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Personal Branding: Seven Tips for Identity and Value in Entrepreneurship

Over 20 years ago, Tom Peters introduced the modern concept of personal branding. His groundbreaking “The Brand Called You” has been the Bible for many looking to advance their careers. Entrepreneurs have been in that number, too, and for good reason. To paraphrase Jay Z, an entrepreneur isn’t a business(wo)man, an entrepreneur is a business, man.

As a talent acquisition professional with a background in public relations, I’m a personal branding enthusiast. The thing is I see more in personal branding than firm handshakes, cool social media profiles and a powerful public presence. A pivotal part of Peters’ essay reads, “When you’re promoting brand You, everything you do — and everything you choose not to do — communicates the value and character of the brand.”

That’s why I believe that the core of personal branding is our ability to articulate our identity and value--who we are and how we contribute to those around us. An entrepreneur’s personal brand can only boost business, so here are some tips to leverage identity and value to enhance business.

Be enthusiastic. This is your dream, vision, and goals. No one’s excitement counts more than yours and genuine enthusiasm is contagious, especially to customers.

Make customer service a high priority. Customers remember who handles their issues and how they were handled. We’ve all seen this: a business whose products or services aren’t the best but the customer-pleasing owner is a magnet for repeat business. Remember, also, that the way you talk about your customers on social media--whether you mention names or not--matters a lot.

Be a leader. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Simon Sinek famously said this in his TED Talk “How great leaders inspire action”. As the organizer and leader, people pay attention to your cues. But they also get sucked in to why what you do matters. Nothing makes a personal brand shine like a sense of purpose and a huge part of leadership is purpose.

Personal Branding and Entrepreneurship

Be careful of the personal opinions you share publicly. Building on the previous point, you answer to more people than ever--customers, stakeholders, partners, investors--as an entrepreneur. You’re more than entitled to any opinion you want to share with the public; but understand that, while there’s no one to fire you, people vote with their dollars.

Invest in self-care. A healthy personal brand is a strong personal brand. Take the requisite time to make sure you’re in the kind of shape you need to be in to keep yourself in shape physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Check out the great interview mental health counselor Leslie Brown gave me for my podcast and thank me later.

Always work on your people skills. These would be the same as soft skills (a term I despise). Without strong people skills, personal branding becomes a pointless exercise. When people, especially colleagues, recognize you as a strong communicator, collaborator and organizer, you create opportunities to be an influencer. Nothing fortifies personal branding like being influential.

Remember who got you there. So many times I’ve heard customers and supporters talk about being forgotten by people they helped reach success. Business is business and many of us understand that. But personal branding shines brightly when a successful entrepreneur finds ways to recognize the customers and/or colleagues who helped them build their business(es).

And let me be clear, this isn’t about being liked. This is about doing good business. If people remember who does the good business, that’s a win on top of a win for you.


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