Creative Business Advice: Why You Need a Business "Giraffe"
Okay Annie, now you’ve really lost it.
Last week, you invented an obnoxious networker named Todd, and this week you are telling me that I need a business giraffe!?
What’s wrong with you?
I hear you - but hang on.
What if I told you that having a "business giraffe" is actually a free and simple way to get more amazing business resources, relationships, opportunities, and gifts from others delivered directly to you for the rest of your life?
Curious? Stay with me while I tell you a quick story and I promise this will all make sense.
Nana's Giraffe: A Story
My grandmother Marilyn Fleishman turns 85 next week. Anyone who knows my “Nana” also knows this one very key thing: she loves giraffes.
Her home in Fayetteville is filled with an immense, inspiring giraffe collection. There are crystal giraffes, hand-carved giraffes, giraffe plates, painted giraffe eggs, and even my personal favorite as a little kid: Barbie Giraffe. She must have at least 300 that she’s gotten over the years. She even has a 10+ foot tall stuffed giraffe. It's the mascot of the small business she started with my grandfather in 1951, a children's specialty store named Tiny Town.
And here’s the the amazing thing about that huge number - many of these giraffes are gifts. I know at least 10 of them came from me, Gus and me, or me and my parents along the years since we always pick one up if we spot something unique. And we’re not alone - not by a long shot.
Since everyone knows that Nana knows about this love, most people in her circle of friends, family, and professional associates have instinctively developed a habit of scanning their own daily lives for giraffes. I know I keep an eye out for interesting giraffes everywhere I go and I know at least two dozen other people who do too. So many people think of her and tell her stories about giraffes - meeting them, seeing them on TV etc.
This happens because Nana’s interest is clear, collectible, and easy to spot. For these reasons, her collection has grown dramatically without her doing anything at all - other than publicly embracing this interest.
So in her almost 85 years, Nana’s received hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars worth of gifts, made countless friends, been written about in the local paper, and more by doing one very simple and very free thing: naming and sharing something specific that she loves.
What Nana Can Teach Us
Nana's on to something. Her interest in giraffes, given all the blessings it has brought her throughout her life, is actually the perfect, free, and easy brand awareness tool that we all have at our disposal.
All we have to do is name and share our own business giraffe.
Your business giraffe is that one thing that people know you love that relates to your professional life.
It’s the subject, object, or concept that you love and are insanely interested in a professional capacity. You might collect it or you may just really like it and share it often online or in person with others.
Here are a few examples of a business giraffe and how having one easily benefits your career:
John Lasseter and Hawaiian Shirts
John Lasseter is the Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios. As you can see, he loves Hawaiian shirts. He owns more than 1,000 of them. This publicly-shared love has led to a custom line of Hawaiian shirts created by Disney (one for each Disney Animation and Pixar films), countless articles, and even an entire exhibit at Disney’s fan event, D23 in 2015.
I’d bet John Lasseter often receives gifts of Hawaiian shirts very often from friends and business connections alike. I'm sure he has for many years- maybe decades. Like the films he leads, these shirts are quirky, fun, and informal. They become one of those things that inspire people to create and give back to him in various ways - personally and professionally.
Maghon Taylor and Confetti
Maghon Taylor is a talented calligrapher and calligraphy teacher with her own business, All She Wrote Notes. Take one look at Maghon’s Instagram feed and you’ll instantly learn this: Maghon loves confetti.
We're talking deep, unabashed love. She even makes paper confetti out of her calligraphy page mistakes. She often shares that she believes this confetti is a literal metaphor for how you can repurpose your failures into opportunities.
Maghon’s inbox and mailbox is often full of confetti-inspired resources and gifts that her friends, family, or followers have seen and spotted on her behalf. According to her this happens all the time and every single day!
As just one example, someone recently sent Maghon a link to a $400 confetti chair on Instagram. This inspired her and her husband Chris to create a DIY version of it - leading to an awesome new project she can share with her followers AND a wonderful piece for her office.
Take note that Maghon didn’t ask me to feature her. I thought of her naturally for this article because of this interest. Thanks to her business giraffe, she’s got a spotlight here on my business blog without ever asking for it.
Who doesn't like organic, free PR?
Me and Story/Storytelling
As you may know, my biggest passion in life is finding creative ways to help you and tell your story. I share my love of storytelling and interest in "story" a lot with others - at one-on-one coffees, personal get togethers, and even at speaking engagements.
Because of this, I get introduced to amazing people without asking for the introduction because mutual connections see an opportunity to connect two storytellers.
Or I hear about an awesome conference based on living a great story, like Storyline. I even get personalized “I saw this and thought of you” gifts from friends, family, and business collaborators like notebooks that say “Write Your Story” on them.
So your business giraffe doesn't have to be a physical thing - it can be a concept like storytelling.
So what's my business giraffe and how do I share it?
1. Scan your life and your career - is there something you love or always love to read articles about in a professional capacity?
Here's a few different types of things it could be:
- An animal
- A place
- A product
- A movie
- A song or musician
- A concept (like storytelling, branding, networking, etc.)
If you’re having trouble, go back through any of your social platforms where you read articles for pleasure and look at your reading history - is there a subject or object that you often read about?
Or if you have a lot of personal interests, do any of them relate to your professional story? For example, does your day-to-day life as a lawyer lend itself to your personal love of the superhero Daredevil - a lawyer and secret vigilante?
2. Once you have something in mind, the next step is to share it with others informally where you can.
Brainstorm organic ways to bring it up online or in personal conversations. Here are some examples of ways to share your business giraffe:
- Post images of your giraffe to Instagram, like Maghon does
- Linking relevant articles about your giraffe on your business Facebook page or your LinkedIn Profile
- Create a board on your Business Pinterest Profile dedicated to your business giraffe and great pins about it (DIY projects, quotes, and more)
- Write about your giraffe on your business blog or on an open blogging platform like Medium (find me on Medium here)
- Asking your next coffee or lunch date about their business giraffe! See what they say and share yours
- Wear your interest if possible (showcase your giraffe subtly or overtly on a tshirt, a hat, maybe even a tote bag - I did this with my DIY Greatest Story shirt)
As you do this more and more consistently, you'll start to see more opportunities, resources, and surprises come your way. It's bound to happen - as you've seen above, it's really human nature. To show you what I mean, skip to step 3 below.
3. Tell ME about your business giraffe!
If you tell me about your business giraffe - that one thing that you love, guess what will happen? I will naturally start to unconsciously scan the universe for resources, opportunities, connections, and more to help YOU. And that sounds pretty awesome right?!