When I sit down with someone who is curious about how I built my business, they’ll often ask for the concrete steps taken. You know; the usual suspects everyone is curious about. How did I build my mailing list? How do I find new clients? How did I know my business would succeed? How did I decide to price? These are all useful questions to ask, but the reality is that even if I told you exactly what I do, it’s no guarantee you’ll be able to replicate my result. I’m me, and you’re you: it’s our individual differences that make our results unique. If there were one empowering thing I could share with business owners in startup – rather than the steps I took to get Ruby Assembly up and running – it would be this: Not everyone will like you. And that’s OK.
Why is this knowledge so important when you’re about to launch your business into the world? Because business is personal. At least, it is for me. And in my experience of working alongside and mentoring fellow entrepreneurs for over a decade now, I know it is so for many among their number. Understanding that your offering is not for everyone gives you a focused lens through which to understand your business values, and the kind of clients and colleagues you want to attract. This knowledge gives you the bravery to prospect for new clients without rejection stinging too deeply. It allows you to make the choice to differentiate and stand your ground in a market of sameness.
Many businesses fail because they attempt the impossible; to be everything to everyone, and to be liked by all. This is an impossibility. No matter how wonderful you and your business are, there will be someone out there with diametrically opposed views and wants who will look elsewhere. And that’s great! It’s a natural safeguard from ill-fitting clients and customers. There’s nothing like trying to fit your square peg business into a round hole to take the joy from entrepreneurship.
Outtake from our ‘Meet The Locals’ series for Hive Thornbury, with Marco from Joanie’s Baretto.
Authenticity in 2020
Over the long weekend, I undertook a day of business planning in the beautiful State Library of Victoria. Under the airy grand dome, I reflected on what worked in 2019, where room for improvement lies, and how I can improve my figures. Each year, I also utilise oracle cards as part of my planning (this year I used Rebecca Campbell’s latest deck). I use these cards not to have my future told, but as a way of free association and accessing my subconscious. It was interesting for me to note that of the 12 cards I drew (one for each month), over half of them reiterated that I needed to sink deeper into my subconscious knowledge and to guide Ruby Assembly forward with radical authenticity. Now, I thought I was already pretty authentic. But clearly there’s room to grow, as I gather my bravery by remembering that not everyone will like me. And that’s OK.
Being ‘Too Expensive’ is OK
Pricing is something that every business can feel stymied by – particularly when they’ve lost work and their prospective client tells them they were too expensive. In coworking spaces nation-wide, business owners quiz one-another about cost. ‘Am I charging too much? I’ve only been doing this for three months.’ ‘How can I charge this when xyz charges that?’ ‘Is it OK to run events for free? What does that say about my service?’ Being told you’re too expensive sends many business owners into a vortex of existential crisis.
I say: it’s ok to be ‘too expensive’. This is just another way of a client expressing that you’re not the right fit for them … or you’re not the right fit for them yet. My business does not run on a discount or volume structure, and whilst we’re not the most costly, nor are we inexpensive. I am disinclined to cheapen my services. I understand our value and our necessary hourly rate for research, copywriting and design of social media content. I don’t want to work with clients whose focus on cost overrides their drive for expertise and a job done properly. I’m focused on making our offering more expensive rather than less, allowing my team of writers and artists more time to do exceptional work for each of our beloved clients. I regularly win business from clients who may initially try to DIY their business socials or offshore them, before appointing us when they realise the time and skill necessary for great marketing and communications. Being told you’re too expensive doesn’t mean you need to downgrade your pricing structure; you simply need to show your value to the right client.
To Be Loved Rather Than Liked
I’m not a mild kinda person. By extension, nor is my brand. By design and by nature, you’re either really going to like me and Ruby Assembly for our warmth, authenticity, irreverence, realtalk and generosity … or you’re not. I’ve built a business with clients who become Ruby Assembly advocates, so happy are they with our service and approach to communications. Our clients share our values of transparency, flexibility, the odd bit of irreverence and generosity. This is my ‘true north’ when it comes to making decisions about the people I recruit, my approach to marketing, opinion pieces I might write, workshops I run, Plakkit campaigns I purchase, and podcasts I produce. Will this decision increase the love? I’d prefer to have a smaller audience of advocates who really DIG what I’ve built and offer, rather than a mild group of prospects focused on monthly costs and short-term ROI.