Being Authentic

I’ve been reading a book by a marketing guy Eric Karjaluoto called speak human, Outmarket the Big Guys by Getting Personal and it really ties in with information that I got at the ACV Conference last weekend. One of the workshops I attended was called the The NoBS Guide to Networking led by Sarah Beth Jones, of Nary Ordinary Business Services. Sarah Beth opened her workshop with the word “Authenticity”. I guess I never really put much thought into this concept, but last night I got to a chapter in Eric’s book that really made this term come into focus. For years, in my old job, I seemed to get into trouble for being authentic. The corporate world is one of secrets and professionalism that is truly based on untruths. We were actually asked to sign a document to not reveal secrets. Thing is, in this new world, there are no secrets. With Google, you can find out all that you want to know and some that you don’t want to know. My feeling was that if I was honest with my/their customers, the customer would trust us and trust our knowledge of making their product the best that we could make it. This was something I was reprimanded for on occasion. “Don’t discuss that with the customer”….WHY? I always questioned authority because I didn’t feel the authorities really understood the situation as being real or honest. Keep the customer in the dark.  If the customer did figure something our that we were doing there was a “damage control meeting” where everyone could get their story straight. This is just wrong.

As Eric brought to my attention last night with this…

“I open my personal life to business colleagues and like the idea that they see me as “human” first and “business-person” second. I tell other studio owners our business “secrets” and believe we have more to gain by sharing knowledge than by being secretive and paranoid. The truth is, few of our secrets are that good anyway. I’d bet that few or yours are either.We tell the truth for a few reasons. First of all, our moms told us to. I’m not trying to be funny here; that influence is still hard-wired into us. It’s also easier. We’re  not forced to remember which stories we told to which people. We don’t have to worry about inconsistencies from exaggerating. Aim for transparency and just put it out there. Edit as little as possible and speak as plainly as you can. You might be surprised by the results.”

Social media is changing the way we interact with people. When I first started using Facebook, I would lay in bed at night and try to think of a clever status update. One of my Facebook friends always has a very clever one liner and it is really refreshing to see what he has written. The longer I use FB, I find that I’m not sharing as much as I did when I began using the media. While at the conference I heard comments from folks of my own generation like, “it is TOO personal”. BUT, I think that is why it works. By being yourself and adding good days and bad day comments, others see you as human and they identify with you better. I no longer share what I am having for breakfast but I will share my successes or just check in to let everyone know that I am still alive. But from a business perspective, I think that since Facebook, Pinterest, my blog and my Etsy shop all have the ability for clients, customer, fans or friends to comment on my work, critique my work or praise my work, I can benefit from this interaction.  My business can benefit from this interaction. And I am being real, honest, reliable, genuine, trustworthy and AUTHENTIC.

Sarah Beth Jones’ workshop, “The NoBS Guide to Networking” addressed how to interact with someone that might end up purchasing from you. As a business person, making contacts, I don’t like a pushy sale. I like honesty. I want to build a relationship with someone before I let them know that I am in a business that they might like or want to purchase something from. Our group in the workshop came to the very same conclusion. Building a long term relationship with someone will be better in the long run than only showing up when you want something. This is what Eric refers to in his book about being open and personal with everyone. You feel much better about dealing with someone if you know that they have an interest in you that is other than business. You develop a connection to this person and you have a voice that is heard.

Herb and I love to go to the Woodstock Cafe! Coe and Jean Sherrard are the owners and they have built a wonderful business over the past several years. They do it by knowing their customers. They say hello, recognize if you haven’t been in for a while, ask you how you are, and LISTEN to what you have to say. Because they are friendly, personable and make you welcome into their environment, you want to go back. How many times do you get this service in a Walmart or a Lowe’s or a Rite Aid? We have lost this in our society and it is really a shame.

As I go forward, building new relationships and growing my small business, I have the ability to take each new “fan” as a gift, learning from them as they learn from me. Hopefully, I can develop the kinds of relationships that will make others want to know what I have to offer and how I can help them and that I really do care about their life.

