Fresh out of school, I entered the world of business with nothing but motivational punch lines and a desperate desire to have a project to call my own. I wish I knew that building a business was much more than ‘being my own boss’, or that beyond vague ideas floating in the sky, it required a rigorous application of specific skills to keep it grounded, to make it work.
Now, almost 10 years after the fact, and with a pipeline of failures from that long ago season, I have had the opportunity to explore a different career trajectory, howbeit within businesses and businesslike settings. I have also freelanced and consulted for small business owners. Most importantly, I have had the good fortune of looking back over the years to assess my failures and learn what went wrong.
Although I can’t exactly say I am now ready to set up a shop and sell, I understand better certain elements that help a growing business to stand out. One of them is how you introduce yourself or business to prospective clients. Below are two quick nuggets.
1. Ditch the Title. Settle for Your Job Description.
You go for a networking event and young people take the mic to say things like: I am Chief Intelligence Officer of so and so. Or maybe you know at least one person who introduces themselves as Dr-Pastor-Engineer-Ms. We like verbose and complex descriptors because somehow, we feel they make us sound more important. Unfortunately, big titles don’t always lead to that outcome.
Let me put it simply. Unless you are CEO of Google or Facebook, people are more likely to remember your job description that the office you occupy.
Think of the effect of these two sentences.
A. Hey, I’m Ajala, a Creative Communication Strategist
B. Hey, I’m Ajala, I work with small businesses to create compelling business stories that increase their sales
2. Forget Qualifications, Express Your Passions
I recently read a resume that listed off some of the most competitive schools in the world. Interestingly, as soon as my team and I saw it, we knew it was fluff. The thing is, the world is way past the era of slamming a Harvard degree on your CV and letting the name of big brands echo on your resume. People don’t necessarily only want to hear what qualifications you have; they want to know if you can deliver. Does your business have a track record? Can you reference the kind of service you claim to provide? Etc. As a freelancer, I can say confidently that clients are more convinced by what you have done than by what technical training you received. Mostly at least. Again, look at these two examples:
A. I have an MBA from INSEAD
B. Last year, my team and I had the opportunity to work on the up-launch campaign for the Youth-Connect program.
In a conversation with another friend who was going for an interview, I said to her: You know this stuff. You have done the work. Own it. Speak about your passion. These are the same words I choose to end this piece with.
Business in Nigeria is not particularly linear. And the bottle necks and bureaucracy can be unnerving. But focus on the work. The ones you have done and the ones you are trying to do. Hopefully, your passion and experience will bring new opportunities.
Are you a business owner? How do you introduce yourself?