I was fortunate to grow up being raised by two strong women. Well, I was fortunate to have had two parents present in general.
My mom and grandma both taught and told me many things through life. One thing, which was repeatedly told to me on a daily basis was that I was loved. The second thing they often reminded me off was that I was amazing, and that they were very proud of me. Sometimes these could come out of nowhere, and I remember finding myself thinking “okeeey, all I’m doing is watching TV, weirdo.. but thanks..”
They weren’t telling me these things just as a reward for the things I did well. They just wanted to remind me that no matter what I do in life, or who I end up being, they will always love and support me unconditionally.
Today I realize they were building up a base of confidence. A confidence to get out in the world and dare to try and learn new things, and to prepare myself to take on and handle all kinds of shit life throws at you. Shit I had at that age yet been spared from and was still naively unaware of. Shit I would one day have to deal with myself, when they no longer were around to support me.
The third thing they repeatedly reminded me off was that I should always treat other people with kindness, because people are generally good, no matter where they come from, how much money they have or don’t have, which God they believe in or don’t believe in - “except Gypsies,“ my grandma used to add. “Never trust beggers. You work for your money, understood?”
I also remember them saying I should always use my voice and stand up for myself and others if I would witness anyone doing wrong - to myself or others. “The world’s survival relies on good people,” my grandma, a survival of 2nd WW, used to tell me. “Without civil courage, we are cavemen. And before you know it we’ll have a new Hitler. Just wait and see. Just look at that alfons in Russia.” (Alfons in Polish means douchebag - kinda.)
The fifth thing I remember they often told me after giving me any kind of advice was “trust me, I’m right, but you do what feels best.”
Now, some of these just don’t add up, do they? Those “buts” always confused me. I respected my mom and grandma, but I also lost that respect sometimes. I often talked back at them. I used their arguments and teachings against them. “Why do you hate all Gypsies grandma, you always say that people are generally good. Do you know all gypsies and know they are all bad?” I would tease her in a cocky tone.
We fought a lot at home during some periods of me growing up. I acted out quite often, like most teenagers, now that I look back, most often followed by either a slam in my door, or a complete exit from the apartment when I was reaching mid-teenager. I snuck out at nights, sometimes I came home drunk, smelling of cigarettes, trying to wiggle in to my room, sometimes my boyfriend right behind me.
Side track: Nothing moved an inch in the apartment without my grandma, or the 'watchdog' as I and mom used to (read: still) call her, knowing about it. Me trying to sneak in in the middle of the night included. Just as I thought I had safely managed to lock the door without any sounds (a master skill I’d learned from experience, knowing exactly how I should hold the key and push the door knob up while turning the key) and I was turning around for the last part of my well-thought out plan by my drunken teenager brain: to slowly tip-toe in to my room and fall asleep, I would find her in my face, scaring me sober. And then, as you might understand, hell would break loose, which would even wake up my mom, or 'sleeping beauty' as both I and grandma used to call her because she would sleep so deep and never manage to wake up before 10 on weekends, or without the worst mood when she had to crawl up and out of bed at 7 am to be at work at 8 am during the weekdays. My grandma suffocated me. She was the over-protective parent. I was to go nowhere without her. My mom was the opposite. Every day, she asked me to "take a walk around the blocks and find our dinner restaurant" just so she could have a piece of mind and get ready without me impatiently starring and complaining at her in our small hotel room whenever we went on a vacation. "I have a mission for you," she used to start to get me excited, and ended it with "Now, get back in 1 hour, and with results, please." (I was 7)
Both my grandma and mom were born in Poland, and raised catholic. They still are somewhat religious, and believe in a God, although they don’t go to church more than once a year. They chose to raise me atheist, to make my own choice of religion when I grow up. I was to stay put and nicely wait for my cousins while they went to church every Sunday when I spent my summers with them in Poland. The longest hour in my life, I remember. I sat glued to either the window looking for them, or along the wall outside the house, waiting for them to come back so we could resume whatever play or shenanigans we had planned for that day.
The same went for politics. They did share what party they voted for, but they would never argue for why. “Do your own research,” they used to reply when I asked them why they voted like they did. They wanted me to form an opinion on my own. Very noble and open-minded thought, but useless in my case since politics didn’t interest me at that time (still doesn't to be honest). But it did add to who I am today, just like all those other small upbringings.
Did I adopt all their values? Absolutely not. They influenced me, for sure. I know today that they wanted me to become my own individual, with my own set of ground values and open to question them. An independent strong woman who dared to voice my opinion and question authority. Maybe because they both came from times where there weren’t room made for those. Either way, it made me who I am today: throwing myself at new things, doing my best at whatever I endure in life, not afraid to fail or be judged, constantly questioning opinions and rules, but foremost: being grateful for everything that comes my way - bad or good. I can't wait to see who I become when I grow up.
And what the hell does this have to do with small-businesses, you might wonder?
Our processes in life - whether personal or business-related, are subconsciously based on our values. Now, values will differ from one to another, we all know that. Values are also interchangeable - and that is a good thing, because it challenges us to evolve as humans - given you’re open-minded enough. They will lay ground to our acts - personal or business-related. As long as we act according to our values and we stay true to ourselves, we tend to feel stable and grounded. Some will agree with us, and some won't. That’s what authenticity is based on - your actions. Actions speak louder than any words. You need to stay true to yourself in order to be perceived as authentic - whether people agree with you or not. And authenticity is a key ingredient to build trust. Trust is a key ingredient in a successful longterm business relationship.
To finish off by giving you a more tangible example of how I implement one of my values in my business: I charge my clients the same prices. I’ve been asked for discounts on my consultancy packages many times. I always say no, because 1) I’m worth paying for and 2) why the hell should I give one client a discount, but not the other one?
Imagine you go to the store and buy a bracelet. You proudly show it to your friend and brag about how much you paid. Your friend, who happened to have bought the same bracelet reacts by showing his or hers, adding he/she only paid 3/4 of what you paid. You would feel pretty bummed out, wouldn’t you? Your friend would also question if someone didn’t get an EVEN BETTER price than he/she. Most probably, both you and your friend will buy your future bracelets somewhere else. And you will most probably not talk fondly about the brand to others. Discounts are a short-term manipulation in business. Sure it works, but in the long-term it can have a quite negative effect on a brand, if not even devastating. And I'm in for the long run - always.
It goes against my values to manipulate, for first, and secondly treat one person differently from another. I would therefore not be able to defend charging one client less for the same product: my competence. But, that's me. I'm not saying I'm right. If you think differently - don't hesitate to email me and let's challenge our beliefs!
As Eleanor Roosevelt so well put it: Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you'll be criticized anyway.