biz ladies by 18

biz ladies 09: telling your business’ story

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today the lovely ladies of loaded bow are sharing some great business advice with us. we’ve gotten nitty gritty with accounting, income organizing and public relations, but today we’re going to take a time-out to think about the big picture, and focus on telling our businesses’ story- and finding the most authentic (and accurate) way to do so. no matter what stage of business-life you’re in, this is a great article for reminding all of us that sometimes we have to pause and remember why we started our business, what we love about it, and how best to communicate that to others.

CLICK HERE for the full article after the jump!

We collect stories.

Loaded Bow is devoted to arming the female entrepreneur with information and resources, but most importantly we want to collect and share their stories. Recently, we were reminded of just how critical it is that you communicate authenticity to your customer and colleagues through your story.

We were contacted by a woman who wanted to become involved with Loaded Bow. She is the owner of a modeling agency and she described how she ‘promotes diversity amongst her models’. We were immediately reminded of Ben Barry, whose agency scouts and sources models of “all ages, sizes, colours, and abilities” for fashion and beauty advertising such as the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Excited, we went to her site to check out her portfolios. What we found were women who were slightly shorter and curvier than your average model, but hardly representative of the general population. There was such disconnect between how she described her business, and what we were presented with on the site, that we were not ready to pursue a formal relationship with her. What she claimed it was that set her apart in business, proved to be untrue or only partially apparent.

It is not her service, nor her product, that is the problem. It is that the story she told about her business did not align with our perception. We believe that she is an honest person with good intentions, but that she needs to evaluate how she communicates her business. She is hardly alone.

Here, we invite you to consider your story and the story of your business – who you are, where you have come from, where you are going, and the value that you bring along the way – and make sure that you are grounded in truth.

The most important person that you will ever tell your story to

In The Power of Story: Rewrite Your Destiny in Business and in Life, Jim Loehr outlines how our stories are the basis for our energy and our success. He emphasizes how our stories should be value-based, rooted in reality and inspire us to take action. Dr. Loehr proposes that the most important story we tell is the story we tell ourselves, as it is the one that defines our purpose. Identify your current story and begin to create a new powerful story using his Storyboarding Process.

Then, practice telling your story. In Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness we are told to practice telling our stories. On tape. Over and over. When we listen to our stories, it is easier for us to hear what rings true.

What’s your super power?

Just last month, Seth Godin asked What’s your super power?. He suggested that if you’re like Superman, you don’t need to tell people your super power; everyone already knows what it is. But, if you’re a super hero with a slightly lower profile, you need to speak up and describe your power. “When you meet someone, you need to have a super power. If you don’t, you’re just another handshake.” says Godin.

Unless you’re the Super Woman of your industry, make sure that you’re ready to describe what your power is and how it helps your customer, community or industry.

If you’re not sure where to start, turn to Danielle La Porte’s site for a free daily read or a fire starter session. Danielle is a major supporter of authenticity and the co-author of Style Statement. This book is about the business of her and Carrie in their quest to offer people two words that define the true you. The Style Statement is then used as a touchstone for making powerful, authentic choices in your life and business.

A home for your story

Your business likely has an online home where it tells its story. We have both been working on our own websites recently. This was kicked into high gear when Zoe asked Gen what she really thought of www.zoepawlak.com. Gen responded by telling Zoe that the site gave the impression that Zoe was ‘a middle-aged painter living in a small rural community’. This, itself, is not a problem. Except that is is not true. Zoe is a young mother from the city. When people purchase a piece of Zoe’s art, they are also purchasing a piece of Zoe’s story. So it is important that she is accurately represented. Especially when your aim is to do business across distance, your website is the only home people will see, so your story here must be especially alive and well.

We have a very special friendship. Brutal honesty is welcomed between us. But, generally speaking, do not limit yourself to asking your friends and family what they think of your site. Your friends and family will be looking at your site through a lens of love. Turn to others who have less of a bias. Find someone you trust to tell you the truth about your business.

Heather White is the person that we turn to, to make sure that we are on track with Loaded Bow. As our business coach and mentor, we can rely on her for concrete feedback. Find a coach, a mentor, or a Board of Directors to help keep your story authentic. Just ask and you will be surprised who steps up to the task.

Worth a thousand words

We always ask women to submit a picture or two of themselves to us when we tell their story on Loaded Bow. This allows our readers to put a face to a name, and more importantly, adds life to our little virtual world. We are always a little bit disappointed when a woman with the most incredible energy and personality submits a dull, “flat” corporate image. Corporate is ok. But is this your story? Make sure you have photographers who can capture your story. Ral and Danelle Nicanor are our local favs. Find a photographer you adore, save up and go for it! If a photo speaks a thousand words, then good photographers are worth it.

