Stop Pretending and Just Be Yourself

People want to meet the real you. And they want to do business with the real you.

learn more about Greg Shugar

By Greg Shugar

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I received a phone call recently. And it validated something I already knew.

Networking is worthless if you're just going to be an asshole. But being yourself – that is, being your regular self and not that BS self you usually bring to business meetings – will yield you more success.

So here's the background on my phone call.

In 2012, at my last business (The Tie Bar), I was fortunate to have struck a deal with a well-known celebrity. That deal was negotiated with a well-known agent for celebrities in Hollywood. And the deal helped catapult our brand. (My business was later acquired in 2013.)

Now it's 2015 and I'm starting a new business called Thread Experiment, a bedding brand for men. And my phone rang last week from that same Hollywood agent I dealt with at The Tie Bar. We hadn't spoken in two years.

Apparently, the agent got wind of Thread Experiment through a mutual acquaintance. He called me with an idea that would match up Thread Experiment with one of his other celebrity clients. For a startup that hasn't even launched, it was obviously music to my ears.

Related: Stop Being Such a Tight Wad. Invest In a Great Website.

We talked, came up with some ideas and, as of right now, we are still trying to negotiate a deal. It may or may not happen. Not the point of my story though.

As we hung up the phone, I asked him why he suddenly called me after two years. And I asked why he was offering me this incredible opportunity to work with a high-profile celebrity again to help launch my new business.

Here's the story he told me.

When we first met in person in 2012, we had lunch together. He said that at 99 percent of his business lunches, the people he meets order some kind of fancy-schmancy drink hoping to impress him or his clients. Maybe a Cognac from France. A 28-year old scotch. A red wine from a region only five people have ever visited.

"And what did you order?" he says. "A rum and Diet Coke…with a lime." He continued "And that's when I knew that you were a real person and someone I wanted to do business with. And that's why I'm calling you again."

In my 10+ years of being an entrepreneur, I have always been myself – my personal self – in business meetings and dealings. I make dorky jokes. I tell college stories that embarrass me. And I don't use big words when I speak (mostly because my vocabulary sucks).

Related: 2 Things Entrepreneurs Should Not Worry About

Whether or not these people like me as a friend isn't important. People simply respect that I'm just me in a business meeting. Not business me. Just me. And I'm convinced this is the right way to conduct yourself in business.

Continuing my alcohol theme, I'll make my point another way.

Have you ever had drinks with someone and say to yourself after, "Wow, that guy was so much more fun to talk to when he's buzzed!"

There's a reason for that.

Because when you drink, the alcohol does something magical. It knocks down that phony facade you walk around with all day at work and when you're in business meetings. The one that calls your company "disruptive" even though it's not. The one that uses the word "fintech" even though you have no idea what that means. The one that is addicted to the word "scalable."

Alcohol reveals the stripped-down version of you. The one who genuinely prefers greasy pizza over caviar. The one who knows that paying more than $80 for a watch is ridiculously stupid. And the one who laughs at an American Funniest Home Videos whenever a kid knocks his dad in the crotch with a baseball bat.

So start being that person. People want to meet the real you. And they want to do business with the real you.

So start being the real you at your next business lunch - and order yourself a rum and Diet Coke…with a lime.

Related: Are You Serious About Becoming An Entrepreneur?

Greg Shugar

Co-Founder of Thread Experiment

Greg Shugar is Co-Founder of Thread Experiment, the world’s first brand of home bedding dedicated to men. Greg originally founded The Tie Bar and grew it into a $20 million business before a private-equity firm acquired the brand. Greg is now CEO of Shugar Consulting, which specializes in helping new retail brands emerge in the ecommerce and wholesale space. He also regularly speaks on topics related to entrepreneurship and teaches an Entrepreneurship Bootcamp course at Florida Atlantic University. Prior to launching Thread Experiment and The Tie Bar, Shugar was a practicing attorney in Chicago for eight miserable years.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Everyone Wants to Get Close to Their Favorite Artist. Here's the Technology Making It a Reality — But Better.
The Highest-Paid, Highest-Profile People in Every Field Know This Communication Strategy
After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.
Having Trouble Speaking Up in Meetings? Try This Strategy.
He Names Brands for Amazon, Meta and Forever 21, and Says This Is the Big Blank Space in the Naming Game
Thought Leaders

The Collapse of Credit Suisse: A Cautionary Tale of Resistance to Hybrid Work

This cautionary tale serves as a reminder for business leaders to adapt to the changing world of work and prioritize their workforce's needs and preferences.

Business News

These Are the Most and Least Affordable Places to Retire in The U.S.

The Northeast and West Coast are the least affordable, while areas in the Mountain State region tend to be ideal for retirees on a budget.

Business News

The 'Airbnbust' Proves the Wild West Days of Online Vacation Rentals Are Over

Airbnb recently reported that 2022 was its first profitable year ever. But the deluge of new listings foreshadowed an inevitable correction.

Business News

American Airlines Sued After Teen Dies of Heart Attack Onboard Flight to Miami

Kevin Greenridge was traveling from Honduras to Miami on June 4, 2022, on AA Flight 614 when he went into cardiac arrest and became unconscious mid-flight.

Business News

I'm a Former Google Recruiter. Here's How to Land a Job in Tech — and What Can Blow Your Interview

A former Google recruiter says layoffs may be trendy, but tech workers are always needed. Here's how to land a job at a major tech company.

Growing a Business

The No.1 Most Bankable Skill You Must Have to Succeed in 2023

If you don't foster this skill, you'll fall behind the pack financially and professionally in 2023.