Do you REALLY do what you SAY you do?

I meet a lot of business owners and, of course, a question that gets asked often is "what do you do?". And it's surprising how many people don't actually answer that question!

Words have power. It's surprising how much difference a seemingly small change in the words you use can affect other people - for better or worse.

The thing is, the words you use affect YOU much more than they affect anyone else!

Now there's a very common misconception that means a lot of owner-managed businesses find it hard to realise their full potential.

Here's the thing.

The vast majority of small businesses are started by enthusiasts.

And that brings amazing benefits: they are full of energy and full of heart for what they do. They invest in their own personal and professional development to help them deliver the best service they can. They have a passion for what they do which makes them interesting and engaging.

Sometimes they have started their business because they've decided the Corporate Cube isn't for them any longer.

Sometimes it's because they've come through a life change, like having a family or being made redundant or taking early retirement.

Sometimes it's because they've discovered some sort of calling and want to devote their lives to bringing what they've learned to help others.

And sometimes it's a mixture of all of them.

The common factor is that they are all passionate  about what they do and they see their new business as being a vehicle to allow them to do more of it and make a living from it while making a genuine difference for the people they work with.

Which all sounds very lovely and enticing and worthwhile.

And in the early days it probably works, while the enthusiasm and the old networks are still capable of delivering enough business to make everything seem OK.

Sadly it's not always that easy.

Sometimes the initial success means there's no time to make sure there will still be enquiries coming in.

Sometimes the old networks run out of opportunities and the well starts to run dry.

The truth is there's a world of difference between being a practitioner of whatever you do, however excellent, and running an effective business.

It's a conversation I often have with clients.

Ask them what they do, they might say "I'm a coach", "I'm a consultant", "I'm a financial planner", "I'm an estate agent", "I'm a lawyer", "I'm an accountant", "I'm a trainer" or whatever.

Now one challenge with that is that they haven't actually answered the question! They were asked what they DO, and they've replied with who they ARE. Might sound trivial but in fact it has profound implications!

But that's a whole different story which I'll come to another time.

The point I want to talk about now, though, is that it reveals the attitude they hold about themselves and their business. And it's not an attitude that is likely to keep them focused on what needs to be done to grow the business.

Let's unpack that a bit.

When you say "I'm a this or a that", it means something. It means that in your own mind you are, first and foremost, a practitioner. And when you are speaking to prospective clients, that's not the whole story.

For a start, there are a thousand other practitioners out there who are just as good as you are. Harsh, I know, but true. So by saying that's what you are, you're allowing yourself to be just another face in the crowd.

When you're in a client meeting then, yes, you can be a coach, or a financial advisor, or a consultant or a lawyer. You're there, in the room. You've been chosen. You're no longer a face in the crowd and you can get on with doing the work you love and being what you always wanted to be.

But until that moment when you're in a secure client relationship, it will pay dividends for you to adopt a rather different attitude.

That might sound like a difficult thing to do!

But let me reassure you - you can make it happen by making a very simple change in what you say when someone asks you 'what do you do?'.

And here it is. Try this on for size:

Instead of saying "I'm a coach", say "I run a coaching business".

Instead of saying "I'm a consultant", say "I run a consulting business".

Instead of saying "I'm a financial planner",  say "I run a financial planning business".

Instead of saying "I'm an estate agent",  say "I run an estate agency".

Instead of saying "I'm a lawyer",  say "I run a law firm".

Instead of saying "I'm an accountant",  say "I run an accountancy practice".

Instead of saying "I'm a trainer" say "I run a  training business".

Now you might be asking yourself "what's the big deal here?".

Here's the point. Actually several points.

First, you're actually answering the question! As I said, more on that another time!

Second, though, your priority has changed. The conversation is no longer about the PRACTICE of what you do, it is about the BUSINESS of what you do.

You are now having a conversation about your BUSINESS which just happens to SELL the thing you practice.

What's the difference? I hear you say.

Well, for a start a business is about sales and marketing. it's about Market, Medium and Message. About opportunities. About revenue. Profit. Costs and margins. Planning. It's about strategy. Cashflow. Finding prospects and closing the sale. Systems and processes. It's about investment and return. And so much more.

AND, of course, it's ALSO about the product.

This might be an uncomfortable truth for many people, but it's vitally important you embrace it.

You don't really do what you do.

What you really do is you run a marketing and sales business that happens to sell what you do.

If that makes you uncomfortable, well that's interesting information and something for you to contemplate and work through. But do take the time to do it because it could transform the future of your business, and that means it could transform your own future and the future of your family.

I'm Jim Pirrie and I hope this has given you something to think about! Let me know in the comments.

And, as they say on the telly, if you've been affected by any of the issues we've talked about, be sure to get in touch!

That's it for now and I'll see you again, next time.