Barbara Walters famously – or infamously – asked Katherine Hepburn, “What kind of tree are you?” in response to a comment from Hepburn. So now I ask you: In your business life, what kind of flower are you? Are you a sunflower or a wallflower? While it might seem that the correct answer should be a sunflower (the official flower of nudism, right?), the truth is that you can succeed as either type.
Tour any greenhouse or plant nursery and you’ll see that flowers and plants are typically classified as being most likely to thrive in one of three conditions: full sun, full shade, or part sun/part shade. The same is true for business professionals, I think. Some of us thrive with full exposure to the limelight, some of us do our best work when cloistered away from the mainstream, while still others (like me) do best with a mix of conditions. Knowing the difference can put you on the path to happiness and success. Let’s take a closer look:
Many businesses – particularly retail and highly competitive service businesses – need lots of exposure to lots of eyeballs just to stay alive, let alone reach for the sky. Owners of these businesses are often sunflower types, clawing for the sun and drawing energy from being in the spotlight. But even sunflowers can’t do it all. In this age of so much competition for attention and “mind share”, personal burnout can come early and hard for those who work too hard, try to do too much, and, well, climb too close to the sun. To attain and maximize exposure without inviting burnout, sunflower business owners should enlist the services of creative professionals to help them spread the word about their businesses. These creative professionals can add valuable perspective as they create ad campaigns and online content, as well as manage social media communities.
Other business professionals – the wallflowers – tend to be more comfortable out of the mainstream, out of the spotlight. These might include entrepreneurs running virtual businesses or other work-from-home enterprises. They might be artists. They might be artisans creating unique items for niche markets. Regardless of the creative process, a common characteristic for successful wallflower-driven businesses is that they are often best built and maintained through local referrals, word-of-mouth, or tight-knit online communities. No need for big ad budgets; just a small army of local and vocal fans.
And then there are the hybrids, those of us who seek the spotlight at times, but also need to retreat into a virtual cocoon to do our best work for our clients. We benefit from occasional moments in large groups, but also from professional strategic alliances, person-to-person networking, and social media prospecting followed by personal outreach. Creative and consulting businesses like mine do well with this mix, as do personal service companies.
So… Are you a sunflower or a wallflower? If your personal entrepreneurial and leadership style fit the exposure requirements in your industry, chances are you’ll be comfortable in that skin. If not, you should consider seeking help from others with the right personality types to augment your own. Regardless of whether you thrive in the sun or the shade – and regardless of whether your business is currently blooming or wilting – with the right approach you can, indeed, achieve success undressed!