Business Identity: Reveal Your Personal Relationship To The Work Your Business Does
This article was first published on the www.fateyes.com on May 2, 2017.
Don’t hold yourself in reserve. Establish the fullness of your business identity within the environment of your website by presenting a clear sense of how you and your team, as living, breathing individuals with real commitment and purpose are an integral part of that identity. Allow how you feel about the work you do to show. Emphasizing it in public, online and on your website will have benefits. Because how you interact and operate within your business matters to your customers in the same way that it matters to you.
There is no convincing business identity that’s void of your human touch. Your humanity.
Consolidate How You Feel About The Work You Do With Your Company “Why”
Now, pursue it a shade deeper. Build awareness of how your relationship to the work you do has direct ties to your company “Why“. Your inspiration, purpose, the heart and soul of your business sets the stage for the relationship you have to your work. Go ahead and make something of it.
Utilize your website content to communicate who you are in a way that extends past your simple “Why” statement. Commit to not cloistering the inner heartbeat in the stale archives of your mission content. Don’t hide your personal relationship to your work behind closed doors.
It was something a new client told me when I asked her what it was about our website that convinced her to have confidence in the work we would do for her organization (an organization we’re honored to serve). I was curious to know why she’d chosen to lend us her trust. Her reply, “Your website speaks to the personal relationship you have to the work you do.”, got me thinking about how important that really is as part of our business identity.
Your Combined Personal & Business Values
Your company “why” is a piece of something larger. How you choose to put it into action is another step in the process of defining your how company values and how your personal values intersect.
Even as we’re continually discovering our selves and refining our identities which is an ongoing process, we can choose transparency to who we are as people. We can match ourselves with our business and match our business to ourselves for the most complete alignment possible.
Our choice to reveal deeper layers of our business identity helped a prospective client to vet us. She resonated with what she perceived about us, our values were clear. It was liberating to be truthful and complete in how we allowed ourselves to be seen. To back up our long held intuition:
…humanize their approach and convince us of their values so we, as consumers, can make better decisions based upon brand values alignment with our own.
This is where small business owners have an advantage over corporations. Our humanity is closer at hand. There’s a place for emotional response and action coupled with logic.
You, Your Business Identity And Your Customers
Think about it. Take the time to become familiar with your own relationship to the work, how you drive your philosophy and actions. This will ultimately uncover something valuable about your relationship to your customers. It makes this kind of self-knowledge a healthy place to start when creating your content and designing your website. Revealing what you learn and the nature and depth of that commitment creates fertile ground for the relationships you will cultivate.
Make No Mistake: It’s Still As Much About Your Customer As It Is About You
A Cautionary Note
Thinking this way needn’t obscure simultaneously delivering clear information that addresses the needs of your customers and it shouldn’t.
Your customers, what they need & the questions they have always carry equal weight to your identity.
Yet having this perspective, embracing and conveying it on your website will become the first step to informing them about what it will be like to do business with you. It will inspire their desire to connect to you if they are the people you wish to attract.
That makes it an element worthy of inclusion and not surprisingly a part of the solutions and answers your business provides them with.
Create A Team Spirit With Your Customers
It may be instinctual for you to separate how you feel about what you do from what your visitors and customers need. Ironically, that risks creating an us vs. them dynamic and it’s more constructive to envision the pair of you being joined with a common purpose.
What’s Your Intention?
When we re-designed this site for Fat Eyes, we thought a lot about what direction we wanted to take it in. We made choices that would allow the inclusion of certain parts of our identity that might have been excluded. Those parts of our identity that inform and that hold up the identity of our business. What it relies on. The personal juice we bring. The love we have for it. It was our intention to show you who we really are. Not just Fat Eyes, the business entity, but the people who infuse it with life.
Start At The Beginning
The relationship with your customers or clients often starts when they visit your website.
Consider carefully, slowly if need be, the style of connection you want that visit to foster and assess whether or not you’re currently reaching that objective. Are you really connecting in the way that you hope to? Will those connections add value to the core of your business?
Design & Write Your Website Content With This In Mind
When you are writing your website content, designing the container that will house it, imagine the personality of all aspects of your business in relation to your customer and theirs to you. Do this before you even begin. Consider that relationship as a partnership with team mentality without sacrificing your own identity.
Those people you hope to create business relationships with will be curious and attracted to a culture that’s willing to share their internal attitude towards what they do.
Too often those who are quickest to assert their identity or loudest in proclaiming it have fastened on a single, supposedly fixed aspect of their nature or background to the detriment of the rest.
