What is a “heart-centered business”, and how can you run one while still making a profit? This term came up at the Radical End-Of-Year Party in Sydney. Just before we wrapped the evening, we took a few audience questions. One woman stood up, and said,
“I don’t want to be aggressively self-promotional. I want to run a heart-centered business. What are your top tips for doing that?”
I’ve been thinking about this ever since it was asked.
Firstly, let’s define “heart-centered business”. There are always new terms floating around, and before we jump right on them and adopt them as our own, I think it’s valuable to dissect them and figure out what they really mean.
WHAT IS A HEART-CENTERED BUSINESS?
I’d define a heart-centered business as one with a central mission of doing good. Maybe you’re showing people how to eat better, coaching them to a happier life, or giving them tools to help them grow their business, but whatever it is, it’s something you really believe will improve your customer’s life. Your aim is to improve the world in some way. Most female entrepreneurs that I meet are on this track: they’re doing something they love, and something they feel adds value to the world.
It might sound surprising, but I haven’t met a lot of people who are in business for themselves purely for profit. For most of us, money is not a big enough motivation. Money doesn’t usually keep us interested or challenged: there has to be a larger purpose.
This is the age of doing work that matters, and for most of us, if you feel like what you do doesn’t make an impact, no amount of money will keep you there.
Being heart-centered means that you’re adding light to the world. Of course you want to do something that adds value! It all makes perfect sense.
…BUT THE EMPHASIS IS ON THE WORD BUSINESS
This is the bit that I keep circling back around to. Heart-centered or not, you are running a business. A business is a profit-making venture. Anything else is a hobby.
The phrase “heart-centered business” is very female. In my lifetime, I have only met one man who used this phrase. In some ways, I wonder if saying your work is “heart-centered” is a way of skirting all those things we think of as being typically “unfeminine”: self-promotion, making a huge profit, being assertive (if not aggressive), and going after what we want.
The woman who asked this question at the Radical End Of Year Party was very clear about the fact that she did not want to be aggressive, pushy, or “salesy”. The idea of a heart-centered business felt much more comfortable to her.
Let’s be real. You don’t have to be aggressive in the way that you market yourself and your products, but you do have to market them! You don’t have to spam your customers or shout in all-caps on Twitter in order to make an impact or to promote what you do, but you do have to tell people what you’re doing! There are so many ways to market yourself in a non-douchey way; in fact, we have a Home School module on this very subject!
An easy way to assess whether your business tactics are shitty or short-sighted is to ask yourself whether your business would piss you off if you were a customer. For example, if getting three emails from a company every week aggravates you, don’t send three emails a week! Just do what you feel comfortable with. Don’t worry that maybe you’re being annoying and just don’t know it. People will always let you know!
There’s no need to yell from the mountaintops if that’s not your style. But you do need to be clear about what you do, who your customer is, and why you’re the clear choice. Otherwise, no one will buy what you’re offering. At The Blogcademy, when I teach women about writing a great About page, they are so hesitant to declare themselves as an expert, or even as someone worth listening to. If you don’t tell people they should pay attention to what you say, why would they?!
It is not bad to go after what you want, to state your needs, to have big goals, to be ambitious. It is not wicked to make money, or tell people about what you do. In fact, if you don’t do those things, your business will fail.
You are only as powerful as you will allow yourself to be, so stop playing small! Don’t shrink down to make other people comfortable. Don’t water it down. Don’t be Diet You. BRING IT! We need you!
By the way, all those people that come to mind when you think about “heart-centered business”? I know them. They’re wonderful, smart women. The thing they all have in common — aside from wanting to help others — is that they are 100% clear on the fact that they are running a business. As much as their focus is on adding value to other people’s lives, they are also thinking about the bottom line. They are not just messing around, and perhaps most crucially, they all have the killer instinct that is required to make a business sing. They are constantly planning, thinking, strategising. That’s an essential part of getting your business over the hurdle from good to great.
Let me reiterate: you don’t have to run your business in an aggressive, unpleasant way. You Don’t Have To Fuck People Over To Survive. It’s totally possible to do business in a positive, thoughtful way. But in order to make the impact you seek, you have to step into your power fully. You have to own it.
Sometimes that can be scary. But if you really want to add to the world, you have to stand up and be heard.
Photos by the superbly talented Kate Dyer.