“It’s not personal–it’s business.”
As a digital content marketer turned agency owner turned small business strategist, I’ve seen and heard that single sentence countless times. Heck, I might have even uttered it myself a time or two. When you’re just starting out in your career, it’s easy to parrot back the advice you’re given without questioning it too much.
However, as I’ve moved through my career–especially the self-employed parts of it, I can’t help but think about how short-sighted this adage is.
Because when you’re a small business owner, there’s no other way for business to be but personal. It’s nearly impossible not to weave our identities into what we do for a living, and into the services we provide. If we’re being honest, it feels downright strange to keep those things separated.
And, here’s another reality that throws a wrench into the “business isn’t personal” belief–many small business owners are service-based, or specialize in consultant services. Our entire business models are predicated on service, of being of use, of helping. We want our clients to do well. We want to deliver good work. We care about the outcomes. All of that is inherently personal, whether we want to admit it or not.
And if you’re someone who employs other people, the feelings are even deeper. Over my decade of entrepreneurship, I’ve been able to witness the full-on joy that is watching the people you’ve handpicked to love your business as much as you do grow as people, colleagues, and ambassadors of this thing you’ve created. Offering people employment is a gift in itself. Eventually, that team becomes your chosen family. A business that started as an idea in your head now supports clients around the world. People depend on it for their livelihoods. How can all of that not be personal?
At RAYNE IX, we work with women small business owners–both those who are just getting started on their entrepreneurial path and those who have been walking (or sprinting!) for a while and are now feeling the need to refocus or regroup. And through this work, I’ve seen a universal shift: the women that we work with are no longer apologizing for putting themselves–their values, insights, and ethos–front and center. They’re leading with those attributes. They’re actively making business personal.
So, what happens when you make business personal? There are plenty of benefits, but I’ll concentrate on my top three here:
1. It helps you build the life you want
At RAYNE IX, we believe that defining what success looks like for you personally–and then aligning that definition with your business vision–is the way to live the life and run the business you truly want.
Of course, many of us have done this the other way around. We started a business first, because we were good at something–or we identified a gap in the market–and then went to work, shoehorning our lives around it. But admittedly, that only leads to unhappiness and burnout in the long run.
Think about it: Why do you exist? Who do you want to impact? What do you want for yourself, and your family? How are you going to make what you want to happen? What matters most to you? Where are you in your life, and what does that context say about your next step? Consider taking a moment and really digging deep to answer these questions.
When you’re done with those, flip the script and consider your business vision. Why does your business exist? Who do you want to impact? What problems do you solve? How do you solve them–i.e. What is your process, or offerings? What values does your business operate by?
Beginning with your personal values makes it that much easier to build a strong business foundation–one that puts you firmly at the center.
2. It helps you find your ideal clients
If you’re a current business owner, think about the time that you decided to work with a particular client–or take on a particular project–and just a few steps in, you realized it was woefully out of alignment with the kind of work you want to do and the clients you serve. If you continued to power through the work, how did you feel? Did it feel inauthentic? Did you feel like less than your best business owner self? I’m assuming the answer is yes, and that you breathed a big sigh of relief when that engagement was over.
The more that you can showcase your unique capabilities, interests, and perspective–what one of my favorite authors, Pamela Slim, calls this our “Body of Work”–the more you can attract the clients, collaborative partners, and funders that want to specifically work with you over another person who might offer the same services and skill set.
I’ll use myself as an example here. I’m vocal about specifically working with women small business owners and entrepreneurs because I’m passionate about gender parity, and there’s still plenty of work to be done. I’m an open book, talking freely about experiences and battle scars that have shaped me and the work I do today–getting fired from what I thought was going to be my dream job in my early 20s, building a successful, award-winning digital marketing agency only to have to scale back dramatically during the pandemic, and my unabashed love for Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Sure, those experiences and details about me are personal–but they are part of my business, and that’s by design. I want to work with women who believe the same things I do.
3. It helps you do the best work for those clients
When you’re operating your business from a place of your own personal values, you begin to really think about how you want to affect your clients. What’s important to you about how they feel? What’s the goal for helping them live better lives, both personally and professionally?
For me, it’s knowing that the women I’m helping are rewiring themselves, in the best possible way. Taking their own needs into account, delegating tasks that don’t bring them joy, helping them fulfill their life purpose, and being able to use their entrepreneurial chops to make that a reality. Don’t get me wrong–the work is still hard, but it’s also incredibly more fulfilling than simply doing something I’m good at.
Because I get to be unapologetically myself in my own business, I’m able to show up with my clients in an authentic way. There’s no ego, no mask, and no pretending. And just knowing you don’t have to hide gives you so much freedom and empowerment to do your absolute best work.
Here’s to actively making business personal
Only when I made a concerted effort to proactively make my business personal did I see an increase in revenue, profitability, clarity, and what was important for me to say “yes” and “no” to. So, let’s do away with the outdated advice–and let our personal drivers also be our business drivers.
Kiley Small Business Strategist
Kiley Peters is a serial entrepreneur and small business strategist. She built and exited an international award winning agency to launch her executive consultancy helping women live the lives they want through entrepreneurship. She is on a mission to help 1 million women build more financially free and fulfilling lives through her founding of RAYNE IX–an executive consultancy helping women fast-track the launch and growth of their consulting practice so they can have greater flexibility, autonomy, and ownership of their lives –and The 100 Collective, a membership and directory for women service-based small business owners who are committed to helping other women succeed. She’s also the host of Welcome to Eloma, a podcast for visionaries, entrepreneurs, and business owners who want to become better leaders, people, and pioneers.more posts by Kiley →
Small Business, Life
Executive Coaching, Small Business
Executive Coaching, Small Business, Life
Executive Coaching, Small Business