Are you launching an online business? Heed these warnings that will save you time and money. Tip: Don’t hire a website developer too soon.
For most of this year, I’ve been hunkered down, hidden behind my Dell laptop screen.
I’ve been working day and night in order to lay a solid foundation for my Resort Lifestyle Network business. I’ve been building websites from scratch. I’ve been doing lots of research. I’ve been writing a lot of content. I’ve been playing around with graphic design and branding. I’ve been taking lots of online courses. I’ve been building databases. I’ve been putting systems in place.
In other words, I’ve become a loner.
Anyone who knew me prior to 2011 would never have called me a loner. Throughout my life, I’ve been told over and over again about my outgoing personality…that I never meet a stranger….that I’m a total extrovert…that I’m a natural born salesperson.
Anyone who has met me this year would probably say I’m some weird loser geek who sits and stares at a computer screen all day long and has no life.
Your Online vs. Offline Personality
So, which personality am I? A little of both, I suppose.
I’m afraid living on the web really has more impact on who we are than we’re willing to admit.
This morning, my loner self chose to engage with a friend who’s having some difficulty in her real-world job. Her struggles come from being a 43 year old Chatty Cathy living in a 28 year old Loner Larry environment. She finds it extremely odd that her colleagues come into work, put on their headphones and stare at a computer screen all day vs. engaging with her face-to-face.
Her current office environment, albeit different from mine at the moment, resonated with me. So much so, that it left me pondering one very disturbing question.
Have I actually joined the Loner Larry crowd?
Now that I’m almost done with laying the foundation of my business, I’m gearing up for the promotion stage. These natural business transitions are definitely a good time to stop and reflect before barreling into the next phase.
What I didn’t expect to happen during this brief period of reflection was that fear would envelop me.
It’s natural to feel apprehensive when you bring your ideas to market. After all, no one likes to be judged. But my fear had more to do with the question:
What if I’ve lost my offline mojo?
As Brad Hunter wrote in the Subtle Benefits of Face to Face Communication:
“Online interactions often provide anonymity and an ability to present ourselves differently than we might ordinarily. The predominance of written communication gives us a way to edit our utterances until they fit the image we want to project, something which is not quite so simple in a real time environment. Since our words are our only connection to others, it is much easier to be duplicitous or even self-deluding.”
It’s been so long since I’ve ‘worked it’ offline that I’m afraid my out of shape sales personality needs to be whipped back into shape (along with my hunched over, out of shape body that usually comes with living the Loner Larry lifestyle).
I’m fairly confident that re-engaging will be just like riding a bike. I just need to get back on that bike.
Although I participate regularly in online communities, telesummits, forums and hangouts as a sole proprietor, it’s scary to ponder how long I’ve gone without any real consistent offline interaction that one normally encounters in an office environment.
And I know that the lack of offline interaction negatively impacts my bottom line.
Engaging Offline Brings Quick Results
It’s critical that I engage my community, customers, affiliates and partners in a variety of ways to create the best possible results. So over the last few weeks, I recommitted to raising my offline social capital.
When I changed the means of communication to phone calls and in-person meetings, I was immediately struck by the speed with which things happen offline vs. online paradoxically. So much so, that I’m committing to having a minimum of three real phone calls or face-to-face meetings each day.
My offline encounters were more in-depth vs. skimming the surface. They seemed more deliberate and results-oriented vs. meandering happenstance.
Whether real or imagined, I was left with the feeling that it would have taken 1-2 months of online back-and-forth to reach the goals achieved in 30-minutes of intense and deliberate offline conversation.
Maybe it’s as simple as having too many self-indulgent distractions when working online that cause you to be less mindful or present when engaging with those on the other side of a laptop screen.
The Bigger Health Concern of Isolation
Loner Larry’s take note.
In his book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Robert Putnam argues that involvement in community actually increases a person’s biological and mental health. Biologists and psychologists have also shown that without physical contact, people become depressed and ill.
“Does typing ‘LOL’ on a keyboard have the same benefits?”
Hunter continues, “Malcolm Gladwell argued in The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference that much of communication is done non-verbally and emotions can easily be transferred from person to person without the utterance of a single word. If community loses its physical aspect, I believe that many of the subtle benefits that go along with physical face-to-face contact will also be lost.”
Resort entrepreneurs (or any lifestyle business owner) may rely more heavily on non-physical means of communication to connect since they are less tied down geographically.
Hunter worries that “in such a system, the value of each connection is lessened and that the benefits we gain from each connection decreases. I think that in this world of the Internet, e-mail, instant messaging, cell phones, pagers, faxes, and the World Wide Web, we should keep in mind the importance of face-to-face communication.”
I couldn’t agree more.