Andrew Carnegie was a self-made steel tycoon and once the wealthiest man in the world. Coming as a dirt poor kid from Scotland to the US, he is credited as one of America’s ‘builders’ as his business helped fuel the American economy. He was also a philanthropist. Among his many philanthropic efforts, he helped in the establishment of Carnegie-Mellon University and funded more than 1600 public libraries across the country.
He once said, “Young man, make your name worth something.” This quote is a great source of inspiration and has very powerful meaning. If you can sell a hat for one dollar, you can sell it for two dollars if you stamp it with your name and make the public feel that your name stands for something.
Jack Trout, a well-known marketing strategist has mentioned in his famous book, Differentiate or Die that human brand, most often the company founder, represents the apex of differentiation. Let’s go through the brief journeys of a few well respected human brands, whose names drive the perception of worth.
Ralph Lauren: Ralph Lauren is an iconic American fashion designer. He is founder of Ralph Lauren Corporation known for products in multiple categories including apparel, home, accessories, and fragrances. During the start of his career, he worked briefly for Brooks Brothers as a clerk and later became a salesman for a tie company, where he convinced the company to let him start his own tie line, which he named Polo. He later entered into menswear followed by other categories. He designed uniforms for American Olympic teams and clothes of cast members of movies.Brand Ralph Lauren is now worth billions of dollars. I would like to share a quote by Ralph Lauren: “You have to create something from nothing”.
Giorgio Armani: Giorgio Armani is an Italian fashion designer. He is founder of Giorgio Armani S.P.A., an Italian fashion house known for haute couture, leather goods, shoes, watches, jewelry, accessories, eyewear, cosmetics and home interiors etc. During the start of his career, he worked as a window dresser at a department store in Milan followed by a seller for the menswear department. Armani brand is now worth billions of dollars and carries the aura of luxury and appeals to elite and fashion literate section of society. I would like to share a quote by Giorgio Armani: “To create something exceptional, your mindset must be relentlessly focused on the smallest detail”.
Hafeez Contractor: Hafeez Contractor is one of India's most successful architects. He is founder of Architect Hafeez Contractor (AHC) - the largest architectural firm in India. He has won innumerable awards for best residential, commercial, educational and hospitality projects across India. He started his career in 1968 as an apprentice with his uncle and in 1982, he began his own practice. Hafeez Contractor brand is now known for iconic projects, design excellence, efficient delivery and building technology. I would like to share a quote by Hafeez Contractor:“Be different, think faster and act fastest”.
Gordon Ramsay: Gordon Ramsay is a celebrity chef, restaurateur, author and a TV personality. He is founder of The Gordon Ramsay Group and runs a number of successful restaurants across the globe.During the starting of his career, he apprenticed with some of Europe's top chefs. In 1998, he opened his own restaurant in London, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, where he earned three Michelin stars. His restaurants are known for best in class experiences. In 1996, he appeared as a judge on the BBC competitive cooking show MasterChef followed by many other popular shows. He has written more than 20 books. Gordon Ramsey brand is now synonymous with excellence. I would like to share with you a quote by Gordon Ramsey:“Put your head down and work hard. Never wait for things to happen, make them happen for yourself through hard graft and not giving up.”
Estée Lauder:Estée Lauder was a beautician and an iconic entrepreneur. She is also considered as one of the richest self-made woman in the world. In 1946, she founded Estée Lauder Cosmetics Inc. – a global leader in prestige beauty including prestige makeup, skin care, fragrance and hair care. She learned from her uncle the art of creating skin creams and how to apply them to women’s faces. As a teenager, she started selling her products at local hair salons. Estée Lauder brand is now considered as the supreme leader of the cosmetics world. I would like to share a quote by Estee Lauder:“I never dreamed about success. I worked for it”.
The above mentioned popular leaders had humble beginnings similar to many of us. The below points talk about a few ways that you could apply to make your name worth something.
Take chances:Taking chances is about taking calculated risks and challenging the status quo. Many people work hard, but a few take chances by overcoming their fear of failure, rejection and doing something different from others. Chances have to be taken not only once but again and again.
Reinvent yourself: To remain valuable, you have to have competitive advantage over others. Our competitive advantage is defined by supply and demand of what we offer relative to the competition. To stay valuable, you have to continuously reinvent yourself with new competitive advantages in terms of social skills, marketing skills, domain skills, personality and so on.
Fight for quality: Fight for quality when you are receiving work from your vendors and employees and at the same time fight for quality with your competitors, when you are delivering work to your clients. Clients remember discounts only during the transaction, but remember quality for the engagement period with your product or service.
Earn credentials: To make your worth believable, you have to continuously earn credentials, which could be awards, certifications, testimonials, partnerships etc. People create their opinions based on your credentials.
Become specialist: Specialists are perceived as experts and people don’t mind paying higher amount to experts because of perception of the value to be received. But remember, due to continuous change in industry, domains, competition, customer demands and technologies, sooner or later every specialization becomes a generalization. So, be prepared to learn, unlearn and relearn things.
Establish associations: It matters with whom you partner with, to whom you sell your product and how you sell your product. For instance, if you perceive your products as aspirational and premium as compared to your competitors but you sell them through middle-market department stores that compete on prices, then you are going in wrong direction. You would need to work with retailers known for carrying high-quality, premium-priced products to change the perception and reach to the right customers.
When you are on the journey of making your name worth something, you can’t cut corners in giving your best. This journey demands many sacrifices and expects you to continuously raise the bar of your dreams, efforts and achievements.
(Views expressed are author's personal and don't necessarily represent any company's opinions.)