In the art world, presentation is everything. From how a culinary delicacy is plated to the atmosphere in a museum, it matters because it is part of the experience. Even more than this, it sets your expectations. If you are presented with a crock of soup that is clean and topped with a puff pastry as opposed to a Styrofoam cup of the same soup, you will expect not only a different experience in eating this soup, but that same soup may also taste better because of how it is presented.
Or say, you want to stop and see a museum. You act differently in a museum that has a lot of white space and lighted art on the walls than you would in one that has a lot to see and may have more lighting spread throughout. Because your expectations of what the museum is offering – high end art or informative and educational pieces depends on proper presentation.
Presentation is EVERYTHING
Whether we like it or not, as business owners, we are a part of the art world. How we present ourselves, and through us, our business matters. It is everything and includes every aspect of our business. While the size of or age of your business may be reflected in your presentation, it is important to present yourself and your business in the way you envision it could be.
It does not matter if you are just starting out with a Facebook page with friends and family following and a few business cards in your pocket or if you have been in business for several years and are known for what you do. How you present yourself in public, from meeting with clients to networking, to how you present your business production – what you make, and how you present yourself digitally – website, social media, search engines – and in advertising matters.
How Are You Presenting Your Business?
Think a bit on how you present your business. It’s harder to do than you would think. Often, we rely on telling what we do and through that, what we are good at. While this is a part of the presentation, it is only a small part. Think about how you interact with your clients, how you answer the phone or respond to email. Do you state your business name when you answer a call? Do you have a signature in your email? These little things matter in your presentation. It shows that you are committed to your business. But let’s take it a step further. Did you know that a smile can be heard over the phone? It’s true. Emotions can show through on how we interact with and communicate with others. And often, the two most recognized emotions, are happiness and frustration. Both of which, small business owners have in spades.
As small business owners, we know that our highs can be fleeting, and our frustrations can be many. But is that how we want to present ourselves and our business? Absolutely not! Who wants to do business with someone who does not like what they are doing? But often, if we look at how we present ourselves, this is just what we are doing.
What Are You “Saying?”
When business owners gather, either in small groups or in a networking setting, we talk about our businesses. Sometimes these conversations are more directed toward the business aspects, what we do and how we do it. However, when we are in a more comfortable setting, with other business owners we know well, our conversations are deeper. We talk more about specifics of our business; from specials we are offering to frustrations we have or lessons we have learned along the way. We look for help and offer help, all which stem from our frustrations.
Many business owners are focused on how to have Uncle Sam take less from their hard-earned money. For many, the money saved over time through retirement funds or traditional savings techniques have funded the creation of our businesses, which has already been taxed for us to access it. Then, in paying ourselves for the work in our businesses, we are taxed again. This is a huge frustration! So we become creative in how we pay ourselves and operate our business and we share what has worked with other business owners.
Be Careful of the Catch-22
However, there is a Catch-22 in sharing our frustrations and it can be seen in how we present them. Let’s address the tax issue again, because it is directly related to a fundamental issue many business owners have, finances. Operating a business means that you have two budgets to focus on, your personal budget and your business’s budget. Both of which need to be operationally sound for you to live. You need to know that what you have coming into the business will be enough to support you, and your family if you have one. Additionally, you need to know that what you are paying yourself is not only enough for you to survive, but also enough left over for other expenses – such as those yearly taxes. It is not only frustrating; it can also be overwhelming.
In this state, and in a comfortable atmosphere, we are more likely to indulge ourselves and discuss these frustrations. But it is in the presentation that matters. In a comfortable setting with people you know, how do you respond when asked how your business is going? Do you say, “Living the dream…” or some equivalent? Or are you straighter to the point, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”? Because both present the same way, they show that you are frustrated and overwhelmed. They also show that you may not continue with this chosen path. This can have a ripple effect. Not only are you presenting this to other business owners, you are also presenting this to those who you do not know, those who may have been a referral to your business.
Other business owners are often the ones who are asked if they “know someone who…” because we are so in touch with other businesses. We not only know who is around, but also who is coming and who is leaving, or may be perceived as leaving. If you present yourself to other business owners in this light, they will be less likely to tell others about you.
Changing Your Presentation
This is not to say that business owners cannot discuss frustrations with other business owners. Because, often in this, we are asking for help. When asking, be as specific as possible such as, “My business is making more money this year than expected, and I am afraid I will have to owe at tax time and won’t have the funds to cover.” This says more, than “I’m worried about my finances” and gives others the opportunity to help. This also presents in a more positive light. This is an experience many business owners can relate to. They most likely have been through this themselves or know someone who has. Because this is familiar, it is often associated with the beginning of a successful business. And as we know, successful businesses are referred businesses, which is directly related to growth in business.
You can be incredibly good at what you do, and let’s be honest, we wouldn’t be in business if we weren’t. But if you present that you are struggling, struggling in personal matters or business matters and are not clear and concise on your needs, it will be reflected in your business.
Professional Growth and Personal Growth
Often business owners focus on professional growth, what they need to make their business successful, and less so on personal growth. Personal growth, whether we want it to or not, is continuously happening, and happens at a much faster rate once we decide to start a business. We need to become intimately acquainted with ourselves to be able to present our business well. This means we need to address not only the things we do well but the things we aren’t and finding solutions to those problems.
To do this, we need to look deeper, much like how our conversations in a comfortable setting go deeper, and we need to be concise in what we are looking for. If finances are an issue, consider looking at your budgets – both personal and business – and break them down. Where, why, and how was money spent? Really look at if it was necessary.
Often, we think things are necessities when in reality, we may be compensating for a frustration. In business, this may be a turning point when you decide that this frustration is holding you back and you delegate it to another. However, when addressing frustrations of a personal matter, there isn’t anyone you can delegate it to. You can seek help, but ultimately, you must be the one who takes action to make the change.
Presenting Publicly in a Positive Light
How you present yourself and through that, your business is key in public perception. It tells people what to expect when working with you. It also tells people what to expect from your business, not only what you do but the strength and longevity of your business through your personal interactions. Reflect on what you are saying and how you are saying it and ask yourself, is this how I want my business to be perceived? If you find that you have been presenting yourself and your business in a less than positive light in a public setting, only you can take action to change that. In addition to changing your interactions, you will also need to double down on the other aspects of your presentation – digital presentation and advertising in order to shift perception and continue to grow your awareness.
Check back next week for part two of Presenting Your Business In A Positive Light where we will go into detail of how to review and change your business’s perception in digital and advertising platforms. And for specific tips on things you can do now to build your brand and networking, check out our previous blogs: Branding – Why is it important?, and Networking and Your Business.