Authenticity - Your Small Business Competitive Edge

Have you ever been around someone and wanted to say - “Just stop the facade and be real, please!”

Original photo by Ryan McGuire.

Original photo by Ryan McGuire.

Maybe you’ve seen posts on Facebook or Instagram that seemed fake to you. Like the person was putting up a facade and not being authentic. 

I got an email recently that epitomized this feeling in me. It just seemed like a front. I so wanted to hit Reply and write “Now, tell me what is actually going on, because I know it isn’t all coming up roses.” 

I also have this feeling with some businesses. There is a slick front on the outside, but when you start to dig in, you find that it’s a whitewashed tomb with dead bodies buried in the back (not literally, unless it kinda is).

I’m so thankful that I echo my generation when I say that I want businesses to be transparent, honest and authentic. Because I can buy into a business that is real. I can trust a business that is honest, even if it’s not perfect. 

The profit god and the facade

Big businesses are generally obligated to pleasing shareholders. Because of this, big businesses largely worship the god of profit.* There are regular sacrifices of quality, integrity and social conscious to the profit god. 

The big business's dilemma is that the general consumer doesn’t like that the business worships and sacrifices to the profit god, but the big business needs to please the consumer in order to make money. 

So the big business’s solution: to construct a facade. 

Make the front shiny and pretty. Build the walls high so that customers can’t see our process. Construct the walls wide so they can’t see our suppliers. Put a sign out front that says we’re giving money to charity to ensure customers think we’re a great business, even though our very process exploits third-world workers.

The advantage small businesses have - straight-forward authenticity

Small businesses are not required to please shareholders. Small businesses are often started because an entrepreneur saw a need and had an ability (and hopefully a passion) to meet that need. * This gives your small business a razor-sharp advantage.

You can be more authentic than big businesses. You don’t have to worry about pleasing a host of shareholders. You can do what you know to be right. You can share your suppliers, your process and your genuine heart. Being open and honest makes your business shine like a light through the slew of dark, untrustworthy ones. 

What I’m not saying you should share

Don’t truck out your garbage to your customers and ask them to handle it for you. Don’t share business burdens with customers - they are yours to handle, not theirs. Your job is to serve customers, not to burden them with your business problems.

Also, don’t share anything proprietary on which your business depends. We’ll talk more about this next week, but for now, you need to understand the value that your business offers. When you understand that, you can determine how you can be transparent without losing your business in the process.

You don’t need a facade

As consumers, we will forever have our guards up in trusting businesses. But those that are open and honest have a distinct advantage. Your small business has a beautiful competitive advantage against the big boys in this. You don’t need a facade like they might.

Be an open, bright business - standing out from the slew of shady ones.


*I’m not vilifying all big businesses and extolling all small businesses. Any business can be good and any business can try to justify the means by the end.