Let me start this week with a fiendishly tough question. Who’s the boss of Virgin?
And for your bonus point, who’s the boss of Starbucks? The answer to that one is Howard Shultz, and in the States he’s as identifiable – and as closely associated with his company – as Richard Branson is in the UK.
‘It’s the economy, stupid’ was one of Bill Clinton’s three core messages in his 1992 campaign against sitting President George Bush. If you’re an entrepreneur running a business then a subtle variation applies: It’s You, Stupid.
Your business has a brand: you know that. But there’s another brand that you need to work on – your personal brand. The two are closely linked – but they’re not the same. And before you breathe a sigh of relief and think, ‘I’m alright this week; I’m a professional, Ed’s only talking about entrepreneurs…’ No, I’m not. If you’re the senior partner of Very & Large, solicitors of York, then this week’s column applies just as much to you.
Are you uncomfortable promoting your personal brand? I’d be surprised if the majority of my readers didn’t answer ‘yes’ to that one. But it has to be done – you’re the face of your business and exposure for you equals exposure for your business. But how do you do it? More to the point, how do you promote yourself in a way you can be comfortable with?
• This may be difficult, but do a SWOT analysis on yourself. I’m always encouraging you to carry out this analysis on your business: take ten minutes and look at your own strengths and weaknesses – and see what opportunities those might generate. Threats? I’ve written before about the need for entrepreneurs to be physically healthy and to have their work/life balance in sync.
• Look at your personal story as well – people always have and always will deal with other people that they know, like and trust. Remember, when they read the ‘About’ page on your website they don’t just want to know that you’re competent, they want to know that they’d like you. And one tip for telling your story – if something interesting happens, tell the media. I’m not suggesting the Nine O’ Clock news will immediately drop everything – but local papers and BBC local radio always need stories.
• Develop the skills you need. Hopefully your SWOT analysis will have thrown up a few weaknesses – if it hasn’t, ask your children to do it for you. You can get specialist help with things like public speaking and radio interview technique – areas that allow you to tell your story in a natural way and establish you as an authority.
• Finally, to return to the wisdom of Stephen Covey, ‘sharpen the saw.’ Keep working on your skills. Hopefully this is an area where TAB can help: the problems and challenges that you bring to the boardroom table don’t always have to be about the business – Board members are always ready to help with personal development challenges as well.
So how valuable is your personal brand? A couple of years ago I was introduced to someone at a business meeting. “This is Ed Reid,” went the introduction, “He writes a blog.” And we had a chat about the blog, which was a great chance to make some points about TAB and the business I was building.
I recently met the person I was introduced to again. “Ah…” he said, “The Man Who Blogs. I’ve been meaning to contact you for about six months…”
I know that’s my story but I think it’s a great example of how a personal brand can complement a business brand. And the key word is complement – writing a business blog isn’t too far away from TAB and it’s something memorable. I may not have as strong a personal brand as Richard Branson – but in that instance having a personal brand worked for me.
Have a great weekend. It’s time for me to go and play golf with some great mates – sadly an area where my strengths aren’t quite what they were and my weaknesses are starting to be all too evident…