At a business conference recently I got a powerful message about the power of authenticity. Paul Ray, coauthor of the best-selling book, The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World, gave a compelling presentation about how small business can leverage their authenticity to achieve greater success.
Ray shared that if you own or work in a small, socially responsible business, you have a big advantage over the “big guys,” the Fortune 500-type corporations. While not every big business is “bad” and not every small business is “good,” the public does not, in general, place much trust in the big guys. Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco are just a few examples of big companies that lost the trust of their employees, customers and communities.
I always feel a bit sad when a favorite company, like Ben & Jerry’s or Celestial Seasonings, gets bought by the big guys. I believe the product and company culture will probably change.
When we’re smaller, it’s easier in our marketing with both customers and prospective customers to share who we really are. We can share about our staff, our processes, our materials and why we operate the way we do.
Authenticity, Ray said, is not so much about our actual products or services, but rather it is mostly about the claims we make and the evidence that proves those claims. So be transparent, tell stories about how you treat your customers and your employees. Share about what you do in your community and how you minimize the environmental footprint of your business. Your web site is a great place to do this for almost no cost, because you can easily add pages.
You want to establish that you and your company are, in fact, good people to deal with. We all want to be treated honestly and fairly. And we’ll do repeat business with businesses that walk their talk, whose performance matches their claims.
For example, I interviewed Joseph Cincotta, of LineSync Architecture for my Be Real Revolution community. On his web site at http://www.linesync.com/web/linesync1.html (Studio Profile – History) Cincotta tells us how his firm treats employees: “Employees enjoy setting their own hours, mid-week ski passes, and a congenial working environment.” That sounds like a lot better working conditions than at the huge architecture firms in New York.
Or take the example of a client of mine who has staff profiles on his web site that share not only what each employee’s duties are in the business, but some personal information about their families and hobbies. We learn that the office manager also is a mother, grandmother and huskie dog lover and the doctor’s assistant is a native of Western North Carolina (a rarity in this land of transplants!) who enjoys traveling, gardening, reading, and re-decorating houses. They become more real (i.e. authentic) people to us.
With all the advertising hype of claims that don’t pan out, it’s refreshing to realize that being real can actually help your business thrive. So go ahead and take one step today to be more authentic in your business or career. I think you’ll be pleased with the response.