Are you guilty of relying on your company’s name and presence – and not working hard to establish your own personal brand? Unless you have an infamous past to hide, you’ll do yourself and your company a big favor by relentlessly communicating a clear, consistent and compelling personal brand. Then, you may leverage your brand so it functions as a 24/7 ambassador, not just for yourself, but also for your organization.
People who don’t “get it,” always ask: “Why would my firm want me to be personally recognized – shouldn’t the company brand be the be-all and end-all of my identity as an employee?”
Those folks don’t know that “human assets” is the new term for “human resources,” and has even replaced the more recent moniker “talent,” when it comes to describing employees. Frankly, most companies don’t want to spend much money on developing employees. Like getting dressed in the morning and showing up on time, your responsibility for the basics of self-management rest with you, not the company. Personal branding ranks above getting dressed and below speaking at the next TED conference, when it comes to desirable self-management.
Now that indentured servitude is illegal, many companies see that even paying for a skilled foreign worker’s visa is a bad investment. We used to believe that foreign workers would stay because the company took on the work and expense of getting the visa. We found out, once you get the visa…well, you can pretty much go anywhere – and you do, no reimbursement (or even a hearty thank you) required.
What’s also come to light over the last decade of stakeholders’ scrutiny? Most companies’ training dollars “invested” in employees disappear faster than their 401K plans did last year. As soon as you leave for the next job, the company’s investment in you leaves as well.
So, companies want their employees to be competent, respected and committed to growing their own reputations, skills, connections and career path. Maybe your firm will part with some tuition reimbursement money, but frankly most employers want you to come in and be the best you can be, and lend them all the connections, visibility and relationships you have.
Your brand is part of what makes you a human asset, as opposed to a human liability.
Let’s compare human assets to real assets. Most companies don’t buy “real assets” like property and buildings, and hope those assets will be invisible to the naked eye. It’s true not everyone is still ideating on the Taj Mahal concept of buildings as monuments to the founder’s ego. However, most companies spend a good bit of coin to keep up the limestone, granite, wood, plastic and fiberboard based dwellings we call our headquarters or offices.
As you drive up, the building makes an impression, way before the sign does. In a weird way, the building has a personal brand. Even the office complex or the neighborhood is branded – elite, modern, efficient, convenient, near the freeway, off the beaten track and “by the way we have a squash court and a company gym,” are components of the building’s brand.
When I went to work for The Coca-Cola Company, I immediately got the “we are on a campus” branded land use, much like Allergan, Google and Yahoo later copied. The space communicates this brand message: “We care about our people and our image with visiting clients and partners.”
So, consider yourself a mobile branding platform for your organization, even if all the mobile you’re doing is running on a treadmill in the company T-shirt while chatting to the panting person next to you.
I bet you never call a restaurant, and make a reservation for:
“Party of 5 young, intelligent, happening kind of people.”
Do you leave an amorphous description that could fit any group? Or, do you leave your name? Hopefully, you leave your name (and the number of guests the venue should expect). That way, the hostess doesn’t give away your table to any equally hip group of five – before you arrive.
Here’s the connection to personal branding in business.
People don’t buy from Consolidated Waste Management Assets, Houston Office. They buy from you, Bunky. That is, if you’re the hip, young and intelligent Bunky McFearson of Consolidated Waste Management Assets, Houston Office. Yes, customers write the PO to CWMA, Houston. They make the check out to the firm. But, they buy from YOU. You have to build your personal brand, even if you are in Large Company, Inc.
Certainly you are the brand when you’re job hunting. Don’t label your resume document: Resume.pdf. Label it: McFearson4AcmeWasteManagement.pdf
And, when you open your own shop, remember that the greats have leveraged their own names – way before they were large and famous.
- Morgan Stanley
- Ogilvy & Mather
- Holmes and Narver
- O’Melveny & Myers – and every humongous law firm.
Often small business owners have the misperception that using their own name makes them appear small. It’s an unfortunate misunderstanding of business and business relationship development.
What is the power of using your name?
You may be the biggest point of leverage and differentiator among your competitors. Why hide that? It probably is the single best part of working with your firm – YOU!
To all my favorite personal brands, including YOU: Have a clear, consistent and compelling 2010!