What does honesty look like as a business owner?
Honesty and transparency are at the core of what we do. Or so we say. When we founded The Social Brand, these words quickly entered the conversation. We wanted to be a marketing company that was honest, forthcoming with people and transparent even if it hurt.
But, this is a blog about real life and real life doesn’t always fit into a nice box. So, today I want to break out of the box.
We are a marketing agency. Generally, I like to be a girl who gets to say yes to people.
“Yes, we can make your website do that.”
“Yes, social media really can grow your business that much.”
“Yes, we can Photoshop that out.”
But, over time this becomes a habit. Say yes… to everything.
Maybe I shouldn’t say yes to something because it will hurt the quality of everything else that our team is working on right now. Maybe a certain client isn’t a great fit for me, or maybe (and sometimes this happens) someone else could better meet a company’s needs better than our team could.
Maybe trying to “be there for someone” means I don’t practice the self-care I need to that day and my staff gets the uglier side of me. Maybe, in saying yes, I take time away from my husband or my parents when I was looking forward to seeing them and they had made plans to see me.
So, the gnarly part of this habit I have formed in the time I’ve been in this business is that it’s spread. I’ve noticed myself being a “yes” girl in my relationships, in my family, in my friendships, with my business partner, and with my staff. Something would happen and it would bother me. Then, rather than being honest, I would swallow it down, smile, and work harder.
But about six weeks ago, something shifted in me. I realized, hey, I promise honesty and transparency to the people in my life. Why do I think this doesn’t apply to my feelings, too? Don’t people deserve to get the genuine version of me?
At first the transparency was a bit uncomfortable. It was scary to not be the yes girl. To say, “No, I’m sorry I wish I could do that last minute thing for you, but this weekend I need to sit still and recenter.” or “No, I can’t get that project over to you by tomorrow. You deserve my best effort at your project and I need more than 24 hours to do my best work.”
It was scary because I thought I was letting my clients down! I thought I was leaving money on the table. I thought maybe my clients would take their projects to someone else. And, yes, when you say no, sometimes you lose work. I have to say though, I am truly blessed to work with brands who didn’t freak out and find a new marketing agency. Instead, when I said no, their response would look something like, “Ok, no problem. Thanks, Victory!” and I would be looking at their email in disbelief, like, “Really? They don’t care?”
The pressure I had put myself under to say yes even when I shouldn’t was related to that huge fear. That saying no would cause this huge, explosive reaction that would threaten my business and my ability to stay in business…. But, then I got a thumbs up emoji and none of my clients even cared. But you know who did care? My family. My mental health. My friends. The people I work with. When I was present and centered and could do my best.
With practice and with time, it grew into more important things like, “Hey, it bothers me when you talk to me in that tone of voice or use those words with me.” or “No, you can’t talk to my staff like that, they deserve your respect.” (The people who know me well, know that the one thing that will get me fired up faster than anything is people mistreating my staff. Mama bear alert!) or the best thing ever – putting my phone on “do not disturb” after 10 PM. (Hello quality of life!)
Ultimately, I think the thing that has shocked me the most, is that saying no means that my yeses are more valuable. The quality of my work has improved, I’m meeting my deadlines, I’m implementing strategies “I haven’t had time for” (for years now), I’m sleeping better, and when I say yes, you get a smile with it.
Because saying no sometimes, means that I get to be present more of the time.
There’s been a pretty amazing side effect though – my business has grown!
But I haven’t gotten to the best part. My relationships have improved. I’m closer to the people in my life, because I don’t have my “yes” face on. I am allowing myself to be honest and transparent without forcing myself into the box.
It still freaks me out, when I have to set a boundary with someone in my life because it’s still something I’m not used to. I listened to a podcast last week that compared setting boundaries to a muscle that for many people is weak, and the more you do it – the stronger it gets.
This week, I challenge you to say no at least once.
Victory Harbin is one of the owners of The Social Brand and is a content strategist. She helps people be smart about using content to get the best results to grow their business.