As you know, if you have been ‘round these parts before, I have spent a fair amount of time in my career as an advisor to SMBs. I have consulted for over 100 companies and have a broad range of experiences to draw from. Between my professional experience, academic success and years on the planet, I feel like I have a fairly reasonable set of expectations for professional behavior. Probably I lean toward high expectations, but nothing unreasonable and I always take circumstances or context into consideration.
Therefore, if you have failed to meet my expectations, then you were not trying that hard. And I won’t be shy about pointing that out.
Apparently, not everyone appreciates that.
But here’s the thing. You don’t work for your company. You don’t punch a time clock. You don’t have a job. No matter what you do, you work for yourself – even if someone else writes the check. Therefore it is up to you to maintain your personal brand. You are the boss of You, Inc. You are your best client. No matter who you report to, you represent yourself – even in a sea of employees.
So when you fail, it’s on you. If you fail to deliver the expected experience to your client, your boss, your teammates and your peers – it’s on you. You are your brand and you need to know what you stand for. As your client, your boss, your teammate or your peer, I don’t care how awesome you were last week or how awesome you plan to be two weeks from now. If you provided poor service during our transaction, you lost brand value with me. Maybe you do respond to everyone else’s emails immediately – that is no consolation to me when it took 7 days, three messages, and a phone call to get a response on my question. Maybe you are super organized when your boss asks you to manage a small project, but if you make my project difficult, you have lost brand value with me. Maybe you are senior to me, make more money than I do, have a cooler job, drive a nicer car, or have better hair than I do. Doesn’t matter. If my experience with you is sub-par, then you have lost brand value with me.
It is exhausting to be good. That’s why so many brands fail. There is a tremendous amount of money spent on advertising, but nothing left for employee training. In those cases, that brand will fail. There are hours and hours poured into product development, but no clear sales plan. In those cases the brand will fail. There is huge emphasis placed on buzz or hype, but no real results to show, in that scenario, the brand will fail.
Just like a large organization, your ability to deliver consistent results, with on time delivery and smooth processing will help you to build your brand. Like a large organization, all the advertising (or in your case, swagger) in the world won’t save your brand if you fail to deliver.
It is your reputation on the line and you tell that story every day by who you are, what you do, and how you do it. Do not tell me that you are an effective communicator when I can get any information from you. What you do and how you do it have already told me otherwise.
Glenn Llopis says that “your personal brand should represent the value you are able to consistently deliver to those whom you are serving.” The key there is consistently. If you were awesome last week and plan to be awesome again in two weeks, that doesn’t really help me this week does it?
Yes, everyone has their bad days, but how you recover when you fumble speaks volumes about your brand. If you sputter excuses, react sarcastically, or shame the person who dared to point out your inconsistencies, well then, perhaps your brand awareness needs a little work.
Can you create a personal brand? I would say no. But you can, over time, build a personal brand. You can tell the story of who you are every day by what you do, and how you do it.