Learn how your personal brand and your company brand can influence each other.
Where do personal and company brands intersect? Should an entrepreneur seek to establish their own name first, or focus on the company brand to launch? Unlike the chicken/egg predicament, when the entrepreneur builds their personal brand first, establishing their presence and representing their vision, passion, talents and mission, the company brand becomes proof of that vision and an element of fulfilling their mission.
Building the Entrepreneur’s Brand
Some believe entrepreneurs are born … others claim they are made. Either way, the brand of the individual is a powerful asset. When an entrepreneur creates a strong and consistent value proposition for themselves and what they think, believe in and strive to accomplish, they set the expectation of the experience others should have when interacting with them. Investors know who the person is and what drives them. Employees can align with the visionary’s beliefs and goals. Business partners, the media, colleagues and other stakeholders come to trust the consistency of the entrepreneur’s brand and therefore continue to rely on them, refer to them, and endorse them.
Building the brand for an entrepreneur is sometimes the result of a reputation “pivot”. These shifts come when someone working in one environment decides to make a change into a new career, in this case entrepreneurship. Whether it’s from a corporate, academic, non-profit or even military background, the individual realizes they want to own their own business and changes their job title to “entrepreneur”.
Pivots can be tricky for some entrepreneurs. If previously known for their work as a corporate CEO, for example, getting people to recognize them as a founder of a new business, or the owner of a franchise, or the pioneer to a new vision can be complicated. I’ve worked with many professionals who’ve become entrepreneurs and the first thing to focus on is the “why”: Why did you want to start the company? Why are you poised to be successful? Why do you see this business as a need in the marketplace? Why is the time right for this business/service today? The “why” questions start the narrative of who the entrepreneur is and why this mission is in alignment with their life’s purpose.
The entrepreneur’s personal brand will always be rooted in their values and credibility. Answering “why” to questions like those above give insight into the person behind the vision – the part that anchors others to their brand and makes us connect with them emotionally. Then, the marketing strategy of the entrepreneur’s brand seeks to build consistency of narrative, actions and promotion across all touch points – in person and online – to spread that vision far and wide within target markets.
Leveraging the Entrepreneur’s Brand to the Company
With the entrepreneur’s brand articulated, then we look to the company (or companies’) brand. Extending the founder’s reputation and brand to the companies helps make it clear why the companies were birthed and where the entrepreneur sought to go with them. This is where the entrepreneur gains power and leverage!
Consider the example of Elon Musk. Musk is a well-known entrepreneur, visionary and pioneer of innovative technology with a passion for creating ways to improve the human experience by creating multi-planetary connectedness and responsibility of natural resources. His brand is consistent across all touchpoints – whether he’s speaking to the media, delivering a keynote to aspiring innovators or appearing on Saturday Night Live – and he is the visionary behind some of the most cutting-edge platforms our generation has ever seen. When Musk announced the formation of Tesla, people saw the connection. When he launched SpaceX, it made sense. These brands and companies are consistent expressions of the Elon Musk brand and vision for the world.
Being able to transfer the credibility of a personal brand – like Musk has done – is the goal of every entrepreneur. The founder who establishes trust, visibility and credibility in their story (and their “why”) can then leverage that credibility to the portfolio companies that bear their investment and their vision. Then, those brands can establish their own identity, audience and vision, but they must remain consistent with the vision of the entrepreneur.
Unlike the question of “which came first, the chicken or the egg,” when it comes to branding, the entrepreneur is advised to clarify their own vision, mission and goals before establishing the company brands.
Lida Citroën is the author of CONTROL THE NARRATIVE: The Executive’s Guide To Building, Pivoting And Repairing Your Reputation. She is an award-winning branding and reputation management expert who designs and enhances the identities of executives, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders globally. As CEO and founder of LIDA360, LLC, Citroën is sought-after for her knowledge of personal brand development, reputation management, leadership communication, and online positioning. For more information please visit www.Lida360.com.
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