Each year nearly 500,000 new businesses are started in the U.S. Perhaps one of them is yours.
While it’s tempting to think of business as a stodgy and formal affair, nothing could be further from the truth. Entrepreneurship is about solving problems. At the end of the day it’s not about companies, products or features. It all comes down to people. The way we are able to impact people’s lives is the true measure of our business. People are unique, and so is your business.
Owning your startup swag is about embracing who you are–as a person and a business owner– and using uniqueness to your benefit. Your individuality should be a selling point for customers and potential partners.
For SXSW an entrepreneur I know and respect created a list of recommended parties along with details to get yourself on the guest list. He shared a link on Facebook and it spread virally because it was so packed with actionable, insider information. After I shared with my group, they spread the information to their friends, and so on. While the party list was by no means a plug for his company, it created tremendous goodwill and name recognition. Was this the intent? Possibly. It hardly matters.
What I know for sure is that the founder in question is a huge electronic music fan, and he gets lots of party invites. By creating a must-go list he got to share a part of himself with a receptive audience. And it doesn’t hurt that his company provides services to other startups.
So my point is this; people do business with people. Not businesses. Your startup is comprised of people, just like your customers’. They want to know you.
The other reason to own your swag is because there a too many potential opportunities out there for you to waste time conforming to an ideal of the “perfect business.”
I made this mistake in my last startup venture. Although we didn’t know our customer base, we assumed we would be selling our product to large, hierarchical organizations. We never had any sales, and we never made contact with any of these mythical institutions, but we operated under the assumption that we might be rejected if we put out an image that wasn’t suitably corporate. We wasted time conforming to a standard that didn’t exist, and we lost the opportunity to help anyone.
You can’t hide who you are forever. Be passionate, and quirky and the people with whom you were meant to collaborate will find you. The others might be scared off, but you’ve saved each other time. The sooner you identify your true collaborators, the sooner you can start doing great work together.
Remember, entrepreneurship is about taking risks. People who embrace the challenges and uncertainty of startup life are a different breed. Own it.
At the end of the day you’re going to be judged based on the value you create. Your company, your brand and your valuation is nothing more than the sum of the people who’s lives you touch. Don’t hide from them.
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