I’ve never had any formal business training, in fact my degree was Philosophy & History. I used to think it was a waste of time because it didn’t lead to a job, but now I see it as totally relevant to everything I do. Surprisingly, though, this is the first time I’m actually talking about philosophy in a blog post. Don’t worry, though, this isn’t very technical!
I’m sure you’re familiar with “ethic of reciprocity”, otherwise known as “the Golden Rule”. It’s a popular maxim in many cultures and religions and is usually quoted as:
“treat others as you would like others to treat you”
Getting to the Heart of Your Values
I write a lot about the fact that my values and my feelings are at the heart of everything I do in my business. Which is all very well, but sometimes it gets hard to tell these apart from all the noise about what we should be doing. There are so many strategies, rules and blueprints to follow that it’s hard to know what to focus on.
How do you draw the line when there’s nothing necessarily morally wrong with business strategies, but they just feel icky? Or, worse, what if you just can’t decide?
This is where the Golden Rule comes into play: do in your business what you don’t mind other people doing in theirs.
- Do you feel bad about the use of scarcity, like limited places or deadlines, when people are selling products or courses?
- Does it really annoy you when people use pop-ups, does it put you off their website completely, or are you ambivalent?
- Does it feel frustrating when something you bought at full price is discounted right after you bought it?
- Are you angry about a brand's lack of diversity and inclusivity?
Use your answer to those questions, your responses to other business marketing to you, to help you decide whether to employ certain strategies yourself.
Get in the habit of noticing when you feel uncomfortable, asking yourself why, and making a mental note not to do the same thing.
It can even apply the other way around. How do you treat other business owners, and does that match the way you’d like them to treat you?
- Do you support creatives by sharing their work, commenting on their posts, or leaving them reviews or testimonials?
- If you have the means, do you support other business owners financially, by purchasing their products, donating money, hiring them, supporting them on Patreon or referring them to others?
- Do you constantly try to beat people down on price, even though you find it exhausting when people do the same to you?
- Are you frequently late for appointments, or do you cancel at the last minute?
- Do you constantly push boundaries and ask for free advice?
I feel like treating other business owners the way we would like to be treated in our business is also a very important part of doing work in a way that feels good and in alignment with our values.
An Important Caveat
There’s one caveat to the rule. A lot of us simply feel uncomfortable selling what we do not because we really think it’s wrong, but because we’re afraid. Afraid of what people might think, afraid of people unfollowing, maybe even afraid of actually selling the thing and it not being good enough.
You absolutely get to choose how to sell your thing, but you do need to sell it if you’re running a business. You can do this very subtly – and you may even find that word of mouth becomes your main sales tool as you grow – but your business has to be financially sustainable.
So when you notice any uncomfortable feelings or “ickiness” about what you do, be discerning about whether that feeling is coming from your values, or your fear.
Running a business based on your values is an ongoing practice. It takes a lot of inner work. But it’s so, so worth the peace and fulfilment that comes with knowing you’re doing everything in alignment with your values. More than that, it helps build the very best kind of relationship with your customers, which can only do good things for the profitability of your business, too.