Running my business – things I’ve chosen not to do

Some of the things that I have chosen not to do as a small business owner, and the reasons for my choices.

Being the boss is great! You hear a lot about it in social media groups for small business owners. Some people don’t seem to get past the idea of being the boss – they revel in it and get excited about it. Ok, it is exciting, but as well as the boss, unless you’ve got a team of people working for you, you’re also the finance manager, the marketing manager, the website developer, the coffee maker, the communications person, and the cleaner. So you really don’t have time to strut around like a peacock enjoying the boss aspect of life, because there is actually a lot of work to be done.

Anyway that’s not what this post is about. One of the great things about being the boss is that you get to make the decisions. With power comes responsibility, but you have the chance to say “no, I’m not going to do that!” You don’t have to do things that you know are going to end badly, just because someone higher up the management food chain thought it would be a wonderful idea.

Here are some of the things that I have chosen not to do, even though other small business owners do them. In some cases it’s because I think the idea is genuinely bad. Other things are just not right for me because they don’t fit with my values or the way I want to run English with Kirsty.

What do you think about these things? Are there any that you would add? Let me know in the comments.

1. Any publicity is good

Of course I’m happy if someone retweets my tweets or shares my posts. I do the same for others. It’s good to help people out and share their work if you think it adds value to the network that you’re building.

I’ve also collaborated with other teachers – they share my stuff and I share theirs. All good. Sometimes we make podcast episodes together or contribute to resources that other people are putting together.

The problem is some of the emails I receive asking me to promote things or to have reciprocal links. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel right, and in those cases I usually say “no”. To be brutally honest, if I’m linked to a website that’s full of spelling mistakes, it’s more harmful than helpful to my brand. If a site is promoting opportunities for people to work for less than a fair wage, I don’t want to endorse that. If a site is all about activities for kids, it’s not really relevant to my audience, which is primarily made up of people who need English for work. If someone wants me to promote a service or site that I know doesn’t follow accessibility guidelines, I can’t do that, because as a disabled business owner, accessibility and good practice in this area are close to my heart. I may have lost some potential publicity, but overall I think it’s better that way. You have to be clear about who you are, what’s ok for you, and what values you want to promote.

2. Being on social media channels that I don’t enjoy

I’ve tried Instagram. It lasted about a week, but I didn’t enjoy it at all. So I closed the account and have not looked back. I’ve never been on Snapchat and Pinterest with my own account, but I know how the sites work, and I don’t feel that I want to be there.

I know this goes against the grain of some marketing advice that says you have to be everywhere, but in the same way I don’t feel the need to market to everyone, because people have such different needs, I don’t feel the need to be on every social media channel.

I’d rather do a few things well than a lot of things badly. In addition, different types of content work on different channels. For example, you have image-based content, text content, audio content, and video content. I like, and am best at, producing texts, such as blog posts, and audio content. This is why I have a blog and a podcast, and I promote them on the channels that I enjoy using and where I have built a following. After all, if you don’t like a site, you will begrudge every minute you have to spend there, and sooner or later people will pick up on that!

3. Using language that I don’t like

This occurred to me the other day. I don’t mean offensive language – my language can be pretty colourful in my spare time, but I choose not to swear on my blog or podcast because I don’t feel it fits with the professional image that I’m working to create.

I’m talking about words that become popular but that I find offensive. I’ve seen things like “let’s stalk each other” instead of “let’s follow each other on social media”, and I will never adopt this phrase. Anyone who has had a stalker knows that it’s nothing to be trivialised and it’s definitely not fun.

But I keep seeing it – is this a thing now?

I don’t care. There are other examples, but you get the idea. If I think something sounds stupid or offensive, I don’t feel the need to follow the herd and say it just because other people are.

4. Begging for shares before someone has read my content

Why do people do that? In case people forget to share? But how can you share something if you haven’t read it? It might be awful and then you’ll look stupid!

The share buttons belong after the post – not before! At best you can have sharable tweets in the middle, but not at the beginning!

The same applies to the podcast – how can I ask people to share my episodes before I share any content with them? It might be a new listener and the first thing they hear is someone begging for shares. Apart from sounding a bit desperate, that’s not really fair because you haven’t given them any value yet.

5. Follow for follow

I know a lot of people do it, but it’s pointless at best and counterproductive at worst. Ok, it inflates the numbers, but it doesn’t help if you have a load of disengaged readers who don’t care about your subject matter. In fact, on Facebook it’s actually harmful, because Facebook may penalise you for having a disengaged audience. If your audience isn’t interacting with you, the assumption is that your content isn’t very good, so this may reduce the number of people to which it is shown. Oh yes, and your own feed gets filled with irrelevant stuff – wonderful!

So, if you follow my blog, Facebook page or Twitter account, that’s great. If your content is relevant to me and I like it, I’ll follow back. But don’t ask me to. I won’t have a little cry if you stop following me just because I didn’t follow you back. I’d rather put my time into creating content that will attract people who are genuinely interested.

6. I know how you feel and I’ll make you feel worse

Yes, I know how this particular bit of marketing psychology works, and I do understand the value of describing a problem and demonstrating how your products or services can solve it. What I have a problem with is the over-the-top, in-your-face emotional abuse that some people think is ok when it comes to selling something. There’s a line and I think some people cross it. I’m not prepared to do that.

I’m happy to talk about things that I’ve experienced or to address the problems that I know many of my customers have, for example in relation to speaking English at work. But I’m not willing to manipulate people’s minds in the way that some people do. Maybe I’ll get less sales, but at least I’ll be able to sleep at night!

7. Not being clear about the mailing list

Be honest about what you’re using someone’s email address for. I’d rather be up front about the newsletter than some of the sneaky practices I see for harvesting email addresses and not being clear about exactly what people are signing up for. Not cool!

8. Fear of missing out – the newest big thing

In September 2015, it was all about Blab and Periscope. Now, I can’t remember the last time I heard someone talking about Periscope, and Blab doesn’t exist any more. So much for “you absolutely must must must be on these platforms!”

Things move fast in social media. There will always be early adopters and people who hang back to see what happens. If I think something adds value and makes sense for my business, and if it’s accessible (many fantastic new things fall at this hurdle), I’ll give it a go. But only then. I need a good return on investment when it comes to my time, and this doesn’t include running after every shiny new thing!

9. Redundant superlatives

It’s the biggest, greatest, most amazing, new programme and you absolutely, definitely, must come along!

That hurts my ears!

It’s great to be creative with adjectives, but not to the point where you sound like some pushy sales person who is desperate to meet a target.

10. Bugging people for sales!

I didn’t buy a course from someone the other day. I got an email to say there was a day left, one to say it was closing soon, one to say there was an hour left, one to say there was a special price for something related to it, and a final one to ask why I didn’t buy. Ugh! All in the space of a couple of days. I unsubscribed from the list. It was too much!

I probably should send out more emails when there is a special promotion. It’s something I need to look at. But I will never send out a series like the one I’ve just described. I don’t want to become someone with whom I wouldn’t want to do business!

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