The recent news that Elon Musk managed to wipe $14billion from Tesla’s value by tweeting a personal opinion that the share prices were ‘too high’ may not be hugely surprising – it’s hardly the first time that eccentric social media activity from Tesla’s founder has had a material impact on the company’s performance. However, it is a valuable lesson for those running small businesses: your name and your reputation are likely to have a far bigger impact on your company’s performance than you might imagine.
While you’re unlikely to have anything approaching the kind of media exposure that Elon Musk has, the fact that you’re a business owner means that you’re known within your own area or industry. From LinkedIn posts to networking groups, your activity is leaving an imprint and affecting the way that others view not only you, but your company. With that in mind, lets take a look at some of the key ways in which your personal brand affects business.
People don’t trust brands, they trust other people. And without trust in what you do or what you sell, you can’t going to get very far. If you’re seen as an authoritative leader with real knowledge about your industry, then people are going to feel far more inclined to come to you when they’re ready to spend some money.
On the other hand, if you’re seen as somebody who’s unreliable – the kind of boss who doesn’t pay his workers on time, or who posts unprofessional content online – then this could have a negative impact on sales. Even if you’re very good at what you do, people typically prefer to go with a company that seems like a ‘safe bet’.
Proper networking is about forming mutually beneficial connections. It’s not about using people, or simply seeing them as future customers. If you go to industry events or join groups online, then think about what you can give and what you can learn, not just what you can gain materially. Other savvy professionals will be very quick to root out those who just want to take advantage of them for a sale, and that kind of reputation can stick with you.
On the other hand, going in open minded and having as many genuine conversations as you can brings all manner of opportunities. Some people you meet may become employees, some will be new mentors, and some will be potential customers. The important thing is that these relationships develop naturally.
Differentiate yourself from the competition
It’s unlikely that your idea is so radical and different that you don’t have competitors offering something similar. You need to set yourself apart from the crowd, and while the branding that you do for your business is essential here, personal branding will also play a part. Think about the qualities that your potential customers value and respect. Then consider how you can embody these values in the way you do business and how you conduct yourself in professional settings.