Robert Storr in an essay for the Art in the Twenty-First Century Companion Book
It’s Always A Balancing Act
This thinking leads to the balance that needs to be achieved on your website. It may feel perplexing because it’s sometimes hard to hold two objectives in one’s head simultaneously. However, it can be done and often there are clues lying around right under our noses that won’t be hard to uncover. It just takes some time and inner reflection.
For a website that’s been thoughtfully planned, there will be meshed and interdependent objectives woven to create a well-purposed, well-functioning whole. It can seem that some website objectives are at odds and small business owners or those charged with overseeing the development and design of a website often grapple with this.
How Web Design Used To Be
It used to be that websites were a place where a company could display and describe their products and services as an effort to burn their identity into the minds and memories of their visitors. But when we visit sites like that it’s easy to suspect that what the authors really craved deep down (and perhaps secretly) was simply a place to brag about how good they are at what they do. A place to announce how special their stuff is, how efficiently they deliver, and how they’re better than their competition. And then, far down the list might be a spot left over for paying empty homage to customers. Yippee! Some eventual recognition of their customers! A home turf bachelor or bachelorette’s pad where they could dare to think only self-referentially. Who wants to build a relationship with that?
As we know, it’s not going to work.
The thing is, that weakly camouflaged deeper yearning (or maybe we can call it a simple habit), leaks through to the surface and can be perceived. That’s not good for your website and ultimately, not good for a business either.
What Is Your Personal Relationship To The Work your Business Does?
That brings me back to the original question.
How do you feel about the work you do? Can you articulate & make it translatable to your website?
You bet you can.
A Loose Multi-Step Process
Therefore, the discovery and articulation of the identity of your business, then, really is multi-layered. It incorporates the various parts of who you are. Your brand identity in general, your company “Why”, and the nuances of the relationship you have to the work you do or the products you provide. Adding the components to create a whole on your website will give your customers the best possible view into who you are, what you do and why you do it.
Caroline McHugh, the founder and CEO of IDOLOGY, is committed to getting business leaders and organizations to embrace the idea of being original versions of themselves.
She’s been inspiring leaders of industry, politicians, global economists, and internationally renowned artists for over twenty years. What they each have in common is the intention of realizing their talents more fully and that’s how she’s made her contribution. She and her small team, self-named, IDologists, have worked with and influenced organizations including Mastercard and MTV. What she’s proven is that when personal engagement rises, productivity and profits do too. As she says, it turns out putting yourself to work not only benefits the individual it’s also good for business.
Organisational culture is no more than the product of each person’s spirit, exercised. If you want improved engagement, create an environment where people can bring themselves to work. If you’re looking for sustainable competitive advantage, put authenticity to work — because being yourself is the only place in life you have no competition.
David Amerland hones in on why brands fail and names the following as being critical missing elements:
• A vision worth talking about
• Values that are clearly defined
• An identity that stands for something solid
• An approach that’s transparent and real
With clients such as Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Forbes, Bosch and as the author of nine books he has analyzed every aspect of identity and also provides this list of questions of what is at a company’s core philosophy. This is a list worth taping to your wall or keeping handy in some way and checking in on from time to time. Companies evolve. They aren’t static and it’s important to revisit these questions regularly.
• How do you communicate within your business?
• How are business values established?
• How is leadership/management viewed?
• Who decides how hires are made?
• What makes each person important in your organization/how do you show that?
• How do you establish culture in your business?
• How do you train your staff?
• What makes your staff a real team?
• How would you decide who to fire if your business suddenly had to downsize?
• What is the operational linchpin in your business?
The Museum of Modern Art in New York offers a valuable identity exercise. Even though this was created for education, it can be used for business or in any setting.
• Identity Exchange This activity is for a group or a classroom.
• Brainstorm. Each person should receive ten index cards. On each card, write a word or a phrase describing something that is important to your identity.
• Connect. Lay your cards out on a desk or surface. Walk around the room, reading what others wrote on their cards. Anytime you see a word or phrase that you also identity with, add a dot sticker to that person’s card.
• Reflect. As a group, discuss what you noticed during this exercise. Which cards had the most dot stickers on them? Did anything surprise you?
How Artists Explore Identity
In this short film, we see how artists Frida Kahlo, Glenn Ligon, and Andy Warhol investigate and express ideas about identity in their work.
Identity Shapeshifter, Artist, Cindy Sherman
It’s always an evocative reminder of the slipperiness of identity when I look at the work of artist, Cindy Sherman whose projects are cataloged here for an exhibition at MOMA. Sherman is an American photographer and film director, best known for her conceptual portraits. She works in series and typically photographs herself in different costumes exploring the plasticity of identity. Not only that, she shoots her photographs alone in her studio while assuming multiple roles as author, director, make-up artist, hairstylist, wardrobe mistress, and model.
Pre-Remixed Photo Credit: smirart, istockphoto.com