Do What You Love – Love What You Do
She sat across from me at an old card table, her makeshift desk in the back of a storage room. We were surrounded by piles of clothes that needed hanging and boxes that needed unpacking. Pulling on her bottom lip, staring into a cup of cold coffee, she sighed heavily, “I just don’t understand. Sales are declining. I keep adding product lines. I even tried adding ‘hip clothes’ to attract younger shoppers… but it’s just not working.”“How many clothing lines do you offer now?” I asked. “About twenty-two,” she said. “Plus, I’ve started carrying stationary, candles, scarves, and collectible figurines. But they aren’t selling either.” She sighed and put her head in her hands. “I’m so tired of trying to make this work.”
“What you’re tired of,” I said, putting my hand on hers, “is trying to be all things to all people. And that is not a good idea, in business… or in life.”
See the Forest for the Kudzu
My business partner, Heather, and I learned to do less the same way we learned all the other business lessons – the hard way. We have been growing our branding agency, Kudzu Brands, for seven years. In that time, we have definitely tried to do and be all things to many people. We wanted to take care of every client and every employee, no matter how imperfect the fit might be. We wanted to offer every marketing service our clients requested. We wanted to do all this while being all things to our children, our spouses, our parents, and our friends as well.
There were many days we couldn’t remember if we had eaten lunch or stopped staring at Windows long enough to look out the window. We were stretched, starved, pale-skinned versions of our former selves. We knew something had to change. We eventually learned that to reclaim our lives, and our business, we must first clear a path. And then, we had to collectively narrow our focus so we didn’t get into the weeds of overwhelm ever again!
Make Your Passion Your Paycheck
When we meet with new clients for the first time, we begin by asking, “What is the one thing you love doing the most in your business?” We also ask, “Who is the one client you wish you could conduct all of your business with?” Then we tell them to not spend another penny trying to do or to attract anything else! That news is not often well received. However, we know, after years of providing brand strategy to hundreds of businesses, that when you narrow your focus, magical things happen.
Think of some of your favorite brands, the companies you admire. They are known for doing one thing really well, aren’t they? That one thing is usually what they are the most passionate about. Passion is always the difference maker.
When you are doing what you love, what excites you, it shows in your work and your customer’s overall experience. When you are offering products or are working with customers that aren’t the right fit because you think you have to, or because you are afraid not to, both you and your business will suffer.
Just Say No
While I am doing better at narrowing focus in my business, my husband will report that I am famous for over scheduling every other available minute of my week, only to collapse in bed exhausted – or worse, sick – on Friday afternoon. If I were to take a hard look at all the things I am saying yes to, I imagine only a small percentage of them really excite me.
I encourage you to look at your business in the same way. If you are saying “yes” to everyone and everything, you are really saying “no” to yourself, and to your business. There’s another wise expression, “When you try to be for everyone, you are for no one.”
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
“What makes you get out of bed and come here every morning?” I asked her. She ran a finger over the hem of a folded sweater. “I love helping women feel beautiful.”
“Who, exactly?” I asked. “Which women?”
“Women my age,” she said, “the ones who have laugh lines, and maybe a few gray hairs, but who still want to express their style… and look great.”
“So, not young, hip girls?” I asked. “Gosh, No!” she exclaimed, smiling for the first time that day.
“And, candles. Do you love candles?” I asked. “No”, she smirked, “They give me a headache”.
A few months later, she called to tell me that she had reduced her product lines down to six locally sourced clothing brands targeted to active middle-aged women. She had started using her favorite customers in her print ads and had begun hosting fashion shows just for women her own age who wanted to look and feel fantastic And guess what? As her heart soared, so did her sales.
Murphy Funkhouser Capps is the co-owner and CEO of Kudzu Brands, a full service branding agency with offices in Black Mountain and Asheville. She and her business partner, Heather Johnson, have supported the growth of hundreds of local and regional brands. Learn more about their work and their company at www.kudzubrands.com.