Whether you like it or not, the moment you get real about your business – print your cards, go live with your website, create various online representations of your brand – it shifts from being an “idea” to a business.
There are roles that need to be carried out every day in a way that is closely united with who you are, what you believe in and what you want to build. Embracing this reality not only allows you to run your business effectively, but it also helps you to create a well-defined philosophy that sustains your growth while providing a cultural wellspring for potential employees to step into (should you decide to grow beyond YOU).
Freedom or Isolation – It’s Up To You
Let’s face it; nobody ever decides to go into business to be mediocre. Even if you’re currently the handyman, development team, and CEO, you need to insert your own brand of culture into every task within your business as often as you can. When you are an office of “one” it’s often easy to underestimate just how isolating it can be working for yourself, alone in a home office every day.
What at first seems like unbridled autonomy can, after a few months, feel straight up unbearable. So as a sole-proprietor how do you overcome this without becoming a social hermit? I’ve found that by borrowing some of the best aspects of organizational culture (from business cultures I have either worked in or admired) and catalyzing them into my own Culture of One, I could create my own entrepreneurial culture that would both leave me feeling inspired and connected.
Here are six ways you can create a positive business culture when you work alone:
Stay Authentic. As the tempo of your business life increases, if you’re not continually showing yourself to be sociable and authentic, your communication tone can quickly morph into simply sounding direct or curt without you noticing it. Keeping your exchanges with your clients human, upbeat and transparent is vital. Staying curious, friendly, and outcome-oriented despite all circumstances creates a rock solid rep that will carry you forward while helping you to foster deeper client connections and better internal alignment.
Stay Principled. Every business operates more proficiently (and benevolently) when united with its values. To figure out which values are most important for your business, start by establishing how you want to be seen by your clients from an ethical lens, then create canons that embody those principles. Your principles shouldn’t be a forced mission statement exercise, or a hodgepodge of ideas from people you respect, they need to resonate with your own personal values. Once you establish them, weave them into your culture.
Stay Networked. Staying up to date with industry happenings by networking with other entrepreneurs in your industry is huge. It’s also something that most small business owners allow to fall by the wayside. Often you can let numerous opportunities slip by simply because you are “too busy” to respond, attend or connect. Don’t let this happen to you. Work hard to stay committed to networking by getting involved with your peers. Attend conferences as your finances allow and keep up to date on industry trends.
Create the perfect workday (then work it). How many times have you seen creative solo acts bragging about being able to work in total freedom and autonomy only to lift the curtain to find that the opposite is true. They are actually working well past the point of any personal ROI and have NO personal life whatsoever. The only way to maximize your output without sacrificing every ounce of free time you have is by establishing some rituals that support your most productive habits. Make what works for you a habit.
Archive Your Adoration. Give yourself permission to toot your own damn horn, yes, for reals. Keep positive feedback that rocked your world, or made you want to show off a little. Give yourself permission to read them from time-to-tine. Create a mailbox for keeping all of these “Damn, you’re good” emails. You’ve earned them. Use them to refuel your mojo. High-fives like these let you know that your business is rocking the core principles. And, more importantly, they serve as regular reminders that what you’re doing is working.
Evolve your client relationships. Human to human contact is crucial to seeing the tangible effects of your work, and you’re not going to get that from your clients unless you feed that relationship inter-personally as well as virtually. Create opportunities to link up with clients beyond just providing a service. Plan a meet up for your favorite customers to expand their sphere of influence. Make yourself a reliable source they can tap into. This helps to fuel an “extended” culture that can helps you both to do and be more.
Now go out there and start building it.