4 Lies Small Business Owners Tell Themselves

By Bryan Orr

Almost any business owner or manager will tell you that honesty matters in business. The trouble comes when you look at some of the things you say out loud, and worse, the things you tell yourself. Here are four of the most common lies I hear from business owners.

1. “I don’t care what other people think.”

Usually this statement comes out when you actually care the most about what people think. It is a coping mechanism where you try to insulate yourself from your own frustration over how much validation from others really does mean to you.

Face it, we all care what other people think. This does not mean that we care what EVERYONE thinks, but relationships and validation from other people matters to us all. It is best to embrace this reality so that you can better manage it in a truthful and realistic way as opposed to the emotional outbursts that may often occur when we suddenly DO CARE, after telling ourselves that we didn’t all this time.

Instead, you might say “It will take time, but I will regain their trust,” “This was silly and we’ll both cool off later,” or “This hurts and I need to get over it.”

2. “The customer is always right.”

Where did this awful saying come from? The sooner we can quit repeating this fib, the sooner we can embrace a greater truth. The truth being, while the customer may not be right, there is no benefit in proving them wrong. I have seen so many customer service professionals with pent up rage against the customer because they are forced to repeat this ridiculous assault on the very meaning of the word RIGHT. Serve the customer. Love the customer. Don’t prove the customer wrong, but for heaven’s sake, they are not always right.

How about “It’s worth letting them keep their dignity” or “It isn’t a big issue, so we’ll let them have it.” In extreme situations, you might have to tell that “always right” customer: “Here’s your money back. Have a good life.”

3. “It isn’t personal.”

In the annals of film and literature, many villains attempt to marginalize their crimes against humanity by referring to their behavior as being “Nothing Personal.” Every word we say, decision we make, or action initiated is personal to someone. What may be meant is, “This doesn’t affect my emotions towards you” which further displays how cold and hurtful the underlying sentiment can be. It is always personal to someone, even if it isn’t to you.

Since your customers and suppliers do act and talk personal, you might try telling yourself “Hey, it’s still worth it for us to do business” — as long as that’s true.

4. “I treat my employees like family.”

Really? So does that also mean that you treat your family like employees? Maybe I’m confused, but last time I checked, employment is a consensual business relationship based upon the expectation of mutual financial benefit, and a family is… well … a family. Maybe I’m mincing words here, but if my brother, mother or wife treated me as if our relationship was built on an underlying profit motive, where they would be forced to end the relationship if there was no longer adequate economic benefit, I would feel pretty insecure.

Maybe it’s more accurate to say “I am there for my employees,” and “I want them to think of myself and our business as more than just the names on their paycheck.”

Maybe it’s time to stop relying on feel-good lies as leaders, and instead look for some positive truths we can hang our hats on.

What are some of the common lies you tell yourself and others?

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Bryan Orr
Bryan Orr is a blue collar business owner who helps executives and business owners use storytelling to communicate powerfully with customers and staff. Bryan is a founder of an award-winning small business in Orlando, Fl as well as sought after podcast producer and consultant. Get to know him at Bryanorr.com.

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