July 3, 2013

Building Your Personal Brand: Good for You, Good for your Company [Part 1]

BY Shirley Robinson IN Uncategorized 0 Comment

(Part 2 is here.)

You’re not Steve Jobs.  And you probably never will be.  Experiencing a pang of disappointment?  Why do so many business owners seek to emulate the legendary CEO of Apple Computer?  Jobs was probably the epitome of a business owner whose personal brand led to so much of the company’s success.  He was one of a kind.  But as with many of his decisions, those of us trying to grow our businesses and our fortunes can learn from him in how he built the Jobs brand.

Although great brands often have visionary leaders with the power to motivate employees, customers, and the press alike to action, it’s very small businesses that really rely on the CEO’s personal brand for success.  You are the public face of the organization, and your audience wants to know that your company’s products/services and messages are in line with you as an individual.  It makes your company more compelling; it tells a story of craftsmanship and dedication to values.  Jobs put as much care into the design of his personal brand as he did to the design of Apple’s products, and spent a great deal of time making sure the two were in harmony.

You spend a lot of energy attracting attention. Make sure it’s well spent.

Why it’s worth it

You’ll spend a fair amount of time networking and planning marketing projects, so it’s crucial to tell your business’s story in your own demeanor and actions.  Make sure your presentation makes sense for the industry you’re in, but don’t be too much like everyone else.  For example, if you’re the CEO of a tech startup, maybe jeans and a black turtleneck are a bit played out by now.  Remember, you as the CEO have to make people care about your company–and that often means making them care about you.

There’s more to personal branding than clothes and mannerisms, though.  It’s about values, goals, and overall strategy.  This sort of introspective work helps you as well when you’re engaging in the most basic business planning, because understanding what kind of image you want to project as a business person helps you figure out what kind of image you want your business itself to project.

You’re so vain, you probably think this brand is about you

A word of warning:  it can go too far.  If you spend so much time crafting an elaborate, perfectly consistent, newsworthy eccentricity, it’s going to ring false.  People are going to suspect that you spend so much time crafting your brand that you don’t have time to run your business properly.  And guess what?  They’ll probably be right.  As with many fun things, it’s easy to over-indulge.

You also don’t want to create a cult of personality (as fun as the prospect may be).  This isn’t a 1950s dictatorship, it’s a company; and this may be one place where criticism of Steve Jobs is well placed.  Each employee’s ability to think critically and contribute to the health of the enterprise should always supersede the CEO’s need for adoring, unquestioning loyalty.

So what do I do now?

Great question! We hope we’ve convinced the small business owners and executives who are reading this of the importance of personal branding. On Friday we’ll give you some more of the nitty-gritty about how to go about it effectively, authentically, and productively.

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