How to Grow Your Brand While Still Employed
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Christy Wright is a business coach, author, sought-after speaker and Ramsey personality. Yes, that's Ramsey, as in Dave Ramsey. As Ramsey explained when I interviewed him, he is focused on a long-term legacy that will outlive him. He also shared that each movement within Ramsey Solutions has a face attached to it. When he noticed a growing number of women who wanted to turn their side hobby into a full-fledged business, he decided it was time to create a female-focused business movement. He chose Wright to lead the way. Together, Ramsey and Wright created Business Boutique, a series of live events, an online course, a podcast and the recently released book.
Wright was raised by a single "mompreneur" and has also had successful side hustles herself. After watching her mom run a bakery her whole life, she learned the value of hard work. So much so that in her early twenties she decided to rent a farm -- a dream of hers -- and launch a horse boarding business to pay the rent. While her peers were going to concerts and brunches, she was bailing hay and mending fences. This is a woman who is not afraid to hustle for what she wants.
In the last year-and-a-half she's counseled thousands of women on how to turn their passion into a profitable business -- to staggering results, Wright reports, such as "women quitting their full-time job that they hate to go home . . . we're seeing women earn six figures plus, where the year before they earned $900."
I was excited I met her on her book tour recently to discuss the ins and outs of building a personal brand -- while still employed -- and what she's learned are the biggest hurdles and best strategies for aspiring businesswomen. Here are the best lessons I learned from our chat on her tour bus.
Create your own opportunities.
Wright eventually decided to put her business degree to work and re-enter the corporate world, first in the nonprofit sector and then as a product liaison for Ramsey Solutions. About six months into her new position, she had to let a client know that Rachel Cruze, Ramsey's daughter and another Ramsey personality, wouldn't be able to speak at 10 scheduled upcoming events. Exasperated, they asked her, "What are we supposed to do?" Wright jumped in and volunteered to take Cruze's place, even though she had no formal public speaking track record.
Wright shared that she didn't ask for permission, she just saw the opportunity and jumped. She quoted Sheryl Sandberg, "She says, 'Some of the greatest career opportunities are not jobs that are posted, but they are problems that you solve and that becomes your position, that becomes your job.' And that's certainly been true in my case. I just solved a problem and that thing became my job."
If you want to become known in your industry, look for roles you can fill while still employed, or needs that need to be met in your industry or local market. If you see an opening, jump.
Fake it 'til you feel it.
When we start to create our own opportunities and stretch ourselves, especially as we start to promote our work or position ourselves as experts, we often immediately face Impostor Syndrome. By that I mean an internal voice saying, What are you doing? You don't know what you're doing! You don't belong here. Who are you to do this? Wright, who instantly began speaking to crowds of 1,000, when she'd never done so much as a mic check before, has some advice.
"Just fake it, just fake it until you feel it. And if you fake it enough times, eventually, that confidence becomes authentic."
She went on, "I was like, I'm nervous, I'm trembling, but I'm not doing the audience any favors by being awkward and being nervous . . . . I'm gonna fake it as best I can and just pretend like I belong."
She also recommends putting in as many practice rounds as you can. "Just start speaking. High school reunions, family reunions, high school cafeterias, Kentucky libraries -- I've been to all of them."
Another piece of advice I love to mention when discussing Impostor Syndrome comes from past guest, Story Brand founder and multiple New York Times bestselling author, Donald Miller. He explained, "There's one way to fight through [that imposter feeling] and it's very, very important: What you're offering has to work. When it starts working and you see it working and the results are verified, that's when you gain confidence. Until we find that success for our clients, we are a fraud."
If you're in a position that plays to your strengths -- and you can produce results -- just fake that you feel comfortable, and soon you will.
Create a focused personal brand.
When it comes to building a personal platform and branding yourself, Wright explains, you need to be clear on who you are, what your values are and what you want to be known for. She said this is particularly important in today's "side gig economy."
She explained, "It's very tempting [to have] 15 side businesses, and when you do that you dilute your efforts and you confuse the heck out of your customers. [People] know what to come to me for. I am the Business Boutique woman. I help people start and grow businesses. There are other things I enjoy, but I am focused on business."
Even if you have multiple hustles to pay your bills, if you want to reach success and influence, choose one platform, mission and message to focus on. Make sure the answer to "What do people come to me for?" is clear.
Make sure you meet a need in the market.
There is a second, very important part of building a successful personal platform. "If what you're all about is not something that's needed in the market place, then you're never going to be successful," Wright says. For her, confirming the need meant that before launching the first Business Boutique event in 2015, she conducted years of research. "I did one-on-one interviews with women at all levels of business, I asked them all the same questions, took pages and pages of notes, then I tested those theories and themes on a larger scale in focus groups and in surveys." she recalled. "So it was years and years and layers and layers of research until I said, okay, now I know this market and I know what they need and I can go take my experience, and my branding, and my skills and strengths, and meet their needs."
This tip is especially relevant in online business and the influencer space; just because you can create a great course on something doesn't mean people need or are willing to pay for that course. Take the time to ask your existing audience what they want and need. Conduct surveys, call and ask for customer feedback, and do your research before investing the time and energy into your new idea.
Create your ideal calendar.
The biggest pain point Wright has noticed with her students and clients is time. Men and women alike, we simply never have enough time. For those that tend to be people-pleasers, there is trouble prioritizing, saying no, etc. Many entrepreneurs who live and breathe their work have trouble finding their own unique version of balance and deciding on boundaries. I loved her solution to this problem.
She says to start by charting your schedule on a visual calendar, as it is now. "You can look at your schedule and say, 'Okay, I'm crazy and here's what crazy looks like.'" Next, she advises, take into account non-negotiable obligations and then create your ideal schedule, on a separate calendar.
"Then you can start to take incremental steps to cut out some stuff of the crazy and add stuff, so that it begins to look like it has the margin of your ideal schedule. That won't happen overnight. It may happen gradually over six months, but you baby step your way into your ideal schedule."
She says the problem here is often that we're too far in the weeds to make this plan. If you feel that you never have enough time, pause long enough today to try this exercise and begin to think about the changes that will to take you in the right direction.
Working parents, get over the guilt.
Wright -- who wrote her book while pregnant with her second son, and is currently on the road while he is just 7 months old -- has a specific exercise to overcome what's commonly called "mom guilt" (although of course fathers feel it as well).
"A lot of the guilt in our lives, I believe, comes from focusing on where you're not," she said. "The analogy I used is that we're always looking through the rear-view mirror of what we're leaving behind versus the front windshield of what we're driving to."
When Wright is home after events, she makes sure to take extended time off, unplugged, in order to be present with her family. "Right now both of my boys are home . . . but focusing on that does me no service [here on the book tour]. It would make me miss out on this moment with you and this book signing tonight and all the fun things that I'm getting to do which, by the way, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
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