“But, what if…”

Words: Laura Rothwell, Managing Director

Recently I spoke at the Influencing and Blogger conference organised by The Culture Vulture; I'm not going to recap the talk here because you kinda had to be there.

I have been thinking though about an audience question that came up for a few speakers. Presented in multiple guises, although essentially asking the same thing, the question was in the context of purpose-driven businesses; "but what if, as a business, I offend/alienate the industry or customers by pursuing a purpose, speaking out or being different?"

There is a natural fear in being different, people don't like to rock the boat. But, if I am to be the bearer of bad/real news...the truth is, there is no 'what if' in this scenario.

You will one-hundred-percent-absolutely-no-doubt-about-it, alienate some people by speaking out against established norms, or standing for something that may appear to go against the grain in your industry.

Save yourself the sleepless nights and forget it.

Forget it and flip it.

Because the alternative is that by standing for something you automatically qualify and attract those that matter, such as:

  • Those in your industry who agree with you but haven't had the privilege, ability or voice to stand for it, yet. You will discover some surprising supporters in my experience.
  • Those who will advocate for you.
  • Those who now only want to work for, or with you.
  • Those potential clients or customers who now have another reason, a unique and compelling reason, to choose you.

Please read, People Don't Buy What You Sell, They Buy What You Stand For. The author, Martin Butler has been preaching purpose since 2005, years before Simon Sinek encouraged us all to Start With Why in 2011 - although that's well worth a read, too.

It's not the natural inclination of humans to defy convention. We want to feel included and accepted, and there is perceived safety in numbers. 

It's scary too, to trust yourself and sometimes, it might only be yourself, to define what you stand for and declare it.

There's also a lot (and I mean, a lot) of time, effort and vigilance required. Because if you say you stand for (or against) something, you better damn well make sure that you live it, and that you are authentic and transparent with it. 

Change isn't supposed to be comfortable. And by its very nature, will ruffle some feathers. But, feathers are meant for ruffling.

So, my answer to the question, "But what if I alienate people..." is, you definitely will, and here's how to prepare yourself:

  • Think freely: Often you'll know in your gut the change you wish to see or drive. It's important to be informed though. Give yourself the space to consider both your sphere of influence on the given subject and what might already be happening - is it your place to talk about this, are you approaching from a place of privilege and if so, how can you use that well?
  • Dare to be different: Know what matters to you. What are your values? And... why, why are they your values. What behaviours are associated with those values, how do you live them?
  • Take your time: Nothing happens overnight, so celebrate the tiny, incremental successes. Last year, I heard this a lot: "Crystallised came out of nowhere." Sure - because the six years of work prior was just for the laughs.
  • Make your stand: When you're ready, and sidebar, you're probably never going to feel ready - take the leap of faith and put yourself out there. That could be a new business launch, it could be a p/t blog, it could be a rebrand, it could be a total shift in your existing business.
  • Find your team: The moment you make your stand, you're setting fire to a beacon that tells the world who you are and what you stand for. Your team, your supporters and those who think like you will see it and find you. Others will too, those that don't agree - be ready!
  • Dig in: There will be many challenging moments. Developing your own resilience, setting boundaries and taking care of yourself needs to become routine. (I am not speaking from experience on this front... yet.)

Footnote: We have not put #Ad on any of the content we have generated around the Influencing and Blogger conference because our speaker fee is made as a donation to the Young Women's Trust.