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How the people around you can influence your brand

One of the most difficult things about being a small business owner is dealing with people. Whether they’re friends, family, supporters, naysayers, customers, working with you, working for you, building you up or breaking you down, it’s people.

Here are the different kinds of people you’re sure to encounter along the way. Read on to find out who to KEEP and who to AVOID.

AVOID: People with unsolicited opinions

When you decide to take the plunge and make your dream a reality, family and friends are among the first people you tell. Generally speaking, people enjoy hearing about start-ups and entrepreneurial ideas. It’s exciting…brave…daring…and they get bragging rights about knowing the owner of a start-up. Often, you’re doing something they wouldn’t dare to do – maybe they lack the creativity, the ideas, the get up and go or they’re just not the entrepreneurial type.

Either way, they’re sure to have an opinion. Sometimes it’ll be shared behind your back (these are usually negative…be prepared!) or suddenly they’re an expert on everything and decide it’s their place to correct your strategies, or weigh in with reasons why you’re making a mistake and how it could be better.

Here are my two tried and true approaches on how to deal with people with unsolicited opinions:

#1:  Thank them, then take a step back. Think about their bias or opinion and try to understand where it’s coming from. If that means having a conversation with them to understand it better – go ahead. Take criticism constructively, use opinions as an opportunity to learn something… and then stay on your path. Keep an open mind and your eye on the prize.

#2:  Bugger ‘em! Ignore unwanted comments and contributions. Remember the old saying: opinions are like belly buttons – everyone has one and they ain’t that special! Don’t waste time defending your choices or explaining your strategy. Listen to your instincts. If you know you’re onto a good thing, go for it!

KEEP: People who give a damn

Invite supportive people who care about what you’re doing into your professional world. This does not include family: they have to love and support you, and they are totally biased in wanting you to succeed. That’s great and all, but don’t make them your employees.

In the past three years, I’ve been mindful about bringing together an awesome team that I can count on. They have my back, and they know I have theirs. When we’re talking about our projects, not one of us uses ‘I’ – it’s always ‘we’. We share our successes and rise together. They are magical, talented people and I love them. They’ve embraced my vision and it has become their own. I absolutely attribute my success to them.

If you’ve had a chance to read “How to plan an OS photoshoot,” or follow us on our social media channels, you’ll see how we succeed together and have a tonne of fun while doing it.

AVOID: People who turn out to be bad apples

Of course, it’s not all sparking rainbows and lollipops – I’ve encountered a few bad eggs along the way. One of the hardest things to do when creating a business is learning to delegate and to relinquish control of things so that you can focus on what you’re actually good at.

Chasing someone who is rolling up late to work, letting tasks fall by the wayside, not seeing things through to completion, not following basic instructions or just not being generally supportive is a waste of your time. It brings the vibe down for the whole team and it’s going to sap time, energy and money. 

The good news is, you’ll be able to weed them out quickly, hopefully before too much damage is done. My pearl of wisdom to avoid this type of situation is: hire slow and fire fast!

KEEP: People who can answer questions

As an entrepreneur, it’s important to keep learning – and being open to learning. I can’t stress how important it is to ask questions: ask industry peers, ask experts, ask lawyers, ask business communities, ask, ask, ask!

You don’t know the answers to everything, and you’re going to make mistakes along the way. When you do, dust yourself off and keep on keeping on toward your vision. Use your resources – if you need legal advice but can’t afford a lawyer, jump online and visit forums. You might not find a lawyer willing to dish out free legal advice, but chances are you’ll find someone who’s been in a similar situation and is happy to share their experience.

Remember: if this is a way that you have your questions answered, pay it forward. Make sure you share your experiences with people who are also climbing the ladder but are a few rungs below you. There’s room for everyone and by helping others, you’re contributing to a more cohesive, positive industry.

KEEP: Being a person you want to be

The entrepreneurial community can be cut-throat especially if you’re a new designer – maybe you’re worried someone will rip off your idea, or will come up from under you and succeed first. Never lose focus on who you are and stay true to that. – In the meantime – Take a look at how you’re about to get scammed

Within your own business, be a leader, not a boss. Work alongside your team, mentor them, trust them, share your vision and celebrate successes together.

Within your industry, respect that other people are out there hustling, just like you are. Help where you can by answering (or asking) questions, sharing resources and supporting other business owners. Supporting each other is how we grow and succeed.

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