Entrepreneurs like Virgin’s Richard Branson, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and locally, Boost Juice’s Janine Allis and Sweat’s Kayla Itsines have built their own profile as a growth strategy for their businesses. Richard Branson credits it as one reason for his success in markets like the US, while Kayla Itsines has 28 million Facebook followers, 13m on Instagram and is worth $486m.
In December 2020 there were more than 2.8m businesses in Australia, 100,000 more than in December 2019. While COVID-19 has ravaged small businesses in overseas markets like the US and UK, many (but not all) local small businesses have been supported during the pandemic so that they can survive this chaotic period. (Update: I wrote this just before the Delta strain reached Australia, so the current lockdowns and any more to come are already creating a harder future for many SMEs).
So when you’re leading a business and that business is yours, how can you build your profile at the same time as you build your business brand so the two support each other and you can achieve growth faster? How can you ensure you do it so the two are complementary but also somewhat independent, so if and when you decide to step away from your business, you can take your reputation with you?
Here are four tips on how you can build your profile of a business leader, utilise it as a growth strategy and retain your IP so your reputation is an asset that delivers results for you over the lifetime of your career.
1. KNOWING YOUR END-GOAL
Are you leading a business you want to scale and globalise? Are you running a family-owned business that you’ll step down from one day or pass to someone else in the family? Are you building a business to sell? Are you growing a purpose-led business with the goal of having a positive impact on the world?
These questions are relevant because they give purpose to how you build your profile and the platforms you choose to be visible on. If you’re leading a family-owned business, you’ll probably be focussed on telling your company’s story – especially its history and values. There won’t be much division here between your own IP and how you use your profile to build the profile of the brand because whatever results you achieve will help the business grow and benefit your family. If you’re growing a business with the goal of selling it one day, there needs to be a line between how you use your profile to grow the business and the IP you can take with you when you sell the business. Media will be an important platform for you to leverage in this situation, but having content and platforms that you own will be equally important – for instance a blog or curating all your thought leadership work on a platform like Medium.
2. OWNING A SPACE
Social media can look like a shouting factory at times. Overwhelming and almost pointless to contribute your voice to someone who wants to do it with purpose and so it has value. But if you analyse the influencers in your industry and the business leaders you admire, you can track what’s already being talked about against your passions and expertise to find areas that aren’t already ‘owned’ and start sharing your knowledge on a topic area that isn’t already crowded.
Often this step in starting to build your profile needs to be done by someone other than you so they can independently analyse these people against your values, expertise and growth plans for your businesses. They can do it without bias and judgment and make clear recommendations on how you can ‘own a space’, engage and grow an audience, and do it so it’s aligned with your values as well as your plan for your business.
3. A BALANCE BETWEEN PR FOR YOUR BUSINESS AND SHARING YOUR IP
Your business may be what you live and breathe right now, but what do you want to do with it eventually? Bring on investors? Grow it to sell it? Float it? Sell it and start another business? PR is obviously an effective way to build the reputation of your business and support its growth, but if you’re only known as the spokesperson for your business, all your IP and expertise will go with the brand when you step away from it.
As a business owner and leader, it’s important to use your voice to build your business’ brand at the same time as you create content you own that will go with you if or when you move away from the business. It might seem like that will never happen now, but it will one day. The owned content you create today will build your legacy and support the next phase of your career, whether you end up consulting part time, moving into board roles or you use your voice to support social causes.
4. PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS AND GET HELP WITH THE REST
Time is a barrier for most of us. And something like building your profile you know is something you want to do, but stays on the list because of a lack of time to do it… No time to figure out what you really want to be known for so it has value to you and your business. No time to actually create the content. No time to learn how to write well. No time to do lives or videos. No time to start to build media relationships or figure out how to contribute meaningfully on Twitter…
Get help. If you have loads of ideas for thought leader content but no time to write it or create it, get help from someone who can extract it from your brain and make it into something tangible. Get help figuring out what platforms to use to build your profile and get help building relationships with journalists. Your time is your most valuable resource, so you want to be meeting the right journalists, not wasting time figuring out who the right journos might be…
If you’d like to get started with building your profile so it supports the growth of your business, you can download my guide on how to overcome the most common barriers to building your reputation here or let’s connect on LinkedIn.
Building your profile can open opportunities for you that you may never have known about or may have been years out of reach for you. You can make your profile into an asset that not only supports the growth of the business you own or lead now, but that you take with you over the lifetime of your career.