Or should an entrepreneur tell it like it is?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for 16 years. And my thinking on this has evolved over time. In fact, I can remember those early days well.
The Early Days
When we started our business, I was in my 3rd year of homeschooling. At that time I had a 2nd grader, a kindergartener, a one-year-old toddler, and a brand new baby. It was a little bit crazy, I will admit.
It was 2001 when I decided to start this business. Now that’s another story, but I remember the moment when we realized, “Oh, wow! We need to move this stuff off the dining room table.” The dining room table was our office and our packing center. Losing the table was just a little bit too crazy for what we were wanting to do as a family, like eating meals together and homeschooling.
So we moved our office into this little, tiny entryway. The best way to describe it is that it was a little entryway just inside the front door that nobody used. At that time, our front door that was around the house and not visible when you pulled up. So everyone came to our side door. It was a really strange layout for a house, but it worked for us to use this little tiny, almost closet like space for our office.
I will never forget that time when a friend came over and she said, “Can I see your international headquarters.”
I looked at her sideways and said, “International headquarters? What are you talking about?”
And she answered, “Do you sell your products internationally?”
We were in our second year of business at that point and I said, “Well, we’ve sold a few books outside the United States.”
She said, “Well then, you are an international business and I want to see your international headquarters.”
I led her to the little entryway room and opened it up the door to show her our tiny, cramped office and assembly room. We both enjoyed a good laugh because she too was an entrepreneur with a home business and she said, “Well, my international headquarters is in my bedroom.”
This is the reality of being an entrepreneur who is working from home. Why do we try to hide the fact that we are small and homey from the world? I think we are afraid of ridicule and not being taken seriously. I definitely get that because there were many times when I would answer the phone and say something to the effect of, “Let me check with my team, or partner, and I’ll get with you on an answer.” Somehow saying, “Let me talk to my husband” sounded like I was admitting that my business wasn’t a real company.
Our Business Grows
Eventually, we needed more space, so we moved the office out to the garage. My husband also built a shed so that we can store our inventory of books. Of course, we refer to the shed as our warehouse. I remember my husband telling a customer over the phone, “Oh, hang on a moment. Let me go check the inventory in the warehouse.” It made us sound like we were much bigger company which added to us feeling like we were acting more professional.
In fact, my husband, the funny entrepreneur that he is, used to joke that if anyone called with a complaint, he would say, “Oh, can you hold on a moment. Let me put you through to the complaint department.” And then he’d get back on the phone and say, “Complaint Department. This is Todd.”
The other thing I noticed that when we were really small company, I would kind of hide behind the computer and I would refer to myself as “we.” I’d say, “we this” and “we that” when literally, for the first 12 years of our business, the only “we” was just me, occasionally my husband, and sometimes our kids. That’s just the way it was.
In fact, for the first 12 years of running our business, the only employees we ever had were our kids and occasionally their friends. Sixteen years later, we’ve grown a little bit. We actually do have a staff. But guess what? I still work from my garage. Maybe someday, I will have an office in the house when a couple more of my kids move out, but until then, I really wouldn’t have it any other way. An off-site suite with a corner, executive office doesn’t appeal to me as an entrepreneur. I worked there in my pre-kid days and frankly, I wouldn’t go back. I really love working from home. I love working with my kids. I love working with my husband. Most days, that is. 😉
So all of this backstory leads us to the question, how much should you let on about your business, the size of it, and/or what it looks like? How much should you appear professional and how much should you just, let it all hang out, so to speak?
Professionalism vs. Realism
Here is where I draw the line. There are two things that you need to instill in your customers. One is confidence. And the other is relatability. Now, my computer says that relatability is not a word (it wants to auto-correct to reliability, which of course we want to be too but that is not the concept I’m getting at.) You should be working towards having your customers should know, like and trust you.
