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Be Real: A Mantra of Authenticity for a Young Business Owner

I can’t think of a better mantra for a young business owner than “Be Real.”
As a long-term owner I have seen, and continue to see, advice meant to guide you to success or people to do the same or hopeful entrepreneurs themselves, that just are not in touch with the needed reality. It is one of the reasons business failures are so high.
Let’s take a look at yourself first. You set the tone for your employees, customers and vendors who are all mission critical to your success. If you are short on business competence, prone to short cuts, anything unauthentic, these people will pick that up on the first word. Why? Because trust is harder to come by than it used to be (thus more valued) and people are more skilled at picking up questionable scents. If they do, you lose their business and maybe employees. Both are expensive. Bottom line: You can’t give what you don’t have. So make sure you have it.
I was trained by IBM who always emphasized the top three reasons people do business with someone. Number one is that customers buy from those in whom they have the most trust and confidence. That’s why name brands outsell others. Trust comes out of proven authenticity, which is why I emphasize to always be real. Number two is that buyers must want or need your product. Third is price. In practice, too many business owners flip this order. Spend more time and resources on number one!
IBM would not even let you call on a customer until you had three months of training in sales and business. You had to demonstrate every product, be perfect on product knowledge, be able to present to a crowd, handle unhappy customers, understand cash flow, dress like a million bucks, not have any complaints, and handle the scrutiny of a weekly management meeting. If customers were unhappy, they got a refund. This is how IBM built authenticity, how they made you real before you saw your first customer. It works. 
The rise of Donald Trump shows the power of be real. He is perceived as real and his competitors not so much. Despite his considerable gaffes, he surged because people value being real so much. Trump has said things that would derail most but his reality factor is so high it rules. The more real you are, the more people trust you.
You want this same power working for you in your business. You can get it by being an authentic you.
Be real by authentically possessing total credibility in what you portend to peddle from hardware, to  service, to the promises, guarantees, certifications, responsiveness and employee bearing. And yes, we are all peddlers. Everybody is really selling something so your ability to inspire trust, to be real, is pivotal.  Being real comes from admitting mistakes. It  grows from listening more and talking less which facilitates learning from customers, employees and other professionals. Those who talk too much decrease their reality quotient.
There is a lot of less-than-real foo foo out there that vulnerable business owners hear such as “The Three T’s You Must Master!” or “Learn the Secrets of Sales Closers!” or “Accelerate Your Way to Success.” And my favorite: “The One Thing You Need to Know” except it takes a whole book to explain. Even the immensely best selling 7 Habits of  Highly Effective People was 350 pages taking 50 pages to explain each habit. Jeez. Reality is expressed succinctly.
There is no certification needed, unfortunately, to instruct so there are self-appointed business gurus putting out stuff. Papers may give them publicity and usually reprint their claims and credentials without verification thus potentially contributing to unreality. Buyer beware. You have to be discerning to get the best from these sources.
There are no real secrets in business operation and don’t believe anyone talking like that. Most things are well known. It is just that you may not yet have learned them. Listen to those who have done it!  Fellow owners are the best source. SCORE is good for that. If you are listening to somebody on growing a business ask if they have grown theirs. If teaching how to start a business has the speaker done that? Sometimes really good speakers are just that—really good speakers—but not a rich source of business knowledge.
Enroll in university classes in accounting, internet marketing, sales techniques, and leadership development from experts in those areas. These instructors will usually not have been business owners but are certifiable experts. See if you can take the courses on an audit (for no grade or credit) basis.
Now you are on your way to living real.
Tom Pease is a small business owner of an office equipment dealership called e/Doc Systems, Inc. He used 30+ years of experience in owning a business to author two books and publish 85 columns as a small business advisor. 

Posted: 5/25/2016 9:06:51 AM | with 0 comments

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Your business may be small, but that doesn't mean that your impact can't be huge! The Greater Memphis Chamber's Small Business Council serves to encourage, support, recognize and be a resource to small- and medium-sized businesses in the Memphis area. Here, our talented panel of contributors will present big ideas that could make a huge difference to your small business. And don't be afraid to ask questions ... no matter how small.

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