I was in a meeting this week with an IT consulting prospect when one of their C suite laid this on me:

“So how does what you do apply to our business?”

This client actively manages projects for 100 of the Fortune 1000.

Instantly I felt anxiety in my body. Heart racing. Fingers tapping each other. My mind paging through catalogs of knowledge I’ve shoved away about how to build a brand.

And then there is the voice. Shame whispering: “Who-am-I-to-be-talking-to-this-guy? Did-I-do-enough-research-on-this-company? Do-I-really-think-we-can-help? This-is-going-to-be-a-short-meeting.”

Silence.

I looked at the four other people in the room, and then back at the the executive who asked the question.

“People,” I said.

“We believe that business is about people. Every single one of your customers is a person. And each of them buys your service from a person. Blue Ocean Ideas helps you figure out what that means for your business and how to build a brand that relates to people.”

It’s true in every industry. It doesn’t matter how big or small the organization is. Fortune 500 or mom-and-pop around the corner.

My reply re-framed our conversation and allowed us to look at their business in a new light. It wasn’t a “right answer.” It wasn’t magical. It also wasn’t generic. It focused the conversation that followed on the purpose, humanity, and strategy of this business.

In the anxious moment, the best courage I could muster was to remember that I didn’t ask to be at this meeting. I was asked to be there. I could be myself, be honest, and offer what I thought would be most helpful.

My desire to love the people in the room trumped my fear that I don’t belong there.

Love wins.