You hear about it and you know it’s important, but how do you get started?
The very notion of building my personal brand makes me want to vomit. My dad and my first professional mentors were clear: The company comes before you. For years, I have subjugated myself to the good of the company. I still believe that, to a large degree.
I was once asked to temporarily change my reporting relationship from the CEO to an incoming executive recruit in order to solidify his acceptance. Sure, why not I answered. If it helps us get bigger, faster, I am all in.
In a fiscally tight environment one year, I twice deferred my salary in order to make payroll. It’s what you do as CEO, I told my wife and my board. My compensation comes last in order to keep the team motivated.
A few years back, a hotshot rising young star came through town. I had recruited him to speak twice over a two-day period, but in between, he and I got a chance to sit for about three hours. We were both principals in early stage seed funds. I was marketing old school (the company came first) and he was marketing new school (what’s good for you is good for the company).
Over the course of those two days, he completely shifted my thinking toward using the current tools to build out my personal brand. His message was clear: “People vote on you, and your company brand comes along for the ride.”
Here are five things I focus on in my brand building:
Write a blog
Yes, you are now one of a million writers, and yes, it is a long slog to build an audience. But certain people will judge you if you don’t have a voice. I have been writing on my blog for over two years, and get lots of great feedback because of it. It is very easy to set up a blog, regardless of your technical capabilities.
Write for others
Around the same time, I had the opportunity to meet Eric Schurenberg, the managing editor of Inc. magazine, who enjoyed my observations and stories of startup struggles. After reading my blog, he asked me to be a contributing writer. There are many publications that are looking for credible and opinionated writers.