Erica Tighe: Knowing Your Mission – Catholic Entrepreneurship & Business
Q: How do you work with clients that might not share the same catholic values as you? At what point do you say no I morally can’t do this and when do you gracefully take them on knowing its a professional relationship and respecting them as a client no matter what they value?
A: Before Be A Heart was my business, it was my blog. I started it to write about my experience of “being a heart – nothing but a heart” in the slums of Brazil. It was about compassion and learning how to love others more deeply and selflessly. After living there for a year and a half, I moved to New York and continued blogging about that transition and how I tried to continue living that same idea in the fast paced city.
Eventually Be A Heart was the platform for which I launched my business as a calligraphy and designer. Imagine now as I walk up to a high profile event to design something on site and someone says to me, “are you Be A Heart?” It still makes me chuckle. What kind of name is that, anyway? But for it, I am so grateful because it really keeps me in check. This idea of being a heart not only dictates how I interact with my clients, but also draws a very specific type of clientele. Most of the people who come to me have a similar heart in life and are promoting beautiful things with their own work. In turn, I get to design things that I believe in myself.
I have yet had to deal with an inquiry project for something that goes against my personal beliefs. I guess I wouldn’t be able to design something for an organization who was anti-refugee or promoting guns or the other issues that contrasts my own convictions. However I also recognize that not all my clients have the exact same beliefs as me on a personal level. I do always try to put the human first. We all have had different experiences to bring us to where we are and I am in no place to judge them. Usually in terms of a professional relationship, I can find plenty that we do have in common rather than seeing our differences.
I usually approach my work as an act of service. I am there to serve them and not discriminate based on who they are or what they believe. This then is an act of love and that is always what I am trying to bring to the world.
Something I have been working on the past few months is learning to trust my own intuition though when I need to turn down a project. I recently had a client call very frantically needing something last minute and out of my normal scope of work. I had a weird feeling of it, but because I always want to be helpful, I agreed to do it. They kept negotiating my price down and asking me to come in extra times to “meet” and long story short it turned into a nightmare and they won’t return our calls or send payment for the work.
So for me, I should have seen some red flags in the way they treated us from the beginning in a way where I felt a bit exploited and used and while I try to treat my clients with love and tend to put in the extra mile for them, I also expect to receive kindness and respect in return.
And in the end, I don’t want my handiwork on a business that may not treat its own clientele or employees with dignity and kindness. I think one of the best ways to avoid this is to be really clear in the mission of your own work and knowing what your non-negotiable issues are. This generally will help in the very beginning to attract those who also want to be affiliated and do business with you.