This is a topic that most business people have to deal with at some point in their career. I've seen it in the Business to Business (B to B) world and I've seen it in the Business to Consumer (B to C) world. Heck, I’ve even experienced it first-hand! When I first ventured into the world of being self-employed over twenty years ago, the thought of taking it personal didn't even cross my mind. I was, in fact, a professional. Period. Why on earth would I take it personal? Well, I had a lot to learn. You see, while we can say all day long that we don't take things personal. The truth is, when you're self-employed it IS personal. Look it’s even in the title - "self" employed. It IS about you, right? Not really, but what it is about is how we handle things that may go awry or not the way we expected. Here's what I've learned:
First and foremost, I’ve learned to check my expectations at the door. No matter what’s going on in my personal or financial life, I have to take a deep breath and realize that the way I treat my business now, will surely determine its future. I recently read a quote on character: "Character, not circumstance, makes the person" - Booker T. Washington. I'd like to say character, not circumstance, makes the business. When things are going in your favor, it's simple to exhibit character. But, when things aren't going as planned or happening as quickly as we'd like, that’s when we have to make a choice.
Business and life are all about choices. All the choices we make have consequences, both good and bad. I had to make a conscious choice not to take things personal in business. Now, this wasn't an epiphany that occurred for no reason. There were circumstances that lead to this realization. Circumstances that made me realize that I ALWAYS have a choice on how to respond to what’s happening.
Here are my 8 go-to tips when I have that choice to make:
Today, I can honestly say, I take nothing in personal in business. It was and is a process, but it has changed my business life and my thinking. I think you'll agree that being self-employed is hard enough. I think we inadvertently make it more difficult on ourselves when we take it personal. Four ways I have changed my thinking include:
So, if you're like me and have had those moments where you feel as though you’re guilty of taking it too personal, just regroup. Don't beat yourself up, just work toward improvement each day. Your future-self will thank you!
So, you want to be self-employed, have a business of your own, control your time and your income? That was me twenty years ago! I set out to change my life and give up the corporate grind for those same reasons and I did just that. That journey however, came with lessons learned, bumps, bruises, setbacks, required personal growth and stretched me ways I would not have experienced otherwise and I am grateful for all of it. So, what did I learn? Well, I learned a lot.
Two simple, yet powerful concepts kept me grounded back then and twenty years later still keep me on track. I also find that some of the most simple concepts are the ones that, while the most effective, also need reminding. These concepts have served me well and my hope is that this reminder will serve you.
First, I believe to be successfully self-employed requires a commitment. Commitment, not only to the end result, which is the fun part, but commitment to the process that is the "daily grind" and sometimes, the not-so-fun part.
Have you ever looked closely at what it really means to make a commitment? Do you feel as though you have made a true commitment to your goals? Only you can answer that. Let's extrapolate "true commitment" by taking a close look at two words that are synonymous with commitment: prosecution and perseverance.
You may be thinking prosecution is an unusual word in this context, but simply put, prosecution means to follow until the end or pursue until finished and that for sure applies here. Perseverance is an obvious word choice for this subject but maybe we hear the word so often that its meaning has become dull. To persevere means to be steadfast, determined, purposeful in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. The key phrase, I believe in "re-defining" perseverance is "despite difficulty or delay". So how badly do you want to have success? Badly enough to be fully committed, willing to prosecute and able to persevere despite difficulty or delay?
The second concept has to do with the daily grind. Daily activity and daily schedules. If you're anything like me, there will always be more things on your to-do list, than can be done in a day. I think most of us today lead very busy lives with kids, spouses, careers, the list goes on... I believe we can gain more control over our life and schedule our time better if we re-position our mindset about the things that need doing, how we prioritize and set boundaries on the things we choose to do and sometimes choosing to say no.
The good news is that daily activity and scheduling isn't a skill, it's a simple discipline. If you can discipline yourself for a while, eventually your daily activities will become a way of life, a habit. We don’t need to think about daily activities like showering, feeding our families, taking care of our kids – it’s a way of life. I believe in order to be successfully self-employed, we need to develop, maintain and nurture certain good habits and make them a way of life.
In closing... The successfully-self-employed are committed, persevering, disciplined and keep it simple. If you follow these concepts, no matter what the industry, you too can have your own business, set your own schedule and be in control of your income.
Building a solid business network can be the key to success in almost any business and if you are self employed your contacts and relationships are your lifeline... BUT how do you really build those relationships? Especially if you have a short time to get to know someone.
Have you ever gone to a networking event, mixer, luncheon or fund-raiser and felt uncomfortable introducing yourself? Maybe you can easily introduce yourself but you're unsure of what to say next or how to continue the conversation. If so, you’re not alone.
Think about the reason you are attending the event. Is it to promote your business? To make some new contacts? To learn something business-relevant? All of the above? I believe it should be, whenever possible, all of the above!
So, how do we do all of that without being THAT person? Who is THAT person? The one who only talks and doesn’t listen or is looking everywhere except at you. The one who tries to “sell” you immediately. The one who thinks if they explain every detail of their business, you’ll need it, like it or want it.
I firmly believe that most people are not doing this on purpose. Maybe they're unsure of themselves, they’re probably nervous and they’ve obviously not be coached.
I'd like you to consider a mindset switch. Let's think not just about meeting new people but really CONNECTING. This is a process. Connecting is pro-active, action-oriented, intentional and a choice. The best news is that most of us already know how to do this!
Successful CONNECTORS are authentic, confident but not arrogant, enthusiastic, glad to be there, good listeners, others-focused and engaging. Connecting in business is NOT very much different than the way you socialize! Think of how you act in a social setting; at a child's birthday party, a school function, a wedding, a baby shower, a party with friends.
I believe anyone can be successful at connecting and contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be an extrovert to effectively connect. While some of us are outgoing people, some are quiet but good listeners. Some may need to develop the "skill" but connecting CAN be learned and we are by nature, relational so it's in our genes.
Above all, successful connectors are helpful. Make sure you have something to offer those you want to connect with, even if it's in directly! Offer to really help even if you don't have a need for their product or service and be creative. Always have “tools” in your toolbox - invite them to something where they can meet more people. Be genuine. Be intentional. This takes energy and requires patience.
So, what do you say or do? First and foremost, smile! Ask authentic questions. Try to find a connection point: kids, pets, interests (sports, travel, cooking, healthy lifestyles), geography (where are you from originally? Compliment them but please, be genuine.
My business introduction usually starts with my story, which is BOTH personal and professional. I also show some vulnerability to help others see that I'm real. I want to help a new connection feel comfortable talking to me with no pressure.
In Closing... If you know what you want to achieve in networking and have realistic expectations, consider quality over quantity, are intentional but not canned and are genuine and not in "sales" mode; you'll make some new connections, maybe make a new professional-friend or two and you'll have fun!