What words come to mind when you see the Nike swoosh? Do you think sports, Air Jordan, Tiger Woods or "Just do it"? Companies have brands. Experts define brand as the personality and attributes that identify a product, service or company. Now, let's change our thinking from companies and products to people. Can people have brands?
What words come to mind when someone mentions Bill Gates? Do you think wealthy, smart, geeky, philanthropist? Now picture Charlie Sheen. We have heard comedian, actor, tiger blood and train wreck as descriptors when we have asked the question.
If we define brand as the personality and attributes that identify something, then perhaps we can agree that people have brands. We create our personal brand through our actions, the decisions we make and the words we speak. Our brand comes from our choice of outfits, our smile and handshake, and how well we follow-up. Frankly, everything we do and the choices we make help to create the image others have of us - our personal brands.
Do we care? Does it matter what others think of us? Perhaps you don't. Maybe you have a job and personal life that require little or no interaction, influence or communication with others. If so, your personal brand may not be important. However, if you are a small businessperson, your brand may make the difference between success and failure.
Finish the following sentence. Business is about . . . ? We ask this question in one of our workshops. Answers we have received run the gamut from profits, the bottom line, strategy, customer service and making money. However, we contend that the correct answer is relationships. Business is about relationships. As we say, you don't do business with numbers. You don't do business with companies. You do business with people. No one receives a sale or contract with an organization before a person makes a decision.
If you want to be successful in business, you must manage your personal brand. That means that you need to take a close look at everything associated with you to ensure that you are sending the right messages to your current and potential customers.
When is the last time you took a hard look at your personal appearance? While we can only do with what God gave us, we can do the best we can. Do your clothes flatter you? Are they appropriate to your work environment? How about your personal grooming? Before someone can get to know you, he or she has to be interested in meeting you. Little things matter when creating a great first impression.
Do you have a strong, professional handshake, a pleasant greeting and use appropriate eye contact? Does your elevator speech cause others to say, "Tell me more"? Do you ask interesting questions? Do others stay and chat rather than disengage? All long-term relationships start with a hello.
Do you have solid communication and presentation skills? Are you both competent and confident in conversation? Do you use too much technical jargon or speak to impress rather than inform? Do you adjust your speech to make your audience feel more at ease? Are you a good listener? Are you pulling others to you or pushing them away?
How is your customers' experience when calling your company, accessing your website or interacting with your employees? Do your business policies and procedures make it easy for them to do business with you? Do your clients say, "Wow!" or "OMG"?
Do others want to work with you? Do you have a reputation for great business practices, follow-through and fairness? Do people seek you out on matters outside your area of expertise? Do people trust you?
If you don't like your responses to the above questions, can you turn things around? The answer is yes. While it may take time and effort, it is possible to change your image. Don't be afraid to ask for help or expert advice. Remember, everything about us and associated with us contributes to our image. What do you want your brand to be?