A couple of years ago, a beautiful friend gave me a beautiful gift: A free coaching session with a highish-profile business guru. The guru’s first bit of advice? “Well, you’ll need to change the name of your company right away. You make it sound like you only create websites for do-gooders, ex-hippies, those sunshine-and-roses people. Your name alone is driving away hundreds of thousands of dollars.” I slumped as I heard the tsk-tsk in her voice.
Have I ever shared with you how much I hate being tsked? (And yes, I have just adjectivized that. Bam.) It triggers the release of a flurry of certain unacceptably profane words around my brain pan. And, as usually happens when I’m experiencing barely-contained profanity, my thoughts floated me directly to my coach, Judith Morgan.
Judith is one woman in my life who has never tsked me. She’s a fine business coach by all yardsticks—direct, loving, wise, and funny—and I’ve worked with her for years to continue shaping a business that matches my values. This past year, she wrote a book called Your Biz Your Way in which she busts through 52 crazypants worries and complaints we’ve ALL entertained as small business owners. (I can’t be convinced that all of them didn’t come straight out of my own mouth.)
A potent cocktail of love, humor, and gentle harangue makes short work of each of those worries. There are two great sighs of relief in reading it: 1) we see we’re not alone, that tons of others carry around those same thoughts, and 2) we realize we’re all bonkers to spend even a moment longer fussing about them. Which is just So Judith.
In fact, it’s in response to her invitation to participate in an interactive Blogfest of ideas about “My Biz My Way” that I write this post. She wanted to gather a collection of ways in which folks like you and I are doing it our way, despite the endless supply of worries and the endless cookie-cutter wisdom on tap in the marketplace. (You can read her responses to the Blogfest gang, at JudithMorgan.com/blog.)
So back to the guru. The very thing she objected to just happens to be the keystone element in running my business my way: My willingness to be very clear and frank about who I choose to work with. This, the guru tsked, was just “limiting myself” and “bad business.” Somewhere I could hear a long red fingernail tapping on a walnut desk.
When I first left the corporate world and started dabbling in freelancing, my company was dubbed Terra Incognita, as I helped people of all kinds map out that strange, unknown thing called the Internet. Websites required an elaborate foreign skillset at that point in time; making one was a daunting idea. To gain practice at my new trade, I worked with anyone who seemed nice enough and who was willing to pay me. It brought a steady flow of kind, regular folks to my project calendar.
After a while, I started noticing that I felt better about some projects than others. On some days I’d wake up feeling bulletproof and optimistic, and on others I felt like I was going into my desk job and dutifully putting in my hours. Hm. I’d left that mindset for a reason, and I didn’t like that I was duplicating it in self-employment. I didn’t know how to get more of the better-for-me kind of client, but I knew that’s what I wanted. Then a painfully obvious—and somewhat magical—pattern of events started unfolding:
The more I loved my work, and loved what I was helping create, the more energy and creativity flowed through me like water.
The more energy and creativity and inspiration I poured into a project, the more delighted my clients were.
The more delighted they were, they more often they referred me to other people just like themselves—thoughtful, heart-full, and with a larger “Why” than just fluffing the bottom line.
Over the years, they comprised the vast majority of people who contacted me. And so Websites for Good evolved into what it is: A company that helps good people—defined by their intentions and their integrity—understand and use this wildly powerful “online marketing” stuff, in order to start and grow small businesses that matter. I became the web sherpa for people with good hearts.
I have this vision that creeps up on me sometimes when I’m stuck in writer’s block, staring out the window, waiting for the right ideas to come. In the vision, a sea of people suddenly materialize below my office window, filling up my small residential street, stretching up the block, hanging off the neighbors’ porches, stepping on their geraniums. Some are waving. Some are holding small signs: “Just had my best year ever! Thanks!” “Still don’t know what a plugin is, don’t care, miss you!” “When can we go drink wine?”
In the sea of heads I can spot faces from familiar organizations: The charity that convenes women’s circles in the Middle East. The coach who helps people free themselves from long-held anxieties. The artist who makes gorgeous sculpture from old auto windshields. The bookstore owner, still going strong after a dozen years. The author who’s trying to help create new generations of resilient people, one book at a time.
It’s a vision that keeps me going.
If my ONLY goals were to accumulate as much money as possible, as quickly as possible, so that I could retire from this work as soon as possible, then that business guru’s advice might be valid. There’s not a thing wrong with that; we each get one life to live the way we choose.
But this is my business and I shape it my way. And my way is to throw myself into the masses of people who are using their work, their business, to do something good in the world.
To choose to love the work they do, and do the work they love
To offer their artistry and vision to give the world beautiful things
To coach and guide others so they can make something hard in their life into something easier
To teach people new tools for shaping a life that’s bigger and bolder than they ever dreamed
To create knowledge or products that solve a problem or make something better
To share wisdom that lifts up individuals, lifts up organizations, lifts up all of us
Specializing in helping those kinds of people—in helping people like you—isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.
But that’s my business, my way.
How can I help you build your business, your way? How can it feel more like you, attract more of the people you love? Let me know. You know I’ve got your back.