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Interview: Why Being Yourself In Business Is The Key To Having It All


Sam Buckby, Owner & Founder of Smarter Buildings, is not just a successful businessman with over 600% increase in profits since launching his second business, but he’s a family man too. And he shares that with his clients.

For over 10 years, Sam’s ‘daily grind’ was as Owner and Manager of a successful electrical contracting business, where he’d spend his time finding the cheapest and quickest ways to get jobs done, with no time to ‘waste on chit-chat.’

Fast forward to his launch of Smarter Buildings, a design and consultancy firm, and Sam has transformed the way he approaches business through an understanding on the importance of relationships, trust and transparency.

Sam shares with us how profit, as well as happiness, has sky-rocketed since he decided to be himself in business. Get ready to feel warm, fuzzy, and pumped to reveal the real, awesome YOU in your business too.

LET’S DIVE STRAIGHT IN – ONCE YOU DECIDED TO BE YOURSELF IN BUSINESS, BIG THINGS STARTED TO HAPPEN. TELL US ABOUT THIS:

Until I launched Smarter Buildings, I ran a business where I had no time, no profit margin and certainly no room for ‘chit-chat’, but it got to a point where I realised I was wrong about this approach (first time for everything…) I began to realise that all projects have budgets that have to be met but more importantly there needs to be trust and transparency. These are two things that are very hard to develop if you’re not being yourself and entering ‘robot mode’ at work each morning.

Now that I am completely myself in business, I no longer look at it as just delivering a service, but instead I realise the relationship is just as, if not more so, important. The single biggest breakthrough though is that whilst I’m the one who changed my approach and learned it’s OK to be myself, I actually like my customers more and thankfully I think the feeling is reciprocal! I no longer have to fight to win projects based on the single criteria of money but now by the time the figures are discussed we already know if we want to work together and the cost plays second fiddle. A further bi-product of all this is that it’s the best filtering system for the business, because if potential clients are solely concerned on the bottom line, then it’s a sure sign that the relationship won’t work and we can both move on. There’s no more doing cheap jobs just to survive.

WHY DO YOU THINK BEING YOURSELF IN BUSINESS IS IMPORTANT?

I personally think there are three major reasons;

  • People aren’t stupid, and it is foolish to underestimate your customers. If you are faking it or you’re being robotic, they will know it. And if this is a service where you are going to have multiple points of contact or ongoing conversations with them, you run the very realistic risk of falling out of your bullsh*t character and wait for it…being yourself! How do you think your consumer would feel then? Regardless of any pricing, you will leave them feeling cheated and not only losing their trust in you but in your service too.
  • You will organically attract clients who are so much more fun to work with. They will be more like you, they will appreciate the things you do and will be so much more trusting in the value that you can deliver. All things being equal, we all do business with people that we simply like. The fact of the matter is that for many business owners and entrepreneurs we spend more time working each week than we do with our friends, so why not blur those lines and look forward to the interaction you can have with your clients.
  • It’s unhealthy if you don’t, and unfortunately I can talk about this first hand. Creating a Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde lifestyle in your work life balance will cause unwanted stress and anxiety as there is no continuity. There is the common misconception that at 5pm each day you need to ‘turn off’ from work to keep your sanity, but what is this saying about your work if there is a risk of insanity? Up until just a year or so ago, that was me – knocking on the door to the asylum. Fast forward to life now and many of my customers just know not to call me after about 4 because they know I am flat out with my kids’ basketball, footy and dancing amongst other things. Funnily enough, my ideal customers are people with young families so they appreciate this and the relationship thrives!

WHAT STRUGGLES DID YOU FACE WITH LETTING YOUR PERSONALITY INTO YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE?

Ironically, I just thought it was unprofessional and would close doors to the “big” customers. I’m not a millionaire, I don’t drive a Bentley and I don’t own holiday homes in 3 different states. The fear was, how can I relate to a customer that lives in this world? The awakening: dollars, cars and assets don’t determine someone’s personality. It is true that my clients have many dissimilar aspects to their lives compared to me, but they actually have more in common than I’d previously considered as well – they have families, they love going on holidays, they love pizza on Friday night, they love sport, they enjoy good wine, they appreciate bad jokes. They also have the same fears such as the safety of their kids and the fear of failure.

These are not wealth based attributes and the minute I realised this, the conversation was easy.

WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR OTHERS STRUGGLING BETWEEN THEIR BUSINESS AND PERSONAL IDENTITY?

Just try it. I am certainly no expert in many industries (the corporate world being one) but found it had an instant impact. Sounds a little simplistic but when you really break it down it might just mean telling the truth. We’ve all said “I’m in a meeting” when we’re really having a coffee at home with our husband or wife. Next time, try saying “I’m at home having a coffee with my lovely wife”. You may have feared the response in the past, but I actually get envy on the other end of the line and many responses such as “I used to always do that…I miss that!”

Remember, if there is resistance from the other end to you just being yourself, chances are they’re not your ideal client and they are certainly not going to provide you with the most fun business relationship you’ve ever had.

WHAT ARE YOUR TOP TIPS FOR BEING AUTHENTIC IN BUSINESS?

  • Stop pretending. It’s not fair on your customers and frankly, it’s way too much hard work.
  • Consider your long term health. Having an engineered split personality will break you down.
  • Remember the best customer you ever had. I bet you felt comfortable chatting to them and enjoyed working for them. Find more of them, or more accurately let them find you.
  • Ask interesting questions. Great relationships need to be initiated by someone. Might as well be you.
  • Be transparent about your priorities in life. If a client is waiting on you to complete a certain project but you explain to them that you’re at your child’s school sports that you NEVER miss, they won’t be upset – they’ll be envious!
  • If your current clients are getting upset by your pivot, have a plan to replace them with better ones. Work should be enjoyable, but that is directly proportional to the people you’re working with or for.

Tweetable kudos: (Copy and paste to your twitter)
Major kudos to @SamBuckby for upping the time he spends with his family AND increasing profits by 600% #WorkLifeBalance #NailedIt

Tweetable Golden Nuggets: (copy and paste to your twitter)

Great advice from @SamBuckby ‘Stop pretending. It’s not fair on your customers and it’s way too much hard work.’ #BeYourself

Awesome tip from @SamBuckby ‘#BeYourself – you will organically attract clients you want to work with.’