Why do small businesses find it so hard to stand out from the crowd?

Conformity is a human trait.

Ten things you should be watching on Netflix

Clothes you shouldn’t wear after fifty

Lose your gut!

All the trends to shop now

Dress like a boss

Confirmation bias and the art of getting things wrong

But anyone who has ever made a difference in the world has done so…

So where does that leave us?

They’re afraid of being mocked by their peers, their industry and even their customers

Competitors might say mean things to them. It has been known.

Above all, they’re scared they might offend someone

When you don’t want to offend anyone, you end up appealing to no-one.

The first Body Shop set up in Brighton in the late 70s. At the time, the name invoked more car bodies than human ones. Ironically, it was located in Kensington Gardens between two funeral directors. I lived in Brighton at the time and remember the fragrant smell and the still hand-written product labels.

But what made the business stand out more than anything? Its refusal to test on animals. That may seem quite normal to us, but in 1976 Anita Roddick was a maverick, a crackpot according to some. Part of the radical fringe that inhabited the back streets of Brighton and it was most cool to go shopping there.

When Apple took a stand against anti-LGBT legislation under consideration in now Vice-President Pence’s North Carolina, it had no direct impact on its business but it recognised that customers not only care about what they sell but what they stand for too.

You don’t need to be big to have principles. I have a client who runs a fledgeling property management company who has pledged to donate a percentage of his profits to local charities as part of this belief that businesses do not exist in a vacuum and are part of the wider society.

Some will love him for it and some will accuse him of posturing. He doesn’t care.

What do you stand for?

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter

Martin Luther King Jr.

The ones that don’t adhere to your principles

Those that spend their time complaining

Or wanting a better price

Or telling you how to do your job

Jargon-free IT support that leaves you free to grow your business

It’s time for some new confidence

But ridicule doesn’t matter when you have money in the bank.

Ridicule doesn’t matter when you’re clear about why you believe in something

Ridicule is even less important when you have customers you love and who love you.

My daughter’s 28 now and has recovered not only her French but her pride in her heritage. She’ll be picking up her passport from the embassy in February.

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