Your Business Needs its Own Identity

As business owners who have immersed ourselves - body, mind, heart and soul – in our passion for service, we often struggle with identifying the distinction between “Me the person” and “Me the business”. While this indivisibility of identity is understandable – we are the face and voice of our business, we are the ones doing all the work and making all the decisions, we are the ones whose integrity underpins its success or failure -  it can also cause a lot of problems.

Our self-worth becomes entangled in our work to the extent that when someone unsubscribes from our mailing list, we may feel they are abandoning us. When a client is unhappy or critical of our service it becomes a personal attack. When invoices are unpaid, it means our clients don’t love or respect us… and all the other ways we make what happens in our business all about us. To counteract that, it is important to begin envisioning our business as a safe container that has an independent existence. We work in our business and we work on our business. When we are sick, or sleeping, or spending time with our family, our business continues to exist without us, and the more systems and support structures we put in place to encourage this, the better our business will be.

I want to share with you a very helpful tool that was given to me early in my business, that really helped me to grasp this concept in a way that was unforgettable. I want you to imagine three bags – your bag, your business bag, and God’s bag.

Everything to do with your business goes in your business bag. For fans of Terry Pratchett, my business bag looks like Luggage, the sapient pear wood trunk that follows its owner around on little legs, has an inexhaustible capacity, and is not averse to eating rude people who poke their noses in where they don’t belong. That to-do list that is longer than my arm? In the business bag. The bills? The big vision? The list of courses I want to create or content that needs to be scheduled? All in the business bag.

My bag, on the other hand, is a very pretty embroidered purse. Something you might take to a special occasion that only just has space for the absolute essentials, but totally completes your outfit. The goal is to only ever take one thing at a time from your business bag and put it into your bag. That way you never get overwhelmed – your business hangs onto all the things that need to be remembered and looked after, and you only ever have to focus on the immediate task at hand.

So, what’s the God bag for? I think of the God bag a bit like Santa’s bag in reverse. Instead of an endless abundance coming from it, I can put all of the problems that are not mine to deal with in the God bag, and they instantly disappear. I no longer need to carry them – I need only surrender them to the divine. That problem client? God bag. Unreliable internet? God bag. All of my worries, fears and anxieties? Straight in the God bag before they can slow me down. This is a brilliant tool for avoiding overwhelm, as well as giving you a lot of practice at identifying what is not yours.

Getting comfortable with the idea that our business has an existence that is separate from our personal identity is an essential step in building something bigger than ourselves. Because it runs off our intentions and is guided by our integrity, we can trust it to grow beyond our personal capacity. As we step more and more into our role as sovereign leader, it becomes increasingly important to embody this separation of identity, through separate finances, an office space where you can leave your work behind, outsourcing tasks, and using resources (including yourself) effectively. It also requires exploring areas of potential danger and grounding your business on solid foundations.

If your business does not feel safe – if you do not believe in the integrity of your business – then no amount of good intentions will help you to be successful. Many small businesses and solo business owners feel that risk management is something that only large corporations need, and that is fine if you are only planning a small, short-term, unsuccessful venture. For those of us who are stepping up as sovereign leaders and planning to change the world, paying attention to real world dangers and taking action to mitigate consequences is unavoidable.

  • How deeply is your sense of self-worth entangled with your work?
  • Do you see your business as an integral part of yourself, or as a safe container with an independent existence?
  • What tools or structures have you put in place (or do you need to think about) to support this separation?
  • Where is your business completely reliant on you, and where would extra support be helpful (finances, physical space, outsourcing, resource investment)?
  • Play with the concept of the three bags – my bag, business bag, God bag – and see if this helps you get some perspective on what is yours to carry and what you can let go of.

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