Entrepreneurs Steal This Edge from Themselves Every Day!
June 4, 2018
When I was around 8 years old, my school teacher, let's call her “Mrs Teacher”, told me I was a “potential criminal”.
My mum, being my mum, went absolutely ballistic and had a walk round to the school to “have a little chat with her”. She's like that, my mum. Don't f*ck with her.
The thing is, as a kid I was simply being a kid. But I was an inquisitive kid, a curious child who questioned everything and wanted to know “why” when all Mrs Teacher wanted to do was sit me behind a desk to learn how to be a good boy.
Silly Mrs Teacher, that just ain't me – as you know by now.
But I wasn't doing anything wrong. I was just being that curious kid.
What she didn't realise was that she'd really put a dent in my confidence and created a mindset of me “not being good enough” – had I not been careful, perhaps that would've been a self-fulfilling prophecy, hey?
When I left the school system I struggled, too. I didn't really want to go to college or university because I'd never had any money, and money was a big thing to me, or so I thought at the time.
So, I got a job.
And guess what – I had the same problem.
People kept telling me what to do. Now I didn't really mind that, at least for a little while, because it was a job and I had a responsibility.
But, the better I got at the job, the more I started asking questions again and being really curious.
And again, it rubbed people up the wrong way. I was called arrogant and more, all because I had the confidence to ask, challenge and be inquisitive.
Why am I telling you this?
Because every time that I came across this problem, it chipped away at me and pushed me into a “professional” box that I didn't want to be in.
You see, to me, being professional simply means turning up when you say you will and doing what you promised, on time, every time and with respect.
It doesn't mean being something you're not or stifling your natural personality just to please other people.
In fact, I'd go so far as to say that for each boss, teacher or co-worker who called me arrogant or was uncomfortable with me questioning the status-quo, it was simply a reflection on their insecurity.
But THEIR insecurity cost me MY business
I've talked a lot about the design agency that I co-founded, spent ten years building and then got a little bored of before realising I was trapped in it.
But what I haven't talked about much, is the first business that I set up, that too a web design business.
In 2005 I quit my job and started freelance contracting for the Ministry of Defence and more. And, I earned a shit ton of money.
But I'd realised that money isn't what motivates me, so alongside that freelancing, I set up a small web design company called The Design Loft (yep, haha!).
I ran it for 9 months and ran out of money – I didn't have many clients and I was forced to pass them to other web companies and close the business down.
It was a MASSIVE learning curve and the main thing that I learned was simple:
Mrs Teacher, Mr Boss and Miss. Co-Worker has chipped away at me so much that I thought that the ONLY way to make money was to be “professional”.
So, at The Design Loft, I was turning up wearing “work clothes” and talking in a language that I thought was “professional”.
“Basically”, “Essentially” blah blah bullshit bullshit – you know the drill.
The thing that I didn't realise until it was too late for The Design Loft was that people didn't give a crap about what I said – they gave a crap about how I showed up and how I was as a person.
If people were going to buy from me, if I was to stand out from the other 275,000 web design agencies within a 200-yard radius, I had to do something different, right?
But what could I do?!
What can any of us do?
We're all ultimately selling something that other people can sell, too.
We're often technically no better than our competitors, despite the crap that we put on LinkedIn – the truth is that by virtue of having a business, our competitors also HAVE to be able to DO the thing that you say you're going to do.
And they HAVE to have decent customer service, decent prices, quality and value and all the other stuff that business owners tout as USPs thanks to antiquated marketing advice from poor consultants.
So what, actually, do we have that truly sets us apart from the competition?
Your personality is your ONLY weapon in business!
Look, business and marketing simply aren't what it used to be.
Sure, some things will never change: quality service, product/market fit, crazy good value etc.
But the old adage “people buy from people” has never been truer and we can't expect people to buy from someone that they don't know, like and trust.
There's a reason that we buy things ourselves that are based on recommendations from friends and family – because we know that they have our interests at heart, right?
They aren't trying to “sell” us.
Your business has to evoke the same emotion and it's about time that you accept, that we all accept, that the only thing that sets us apart from our competition is US – the people: you, your team – each individual personality that is within your business.
And it has to start with YOU. You, you, you.
The world does not need any more professionals, what the world needs is you.
You in all of your glory, your full, uninhibited self, the you that has smashed through the barriers that Mrs Teacher or Mr Boss artificially created for you and the you that has fully embraced the foibles, experienced, loves, dreams, desires, frustrations, values, passions, highs and lows that only YOU can bring to the table.
I truly believe that this is never truer than when you hit your thirties or forties and realise that as a business owner, you ARE stuck in a lifestyle prison and that maybe the next decade looks a little different to the last decade.
Your personality is quite simply the only USP that you will ever have.
What you do with your days will change. How you make your money will change.
But you won't change.
You will only grow, and just like the finest redwoods, every time that you add a new layer of experience, you strengthen the core that makes you so vital to the people around you, in both business and life.
Fix yourself and your life becomes easier, instantly.
Heads up, I'm talking about this from other angles and perspectives – particularly how we begin to fix ourselves emotionally, mentally and physically before breaking out of our lifestyle prison on my podcast this month.
Don't forget, the more you expect from yourself, the more you WILL excel!