Emma Brown

The business of business doesn’t have to be boring. You want to stand out from the pack, don’t you?

How to be self-expressed in business

I was in the shopping centre with my partner over the weekend. We noticed a group of young girls carrying huge boxes out of a store. There must have been 20 of them.

Curious to find out more (we’re fascinated by products that sell well) we went inside. The concept was simple. A kid chooses a bear, dresses it in whatever they please, accessorises it, then names it. They get to print out a birth certificate, complete with the bear’s name and then their new toy is placed in a big box.

The kids then stand around the front of the store talking to each other “My one’s name is Sally!” “My one has a fireman outfit!” “Mine has better shoes than yours!”

I got to thinking about this. What makes this concept so clever, apart from the fact that it amuses kids and gives their parents an hour or so of respite? It’s the fact that the kid gets to express themselves. They can be an individual.

I love it when I see people being themselves in business. I had a giggle the other day when I called Tim Harcourt, chief economist for Austrade and fellow SmartCompany blogger, and his voicemail message told me he was out promoting Australian export products to the world. Hoorah for not having a boring message about being away from your desk.

My friend Naomi Simson of RedBalloon Days and also a fellow Smart blogger is also one for being herself in business. It’s a rare day when you don’t see her wearing red or telling it straight. Go Naomi! You are your brand and you are you.

I was speaking with another friend, who’s a partner at Deloittes, about this. She loves to wear colourful shoes to work and has no problem telling everyone that she must leave at 5pm to be with her family.

Now, non-self-expressed people don’t do this. They simply make up stories as to why they must leave early, or try be sneaky to cover it up. This woman proudly tells everyone “I work hard while I’m here, but I also have a life outside work”. She encourages other females in the firm to be themselves – wear pink; wear lipstick; have fun; be you.

So, here’s my challenge for you. This week try being yourself. Let people into your world. When you’re deciding on an outfit to wear to work and you stop yourself when you hear a little voice that says “Oh! I could never wear that to work”, wear it! If you want to tell a joke but don’t think you’re allowed to be funny, tell it.

Here are some other ways to be self-expressed in business:

  • Have fun with your business card (mine has my coffee order on it).
  • Put something interesting on your email signature (and change this regularly).
  • Send out your favourite quote.
  • Start a blog.
  • Wear what you want, not what you think is the right thing to wear.
  • Tell people things about youself and what you’re up to – when we know more about each other, the relationship deepens. Sometimes you have to be the catalyst for that.


Emma Brown, at 27, has bought two businesses and sold one. She is Chief Chick of Business Chicks, Australia’s leading community for businesswomen. She’s on the board of Entrepreneurs Organisation, and lives in Sydney with her fellow entrepreneur partner. When she resumes drinking coffee her order is for soy lattes.


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