Today’s Biz Ladies post is from previous contributor Tara Gentile. Tara helps entrepreneurs redefine their businesses as the distribution of connection, meaning and experience. You can also find her tackling the subjects of earning, email marketing, digital products and big brand strategy for small businesses. Thanks, Tara, for another wonderful post! — Stephanie
Read the full post after the jump . . .
We put a lot — a lot — of emphasis on doing what we love. We want businesses based on passion. We want careers of consequence.
At the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that. Of course you want to love what you do. Of course you want your work to be passion-fueled.
But dig a little deeper, and there’s a problem.
Your business isn’t about you.
Your business is about those you serve with what you create. The moment you switched from hobby to business or idea to enterprise, you made a decision to stop focusing on you and start focusing on your customer.
That single decision must lead to a whole culture of service in your business.
Business culture is something you might be familiar with from the corporate world. But in your own entrepreneurial ventures? Probably not. Business culture is the habits, language, decision-making, and rituals that go into the way you do business.
While it is most commonly heralded as a way to get groups of employees on the same page, it’s uber helpful for microbusinesses, as well. Developing a culture of service allows you to always direct your business with your customers in mind.
A culture of service? That sounds scary.
Artists, creatives, and passion-driven idealists of all kinds often balk at doing the work for anyone but themselves. “It’s my creative self-expression,” they cry!
Yes, it is your self-expression. But it’s self-expression with a higher calling, a greater ambition. You started a business because you knew your self-expression was valuable. To someone.
It’s time to better understand that value and put it to use.
I am not proposing a culture of service wherein you forget your artistic principles and suffer for the cause of the customer. I’m certainly not advocating that you shelve your vision and creative freedom — quite the contrary. I am proposing a culture of service that allows you to exercise your message, principles, and self-expression for the betterment of your customers.
How is my creative vision valuable to my customers?
First, it’s your job to be entirely clear on your great ambition. What is it that you truly want to accomplish with your business? Are you raising awareness for something? Are you helping people live fuller lives? Are you helping women feel more beautiful? Are you helping families reconnect with each other?
Your greatest ambition is not to make a living, find financial freedom, or even to see your art in a museum. Your greatest ambition is to serve your customers in ways that enable them to live more fulfilling lives.
Yes, your responsibility is that great.
There is a greater ambition behind every product or service. You may not have had it in mind when you first created it, but identifying and highlighting that greater ambition will help you find the nugget of service that already exists in your business.
That ambition gives you the opportunity to explore different facets of your idea without confusing your customer base. You can serve them in new and expanded ways while bringing them an evermore authentic version of your purpose.
Once you are aware of your greater ambition, you can use it to direct your business in a way that truly serves people while delivering immense value.
How can I use my ambition to direct my business?
When you know what you stand for, when you can articulate it without a shadow of a doubt, and when you know what you want for yourself and your customers, you can use that awareness to make decisions on the important details.
Naming products, writing copy, sending marketing emails, finding customers, deciding where to advertise and when to hire help — the smallest details of your business will be driven by what you’re trying to accomplish.
Creating details driven by your ambition means that your customers have all the right expectations about what you do and why you do it. They feel taken care of. They understand how you and they have a shared purpose.
They are prepared to be served by you and your creations.
When you’re faced with difficult customer service scenarios, you’ll look to your purpose for guidance. When you don’t know whether a product idea fits the scope of your business, you’ll look to your ambition for guidance. When you consider a great opportunity to get in front of lots of eyeballs, you’ll look to your mission for guidance.
By regularly coming back to that sense of ambition, you have the ability to be in constant service to your customers. Not to anyone else. Not merely for yourself. You are in service to your customers.
What if my customers don’t want what I have to offer?
Your right customers are the people who align with your ambition and desire, your unique perspective, skills, and talent. That’s why you don’t need to compromise your artistic vision!
By creating a clear path from your work to serving your customers, you will attract the people who want to be served in accordance with your self-expression and passion.
So how can I improve this “culture” of service?
1. Clearly articulate your great ambition. Make sure you state how you seek to serve your customers, your community, and the world whenever possible. On your website, look to your “about” page, your product descriptions, and your tagline as a way to define your mission. This gives your customers a framework for understanding how you serve them through your products.
2. Consider your language. When you write about your business, do you talk about “me, me, me?” It’s natural! And you are important! But your customers already get that you and your products are important. What they really want to know is if you and your products are right for them. So use language that explains the kind of value they can expect from buying your products or working with you.
3. Don’t forget the details! Our culture dictates many details of our lives that we are completely unaware of — from the clothes we wear to the food we eat. But as business owners, it’s our job to be aware of the details that spring from our business culture. If your culture revolves around serving your customers, be sure to add details and special touches (think packaging, product design, and follow-ups) that constantly remind your customers that this is “just for them!”
4. Develop rituals. A key part of culture is the rituals and traditions that the members of a culture participate in together. Your service rituals might be regular blog posts or email updates, hosting Twitter chats, or releasing photos of new work still in development. Social media is a great way to turn your personal creative rituals into ways of serving your customers — and attracting new ones!
However you develop your culture, whatever it ends up looking like, remember that it’s truly about more than just you. Without your customers, your business ceases to exist. Develop a culture that serves them while staying true to your personal perspective.
That’s a winning combination that connects profit with purpose.