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Bad Rap Has your industry got an image problem? Here's how to cope.

By Geoff Williams

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Rick Winfield, who owns Class Act Tattoo and Body Piercing, understands why few people associate his industry with class. "For many years, [tattoos] were underground," says Winfield, 40, whose shop is in Florissant, Missouri. "It was bikers [getting them], and drug addicts tattooing their arms so people couldn't see the needle marks."

Tattoo parlors, adult bookstores and bill collecting are just some of the numerous industries that have a bad reputation-deserved or not. How do these entrepreneurs do what they do and not feel miserable? The obvious reason: There's money to be made. But the less obvious reasons come from Glen Kreiner, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the University of Cincinnati, whose study of people in stigmatized industries shows that humans can adapt to almost anything. Entrepreneurs working in stigmatized fields do several things, says Kreiner.

  • Reframing: Think about something in a completely new way. "It's no coincidence that the used-car industry calls cars pre-owned."
  • Recalibrating: Entrepreneurs "find something redeeming about the job or industry that most people might not think about and make that [their] mantra."
  • Normalizing: "It's taking something unusual and making it normal."

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