How I won more business by being less corporate

Once upon a time I believed to be successful in business, I needed to look, act and think in a corporate way. That was a mistake.

It didn’t come naturally but I tried to live up to it anyway.

On more than one occasion the disconnect between who I thought I was expected to be and who I was led to disastrous consequences for the business.

I didn’t deliver my best work, and I wasn’t invited back. A hard lesson learnt.

Over the years my beliefs and behaviour have changed. Here are some reasons why.

1. Doing business with real people is more fun

My company, Balance at Work, exists to help people find more joy in their work. That includes joy for me and my team too.

Business for us is always ‘human to human’.

It’s not B2B or B2C.

If we were more corporate, we’d be attracting people who value a corporate attitude and approach more than we value those things.

Working with them might benefit us financially, but how could it bring us more joy?

READ: Are you ready for the future of work?

2. You can’t fake different

Organisations and individuals looking for the services we provide face a vast array of pre-packaged options, but we want to be more than just another standard option.

But we’re not different just for the sake of difference.

We tell clients what we really think. We also tell them if we don’t think we’re a good fit for them.

Recently, I was planning a leadership development project with the MD of a long-standing, successful organisation in financial services.

When he told me they pride themselves on being ‘non-corporate’, I knew I was in the right place.

We stand out because of who we are and what we do, not because of who we think you want us to be.

3. You can’t fake real

Being corporate goes against our purpose, our ‘why’.

There are business suits in my wardrobe, but I rarely wear them. I also don’t wear heels because I don’t like them. Or make-up. Or dye my hair.

Not one of these things gives me joy. I’m fortunate to have a choice.


Could you make choices that better reflect who you are?

Here are some tips based on my experience:

1. Be yourself

The biggest benefit will be that you’ll get to spend more of your time working with people whose company you actually enjoy.

2. Build bridges not walls

Trying to be something you’re not creates an artificial barrier that pushes people away.

Your discomfort feeds their discomfort, and you don’t get the chance to know them. Build generous connections instead.

READ: Are you killing the business you love?

3. Welcome rejection

You can learn to love rejection. Really!

Be grateful if you lose a client because you’re not ‘a good fit’ for them. Chances are that relationship wasn’t going to work anyway.

Appreciate the learning and move on.


What has being less corporate meant for our business?

  • Working with us is not for everyone. And everyone is not for us.
  • We’re easy to connect with and trust because we pass ‘the celery test’.
  • We know how to find our joy at work, so we can help our clients find theirs.
  • Life is less stressful. Even when we stuff up, it’s easier to admit our mistakes.
  • Clients are loyal. Instead of being one of the crowd, we are in the wings encouraging them to take centre stage.

Remember: You don’t have to be ‘corporate’ to be professional, and by being true to yourself you’ll find more joy in your work.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit

About Susan Rochester

Susan Rochester has been managing director of Balance at Work since 2006. Susan has a natural tendency to balance analytical thinking with an optimistic outlook to set direction and solve problems. She is an effective facilitator and constantly creates new and more effective ways of doing things, motivated by helping others to achieve their goals.

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