About a year ago, I first started thinking about starting my own business as a leadership coach. Coming from an 8 year career in Dutch governmental organizations, being an entrepreneur hadn’t been on my mind well, … ever.
The only reason I decided to even consider it, was that I realized that, if I wanted to be completely free to take whatever approach to work I thought was best, I really needed to start my own business.
It didn’t even take me that long to decide to go for it. Leadership & helping people develop are my true passions, and combined with my new realization about the advantages of being a business owner, it was really a simple decision.
The phase after that initial decision turned out be much harder for me. And I don’t even mean that it was hard to decide what I wanted to do exactly or who I wanted to work with.
The hardest part for me in getting my business out there, was actually getting my business out there. And ‘there’ pretty much comes down to the internet: the biggest challenge for me was to decide how I wanted to present my business to the rest of the world (well, why think small, right ☺).
At first, it all seemed to be clear. I designed a website that was pretty good. It basically looked & felt like the coaching and training websites I visited for research. I wrote content that was knowledgeable, professional and smart.
But something didn’t feel right.
To learn more about online marketing, I then enrolled in a program called the Rich Happy & Hot Business School. And, even though the name might not give it away, this is all about how to add real value to the world by doing what you’re truly passionate about.
The one topic that kept coming back during the 6 weeks I was in the program, was authenticity.
How authenticity will improve the proposition clarity to your clients and how people will be much more likely to work with you if they feel they really know you. Also, given the quote by Scott Stratten: ‘If you’re your authentic self, you have no competition’, authenticity is the smart way to go, business wise.
For me, being really authentic, had a lot to do with having the guts to let myself be seen, both in words and images.
With my newfound knowledge, I had another look at my website and yaiks, now I knew exactly what was wrong with it: I had been playing it safe. My website did indeed have the look and feel of most coaching and training sites, and it didn’t reveal much about me at all. My authenticity & my passion didn’t show. I kept my self out of sight, hiding behind my safe wall of ‘being professional’.
Not only was I convinced I would have more clients if I dared to be authentic, also, I wanted to be authentic and I wanted to be seen. My business is all about helping people to be authentic and to grow into themselves, so they can improve their leadership. Of course, I needed to set an example.
I can make it sound as if I decided then & there to change it all around and open up on my website.
Unfortunately, that would be a lie.
It took me another month to bring up the courage to completely start over and build a new website, showing me as I really am. When I did it, I felt relieved. Just like that moment, when working as an interim manager, when I decided to no longer be distant & professional, but to just be me at work, including all my quirks, fears & fun parts.
Being authentic & truly letting yourself be seen takes courage. It makes us vulnerable. Some people will love what you’re doing, but others won’t like it at all. You’ll get negative comments. People might laugh at you.
Why risk all that?
From the heart
Really, I can only answer that question by speaking from the heart: my life changed since I opened up to people. I feel lighter, happier and less insecure. I understand myself better and it’s much easier to connect to people.
I was at TEDxAmsterdam last week, and I absolutely loved the beautiful, funny and very authentic talk by photographer Jimmy Nelson on the lessons he learned during his project to photograph all human tribes that are on the verge of extinction.
The most important lesson to him was that by truly being vulnerable, you can communicate and connect with anyone: the people of the Tsataan tribe in Mongolia, the Huaorani’s in Equador or the Huli’s in Papua New Guinea.
Or to the people you work with, would be my addition.
And being connected to others is one of the most important conditions to feel like we’re living a worthy and valuable life.
And that’s what’s basically all about, right?
BTW, I know it’s not simple, this whole authenticity thing. That’s why I designed a very cool (I’m allowed to be biased here ;)) home study program, that will help you grow into yourself and become the person you are meant to be. Check it out here!