Posted: May 20th, 2013 | Author: Bobby Ray Burns | Filed under: Communication, Company Culture, Leadership, Motivation, Relationship | No Comments »
As a business owner, you may find yourself constantly being admonished to be “Authentic”, to be “Transparent”, or “Genuine”. Another great admonition you will have thrown your way is to “Be real.”
And for good reason perhaps. I mean, no one likes or trusts a patent phony. And no one – I hope – wants to be known as a fraud or insincere. Seriously, we all try to be real, to be “Authentic”. But how much is too much?
Well, consider with me this: another trend that bumps up into the business newsletters, blogs and magazine articles is the need for humor in the workplace. And the onus of funny invariably falls on the leader. Now, in the spirit of fairness, I have to disclose that I am a big fan of humor. I firmly believe that aside from working hard and making money, that if you’re not having fun at what you do then you are doing something wrong. (or maybe you’re doing the wrong thing!) But being funny and being authentic can get dicey.
Take Samuel Clemens, otherwise known to the world and to history as Mark Twain. His hallmark was humor. His signature writing trait was the almost inescapable need to be funny. The preponderance of his published work is categorized as humorous – even some of his more literary and somber efforts. These were infused with comic moments and dialogue that set them apart from most other literary works.
Yet he was censored.
Literally and figuratively. His humor was his greatest marketing asset, yet he was constantly beleaguered by more pedantic and puritanical types to either tone down some of his passages or to delete them altogether. And this was not limited to his writing. Sam Clemens was a funny guy. He could almost never engage with people without saying, singing, or doing something humorous or even outrageous. Being funny – even when it offended or disturbed others – was part and parcel of his being Authentic.
When Mark Twain was “being real” he was being funny. But it wasn’t always to his advantage. Nor appropriate. And that’s where it gets dicey.
If you are seriously considering trying to incorporate more humor into your style, or working on being funnier as a leader – stop! A good rule of thumb is this: Be real before being funny. Because if you are not a naturally funny or humorous person then trying to be one will, by definition, negate “being real”. And if your work environment does not lend itself to bouts of humor or silliness (e.g. trial attorneys or morticians, perhaps…) then it may be best to avoid that.
The bottom line is that being real trumps “being” anything that you are not. And that being your “best” self is more important.
But that’s for another post! :)
Posted: May 13th, 2013 | Author: Bobby Ray Burns | Filed under: Communication, Marketing, Passion, Promotion, Word of Mouth | No Comments »
While this has nothing to do with the novel by Oscar Wilde, it does have everything to do with being both real and passionate.
Being real is the aspect of earnestness that is defined as “marked by or showing deep sincerity or seriousness”. Your business – your product or service – may be good and, in fact, may be the best thing out there. But it is not perfect. Nothing is. And nothing goes perfectly every time. In other words, being real about you, your business, and what you do or offer means being sincere and serious in acknowledging limitations.
On the other side is the facet of earnestness that is marked by zeal. This is your passion, your enthusiasm, your sincerely driven sense that what you are and what you do really is good, really has great value, and really deserves a customer. This is what people respond to and resonate with in your attitude, your approach, your words – whether spoken or written.
Unbridled excitement or passion is not conducive to healthy enterprise. Being experienced as coming on too strong, or being overly enthusiastic about a product or service that doesn’t merit all that much excitement – well, it may well repel prospects instead of attract them.
On the other hand, deadly serious and unbearably grave may only work well for undertakers or wedding planners. (yes, that was a joke) Blaise Pascal famously said that, “Earnestness is enthusiasm tempered by reason.”
The ideal is a delicate balance that we know as earnestness – a really good word that doesn’t get much use these days. And it is important. Because unsullied earnestness conveys authenticity, transparency, and realness.
Be real. That’s what you want, and that’s what your customers want.
Posted: May 3rd, 2013 | Author: Bobby Ray Burns | Filed under: Branding, Company Culture, Leadership, Purpose, Relationship | No Comments »
If your company were an actual person what would they be like? What kind of personality traits and characteristics would be evident? Who, exactly, is that person?
While this can an enlightening and even fun exercise, at the end of the day we all realize that a business is not a person (even if it is a one person business!) A business is an entity composed of any number of people, and the “personality” of that business is, in part, an amalgam of all those disparate personalities. Yet, to a customer or client, that business still projects a personality of sorts.
So the question is this: As a business, are you who you say you are? And even more importantly, are you who you think you are?
The term “brand” has been terribly abused, misused, and even over-used in the business and marketing world. But it is a valid and significant word, nonetheless. Your brand is your business. Your business is your brand. They are one and the same.
And your brand has two faces: the one you present either by design or default, and the one your customers see and experience.
So the challenge for you is to determine who you are as a business or, perhaps, who you want to be, and infusing that “personality” into every facet of your business and operations. It should live and breathe the brand, the values, and the purpose that you bring into it. In a very real way your business should be an expression of the best of you.
Posted: April 30th, 2013 | Author: Bobby Ray Burns | Filed under: Greatness, Inspiration, Mission, Motivation, Passion, Purpose, Vison | No Comments »
Every business venture begins with a Purpose. While there may be secondary or ancillary purposes such as making a living, being freed from a boss, a cubicle, whatever – there is always a primary, overriding Purpose that drives the decision to start and build a business.
It’s just that sometimes that Purpose isn’t always clear at the beginning.
Most businesses start with some vague notion of a plan, maybe even a thoughtful strategy, but more often than not it is simply full-steam ahead and work, work, work! But over time, as the rush of the start-up phase begins to die down a bit, the realization sets in that a Plan is needed so that the owner can hope to achieve something more than simply work, work, work.
And behind that Plan lurks their Purpose, perhaps vague and undefined, but there all the same.
The power of having formulated a Plan often stirs another rush of inspiration and energy. Goals and objectives become prizes to be taken, and challenges and setbacks become battles to be won. But as the months turn into years, the charge becomes a march, and the march becomes a marathon. Yet the Plan remains, the Purpose is still there, and Patience settles in.
And now, armed with experience and hindsight, the business owner often revisits the reasons why he or she decided to start this thing in the first place. And some – the fortunate or wise ones perhaps – rediscover that Purpose. And with the discovery they decide to bring clarity and depth to it and realize that they have a reason and a cause, something greater than simply growing a business, that ignites a deeper motivation and a brighter inspiration.
They have a Purpose.
With their newly defined Purpose the need for a well-thought out Plan becomes acutely apparent. And the experience and hindsight of the past years makes it very clear that Patience is required. The Plan, informed by their Purpose, is framed within the understanding of having Patience.
And now, with a Purpose, a Plan, and Patience, and Great Business is born.