"Be yourself, and success will follow." (Georgina Cunningham, Director of Queenstown web design agency, Swordfox)1 June 2023
If I had to describe myself, I would say that I am pretty unremarkable. I don't possess any particularly groundbreaking or innovative qualities that set me apart from others in the world. I'm just a girl from Gore and a member of a creative and tech community of individuals who enjoy what we do for work as much as we do in our personal lives. It seems that I stumbled into the world of business unintentionally to some degree.
I'm an introvert with a learned ability to be more extroverted and a side of social anxiety, yet somehow I find myself as the co-owner of Swordfox, a small powerhouse of unassuming creative and tech talent. My business partner, Graham McLellan, and I coined the name Swordfox when we needed a company name for tax purposes while freelancing in London after hours for our then-employers. We had a skill, a name, and a business followed from there.
Our journey was entirely organic, and we embraced the wins, uncertainty, and challenges that came our way. In the early beginnings, we worked from my parents' lounge in Queenstown and enjoyed a very low square meter rental rate that we will never enjoy again. Although we didn't have a detailed business plan, specific goals, or a particular gap in the market we were trying to fill, people liked what we did.
The most challenging aspect for me and my colleagues at Swordfox is that our personalities aren't naturally suited for the commercial environment. Selling ourselves feels forced and unnatural. We're not into polished pitches; we're a little awkward, we don't have expert negotiation skills, and we don't enjoy networking. However, what we lack in smooth-talking, we make up for with our skills, hard work, and integrity. We still manage to win against other agencies for projects.
When it comes to success in business, the key is having a product or service that people genuinely like, along with being a decent human being. Polished pitches and fancy presentations may seem important, but being yourself, having a quality product or service, and doing right by people matter.
I can't say that this is the model for every business, but it works for us. So be yourself, and success will follow. Maybe it's what we need more of in the commercial world. Success is not always about being the loudest voice in the room, but rather being the most authentic.
If you feel like you have to be extroverted, polished, and smooth-talking to succeed, our story shows, there is an alternative path to success. By being yourself, working hard, and offering a quality product or service, it is possible to thrive even if you're not a natural salesperson. The key is to embrace your unique qualities and use them to your advantage, rather than trying to conform to an idealised version of what a successful business person should be like. By doing so, you can create a business that reflects your values and personality.
Good luck out there. It's quite the ride.