Not all Business Growth Conferences are made equal. The one that I attended a few days ago, hosted by accountants Tayabali Tomlin, was a cracker; full of practical steps and inspirational people.
Identity was a recurrent theme, by which I mean, that which makes your business yours, and no one else’s. The culture, the values, the brand, and how that’s lived through the business, its people, and customer relationships; these are all topics we regularly talk about with clients when we’re developing communications strategies and messaging maps.
In a packed agenda the greatest inspiration, for me, came from two individuals I encountered for the first time – the keynote speaker, Masami Sato, and a delegate, Victoria. They each reminded me of the importance of three things:
1. Be brave
Masami Sato, founder of global giving initiative Buy1GIVE1 (B1G1), shared her extraordinary story of growing up in a hard working family in Japan and discovering the inequalities of the world as a young back-packer.
As her maturing views of poverty, wealth, happiness and the search for meaning evolved, she swung from believing business was bad, to recognising it as a potential force for good.
Masami described how she chose to stop judging, and just ‘see’. Then she imagined how things might be different, and committed to doing something that makes a contribution to that ‘better version’ of the world. Masami went on to establish B1G1, which helps businesses around the world give back in meaningful ways so that they can create measurable, long-lasting impacts and an even greater sense of purpose in their businesses.
How many of us when we are articulating the vision for our business, have the courage to see the world and imagine what our contribution could be – not just in our local economy, or our sector, but to humanity itself? Rather than thinking the world’s too big, and its problems have nothing to do with our business, Masami has created an enterprise that helps anyone, any business, to make small but meaningful improvements.
2. Be authentic
So if you’re reading this and thinking that SMEs saving the world sounds a) like grandstanding arrogance or b) childlike naivety, then maybe it’s because you haven’t looked Masami in the eye and heard her speak.
Softly spoken and slight of build, the power of what she shared with us was its authenticity. Passionate, articulate and reasoned, she shared with us her experience that’s grounded in action.
This was also true of Victoria, a fellow delegate at the conference. Chatting together over coffee and cake in the break, Victoria told me about the ambition for her business. An experienced Registered Sign Language Interpreter, Victoria founded her business several years ago providing interpreters and training.
Then it dawned on her a few months ago that she could change the world. She could make a difference to the way that the deaf community experience the world, helping to make it fairer and more accessible. Not just by interpreting, but by taking her team’s insight, expertise and experience out to institutions and employers, and helping society to change. Practical steps, achievable improvements, making her own contribution and helping others to contribute too.
Victoria’s delight, energy and belief were immense. Approaching, and gaining meetings with, some of the biggest global brands to discuss her proposition and seek their involvement, she said she was pinching herself that things were falling into place.
Brave and authentic? Victoria demonstrates both in spades, and having met her briefly I feel her sense of confidence that she will succeed.
We attract those who share our interests and our values, and this is a powerful business development tool.
When we are brave enough to create a strong vision that we believe wholeheartedly, and we share it in a way that’s personal, true, and grounded, it’s like nectar to the honeybees of business growth.
As long as we ‘see’ and grasp the opportunities as they arise, the connections we make help us to learn useful stuff and meet interesting people. The authentic ‘you’ might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it will be just perfect for those with whom you have more held in common than that sets you apart.