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The importance of authenticity in business.

I hate buying cars. As much as I really, really want that black, shiny sports car, the second I step foot into the dealership I’m on the defensive, darting my eyes back and forth in the hopes I don’t draw too much attention to myself.

Oh god. I plead. Just let me have a few more minutes to browse before you descend upon me, ready to pounce at a sale, pulling me into your office and overwhelming me with your today-only financing option, cheap coffee and hidden fees. 

I’m so distrustful of car salespeople that I spend hours ahead of time researching and pricing out the car I am considering. It’s not just my well-known control freak ways, I know you do it too. 

So I have to ask. Where is the disconnect between that beautifully filmed video, the one where I imagine myself driving down the coast with the sunroof open, hair blowing in the wind with George Clooney seated beside me—and—sitting in this stark white, shared office with a person who I’m absolutely convinced is trying to work a deal in their own favour?

It’s not the shiny black car that I’m doubtful about, it’s the experience. I’ve walked in expecting what they promised in their ads, a premium product. They’ve delivered a mediocre, if not downright intimidating, customer experience.

That disconnect comes one hundred percent from a lack of authenticity.

The experience their sales team is offering is not equivalent to the product. They made me a brand promise about how good I’d feel when I sit in the drivers seat, but they didn’t extend that promise to how I would feel sitting in the finance office. They broke my trust.

For those of us with local businesses who don’t have a zillion dollar pre-sale marketing budget, being authentic can make or break your company. 

Being authentic gains consumer trust, and that trust is hella valuable. It means that not only will customers feel comfortable buying from you, but they will feel comfortable continuing to buy from you, and the extra bonus—they’ll feel comfortable telling others to come buy from you, too.

I’m going to condense it here into two of the primary ways  you can build authenticity into your company.

1. Define your core values.

Ah yes, core values. I’ve written about this subject often. But core values aren’t just a whimsical idea, they are goalposts that are extremely important to a business. 

Core values are what define you. In our company they are so important that we use them as a guidebook for the type of employee and client that we want to work with.

What are your values? What do you believe in? What are some issues that you absolutely will not compromise on? Start small, writing one or two things, and then expand on them.

Not only do consumers want to align themselves with businesses that share their values, but employees do too. Having core values, and most importantly, sticking to those core values in all situations is key to building your authentic company.

2. Embrace wabi sabi.

Wabi sabi is a Japanese principle. In essence it means the acceptance of imperfection. Be still my perfectly imperfect heart. Wabi sabi, to break it down into the most basic of terms, means just be freaking human. 

That’s right, being authentic comes down to just being imperfect and flawed. Not afraid to be who you are, even if who you are doesn’t fit into traditional beliefs. 

I’m not saying to go out and be intentionally weird (but if you do, I mean, own it), but, what I’m saying is that trying to fit into the traditional business model of what all the the other businesses in your industry are doing isn’t authentic in any way. Consumers today want someone who is real. People identify with real.

So there you go, my full permission to be wabi sabi. You’re welcome.

Authenticity isn’t something you do only some of the time, it needs to be the lifeblood of your business, every single corner of it. 

There are lots of shiny black sports cars, but the one I’ll be loyal to (well, unless it actually comes with George Clooney)— is the one that’s authentic, from start to finish.