One of the biggest challenges I faced in building a business was overcoming false beliefs. I had many attitudes and beliefs that held me back from business success. These trace back to my family and community. Where I was raised, serving others was everything. I had little exposure to any healthy businesses. My world was quite small.
Money is evil
If the main theme in my childhood was “service” is the greatest good, then the corollary was pursuing wealth did not count as service. Anything that directly focused on the making of money was considered a compromise. Maybe it was evil. Certainly one’s soul was at risk. I was afraid of a sliding down the slippery slope to materialism and greed.
Business is evil
I continue to believe that it is a high calling to provide a valued service to people in need. But I have come to see that most “service” happens via some business structure. Furthermore a service that is not run as a healthy and efficient business will not become all that it could. I came to believe that it is not business itself that is the problem but rather how the business is run. Some businesses take care of their people. Some achieve excellence through how they pursue their mission. They do good work. They treat people well both inside and outside their organization. I now see “business” as morally neutral. It is all in how the business is implemented that makes all the difference.
Selling is evil
And somewhere along the way I also accumulated the attitude that “selling” was corrupting. Somehow selling would inevitably impose on others be annoying. I didn’t know how to market or sell in an ethical and artful way. I thought myself above such things. My mission was to serve people, after all. I was a therapist.
. . . and necessary
And then I found I was running a therapy business. I needed to change my attitudes about money, business, and self-promotion. Otherwise I would fail to be able to provide my services to others. They would never know about my business or the services we provided. Unwillingness to change my attitudes would leave me with no clients and no way to support my family or myself. Now I embrace being in business. Instead I focused on being an ethical businessman. I am a businessman who also happens to be a therapist. And then my goal is to do so in a healthy way for all, my employees, clients, referrers, and for myself.
Letting people know about a service
I had to learn that though marketing felt like self-promotion, I could do it in a way that informed those who actually wanted to know of me and our services. It helped that when my business had grown to a sufficient size, I could talk about “us” rather than just about “me.” Somehow the concept of “us” offering a service was easier to talk about than just “me” offering the same thing.
To be honest, I sometimes still find that I need to psych myself up for some necessary business tasks. For example, I got to the place where I would market myself even when I didn’t feel like it. And the usual result was that a relationship that began with a marketing focus grew closer to a friendship.
The good marketing days came more frequently as I figured out that my main task was to allow the referrer to know who I really was and give him or her a chance to like me. Once I stopped thinking of marketing as trying to sell something but instead just tried to share myself with the referrer, the connections flowed more comfortably. I discovered that most referrers were glad to be “bothered” by my call or visit. And as I learned to trust in my winsomeness and relationship-building skills and depend less on sales techniques, I became more comfortable.