(even if you're Swedish)

How gutsy is it to be thoroughly Swedish in Saudi Arabia?  Or South Korea, or Ireland, or the Dominican Republic? Is it nuts to promote Swedish meatballs in America, the land of hot dog lovers, not meatball eaters?

Swedish meatballs are on sale everywhere there’s an IKEA. Displays on “Billy”* bookshelves in Singapore, Jordan, and the United Kingdom have volumes written in Swedish.

Most companies (not to mention most salespeople) become chameleons in front of their customers. Not IKEA. It is Swedish from top to bottom everywhere it goes.

The wisdom of lesson #4 may seem self-evident from the perspective of IKEA’s success today, but it must have taken great courage at an earlier time for IKEA to be IKEA no matter where it was going.

There are two practical reasons to be more you. First, spotting a phony isn’t very hard, and when the truth comes out, it will really, really bite. Volkswagen emissions anyone?

Second, it takes a lot of time and energy to hide the truth. All the time spent crafting a slick message to sound bigger or more important than you are could be devoted to something productive. The language in your emails, the thinking required to shave the truth when you explain what you do – all wasted energy. You may as well spend the time writing a dress code for yourself.

Celebrating who you are and being truthful isn’t just sound advice, it’s key to your success.

*Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA was dyslexic and had a terrible time with product numbers. That’s why IKEA products have names.