The Grind

Zen and the Art of Talking Smack

Zen and the Art of Talking Smack
Image credit: Shutterstock
Reader Resource

Position yourself for growth in 2017—join us live at the Entrepreneur 360 Conference in Long Beach, Calif. on Nov. 16. Secure Your Seat »

Everyone on our team gossips about other businesses. We over analyze everything they do, and we tell each other stories about unbelievable behavior or news. Was someone really rude on the phone or bailed on multiple meetings? Did a brand launch a product we think has less integrity than the rest of their line? Did we see a public exchange with a customer that we feel under-valued the customer's concerns? I've wondered if I should curb all this smack talk, but ultimately, I think it really helps us redefine who we are and what matters to us. When we talk about these things, we decide what bothered us exactly, and we get on the same page so that, hopefully, we don't behave like that towards our customers or business partners, too.

Related: How to Separate Yourself From the Competition

But last week, Adam (my hubby and co-founder of our natural beauty brand S.W. Basics) and I were at a trade show with a lot of other brands of our size in our industry. Once we got set up, we started doing the same way we always do at these kinds of things: whispering to each other about all the reasons our brand was way better than everybody else there and patting ourselves on the back for our (stellar) mission. 

What's worse, as the night went on, we started meeting the people behind the brands, people who had been strangers to us (outside of my obsessive Instagram stalking) before. They were smart, funny, impressive and working hard to build brands with integrity. They were just like us, and "ugh" we were definitely not better than any of them. 

We left the event with new friends and a little bit of guilt. But then I realized there is an art to talking smack. Building a brand is like going into war and competing at an event with other companies is a lot like playing in a tournament. You can't avoid wanting to win. You want to sell well, you want to leave an impression on people, and you are desperate to survive. It makes sense that you would need to rev yourself up. 

Related: 5 Competitive Advantages Startups Have Over Big Businesses

The key, I think, is balance. I'm not sure we totally have that yet. I, for one, know that I can get really carried away. But I also know that when I do let it go too far, it's no longer about identifying mistakes other brands make so that we can define what's right for our company. It's about fear. I do it because I'm afraid or insecure about myself and about my brand. I'm working on that. 

I think every young company goes through this smack-talking phase, but it's important to make sure to think through where criticisms are coming from and that they really matter. Someday maybe I won't even need to talk any smack at all. I'll have reached a nirvana that makes me embrace all businesses with pure love and camaraderie. For now though, I gotta tell you, our cream is definitely the best natural moisturizer on the market and our global domination is imminent. 

Related: 3 Must-Use Tactics to Differentiate Your Company From the Competition