In doing my google search of some terms for this post I came across an additional article on authenticity that you might also enjoy reading…Dan Erwin’s blog about Career Development

 

Berea, Berea Beloved…

This is the Official Berea College Logo. It is...

Image via Wikipedia

In 1976, I was accepted to Berea College and really had no idea how my life was about to change forever. I’ve been thinking about Berea a lot lately. I have reconnected with many Berea alumni through Facebook and that has really been a wonderful thing. Berea people seem to all have a lot in common.

I have a friend from high school, (one of only 3 that I have allowed into my Facebook page) who has a daughter who is a Senior in high school and in the winter was looking to find the right college fit.  I had her look at Berea to see if she might consider Berea as one of her choices. Due to the less expensive cost for the education, Berea is unique, because if you make too much money, you can’t get in. It is primarily for students from the Appalachian Region who have the brains but not the financial means to go to school. In my case, I paid a full term bill because I was receiving Social Security money from my father’s death when I was 13. I didn’t have the grades to get in and got in on letters of recommendations. But once there, I managed to become a dean’s list student. I needed to get away from a home life where there was no emphasis on education. And I needed to see the importance of education on my life. At any rate, I paid about $4,ooo for a 4 year education. The cost of Berea is much higher now. but is still very affordable for students without the funds to go to college at all.

Melvin, (Steven's partner) Susan Strickler-Polstra & Steven Summerville

When I graduated from Berea in 1980, I had met the love of my life, had experienced classes that allowed me to think critically about things that I never would have thought about, and make valuable friendships that I hope to keep for the rest of my life. Thanks to Facebook, I have reconnected with so many wonderful Berea folks and I also have to say that has made a big difference too.

Dorothy Tredennick with students in 1980 at my wedding

Recently, I went back to Berea. I had not been there for almost 20 years. My art history professor, Dorothy Tredennick had passed away in February and her memorial was being held March 18th. I rode there with a potter friend, whom I hadn’t seen in over 30 years. Dorothy was 96 years old and had led an incredible life of travel and teaching and inspiring her students. The service was more of a celebration of her life than a memorial. She was the kind of teacher that expected much from her students and while that kind of teacher can be hard to like, Dorothy was loved by all.

I didn’t make it onto the quadrangle to see much of how that part of campus has changed but made it inside the main block in the center of town. The students all look like a next generation of the students I went to school with. Porter Moore Drugstore, as it was when I was there is now a coffee cafe, equipped with wi-fi and espresso machines and sofas. The fountain counter is now a serving counter full of pastries and goodies with the typical chalkboard menus behind the counter on the wall like you would see in any large city. Yet the students still have the look of being from small towns and full of promise for a bright future after their Berea experience.

back of Boone Tavern, new drive up portico

me, Melvin, Joanna Griffin & Margaret Beasley

 

The disturbing thing about my visit back to my alma mater though is the change that looks like a marketing ploy. Boone Tavern is no longer owned by the college but by the Marriott Corp and it has the look and feel of a Marriott now instead of a unique hotel full of handmade crafts made by the students. I was told that the president of the college no longer lives on campus with the students but has a home in Richmond, KY, 15 miles up the road and is rumored to own a home in Northern VA. Not really the type of individual that seems to be relating to his students in terms of their backgrounds or needs. And the student crafts are being downsized and are changing, I’m sure due to the recession,  but the college is known for the student crafts as well as the top education that it offers the students. A Kentucky Artisan center has been positioned at a new Berea exit and it makes you wonder if the proximity to the college was on purpose to make it’s success play off the reputation of the college crafts.

On a positive note, I didn’t see that there are food courts and the kinds of additions to the college that I know many universities are spending their money on for the students that don’t add value to the student’s overall education. I saw additions to buildings that were definitely improvements such as a large addition to the music building to allow for a new elevator (which was much needed 30 years ago) and the elimination of the glass walkway on the art building to allow for more hanging space in the gallery. These are both good changes that are adding to the educational value for the students.

Union Church, Sally Wilkerson (fiber arts professor) on front pew

What a great way to spend a reunion! Celebrating a life well lived, reconnecting with friends and seeing change.