Personal branding for entrepreneurs in many cases is a massive paradox. On one hand, in the authentic, transparent business world we are living in right now, it is 100 percent imperative to have a personal brand–a human presence led by you. We all know that the cliche statements are true: People form relationships with people.
On the other hand, having a strong personal brand can also be a challenge of scalability. Can I scale myself? Am I too accessible? What happens if I go away?
While there is no perfect answer to the scalability question, here are a few examples of forward-thinkers who have successfully scaled their personal brands. Sure, they are present and accessible. Sure, if you shoot them a Tweet or e-mail, there is a good chance they will get back to you. But they have also created something bigger than themselves–and you can too.
The big lesson, though, is it takes time. These folks worked their butts off to build their brand before they scaled. If you are willing to put in time and effort in the trenches, if you have passion and patience, there are numerous paths to success.
#1: John Jantsch, Duct Tape Marketing
John Jantsch is a bestselling author, speaker, etc. for small businesses. But he can only be in so many places at one time. He can only speak so many times. He can only coach so many people. So, what was his scalability solution?
Twofold. First, John created the Duct Tape Marketing Coaching Authorized Coach program. In a nutshell, he trains people to be authorized coaches under his philosophies and run their own businesses. Sort of like a franchise.
Second, he licensed a special marketing plan software, Marketing Plan Pro, that sells for $179.95. This higher-priced product leverages his knowledge, and John doesn’t have to be present for it to sell.
#2: Gary Vaynerchuk, Wine Library/Vaynermedia
We all know Gary as the crazy wine/social media guy who is an online TV star, speaker, etc. Gary built his brand around his own personal brand (or, as he calls it, his own DNA). He is also very accessible and credits his ability to answer every single e-mail for years as one of his secrets to success. But we all know that is difficult to sustain. How does Gary scale?
Again, there are two parts to his equation. First, he created Vaynermedia, a consulting company. Now, that isn’t revolutionary in itself; however, I like the brand name because it tells me this: “Gary Vaynerchuk has a hand in it, but it is bigger than just him.” Meaning, his brother runs the company and they now employe a relatively large number of folks. Contrast that with “Gary Vaynerchuk Media”…the name alone tells me you will always be working with Gary, which is impossible to scale (I actually made this mistake when I started an agency under my name several years ago before founding The Rise To The Top.)
Second, now that Gary’s hard work and years of effort are paying dividends, he has begun to invest in early stage companies as an angel investor. Why? His personal brand has opened the doors, and now Gary has the opportunity to build wealth that, again, goes beyond what he alone can do. Smart.
#3: Patti Stanger, The Millionaire Matchmaker
Best known for her reality TV show, Patti Stanger is pretty much the name when it comes to matchmaking. But does every person who calls her company expect to talk to her? How does she scale her time between a TV show, radio show and clients?
For Patti, it comes down to leveraging her name. That means licensing deals on certain dating social networking sites and books. And, of course, her core services (The Millionaire’s Club) have other employees and leaders that can lead the charge.
What are the similarities between John, Gary and Patti?
#1: Their company name is not their name. Duct Tape Marketing, Wine Library, Vaynermedia, The Millionaire’s Club. All are bigger than one person.
#2: Their personal brand is extremely present–on social media sites, via e-mail, on videos. THEY are the face of the company. Not an actor or actress. The leader. The personality.
#3: They all have worked extremely hard building up their brands. Now, years later, they are able to scale with some efforts that create passive income.
The lesson? Don’t let the uncertainly of scalability hinder your progress. You are the face of your brand, and if you work hard enough, and build the foundation, the question will be not “How do we scale?” but instead “Which way(s) do we want to scale?”
Everyone who leverages their personal brand inevitably has to make trade-offs with automation, outsourcing or technology. The key is to ensure you deliver what you promise.
Well said, Robert.
Nice post, David.
Having a powerful personal brand is “the great separator.”
It separates the strong businesspeople from the almost strong ones.
I’m workin it, David!
The Franchise King
Joel – Definitely. And you are rocking it. The funny thing about the personal brand (and this is almost ironic) is it can’t be about you. It is about a topic, an interest, a subject (like franchises), a community. People rally around the leaders.
