How Personal Brands Drive Business Success People do business with people. As a startup, one of the strongest tools in your arsenal is your personal brand. Do potential clients and partners know who you are and what you stand for, and are you building the right relationships?

By Emannuel Bokono

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As entrepreneurs, we are often focused on building our businesses and customer loyalty. Our personal brands don't always receive the same focus. I would argue that as a start-up, even though there are so many other urgent things demanding your time, you cannot neglect your personal brand.

Over the course of the past year, I've received a number of accolades, and these have been the result of focusing on building personal brand equity and maintaining my reputation. There's an argument to be made that awards are nice-to-haves, but can distract you from the real goal of building your business. I disagree.

Personal branding as a gold standard

Personal branding is an excellent way to build a reputation in the market for consistency, performance and the associations you have as a leader in your industry. It can act as a catalyst for professionals at all levels, particularly entrepreneurs looking to take their business to the next level.

Never under-value the fact that a strong personal brand generates interest and opens doors for business — even if it just gets you that first meeting. For me, there are two key attributes that play an important role in my business dealings, namely, social media and the relationships I build.

Today, for brands to consider working or simply associating with your business, social media presence becomes an eminent element that determines your chances of closing a deal. Personally, I've been assertive in positioning my personal brand online, from how I post, to the type of pictures I use of myself and the content I choose to associate myself with.

The relationships you have within your network can make or break your business. If you understand the personal brand you want to project — and you're true to that brand, authenticity is key — then you can surround yourself with people and brands that hold the same values. Your brand is your most valuable asset, and the relationships you build can either appreciate that asset or depreciate it.

Your showcase to the world

Your personal brand is the image you showcase to the world. This is your opportunity to direct your positioning in the market, shape how people perceive you, and reflect your business ethics.

People are always watching. Social media has created a world where we all co-exist, and I know that many of my clients found out about me and my business through these channels.

Beyond social media is the human element — you need to get out there and meet people. By attending the right networking sessions, I have met incredible leaders, including President Cyril Ramaphosa and Phuti Mahanyele, who is now my mentor.

This ties back to your personal brand associations — surround yourself with people who share your values and aspire to business leaders whom you admire. Managing my personal brand has led directly to the opportunity to do business with leading South African corporates, including Shell South Africa, Proudly South Africa, Standard Bank, IDC and Shanduka Investment company.

Patience is key

Building a personal brand takes time. No reputation is built overnight. I started my first business, EBonoko Foundation, when I was a first year BCom student. Through my foundation I was exposed to people who shared my passion and embraced my vision.

I formed valuable networks based on shared ideals, and based on these, I was able to establish a marketing and consulting company, EBonoko Holdings. Even though this was a start-up, I was able to leverage off this strong base of people who knew me and what I stood for.

Take your time, be authentic, and build strong relationships based on a shared vision and values. People do business with people. The more a client knows and understands you, the stronger your chances of building a business relationship.


Brand building

  • Your social media content is key if your aim is to be consistant and impactful (which it should be).
  • Your employees must be aligned with your vision. Encourage them to become brand advocates for your start-up, and show them how you'd like the brand to be represented.
  • Both your current and future clients should have a clear understanding of the culture and vision of your business. Your brand identity is critical to achieving this.
  • The initiatives you choose to support and part take in position you within your industry.
  • Everything you do should be intentional. The best way to ensure you stay on point is to be well-versed in your market research, and to have a clear brand identity.
  • Establish a solid foundation within your networks, and support and associate with people who share your vision and values.
  • Leverage your network and relationships.

Emannuel Bokono

Founder: EBonoko Holdings

Emannuel Bokono is the founder of EBonoko Holdings. In 2017 he was named the KIA Young Business Achiever of the year, Entrepreneur of the Year at the SA Men of the Year Awards, African Hero of the Month by, and listed on the Forbes Africa 30UNDER30 Entrepreneurs to look out for. Visit" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">

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