This week I attended a local Meetup group called The Founders Exchange for the first time (more about that below), the speaker was the fabulous Lou Draper (more on her below too) and her topic was Rocking your Personal Brand.

Person Brand Lessons from Lou Draper @ Loud!InPublic:

Lou is a great story teller and took us on her branding journey. We are lucky enough to have Lou as our Public Relations advisor for OptimalBI but hearing her story was fascinating, to illustrate the need for a personal brand Lou described how she once sacrificed her personal brand through her exclusive promotion of her company brand and the impact this had on her once she moved onto her next venture – nobody knew her name, they only knew her as the RockStar PR woman. As her journey developed we learned Lou moved cities and had to completely re-establish herself, new network, new customers, new everything which without a personal brand at the time was all the more challenging. She told us some funny stuff including life as a new mother trying to work, attending meetings and engage fully with a tiny baby in tow. She made the session interactive too, our group of women all “google’d” ourselves to see what our own on-line profiles returned which elicited a flurry of questions and laughter.

Top 3 Personal Branding lessons from Lou @ Loud!InPublic:

  1. People buy from People – your company brand is important but it’s equally as important for your customers and business community to get to know you as a person and your personal brand should reflect who you are.
  2. You are more than just your business – there might be a time in your life you want to move on / start up another business / work on outside interests / seek a board appointment etc etc. For all of these reasons you need to establish your own presence and your own personal brand.
  3. Rock your brand! – keep it fresh, up to date, make the time to Rock your brand! all of this in parallel with your business brand of course.

Does your personal brand compliment your business’ brand?

Many of the questions during this session were about alignment, differences from and generally the need for a personal brand over your businesses brand. I agree this is a difficult and grey area, where do you as an individual end and your business begin? When you are starting up or growing it’s easy to be completely consumed by your businesses brand and let your own fall by the wayside – but as Lou pointed out there are reasons this might be detrimental so do consider keeping both alive.

The real question is how do these two “brands” compliment one another? Even trickier is the personal brands of your staff members and how these compliment your businesses brand? Shane and I have a strong view on the latter. People will leave our employ one day, hopefully to start up their own businesses for which we will be there cheering and supporting them to success. With this in mind we believe everyone who works for our companies should rock their personal brands. Here is the tricky bit – what if their personal brands don’t compliment our own brand? To date we have managed to employ people who really embody our values one of which is “don’t be dodgy” so this hasn’t been an issue for us. We recognise there is a fine line and one day someone might do something that damages our brand by association – something we need to prepare for.

For you as a business owner you just need to keep this in mind, it’s in your best interest for both brands to be positive, for your customers to get to know you as a person, how you think and how you work alongside your company and how it works and performs.  Time wise it can be challenging too – I’m not a role model here but here are the three things I do every week for my personal brand all social media based, it’s hard to make the time but totally necessary and none of these are terribly time consuming:

  1. Write a blog in my name – some weeks it’s here on blog.optimalhq.com and other weeks it’s a Business Intelligence (BI) blog on blog.optimalbi.com
  2. Tweet – I tweet under my own account @OptimalHQ on a range of topics, most business related, many startup related and some BI ones too
  3. LinkedIN – love it or hate it LinkedIN is a core part of our personal brand, your profile, updates and what you share all make up your brand package

More About The Founders Exchange event:

Interesting group. Formed for female founders (I note the group name seems to have dropped the word Female from it’s title) in Wellington with a tag line of “Female Founders with stories that matter, shared with peers over beers” sounds really promising. The construct seems to be bring a plate (chips were popular) and a bottle (wine no beer), the events are hosted in different members offices and a speaker is invited to come along and speak on a specific topic. My guess was half the women were new to the event so luckily we kicked off (late) with a round robin of who you are and what you do, followed by Lou’s wonderful and interactive talk.

Biggest surprise for me was the lack of actual founders – the mix seemed to be about a third owner/operator/sole traders who are all rocking their own space; a third want-to-be founders with varying degrees of actual ideas or spine to take the leap (that’s a whole other blog topic whether people will ever back themselves and leave their day jobs) and just under a third were what I would describe as supporters – council or government employees who engage with startups basically. Finally there were 4-5 women who own companies that employ staff.

The event ended with a 2nd round robin of successes and failures which was a neat idea but needed more time with so many people, many of whom wanted to brag a lot or ask for detailed help. Generally I found it a supportive and positive environment.

Footnote on the event – the men in our office asked why the need for gender exclusivity? I didn’t get a chance to ask any of the organisers or the women whether they attended just because of the gender bias but would be interested to know – would these same women attend a Founders exchange fullstop?

Conclusion time:

Thrilled to have been there listening to Lou, was a great reminder with great tips. Also highlighted for me the need to keep in mind brand alignment between my own and our various business brands. Not sure I would go back to this specific event in the scheme of the many startup things I am already involved in but awesome to know there is such a collaborative and supportive event in Wellington for women who are starting up. Happy Sharing, Vic