Thanks a lot, David.
And, thanks for that little reminder.
One more thank you;
Thanks for your support and loyalty.
Of course Joel 🙂
Good piece, David!
At Queensboro, our founder (Fred Meyers) remains the face, voice, and driving force of our business but vary that with mentions of all the other things that make us unique. Fred’s been using that approach for almost three decades now.
A personal touch can only take you so far. As Robert pointed out, you’ve got to make solid promises and keep each one of them.
SUPER PIECE! I wanted to brand myself to “Think OUTSIDE the Box” and to “Bild a Better Business” for my clients. I give my clients inventive ways to be top in the area, thus a better real estate business. I do have fun with it.
Thanks for your great articles!!!
If you haven’t read Gary’s book Crush It, it is a good one. He makes a great point in the book that the lines between personal life and professional life are disappearing and that ultimately they will converge. If he is right, and it appears based upon trends that he is, everyone will have their own personal brand within their company brand. Think Steve Jobs….everyone knows that he works for Apple and no one thinks that he is going to answer the phone if you call with a question about your ipod, but he nonetheless is both a personal brand and a company brand in and of himself.
One person missing from this list – Mr. Keith Ferrazi of Ferrazi Greenlight. He is my marketing hero and has created a personal brand ground up that makes me green with envy. Actually it inspires me, which is much more powerful!
I really like this statement you made in the comments above, “The funny thing about the personal brand (and this is almost ironic) is it can
Your stories on these huge personalities are truly inspiring. I guess, hard work coupled with common sense and a whole lot of passion can bring you to the success that these people have today. I love the idea of franchising your brand as it helps you spread the word and get paid for it as well. Thanks!
Ajeva – Awesome. Glad you enjoyed it.
Fred – Exactly and then you wow them because of….you 🙂
Sara – I’m a friend of Keith’s and he is a great guy. I actually use him as an example in my upcoming book. Funny you mentioned that.
Mark – I have read Crush It! and that is definitely true.
Jim – Awesome. And you hit the nail on the head. You have to deliver as well.
I think too many people spend time trying to figure this out too early, rather than focusing on building their business from the ground up. When they get to the point of scaling, you have some great points on how to do it. Some I haven’t thought of and I’m going to be working on myself.
Great freakin’ point, Justin. Great point.
You chose some great examples David.
Scaling up a long way how about Richard Branson?
Great example, Martin. You could argue the same for some of the other massive names (like ’em or hate ’em) like Donald Trump
Nice job David. I’m in agreement with Justin that far too many entrepreneurs get stuck in the quagmire of “worrying” about scalability. Focus on being real, giving insane value and building credibility first. Once some metrics and profitability have been established then the question of scalability can be addressed. You’ve given us some great examples.
Hi, good post, I agree with your personal brand you make it yourself with hard work, patience and commitment to oneself.
You have written a very insightful post. I think it is time you and I will have a conversation about The Rise To The Top…
I look forward to interview you on my EGO podcast show. Could you guess why I have picked the name ego as my blog name? It has to do with personal branding… Ego is I in Latin.
Your article comes at an interesting point in my life/career. I am currently a contestant on a reality tv pilot/business contest and after 5 weeks of hard work and relative success I have decided to begin branding myself for some of the exact reasons you mentioned in your article. The contest started with 25 people and we are down to the final 10 with a week and a half left and I plan on continuing my personal brand even after the show ends. As someone who is in the beginning stages of personal branding, do you have any suggestions or resources to help build or create a following that extends beyond the conventional accessibility of blogs, social media etc. Thanks for your article and your time!
Bob – Awesome. Glad you enjoyed it!
Good points David, especially for those solo-preneurs who start a business alone, build their personal brand and then are at a loss as to how to grow. You selected some excellent examples of how a personal brand can survive expansion and growth of staff.
Thanks Terri. Absolutely. It can be very empowering.
Gary V does it as well as anyone. I don’t think location can be overstated in his case either. He’s an extremely likeable guy, but being able to take slots on morning news shows on literally 20 minutes helps him a ton….especially when the rest of the wine industry is located 3,000 miles away and is 3 hours behind.