How to Build a Reputation That Will Become a Real Asset for You
Here are a few tips on building a personal brand and reputation that sets you and your business up for success.
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As Robert Greene wrote in his book, The 48 Laws of Power, "... your reputation is the cornerstone of your power. It will protect you and help influence how the world judges you, at least to some extent. Reputation is like a wizard: With a wave of the wand, it can double your power and drive away your pursuers. Whether the same deeds look great or terrible depends a lot on the reputation of the doer — who, in our case, is an entrepreneur."
How can you create your management philosophy, master the ability to make an impact beyond your business and make it work for you? All of it is about building a powerful personal brand, which reflects who you are and what your company is. Your reputation may even determine the business value for investors or partners. The importance of embracing personal branding is noticeable to many well-known entrepreneurs, athletes and even scientists. So, here are a few tips for building a reputation that will become a real asset for you:
Related: Before You Grow, Focus on Building a Strong Reputation
Create a dream
Think beyond just selling a product, concept or service, but lifestyles and dreams as well. For example, WeWork isn't just a coworking space — it is, as per its ex-CEO Adam Neumann, a place where you can create the life you want, join a community, develop friendships and even meet the love of your life. At least that's what Neumann was telling everyone (new hires, potential investors and his wife, Rebekah). The approach certainly paid off.
Of course, there is also Elon Musk, who has forever been focused on conquering space. He's selling a dream of interplanetary travel through SpaceX — and successfully, as the company just recently managed to raise $750 million at a $137 billion valuation.
But we have to exercise some caution … dreams can play tricks on us. Mark Zuckerberg's vision of a meta-universe where billions of people spend hours working, communicating and playing games in virtual and augmented worlds has yet to be proven. Meta's flagship VR game, Horizon Worlds, remains glitchy and unpopular, and investors are concerned that the company is spending too much on its metaverse gamble. Still, Zuckerberg seems confident the strategy will pay off, with long-term project investment planned for the foreseeable future.
Numbers and statistics matter of course, but so does your dreamy vision. Unless you're straight-up lying about your project's KPIs, focusing on the bigger picture instead of profits is a wise choice. Ultimately, it's the investors' job to check the viability of your business idea.
Find your strengths, and use them as your business card
Don't be ashamed of the qualities that make you stand out from the crowd and attract attention. These qualities will become your business card and assist you in successfully navigating difficult situations. For example, your reputation as an honest businessman can provide you with powerful advantages ready to be leveraged against rivals or in negotiations.
Musk has always been focused on breakthrough innovations, positioning himself as a man with no limits. His core value and strength is seeing the impossible and taking it as a challenge, continuously pushing the boundaries of what was believed possible. This consistent approach, even when combined with impulsive decisions, has allowed him to establish his personal brand as one able to move the stock market with just one tweet.
One main indicator of a successful PR strategy is being able to Google yourself or your brand and find convincing results. What counts as "convincing" depends, of course, on your goals. If you need the ability to borrow a lot of money, make sure the media portrays you as a trustworthy and prospective entrepreneur.
"Google me," says Neumann (ex-CEO of WeWork) to the bank clerk in the show WeCrashed after being offered a ridiculously small loan. After a quick search, the clerk sends Neumann to one of the bank's top managers, where the entrepreneur immediately becomes a VIP client — and secures a line of credit worth millions. "Google me, boo," says singer, actress and entrepreneur Patti LaBelle to those who doubt that she's still working at the age of 78.
I personally received accreditation for a significant business event, thanks to a publication in Entrepreneur. The event organizers could Google me and see who I was and what I represented. Many of my past clients have also found information about my agency through expert comments I've posted. My own example clearly shows that people tend to trust people familiar to them. A personal brand allows someone to "know you" — to remove the stranger status and replace it with a trusted one. All other things being equal, we will always prefer investing our time and money in someone we know.
Related: 4 Mistakes You're Making That Can Jeopardize Your Reputation
Stay committed and don't try to please everyone
Staying true to yourself and being able to speak your truth boldly is the core around which you can build a personal brand in any field. This approach inevitably both attracts and scares people away, but the alternative is much worse. Once you settle on pleasing everyone, you become interesting to no one.
Cristiano Ronaldo has always been deeply committed to his standards of excellence and has made sure to live up to those values. Early in his career, he was perceived as arrogant because of his strong belief in his own abilities and big dreams. Despite all the criticism he received, he remained true to those values and never settled for less to please others. His results speak for themselves.
Focus on building your own reputation rather than ruining others'
Oftentimes critics and competitors will do or say things that make us want to hit back and try to ruin their reputation. But you better think twice before taking any action.
The famous inventor Thomas Edison believed that any mechanism could work using direct current. When the Serbian scientist Nikola Tesla announced that he had managed to construct a mechanism running on alternating current, Edison was outraged. He decided to trample on Tesla's reputation.
To do this, he was going to publicly prove that alternating current machines were hazardous and blame Tesla for it. Edison subjected many pets to fatal AC shocks. This did not seem to be enough, so he approached the New York State Prison authorities with a proposal to execute a criminal using alternating current as a demonstration of its lethality. However, he miscalculated the voltage, and while the criminal was electrocuted, he did not die. The execution had to be repeated.
Edison's reputation suffered greatly as a result, and Tesla's notoriety only increased. Don't go all in on these disparaging attacks — they will likely draw far more attention to your vindictiveness rather than the qualities of the person you're attacking. If your reputation is strong, you can use more subtle techniques like satire and mockery to weaken your opponent. It pays to be charming and witty.
Know when to fade into the shadows
It's true that for someone to get results, they must not be afraid to shine brightly. However, history shows that sometimes it's an equally good idea to dim the lights a little.
Nicolas Fouquet was the Superintendent of Finances in France from 1653 to 1661 under King Louis XIV. His political career was brilliant ... while it lasted. Fouquet's rapid ascent up the political elite's ladder, combined with his wealth and unconcealed ambition, raised his prestige but made him countless enemies at court. Ultimately, he lost favor with the young king of France, probably as a result of his extravagant display of wealth and increasing societal influence. The king imprisoned him from 1661 until his death in 1680. The lesson here is that sometimes it pays to lower your own brightness to achieve your goals.
Neumann, at one point, very clearly used his fame to influence his partners' decisions. However, when his reputation got out of control, his misdeeds began to embarrass investors. As the company began to prepare for their IPO, the board of directors decided to put him in the shade and take on a CEO without such a controversial personal brand.
Related: Reputation Management In An Increasingly Transparent World
All in all, building a personal brand is crucial for everyone — you never know when it will come in handy. If you are an entrepreneur, your reputation will make it easier to attract funding. For a top manager, it will help increase value in the hiring process. The more people in your target audience that know about you, the more benefits you can realize in the long run. And that's equally true for someone who wants to launch a rocket into space or the person looking for a job to build it.