And you are . . . ?
Whether you are new to the business world or are an old pro, you want to make an immediate impression on potential clients. One way to accomplish this is through your business bio. Writing a bio can seem daunting to some who don’t like to talk about themselves. On the other hand, you might relish the opportunity to talk about yourself!
Neither extreme will serve you well, so here are some ways to create a biography that clients will remember. These techniques will put you in a positive light without you coming across as arrogant or boastful and prevent you from describing yourself with a long string of adjectives. You can put a lot of labels on yourself, but that doesn’t really give people a clue about who you really are.
- Where to begin? Some writers say to start at the beginning. Not always the best approach when talking about yourself. The key is to start with something other than your biological history — I was born in Philadelphia and have five siblings . . . Instead, start with your work, what you do, why you do it. What got you interested in this field, what path you took to get where you are. You should include the education or experience you had before that time which gave you the ability to be a force in your field. Without naming names, talk about former jobs you held and how these jobs inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial endeavor. This is a great place to tell a story. Your clients want to get to know you as a person and an entrepreneur.
Even as a young child, I was fascinated by how things worked. Every electronic or mechanical device I could get my hands on, I took apart, much to the chagrin of my parents. I was more than curious; I needed to understand these devices. This need to learn more led me to major in mechanical engineering. I’ve worked for several companies, and those companies allowed me to work on large and small projects, work with other businesses to complete projects, and even to travel to northern Africa to oversee a project. I have taken all of my good and bad experiences, along with my wisdom and intertwined them into my own business philosophy.
Over all these years, I have never stopped learning and investigating. I continue to disassemble items to see how they work, how I can make them function at faster speeds and with less energy, and how I can provide a product that will exceed my clients’ expectations.
- How much detail is enough? Just like Goldilocks, you want to find the amount that is just right. This is easier said than done. Unfortunately, there is no magic number of words that tells you when to stop. The goal, this time, is to share enough information so your audience learns about you as a person, business entrepreneur, humanitarian, etc. This is the time to toot your own horn. Tell your readers what awards your product/service has received. Has your business earned endorsements from environmental watchdogs? Share what community, state-, nation-, or worldwide organizations you support. For instance, does your company give back to the community by volunteering at homeless shelters or working with Habitat for Humanity? Do you or your employees have special certifications that have been earned for excellence in your field? Do you encourage mental and physical health in your employees by providing wellness retreats or hiring speakers who can teach stress management techniques? Share your values in such things as the importance of family, cooperation, co-creativity? You don’t need to share your shirt size but share the size of your heart.
As a sample:
Our latest product to hit the market was warmly received and highly rated. Our second generation online planner has earned a five-star rating from Business Review. And for the second year in a row, we received an A+ from The Better Business Bureau. I attribute our success, in part, to the overall well-being of my employees. As the owner, I feel it is my responsibility to make sure my employees are healthy in mind and body. We are more productive and active when we feel overall good health. We do retreats and wellness seminars throughout the year and provide access to stress relief education.
Recently, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Japan and meet with a group of like-minded business people. We brainstormed ideas for future products and ways to improve customer service. We also planned a conference via an online meeting program to discuss ways to take our product global. Several employees have traveled to Europe, Australia, and South America to glean ideas for business from visiting similar, prosperous companies in those foreign locations. The world is much smaller than it was just 5 years ago.
I am proud to say that my company has earned recognition from several environmental groups because our factory was able to reduce its emissions by 15% over the last 12 months. I stress the importance of doing for others by organizing four days each year for my employees and myself to volunteer within our communities. We have built 10 Habitat for Humanity homes over the past 3 years, worked hundreds of hours in the local soup kitchen, and do an annual toy drive at Christmas for the less fortunate. I find that these activities help us bond as a company, help us acknowledge and be grateful for all we have, and help us recognize the importance of teamwork.
