Your Mom Was Right (and why that’s relevant)

There are things almost every mother ends up saying to her children.  We recognize these pieces of advice and instruction as amusing mom-cliches simply because they’re used so routinely.  And like most cliches, these bits of motherhood wisdom hold a certain kernel of truth.

I noticed recently that many of them also apply to running a business.

So whether or not your mother ever said any of these things to you (and I’ll bet she said at least one or two of them!), I hope you enjoy this little journey through three pieces of “mom wisdom,” and that you find them helpful in your own business.

“If all the other kids jumped off a bridge…”

I have to believe that every child, at one point or another, says, “But Mo-oooom!  All the other kids are…” (fill in the current hot activity)

And Mom’s infuriating reply? “Yes, dear.  And if all the other kids jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?”

It’s natural to want to go with the crowd.  It makes you feel warm and secure and like one of the cool kids.  And if everyone else is doing it, it must be a good thing to do – right?

Not necessarily!  Just because you see others taking a particular approach or a fellow business owner recommends that you do something – whether it’s blogging, social media, creating video, or any other apparently hot must-do activity – doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

Before you start any new tactic – or even continue an activity you’ve been working on for a while – stop and ask yourself why you’re doing it.

What result do you want?  And will this activity actually achieve that result?

A colleague asked me recently about a networking group a friend of hers had recommended.  I asked, “Who will you meet there, and are they your best audience?”  As simply as that, she saw through her urge to follow the crowd and recognized that although the group was right for her friend’s business, it might not be right for hers.

What are you doing – or considering doing – just because everyone else is doing it?

“Just be yourself, dear.”

I think we all remember the painful teenage desire to be popular.

And when we agonized about dates and dances and the prom, Mom’s advice was often, “Just be yourself, dear.”

Just be yourself.  As another old saying goes, everyone else is already taken!

Trying to be someone you’re not, in business as well as personally, simply doesn’t work.  We all know that, yet it can be difficult when you’re putting your business out there in the world.  It often feels startlingly vulnerable to just be yourself – and to just let your business be itself.

But the best way to gain customers’ trust is to let them see that you’re a real person, running a real business.  You have expertise; that’s what you’re offering to them, whether in a product or through your services.  And of course they expect you to know what you’re doing within your area of expertise.  But they don’t expect, don’t want, and will never believe that you’re flawless.  The drive for perfection is, ultimately, a drive to be someone other than who you actually are.

Being yourself doesn’t mean revealing private personal information.  It just means letting yourself be seen as a complete a human being – the unique and individual human being that you already are.

Which leads me to the third and final Mom-ism.

“There’s no one else just like you, my little snowflake!”

Okay, maybe she didn’t put it exactly like that!

Yet it’s more than just wishful parental thinking or rah-rah boosterism.  Every one of us really is unique, different from all the other billions of people on this planet.  We have our own unique brilliance, as well as our own unique flaws.  We may share skills or expertise with others – but how each of us employs those skills and implements that expertise is completely our own.

As a business owner, you bring your work to your customers in your own unique way.  Identifying what that unique way is – identifying the value you provide simply through that uniqueness – is what makes you stand out from the crowd of others who do similar work.  When you’re clear for yourself about that value, you can be clear in how you communicate it.  And then you send an unerring signal to your best clients that you’re the one for them.

I attended a conference session last year led by someone who does apparently similar work to mine.  Yet it was obvious to me that the people who are his best clients would be dreadfully unhappy with me – and vice versa.

Our styles are completely different.  Even though his customers and mine appear to be looking for the same results, the value we bring to our customers is uniquely our own.

Knowing the uniqueness of your business, the individual ways you provide value that no one else can ever match – that’s what makes your message ring loud, clear, and true for your best customers.  Whether you’re in touch with your own uniqueness or not, Mom was right:  it’s there.

She was right, too, that identifying that uniqueness requires stepping away from what everyone else is doing … and definitely requires being yourself!

“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”  Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also known as Mark Twain (1835-1910), American author and humorist.