The freak flag flies whether you like it or not.


A few days ago I watched a woman give a presentation who is smart, funny, dynamic, a terrific speaker. She’s got that Grit. She tells it like it is and she’s not afraid to be seen in all her gesturing, funny-face, loud-voice glory.

So when she said toward the end of her presentation, “my personality is nowhere on my website or social media channels,” I felt… sad.

Because that means if you never meet her in person (and you probably won’t, since she can only do so many speaking gigs), you never get a taste of her “freak flag.”

She’s not flying it anywhere on the internet. Not on her website. Not on her social media channels.

You never get to hear her approach to her work. Her shouts, her claps, her eye-rolls (swear to God they’re audible).

You don’t get to hear her logic behind comparing picking a target market to driving a car.

The way she successfully pivoted her business to offer a completely different service – and what it taught her about business planning and strategy.

None of it.

After her awesome presentation, no less than 6 women (including me) stuck around to chat with her for almost another hour. She was that compelling.

“My personality shouldn’t be highlighted online, because someday I want to sell this business,” she told me. “That’s the problem with personal brands. You always have to be the face. No exit strategy.”

She explained that if she ever wants to step away from her business, she needs to create a business that is independent of her. That means repeatable processes, and procedures in place that she can hand off to employees who know how to do what she does.

As she pointed out, we all need to step away sometimes. Illness, moving, vacation, kids vacation, or just being completely wrung out, energy-wise are all unavoidable reasons to take time away.

She wants a business that functions without her.

If you set up your business to function without you, she reasoned, the business shouldn’t rely on your personality always needing to be “out there.”

Hmm. Seems like an solid argument, right?

Maybe it is. I thought about what she said for a long while after the group went our separate ways. But there’s one aspect of this argument I can’t get past.

As long as you’re the leader, you can’t suck your personality out of a business that is your brain-child. Even if you try.

How did I conclude this? Let’s see. …

I have worked a dozen white-collar jobs over the years. You know what all those companies had in common?

1. We were all briefed on the company’s mission statement and values.

(A handful of people far above my pay grade had gone to a retreat to hammer out these things. Maybe paid an agency to help. And then they etched them on to 2 stone tablets and carried them down a mountain. (I.e. they created a very well designed Powerpoint that sat on a shared drive somewhere.) )

2. We had our approach to the daily operation of the business that we enacted every damn day. Day in, day out.

3. #1 and #2 were totally different.

#1 came from what our leaders said they were about. #2 came from what our leaders were ACTUALLY about, but didn’t write down. “Company culture,” you might call it.

The thing about starting your own business is that #1 and #2 can (finally!) be the same thing.

But it doesn’t happen inadvertently. You have to recommit to the mission and values every day. And writing your own copy and social posts allows you to do that.

Even if you want an exit strategy, your company will be known for something. And as the founder and leader of the company you are the one who decides what that “something” is.

If you set up one-and-done website copy that doesn’t reflect your values or the personality behind your approach to the work you do, you risk misaligning 1 and 2.

You also cheat your potential customers out of getting to know your dynamic, energetic, funny actual approach to what you do. The approach that you designed. Because you’re the leader.

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