Author:
Lou Sokolovskiy
Founder/CEO, Opus Connect
lou@opusconnect.com

Mastering the Art of Business Development Blog Series
Article Eight: Building Your Personal Brand Strategy – Part One

My recent articles have been focusing on how to create your own Personal Business Development Plan, and today we will be discussing Step Four of this process:

  1. Perceive Yourself as a Business of One
  2. Create a Mission Statement
  3. Perform a SWOT Analysis
  4. Develop a Personal Brand Strategy
  5. Determine Action Items
  6. Create a Time Budget
  7. Track Your Progress

There is a lot of debate about what the term “personal brand” means, especially in the context of business development. In order to clarify the concept, I reached out to a few colleagues whose personal brands are particularly strong and interviewed them on what “personal brand” means to them and how they use it in their business development strategy.

Interestingly, I got a diverse range of answers. There were, however, some common driving factors, and some great tips that I will share with you in Part Two of this article. But first, I want to explain how the concept of personal brand might be be applied differently depending on who you are and what your role is. For instance, the founder of a company sees things differently than an employee of a company. Likewise, someone who does business development in order to promote his own services views the concept of personal brand differently than someone whose primary role in a company is business development.

In my article about Step One of creating your personal business development plan, I quoted my friend and colleague Robert Derbabian, who often uses the example of a professional basketball player to explain business development. A professional basketball player wears a jersey with his team’s name on the front, but with his own name on the back. In some ways, the player is representing the team’s brand. But people are truly interested in the individual player. If he were to be traded, for example, the colors and the name on the front of his jersey would change, but the back of his jersey will always remain the same.

Robert is the Senior Director of Business Development at Marcum LLP and embodies this principle. There are several key aspects to his personal brand: People know him as a connector. He also has a reputation for being reliable and trustworthy. His personality is fairly gregarious and friendly, and he is always wearing a suit and tie. Robert hasn’t always worked for Marcum, but I can tell you that his personal brand was exactly the same in his previous positions. Like the basketball player, Robert’s job may be to represent the Marcum brand, but what he is known for in the market is his individual brand.

In contrast, another one of our interviewees felt very strongly that you must seek unification of your personal brand and your business’s brand. Selwyn Gerber is a CPA and founded both Gerber & Co., Inc., an accounting firm, as well as RVW Investing LLC, a wealth management firm. According to Selwyn, his personal brand conveys one, holistic, and consistent image: he is attentive to his clients’ needs and listens to them with genuine concern – so too, the brand of his companies communicates that same idea.

A middle perspective was offered by another one of these powerhouse interviewees, Jeri Harman. Jeri is the Founder & Chairman at Avante Mezzanine Partners, a lower middle market private credit investment fund. According to Jeri, your personal brand can help you build your own career as well as a firm. To her, personal brand is not just about promoting oneself, but about taking the brand one has developed and using it to the firm’s benefit. Jeri also differentiates between micro and macro personal brand: Your micro-brand refers to your reputation within your firm, whereas your macro brand deals with your broader, more global reputation.

As you can see, people view the concept of personal brand differently depending on factors such as what their role is (service provider vs. business development professional) and whether they have an ownership interest in the firm/ company. But still, there is some common ground in how these three professionals define the overarching concept: How people know you (Robert Derbabian), what reputation you have (Jeri Harman), or what image you convey (Selwyn Gerber). My synthesis of these interviews, along with my own opinion, leads me to posit the following definition: Your personal brand is how you communicate to others in the marketplace who you are and what your value is. Whether this ties in with the brand of the company you work for depends on what your job is and how closely tied you are to the company.

Now that we have a clearer idea of what I mean by personal brand, in Part Two I will share tips and strategies that will help you develop your own personal brand.