"It clearly shows that you are cultivating a personal brand around entrepreneurship. I have seen from my real estate career that personal brands are what ultimately fuel corporate brands. It's about the leaders and how they are perceived. You're doing a good job reinforcing your personal brand of innovation and entrepreneurship. That should bode well for RealVibez and anything else you commit to doing."
He would certainly know because he is a senior executive at the Peebles Corporation, the largest African-American real estate development firm in the USA, run by R. Donahue Peebles (read Inc. magazine's How I Did It: R. Donahue Peebles for more info).
From day one I decided to focus on both my personal brand and the corporate brand, working hard to build both. Long before starting a company I had realized that personal brands could be a competitive advantage for entrepreneurs and business people.
I always looked up to people like Warren Buffet, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Dell and those business leaders that had managed to create strong personal brands that directly benefitted their companies and any new ventures.
I knew that whatever field I got into, I would have to work hard to build that personal brand as well. After launching realvibez, there were many people, especially Jamaicans, who did not understand what I was doing. They just thought I loved the spotlight or liked being the centre of attention.
In Jamaican parlance they would say I am "too nuff".
I was in the papers, on tv, doing interviews and showing up on websites - great publicity and brand awareness overall. I ignored the naysayers, and still do.
My dad seemed to understand from early on because he has published numerous papers and been invited to present at medical conferences thanks to his reputation. He knew first-hand the importance of building credibility and a personal reputation around specific areas of expertise.
Why me and not Robert?
I have generally been the crazier one, willing to do insane things to get attention, and as I have said before, Robert preferred that I be the face of the company. It has been harder than I would have preferred because I routinely have to weigh building my personal brand against building the brand of the Mullings Brothers.
Even though I write all the posts on our blog, it is still called Mullings Brothers. I purposely did that because I want Robert's personal brand to benefit as well.
I had more chances to build my personal brand because I was living in Jamaica for quite some time after launching realvibez so appearances, meetings and interviews tended to only involve me. I have also been the most active in leveraging the web to promote our story and be at the leading edge of marketing and pr strategies (remember I am the one who specialized in marketing in business school).
Each time realvibez puts out a press release I try to include a quote from Robert and even though I was asked to give the recent book testimonial, I made sure to involve Robert in the video.
We joke that we eventually want to be called the Super Mullings Brothers :-)
We dream of reaching a point where people talk about the next venture that the Super Mullings Brothers are launching, investing in or buying, and generating significant positive press just for that.
We continue to dream.
The bottom line is that entrepreneurs should think of themselves as brands and then make sure to market themselves, focusing on the brand attributes you want to be associated with.
Lots of people will say you are in it for the personal glory but those are the people who don't understand the power of personal brands and bad-mouth people like Richard Branson or Steve Jobs.
Ignore them, at least they are talking about you. Never forget what Eleanor Roosevelt said:
"Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people"
I chose to focus on a brand that revolves around entrepreneurship, innovation, gen-y business, helping Jamaica and leadership. Besides How To Win Friends and Influence People, I routinely read two articles from Harvard Business Review's July 2008 issue:
Even though the first article was focused on brands in the sense of companies, it is easy to apply the concepts to people.
You can ask my wife, the HBR issue lives on my bedside table, along with How To Win Friends, and I read them every month and before every major meeting and public engagement.
The book testimonial is the start of breaking into mainstream US business circles and I might have some more surprises between now and the end of September :-)
What have you been doing to build up your own personal brand?