By Alexia Leachman, Personal Branding Coach at Blossoming Brands

In a time where trust is everything in business, having a good reputation is a great place to start. But, did you know that to build a good reputation first requires you to have some solid foundations in place?

Your reputation is what people think of you and what they say about you and will dictate the level of influence you have, both inside and outside your network.

In a trading environment where word of mouth is key, mastering what people are saying about you is a critical success factor. But your reputation is not the beginning. The real work is building a strong personal brand, of which your reputation is a part.

So, what does having a strong personal brand mean?

Your personal brand is made up of many strands, in the same way that a business brand is. Your personal brand is your strengths, your values and your experiences. It’s your achievements, the difference you make and the value you add. It’s your vision and your mission. It’s the way you present yourself, online and off. It’s what others think of you; your reputation. It’s what you say about yourself, both explicitly and implicitly. Your personal brand is everything about you that makes you you. It’s what people like you for and what they rely upon you for.

The secret to building a great brand is this: start at beginning! And the beginning is figuring out who you are and what you’re about. This is being clear on what’s important to you and what you stand for. What makes you different is not WHAT you do, but HOW you do it. And it’s very likely that it’s the HOW that you’ve injected into your business to differentiate.

The entrepreneurial journey is one with highs and lows and one where you have to dig deep to get through all the obstacles thrown your way, so you probably have a really good idea of what you’re made of. If so, your next challenge is to figure out a way of defining and expressing who you are and what you do. Being able to clearly articulate what you do, who you do it for, and what makes you different is an art that can reap significant benefits in business.

Think about the times when you are asked to introduce and present yourself, and then explain your business. As an entrepreneur, what people are buying into is you, and over the lifetime of your business there will be various groups of people that you’ll need to get on side for your business to flourish.

At the beginning, there are your customers and clients. Of course, you need a product or service that they want. But, you are the X-factor that will determine whether people will become your customers. People rarely buy off someone they don’t like and the trust that you build up with them over time will be a contributing factor as to whether they eventually convert into sales.

Next, there is your staff. Whether you’re hiring your first employee or your fiftieth, the impression and impact that you, as a leader, makes on conveying your vision will either attract great staff or not. People search for opportunities to flourish and want to do so surrounded by like-minded people. So it’s important that you’re able to clearly communicate your mission and what you stand for to get the right people on board. A great business is built on a great team, and people are at the heart of this. If you can pull together a team that is unified in its values and mission, your business will be built on solid foundations and is more likely to succeed.

Then there are investors. Whether you’re searching for bank funds, venture capital or angel investors, the one thing that you will hear investors say time and time again is that it’s the person they invest in. There might be a great business model, but it’s the entrepreneur at the heart of it that counts. Being able to sell yourself and your ideas to these guys is going to be a critical factor in the growth of your business.

But remember, with all these scenarios, how you present yourself is only one element of the experience those people will have of you. The likelihood is that they will have checked you out online, they may have heard about you from others or they may have read about you in the press. All these sources of information need to support the overarching message you want people to have of you. If this message differs in some of these places, then you risk having a lack of consistency that can lead to confusion as to what you’re about.

These groups may be making decisions about you before actually meeting you, so it’s important to consider the broader picture and ensure that are you actively managing these diverse elements. Let’s look at it another way; what if they’ve never read about you, can’t find you online or have never heard of you? This is just as bad. In an age of online communities and social networking, actively managing your digital presence and ensuring that it reflects the real life you is key to having a strong personal brand.

So, have you worked out whether your personal brand is supporting your business? Is your personal brand as strong as it could be?

Follow me on Twitter: @AlexiaL or visit my site: www.blossomingbrands.com

Watch the video below featuring Alexia Leachman of Blooming Brands discussing my building a strong personal brand is important.


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