Like it or not, you are a big part of what makes your business unique. Learning how to leverage that will make a big difference.
Don’t worry, this is not going to be yet another article about your personal brand. I understand the concept and have found it useful for myself professionally and when coaching clients. However, partly because of the many ways it’s been unhelpfully applied, I’d be perfectly happy never to hear the phrase “personal brand” again.
When you are setting up a business, often people will suggest you identify your USP (unique selling proposition) which differentiates your business in a crowded marketplace. Is it quirky packaging or a particular price-point or a very niche target demographic? However, in the midst of this very useful marketing exercise, it’s easy to miss that, as a founder/ business owner, you are a huge part of what differentiates your business in a crowded marketplace. That may be explicit in a way which uses your name and personal narrative to sell your product or service. But it is always implicit, in your approach, in your values, in the way you like to market or sell or the way you provide your service.
However, nondescript you think you are, your fingerprints are all over your business. That’s partly because our personalities inevitably leak out and mark things we create but also because, however reticent and self-effacing any founder is by nature, there is a certain force of personality which causes someone to set up on their own when they could be working for someone else. Maybe it’s independence of spirit and self-belief that causes you to work for yourself. Maybe it’s the more explicit idea that you have something to provide or add in a particular area that no-one else is currently providing. Maybe it’s a desire for freedom or even necessity (that mother of invention) but, even then, necessity has driven you to this, something that you make, create, supply and sell.
Being aware of your YouSP, allows you to think see how it’s manifesting itself in your business. That can be very positive but sometimes it can be negative. Is the part of you that is – say – a raging control freak leaching creativity from your business in terms of how you deliver goods and services compared to your competitors? At the other extreme, does your natural laissez-faire vibe show up in customer orders or strategic social media posts going out a day later than they should?
To work out your YouSP It’s worth asking “What am I like and how does that show up in my business?” Once you do that, you can work proactively to leverage the positive things and rooting out the negative ones.
To answer the first question, it’s worth completing an exercise like the Johari window, this will mean canvassing the opinions of others about you.
The next step is getting some feedback on your business from customers, suppliers, clients, investors, other stakeholders. You could send out a questionnaire asking 4 simple questions “What is my business doing well?” “What is the business doing less well?” “What would you value the business doing differently/ more of?” “What could the business do less of?”
Then see if you can map the personal feedback onto the business feedback. I can pretty much guarantee you will see some links and in those links lies your YouSP.
Working with a good business coach might be helpful as you gather feedback as other people might be happier giving feedback to a third party and a good business coach will also help you with your own self-awareness and leveraging that into how best to develop your business.
Knowing who you are helps you know what kind of business you run. You are your YouSP so work out how that is showing up and make the changes that will make your business grow.
There’s been a bit of a trend over the last few years whereby biographies of and interviews with very successful founders are sold as an inspirational tool. Those “How I Did It” stories by celebrity founders and business owners are often interesting and can be helpful but ultimately you are you and you will not share the background, temperament, timing, skills or context of the subjects of any of those articles or interviews. They have built their businesses on their own YouSP and you have to build your business on yours. So, as you start and grow your own thing, have the courage to know and leverage your own particular character and background and context. Know your YouSP and grow your business.
(And apologies – maybe this article was a little bit about personal brand after all!)