Act Like a Professional
So how can you instill confidence for your ideal customer? You do this by acting professional. And there are 5 ways or places where I believe you should act professional, and these are:
- How you answer the phone
- The look and design of your website
- How you package your product,
- Or perform your service
- How you speak
Answering the Phone
When you answer the phone, this is the very first contact they have with the voice of your company. That is a time when you should be professional and have something prepared to say that sounds professional. This is how I answer the phone – “Knowledge Quest. This is Terri. How can I help you?” Our manager, Josh, answers the phone, “Countryside. This is Josh. How can I help?” Come up with something short and flowy you can say that sounds professional when you answer the phone.
Your Website’s Appearance
Design is important. It speaks care and quality. Sometimes we have to pay someone to make our websites look professional. Or maybe you can pull it off yourself. There are a lot of great tools out there that can help you make really nice web pages that look professional. As you all know, my favorite web page builder is Leadpages. In fact, an opt-in page for Knowledge Quest was one of the top 10 pages built in April 2017. I’m pretty proud of that, especially since it took no design skills of my own to pull this off. 🙂
Packaging your products
Products can either be physical or digital. At Knowledge Quest, we have physical products. It matters great to us and our customers what the physical product looks like, how it is packaged and the condition it’s in when it arrives at our customer’s door. This is another one of those first touch points when a new customer is seeing for the first time who your company is and whether they can depend on you to deliver value. You are instilling confidence when you take care to provide good packaging.
Performing your service
Maybe you don’t provide products. Perhaps your form of value is a service. When this is the case, you want to be very professional in the way you perform your service by making it convenient for them, making it quality, top notch.
How you speak
Be professional in the language that you use when you talk to your customers and potential customers. When I’m training my staff, something that I tell them is “I never want you to swear, and I never want to hear you talking negatively about anybody. We always talk kindly to our customers, about their pets, and about other people.”
Keeping it Real
Those are the 5 ways that you, as an entrepreneur, should show professionalism. Now, on the other side of the coin, we want to be relatable, right? We want our ideal customers to know, like and trust us. And relate to us. So here are some ways that I think we can and should do just that.
- Our blogs or other content platforms
- Our social media channels
- Video productions
- Livestream video (such as Facebook Live)
Through our blog posts
Our blogs or any platform where we share content, our products, ourselves, or our business, are a great place to relax a little bit more and show more of a “behind the scenes” peek into our business. This is where we can let our personalities shine and allow our little quirkiness to come out.
Our social media channels
This is a great place to share a little more about who we are, the person behind the business.
People can relate to you better when you use video to share more about yourself and tell stories about yourself, your family, your business. Your fans and followers will relate to you more on a personal level and in more of a personal way.
More specifically, Facebook Live. Facebook Live is allowing us to show the authentic and real sides of ourselves, quirks and all.
For example, in a recent Facebook Live on the Mompreneur U Facebook page, you can see that I’m still working from my garage and because it’s cold in there, I had to put on my sweatshirt. You’ll often see my kids playing outside the window behind me as I’m doing a Facebook Livestream. Video and Facebook Live show the real side of you and the backstage of your business.
Give it Facebook Live a Try
If you want to share a little bit more about you and your business to your customers and your potential customers, I would suggest you try your hand at Facebook Live. Yes, I know it is scary. And it feels vulnerable. You’re putting yourself out there to say, “Here I am. Here’s my entrepreneur environment.”
Many of us find excuses not to do a Facebook Live because we think “I don’t like the backdrop” or “I don’t have a professional set-up.” Honestly, I don’t like my backdrop either. I really don’t love the way my garage office looks. I will often think, “I don’t really like the way my hair looks today” or “I’ll wait until I lose a few pounds.”
Don’t do this to yourself! You are beautiful, talented, and extraordinary entrepreneur just the way you are!
On that note, I am going sign off, but thank you for reading through to the end. Remember this, you are incredibly talented and have gifts to share with the world that only you can share. So be yourself, be real and don’t forget, I’m on the journey with you.