Escape The Brand Trap, Female Entrepreneurs


Hey Ladies!

Real talk: your business won’t start taking off once you finally nail your branding.

“Perfect Branding” isn’t the magic pill that will cure whatever is ailing your biz. Stop obsessing naow or you are dead meat, baby girl. Yes, your website might suck. In fact, it probably does, at least a little. But that matters so much less than you think. And your fixation with what may or may not suck about your “brand” is actually killing your business.

“Does My Marketing Make Me Look Fat?”

In Canada, where I live, more than 35% of all self-employed people are female, which means more women are choosing to start and run businesses than ever before. So far, so good. However, I believe a significant portion of this female 35% is wasting the revolutionary potential of their self-employment by transferring their habitual concerns with appearance onto their business. They’re used to worrying way too much about how good they look (physically and socially), so they tend to worry way too much about how well their branding is coming across.

Brand is the new “body image issue.

These women pour money, time, and talent onto the ground like so much water because they feel they haven’t sufficiently nailed their “brand identity” or their “message”. They don’t go out pitching. They don’t make calls. They don’t sell. They don’t muck around in the real world of real opportunities. They don’t just try stuff.

But that’s just because they need to make their website look more modern first. And they need marketing materials that don’t make them sound dumb or under-prepared first. And they really feel they should probably hire a few good consultants first. And yeah, they’d definitely be better off if they took B-School first.

They are like dieters putting on bikinis in the safety of their homes, anxiously striking poses in the mirror. Meanwhile the summer is almost over. But maybe they’ll be ready to hit the beach next year.

Perseverance and Perfect Timing

The only person who has ever been weird or dogged enough to act as a mentor in my life is David S. McKenzie, former Executive Director of HOPE International Development Agency, a non-profit I used to work for. David is one of those for-real heroes you hear about from time to time. When I worked for him, he used to talk about “perseverance” all the time. The word had religious significance for him. He would say that nothing at all mattered except for perseverance.

I now believe he is right. (He usually is.)

While I was helping those miraculous sons of guns from Resilient Futures to write their upcoming book Disrupted, we discussed super-incubator Bill Gross’s investigation into which factors most determine the success or failure of a start-up. Gross was surprised to discover that that the timing of a start-up had a bigger impact on its success than factors like the merit of its business concept or the quality of the team executing it.

In other words, sometimes a business launches at just the right time, when the conditions surrounding it are particularly favourable. People are ready for it. History smiles upon it. It happens.

So…has a particularly pretty website ever determined a start-up’s success or failure? Hell to the no. That’s exactly like saying that a rocking beach body could determine the success or failure of your next romantic relationship.

Just Don’t Die

So female entrepreneurs, please stop getting caught in the brand trap. I don’t care what Marie Forleo says. I don’t care how shiny her hair is! I. Don’t. Care. Just stahp.

Instead, listen to Bill Gross and David S. McKenzie. All you need to do is not die.

That is how I personally apply their wisdom to my own business endeavours: Just don’t die, Kristin. Because here’s the thing: if you keep throwing yourself into opportunities, looking a little less than polished, a little less than poised, and a little less than on-brand, you’re bound to eventually find yourself in favourable conditions.

I was raised in a somewhat loopy religious tradition. So Biblical metaphors tend to rattle around in my brain. The one I think about when I contemplate business is the good old parable of the sower. Do you know this one? A sower throws some seeds on fertile ground and they sprout quickly. He throws some seeds on rocky ground and they die. He throws some seeds along the path and the birds eat them. The seeds may be uniform in quality, but their potential to become plants is either realized or snuffed out based on what kind of conditions they find themselves in.

I am that seed that grows some dang arms and legs and scuttles around like a maniac and simply doesn’t die. I scuttle and scuttle until I find the right conditions, the right opportunities, the right connections, the right moment. It works. This approach, to dip lightly into some more choice Christianese, “bears fruit”.

I’ve heard all sorts of advice related to success. Law of Attraction this, Millionaire Mindset that. And I mean….whatever gets you through the night. I don’t want to mock the ideas that people find clarifying or motivating. But I hate seeing women who represent the systemic crisis of confidence get stuck in these traps of endlessly perfecting their approach, their presentation, their look, or their vibe. It’s such a waste of the time and energy that should be spent scuttling around, avoiding those hungry-ass birds and seeking out the real good soil. How many more courses and conferences and consultations do smart and hardworking women need to purchase before they start hurling themselves at life hard?

The only advice for success that I know to be utterly truthful is this: persevere, baby, persevere. 

[Author: Kristin van Vloten]

August 13, 2015

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