It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I’m feeling challenged about being able to answer effectively the “What do you do?” question.

I believe I have a good understanding of what I do but I’ve had evidence in the past 24 hours that I’m not communicating that well.

Why it’s particularly embarrassing is because, as a coach, I help other people get very clear about this question and become more effective in answering it.

Not that I haven’t worked on it for myself. In fact, I have spent hours being coached on this and at my computer or with a writing pad, endeavouring to put into a succinct, very clear way, just what it is I do in business and what I have to offer.

But clearly there is more work to be done. Fortunately I’m doing a course right now with Coachville’s Business Academy, where we are getting some specific coaching and homework assignments to really nail this thing about what we do.  I mean, the need for me to take action here is at one level a no-brainer, to put it mildly: if I can’t explain succinctly and engagingly what I do I can’t complain if business does not flow to me.

blank business card

What happened yesterday to focus my attention on this matter was that some people phoned me, by arrangement, to ask me some questions about social media. Fortunately for me they were frank enough to say that although I was one of the people they had been told they should talk to, from looking at my profile on Twitter they were having trouble working out what I do.

So what did I have in my “one-line bio” on Twitter? You know what? I’d forgotten and have just now gone to check. Here it is:

business coach for a networked world: social media strategist: blogger

Clear enough to me. But it’s not there for me, it’s for others.

Why this feedback experience was particularly ironic was that a bit over 24 hours previously I had been telling a group on the Social Media Telesummit how essential it is for us to have a consistent profile and “story” on our various profiles across the social web. As an aside, I think it’s hilarious – ok  sad in some ways, but still hilarious – that as consultants and coaches we all talk about how important it is to get frank feedback and how valuable that is, but when it comes we – well, I at least – have an initial reaction not of joy but of irritation or frustration. Don’t know about you but for me the appreciation and gratitude kick in later, not instantly.

Be that as it may, apparently the message, as successive teachers wrote on my report cards, is still

“This boy can do better”!

But I admit I find the task daunting.

In days of yore, when I was a school teacher, a taxi driver, or an executive with a title and a business card to match, it was easier. Or seemed so, to answer the “What do you do?” question.

It only became a challenge when I set up my own business.

And what I’ve observed about myself since then, and noticed from time to time with other professionals with home based businesses is that if we are in business for ourselves and if we have a reasonable (or even unreasonable!) spark of imaginativeness, creativity and openness to possibility, we can find ourselves “diversifying” our business. And establishing “multiple streams of income”.

Which can, if we are not careful, lead to a situation where we are putting out different messages to the marketplace.

The fact that we can see how our various business interests work together doesn’t mean that’s going to be obvious to others.

Even if they are going to be patient enough to stand there and listen while we explain the ins and outs.

My challenge currently is that I am endeavouring to craft a statement that expresses simply and attractively the key components of the two main things I do:

  • I help business owners and entrepreneurs take their business to the next level and keep being nice, interesting people to talk to (that’s the bit that with labeling is called “Business Coach”)
  • I help mature business owners and entrepreneurs who are not techies get their heads around the social media phenomenon and work out ways for that to help them grow their businesses (the label I’ve been using is “Social Media Strategist”)

I doubt very much that the labels “business coach” and “social media strategist” are going to bring me much business: they are both, let’s face it, less than sexy: they are opaque or even mystifying without being mystifying in any interesting way.

Have you had a challenge in being able to answer that “what do you do?” question effectively? And by effectively I mean so that in at least some instances it helped you attract business. If so, I hope you’ll share.

I know some people who are really good at this. In fact I know at least one person, Chris Barrow, who is brilliant at this stuff and walks his talk – as in, building a million dollar coaching practice.

I’m certainly not comfortable with the idea that the growth of my business is being impeded by my inarticulateness. I’m hoping some people smarter than I will share some approaches here that work.

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