Working with women entrepreneurs I often hear the term ‘heart-centred’ business. They tell me they’re running a 'heart-centred' business or they want to run a 'heart-centred' business. There's nothing wrong with wanting to run a business 'from your heart' but all too often the heart can begin to rule the head and when you run a business you need to keep your head.
What is a heart-centred business?
It's a popular term but sometimes when I ask what they mean by a 'heart-centred' business the women I work with struggle to give me an answer. They're not really sure what it means. Heart-centred entrepreneurship isn't social entrepreneurship. Although social entrepreneurs operate heart-centred businesses by definition, heart-centred businesses are not necessarily social enterprises. A business that falls into the category of social entrepreneurship aims to solve a specific social problem using the for-profit business model. Heart-centred entrepreneurship isn't philanthropy either.
So what is it?
I recently listened to an interview with a successful entrepreneur who provides emergency food kits. He kind of fell into it so it’s not like he sat down trying to figure out what his greatest gift was and how he could serve others. At first glance you might even think the business preys on the fears of the vulnerable or slightly whacky (you know those same people who build nuclear bunkers at the end of the garden and stay inside for three weeks every time there’s a report of a case of bird-flu 6000 miles away). Yes, some of his customers fell into that category but when I listened to him talk about the business I could hear his passion. His main customer is the government and the end users are people in the Armed Forces and workers in relief organisations providing emergency food supplies to areas of the world struck by natural disasters. The majority of their customers are people in dire need in a genuine emergency, not people stock-piling out of a misguided sense of panic. This business owner rarely gets thank you emails. The people whose lives they improve are busy rebuilding them. They will never know where their emergency food supplies came from. His website is functional not beautiful. But this man runs a heart-centred business. He’s passionate about his business and improving the lives of others. It just doesn’t look like it at first glance.
A heart-centred business is simply a business driven by the passion and motivation to provide something that impacts the lives of your customers in a positive way. So to that effect most businesses are heart-centred businesses. That’s why I don’t claim to run a heart-centred business. To me it’s a given for running a successful, modern business. But the key phrase here is 'successful business'. Here are the top 5 mistakes I most often see women who run 'heart-centred businesses' make that get in the way of business success .
1. Forgetting that the purpose of a business is to make a profit
A heart-centred business is just that – it’s a business and when it comes to running a business you need to keep a cool head. The aim of a business is to make a profit but many ‘heart-centred’ business owners forget this. They can even feel uncomfortable making a profit. More often they simply don’t run their business like a business. They don’t pay close enough attention to all the different functions required to run any business (even if initially you fulfil most of those functions yourself). They simply don’t take running a business seriously enough. They’re so busy trying to ‘do what they love’, ‘serve others’ and ‘share their unique gifts’ they forget the fundamental principle of running any business and that is that in order to improve the lives of as many people as possible your business needs to grow and in order to grow your business needs to make a profit.
2. Working too many hours
Whether you are a coach, consultant or therapist or sell products online or on the high street, heart-centred business owners nearly always fall into the trap of working too many hours. They put their all into their business. Heart-centred entrepreneurs are often found working evenings and weekends in order to serve as many people as they can or simply to keep the business going. Finding ways for your business to operate without you there are critical for the health of both you and your business.
3. Not charging enough
Heart-centred entrepreneurs often feel guilty about charging for their products and services at all, never mind charging what they’re worth. This week alone three different clients have told me they feel bad about charging for their product or service. One of my clients is a children’s counsellor. She has no problem charging the schools and institutions she works with but charges a paltry £20 an hour to her private clients. She feels bad that they’re already going through a tough time and can’t really afford her services. It’s okay to make provision in your business to help those that can’t afford your premium services but it needs to be a strategic business decision. It needs to be designed into your business as part of your overall business plan, one that also includes the business making a healthy profit. Options to help those that can't afford your products or services access them include:
- Providing products at different price points so that everyone can afford to access your products or services in some way.
- Offering payment plans.
- Providing scholarships, give-aways and competitions.
- Setting up a foundation.
- Supporting a charity.
But not charging enough is not the way to run a heart-centred business because you’ll soon go out of business.
4. Not marketing your products and services
Heart-centred entrepreneurs often feel extremely uncomfortable marketing and selling their products and services. They’re afraid of coming across salesy or pushy. This can often be the biggest hurdle the heart-centred entrepreneur faces. They open their shop or publish their website and then expect the customers to come to them, as if somehow the ‘heart-centredness’ of their business will draw people in like a magnet. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Even charities have to market their business. When I teach marketing I first teach the traditional 4 Ps (Product, Price, Place and Promotion) and then I teach the 4 Cs. The 4 Cs are a customer-focused version of the 4 Ps (Customer needs, wants & values, Cost to Customer, Convenience, Communication). The 4 Cs are a great way to think about marketing for the heart-centred entrepreneur because they shift the focus away from the product and onto the customer.
5. Giving too much away for free
Giving away valuable free content or other free gifts is a legitimate marketing strategy. Valuable free content drives people to your website. Valuable free content gets people onto your list. Free introductory coaching sessions get people to sign up for your paid coaching programs. Free samples get people to buy your products. But heart-centred entrepreneurs often fall into the trap of giving almost everything away. They feel guilty taking their customers’ money - even if their customers have plenty of it. It's the coach who offers free session after free session and never actually charges for her services. It's the therapist who charges but lets every session last twice as long as scheduled. It's the interior decorator who designs all her friends' rooms for free. It's the gift shop owner who keeps 'throwing in' something each time a customer buys something even though this isn't a deliberate pricing strategy.
Is this you?
Running a heart-centred business doesn’t mean you should let your heart rule your head. The key thing to remember is that you’re really not much use to anyone broke and burned out because you work too many hours, barely turn a profit and give everything away for free. The more profit your business makes, the more lives you can improve by creating better products and services, reaching more people or making enough money to enable you to support non-profit ventures in line with the values of your business. The fewer hours you work in your business the more energy you will have to grow the business, create your own social enterprise or spend time on the non-profit ventures dear to your heart.
Let me know if you are guilty of making any of these mistakes in your business. What does a heart-centred business mean to you? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.