It's become a sort of rallying cry for business. 'Listen to me.'
Not 'hear me', but 'listen to me'.
Don't shoehorn me into your 'house formula' or assume that you know exactly what I want, or what's right for me, before I've even told you anything about me.
Ernest Hemingway once observed that he liked 'to listen'. He continued to point out that 'I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.'
There are many businesses who would agree with him, especially when it comes to advisers.
We'd agree with him.
Our own experience over the course of the last 12 months of reinventing ourselves has been no different. Almost everyone we initially spoke with assumed that they knew better, that we didn't actually mean what we said and invariably (in spite of the first line of any of our opening communications very clearly stating that we wanted to be different), the first thing we were asked is which of our competitors did we want to be like? Before we'd even started to introduce ourselves properly, we were being wrapped up and fitted into a pre-prepared (no doubt economically efficient) box. One agency, who will remain nameless, even asked us why they would want to help us, because in their words, we 'clearly didn't get it'!
It was horribly disappointing and, if I'm honest, a little bit humiliating. What's wrong, after all, in not wanting 'conveyor belt' treatment? And not wanting to be labelled as anything other than ourselves?
We've since discovered that we're far from alone in this and there is a happy ending to our particular story - mostly because it was the entrepreneur and small business community who supported us best, were generous with their thoughts and their own contacts and without doubt, offered the most imaginative and flexible solutions. We learned a hard lesson and we won't make that mistake again. It's always good to know who your friends are.
We recently shared our frustrations with Esther Stanhope, the entrepreneur impact coach who has herself broken a number of moulds and who has experienced exactly the same kind of treatment from advisers as we have. The video clip below shares some of what she told us...