- Include emotions. Tell your audience what inspires, motivates, touches you. Something sparked your interest and made you curious. That curiosity led to desire, and that desire resulted in a business venture that can still give you goosebumps. You did not build your company on humdrum. No one has the desire to spend the next 20 years of their life doing boring work. When you set out to create your business, you were chasing a dream and developing that company caused your emotions to run the gamut; you lost sleep, got excited, probably panicked at least once, reached new levels of excitement, and maybe even shed a tear or two. Sharing your passion in your product or service can be contagious. Sharing where and how you get inspired may help inspire someone else. Connecting with someone’s emotions creates an almost instantaneous bond that you automatically want to strengthen over time. This can easily be done by your emotionally connected client purchasing your product or scheduling your services.
Here’s an example:
It woke me up in the middle of the night. No, it wasn’t a nightmare; it was an epiphany about my future. I had been feeling depressed, unmotivated, and basically down-in-the-dumps. It was getting harder and harder to get out of bed in the mornings and drag myself to an unfulfilling job. I talked to friends about these feelings, and they told me it would pass, that’s just life, and get used to it.
Wait . . . I’m just supposed to go on day after day and do something I don’t like. Where’s the reward in that?
After nights upon sleepless nights, I fell into a restful slumber. In a dream, I saw my future, and I was a happy business owner who made a difference in the lives of people because of the service I provided – I was designing websites. When I jolted up in bed, I realized that this idea was not far-fetched. I could do this. I had the education, experience, and training. I took stock of my finances, wrote short- and long-term goals, and drafted (but didn’t turn in) my letter of resignation. I felt alive for the first time in years.
Well, the excitement turned to fear and anxiety real quick. I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. I would need to take a few courses to teach me the skills I was missing. Once I was in class, I felt like a sponge; I wanted to absorb all the information I could. I asked questions, participated in all discussions, and felt on the top of the world.
After my courses had been finished, I panicked. It was time for me to take the greatest leap of faith – I quit my job. Back to sleepless nights, raised blood pressure, self-doubts. I reminded myself why I was doing all of this – I no longer wanted to work in a ho-hum job, I wanted to make a difference, and I deserved to feel impassioned by my job. I realized comfort wasn’t what I was looking for and so dove into the world of website design and business ownership. Time for a pat on the back! The emotional roller coaster was worth every second.
- Make a connection with your audience. Tell a personal story that might resonate with one reader because he or she may have been in the same situation. For example, talk about the first time you presented your product to potential investors and were shot down. We’ve all experienced failure, so share. An important way to create a connection is to write in your voice because your bio is exactly that – yours. This means not writing your bio to sound like an academic report. Insert some humor, share stories, and be yourself. Write in a conversational tone. Use phrases like, “we’ve all experienced ___”, or “you know how it is when ___”, and “just the other day ___ happened.” When you have a conversation, what pronouns do you use to address yourself? It is OK to use the pronouns I and me. This is your bio, so these pronouns are accurate. Using we and us makes it sound like you are writing the business’s biography.
When my business was in its infancy, I prepared a meeting with several potential backers. I needed their financial support, and I was under the gun for time. I thought I had everything in place: the venue, caterers, PA system, a conference table, my speech, and my prototype. I was feeling confident on the morning of the big day. But nothing went my way from the time I left my house. I was stuck in traffic because of an accident, but I had left my house thirty minutes earlier than I needed to, so I was still OK on time.
As I’m unloading my car, I close the trunk on my wrist. Then I walk into the conference room – there are no chairs. I reserved the table but not the chairs. I had ten minutes to find chairs, bring them to the room, set up my visual displays, and pass out my business proposal booklet. As I was scrounging up chairs, I asked someone if they could please help by following me with another two chairs. As we were walking to the conference room, I was going on and on about my miserable morning and the butterflies in my stomach about my presentation. After he helped place his two chairs around the table, I told him thanks and I didn’t need his help anymore; I was good to go. Instead he introduced himself as the representative from my most hopeful backer and sat in the chair he had just helped move. I know my face was a shade of crimson even Crayola couldn’t replicate. I apologized, and he shared the story of his first solo presentation given with his shirt incorrectly buttoned. We shared a good laugh, and all went well after that. The company he represented even agreed to financially support me for more than their original quote.
Stay tuned for another installment on this bio writing series for four more points that will help your bio grab the attention of your potential clients.