purpose, you are likely to be engaged, power-forward and enthusiastic. Don’t waste this valueable energy. Light other people up. Share with them your dreams and your passion. Tell them how you are going to get there. Get an accountability partner who is going to hold you to your promises. Create a team of people who believe in you and want to watch you succeed. This stuff is powerfully contagious!! And I know exactly who my power team is.
Let’s Get the Facts Straight:
- According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010 there were 27.9 million small businesses, with over ¾ of those being solo entrepreneurs (source). That means a staggering 1 in 11 people in the U.S. own their own business (not accounting for those who own multiple - source).
- Over 50% of the working population works in a small business (source).
- 52% of all small businesses are home-based (source).
- Total revenues from solo entrepreneurs (non-employers) hit $989.6 BILLION in 2011 (source).
Well ladies and gents, regardless if you have a store-front, “real” office or have employees or not, you are a legitimate portion of the U.S. economy. You make staggering records year after year. And heck, you put food on the table for half of the working population! Being an online business, or having online be a portion of your business is a completely legitimate way to make a living. You do have the power to make change all on your own, or even in small groups. You have dreams that are possible. Take yourself seriously. Next time someone asks you, “What do you do exactly?” tell him or her with confidence, “I am a small business owner!” You never know where that conversation could lead you.