Your business is an authentic expression of you.

A while back a close friend and owner of Petruth Paddocks asked if I could help him ‘create the coolest campsite in the South West’, which we knew, if successful would help raise market awareness and ramp up his sales in the process.

And so we set about researching ‘what makes a campsite cool?’… Location? Campfires? Dogs allowed? Activities onsite? Customer service?… Our options were endless but nothing we could definitely class as ‘cool’.

And so we sought guidance from the author of Tiny Campsites, published by Punk (Cool Camping‘s publishing arm), Dixe Wills, to which he enlightened us:

“It’s almost impossible to pin down what makes a campsite ‘cool’. If you deliberately set out to make it cool it will end up not being so – people are good at seeing through such things.

People are much more likely to warm to something that is an authentic expression of the owner’s personality than a site that is intentionally attempting a cool look.”

Bingo! Now that was definitive. And when we reflected upon it, we realised that Jules’ campsite was already run akin to his own personal expression… all we really needed to do was exaggerate the expression and make it something that others could embrace and implement themselves, with or without Jules.

And so the evolution unfolded…

  • The much loved ‘Free Range Camping’ positioning was born.
  • Cool Camping started listing them, with a 5 star customer rating.
  • Petruth Paddocks became Pitchup.com’s top seller of 2014 and 2015 beating it’s closest region competitor by 122% and it’s closest UK competitor by 23%.
  • They welcomed over 10,000 guests in 2014, an increase of over 500%.
  • They won a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor
  • And most importantly, Jules is loving the journey more than ever!

Mission accomplished.

But enough of the self-congratulatory stuff, what’s the key insight?

The more I reflect upon it the more I come to realise that every business is an authentic expression of the person who runs it, not just campsites.

The key insights being… 

  • If you deliberately try to make any business cool, creative, disruptive, efficient etc, people will see straight through it unless you yourself are deemed by others to be cool, creative, disruptive, efficient, etc.

If you want to bring about change in others (and your business), you first need to bring about positive change in yourself.

  • You are 100% responsible for your actions and therefore 100% responsible for the consequences, and how they manifest in your business.
  • You have to be prepared to ‘be the change’ yourself AND/ OR…
    Stop trying to be something you’re not and instead, embrace your true authenticity.

 

The question for many though, as it was for Jules, is what is my true authenticity?

Of course you’ll have your own ideas, but I would advise you get objective about it and seek guidance from those that experience you…

  • take an honest look at your business
  • ask customers for their reflections
  • seek feedback from staff

And be prepared to get some reflections that sit in stark contrast to your own thoughts about yourself!

But far from being a daunting prospect, this should be the most empowering opportunity for growth, self-development and reflection possible.

 

Cos if you’re prepared to change you (and/or fully embrace you), the rest will follow.

  • Staff will better understand how to take your lead.
  • Customers will better understand what to expect
  • Your marketing team will better understand how to position you and attract more authentic fans of your business.

Get this right and everything will feel a lot less contrived, you’ll be able to find your flow that much easier and your efforts will be rewarded that much more readily.

So remember as Dixe said:

“People are much more likely to warm to something that is an authentic expression of the owner’s personality than a [business] that is intentionally attempting a cool look.”

 

*And yes, before you ask, I got a ‘C’ grade GSCE in Art & Design. Does it show?