Hello, world. Hello Social Media.

Loaded Bow would not be in existence without the Design*Sponge. In our story, Grace plays an essential role in helping us to see the power of blogging, blogging’s ROI and it’s vast reach into people’s lives.

Last year, Zoe was featured on the blog, and response was phenomenal! We thought – wow! – we need to get online and stay online. We knew a lot of incredible women doing incredible things, and so Loaded Bow was born. In the past year, we have put ourselves through a crash course in social media.

If you’re not online, get online. But first, make sure you are prepared to tell your story authentically in this virtual world. Should you choose to blog or Twitter, the most important thing to remember is to establish your expertise. When you only post about your business, you risk losing the trust and attention of your readers. They want to know what you know, not just what you’re doing. Send them to useful, cool links. Share the link love with others in your industry that you respect. A little love goes a long way. This communicates confidence, which increases the credibility of your story. Remember, you are an expert, so shine.

Do not bite off more than you can chew and if you are a team of more than one, delegate online tasks to others in your company. Upkeep your blog or Facebook Page. There is nothing sadder than seeking someone out online and finding a virtual ghost town. Do it well or not at all.

Tag accordingly. If you’re blogging, not only is it important to be transparent to your readers, but also to Search Engines. You want to develop a healthy relationship with Google. If you consistently tag your posts with words that aren’t in your writings, Google won’t trust that it’s accurate. It’s also looking to make sure that you’re authentic. For a great article on SEO, general goodness in social media and a hands on social media, check out Gwen Bell’s blog.

Keep it Real.

At a recent CRAVE event Zoe was told the story of a business woman whose online store was thriving and her real shop was drowning in debt. When told by her business coach to close up the shop and focus on her online business that she really enjoyed, she was relieved and overwhelmed. The majority of women already know what they need and who they are, but are unwilling to trust. Why not give yourself a little push into the truth? Take a day off. No, not ‘off’, but real-Off. Take some time to get clear on what you want. What does that story look and feel like? Take a ski and let the story about your business play out in your head. Take someone in the business world you admire out to lunch only for the purpose of learning. Make an online video for fun. Every chance you take to be flexible, learn and authentically reveal yourself and your story you will create the story you were destined to live.

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About Loaded Bow:

Gen and Zoe are lifelong friends who sold scrunchies at craft fairs in grade three and are now the creators of the online blog Loaded Bow. Loaded Bow is compiled of the stories we live, the stories we seek out and the wild lives of the amazing women we interview. We have interviewed women such as Charlene Li of Groundswell and Vancouver’s very own Smart Cookies. Oh, and…we’re Canadian.

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18 Comments

Kate

I just can’t get enough of these Biz Ladies articles! They are FANTASTIC! I’m so motivated!!!!

Amy

This is so inspiring. I love the keep it real section. I’m tired of the advice that says you have to schmooze and up sell. I want to run my business with passion and authenticity. Thanks!

Jen Singh

I never think I have a good enough story, but I love these articles that help me find one.

Erika

Grace -these biz ladies entries are so great – I wish they could be put into one big book …any chances on the horizon???

Melanie

Wow. That was chock full of info, ideas and inspiration. Thanks so much for sharing!

Bess

Another great post! These are so helpful, I’m compiling a bookmark list with all the “We can do it” posts ;) A wonderful resource.

Heather White

Gen & Zoe – you two represent the authentic, honest, ambitious woman today. Speaking your truth, pushing your own envelopes and giving back are qualities that will forever keep you connected to your dreams and aspirations. I feel honoured to be a part of your journey and I humbly thank you for sharing your story. Truly inspirational!

Chris Flett

Great article. Gen and Zoe are amazing and leading the charge of the business revolution. Powerful authentic women empowering others to be the same.

Danelle Nicanor

What an awesome post! Gen and Zoe, we love you. You both are powerhouses and know you’ll continue to be an amazing inspiration.

Excited to see you become a household name! xo

Kimberly

Very helpful information. We are all trying to find our story in life and this article has some great inspiration!

Vicky Watt

Thanks so much for this post – so inspring! I’ve been working hard to define a story and purpose to put on our business meets lifestyle website….it’s been an experience working to pull all the various strands together…..think we’re sort of there but there’s always more to learn from great articles like this one. Vicky (Acoustic Wave, Scotland) Authentic Business – How To Earn A Living By Being Yourself is also a great read! xx

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