Business owners and presidents are often closely linked with their businesses. Think Frank Perdue of chicken fame or Crazy Eddie of the electronics company.
Both of these icons and others have driven their businesses to new sales heights by building a personal brand.
However, the downside of this approach is the fact that if they are caught in scandal or their reputations are besmirched, the company will suffer as well.
The idea of “building a personal brand” has been around for centuries.
The ancient Greeks called it areté, and it meant being the best you can be.
During the time of knights and castles, it was called “honor,” and individuals were expected to defend it to the death.
George Washington and men of his era were extremely concerned about maintaining and protecting their reputation.
And in the 20th century, it might have been referred to as one’s standing in one’s community or your industry.
So “personal brand” is simply a new phrase for an old concept — how one presents oneself, and one’s business, to others.
Throughout history, it’s also been important for men and women to understand how others perceive them, to manage that perception, and to guide it so that all of their other goals can be achieved.
It’s the recognition that living in society with people, one’s success is as dependent on what others think about what one can do as it is on what one can actually do.
The big change in modern times is scale.
The Greeks had only to be concerned with people living in their city, knights with their honor within the kingdom, Washington with his reputation within the Colonies, and in the 20th century an individual’s standing was dependent on one’s community and one’s industry.
What’s changed is the modern economy. Companies can vaporize overnight. Whole industries can be upended by a change in technology, regulation or globalization.
So what’s important now is what a person’s brand is known for and available not only to the people of his or her city, state, country or industry, but to any professional at any time.
A small-business owner never knows when he or she will be tossed into a new industry, a new city or a new company, so it’s important for a small-business owner to consider how he or she is perceived and how the individual’s background and skills will be interpreted by others.
Adding to the tumultuousness of the modern economy, modern technology has bestowed upon us Google, social networks, blogs and a host of other means for others to learn about the small-business leader’s areté, honor, reputation, standing, in ways besides speaking directly with others.
In that sense, then, building one’s personal brand is about understanding how the small-business leader wants his or her professional life to be seen by others, and then managing his or her presence in both the offline and online worlds toward that end.
Here are five things small-business leaders can do to manage their reputations:
- Regularly check Google and other sources to see what has been written about them.
- Conceive and follow a plan to be published and/or to be interviewed about regarding their particular expertise and the company’s offerings.
- Insure the company’s Web site has a page devoted to the staff’s background, especially the leader’s efforts.
- Have any press mentions of staff listed on the company’s Web site.
- Poll customers on what they perceive are the strengths and weaknesses of the company.
- Have a LinkedIn page with the ability for others to talk about the company and its staff.
- Immediately respond to any criticism with positive responses. If something negative is reported, admit mistakes and promise reform.
- Above all, stay positive about the small-business leader and the company.