Ramon Ray of Smart Hustle Magazine: You Don’t Need to Be Shaquille O’Neal to be a Celebrity CEO

I’m sure the Small Business Trends audience knows who Ramon Ray is.  In fact most folks in the small business community here in the states have probably seen him speaking at industry conferences, moderating panels, running sites like SmallBizTechnology.com (which he recently sold) and publishing Smart Hustle Magazine (and running its annual conference), and writing best-selling books.  And through all these activities he’s become — as Jay-Z once said — not a businessman, but a business, man. Or, according to the title of his new book, he’s become a Celebrity CEO.

I caught up with Ramon at a recent conference to discuss his new book, understand what he means by Celebrity CEO, why he feels it’s critical for today’s small business folks to become one, and what it will take to be one.  Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To check out the complete discussion, check out the video below or the embedded SoundCloud player.

Small Business Trends:  Why’d you write the book?

Ramon Ray: I wanted to share my journey of being a celebrity CEO. And to be clear, celebrity CEO in this case is not Shaquille O’Neal who we’re going to see tomorrow.  it’s not Kardashian or Trump or Obama, or anyone like that. Celebrity CEO is two things. [One] Being very well known in your market segment. [For example] you’re very well known as being a small business and CRM analyst, et cetera. And [two] for being known in your local geographic area. You’re a local barber. You know. Main Street, Toledo, Ohio, wherever it is in the world, you’re known as that.

So either in your market, or in your local geographic area. Being the celebrity in that respect.

Small Business Trends:  How important is it to be a celebrity CEO in today’s business world?

Ramon Ray: For me, and again, I’m sharing this from my lens, I think it’s everything. Listen, you can … you’re making badges, you know. You can be just any old Dick or Harry, badge company, and it is what it is. But if you’re known as the gal who makes the best, most exciting badges, and every badge you get, you know, has something exciting with it, and whatever it is, guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to have people beating down your door. And I’ve seen that happen to me in my business. It’s a small business, I’m not some big empire, but for what I do, in my small space as being a speaker, an influencer in the small business market, I’m blessed to say, knock knock knock. People knocking on my door all the time. So that’s the benefit of being a celebrity CEO;  clients chase you down.

Small Business Trends:  So how difficult is it to be a celebrity CEO … what are the first couple of things you need to do?

Ramon Ray: Step number one is the mindset; to want to be out there and be comfortable.  I’m the brand. You’re not trying to hide behind and say it’s going to the badge company, and you know, Badge Inc. incorporated. So that’s point one. I think point two, based on what I’ve done is, definitely some true media’s been a big part of it. I must say that as, you know, many people say, “Ramon, we see you all over.” I’m not all over. But the illusion is there that, “Oh Ramon, did you have pancakes today?” And so part of that brand is getting out there and the only people for us small businesses that’s going to promote you is yourself.

Small Business Trends:  Right.

Ramon Ray: And then doing events, doing the book, social content, but really it’s about self-promotion and being authentic. And I must say a bit of a humble way, you know, you don’t want to come off like you’re all that. So it takes a little bit of humility.

Small Business Trends:  Yeah.

Ramon Ray: You know, but it’s self-promotion.

Small Business Trends:  So what do you want people to get out of the book?

Ramon Ray: If you take this book and read the book, one, as you can see, this is not going to be the encyclopedic knowledge, everything there is about building your personal brand. But this is for two people. One, for those who have not yet built a personal brand, that you can see how Ramon, a regular guy who got fired from the UN. If I can do it, anybody can do it. So that’s one. I want you to know that it’s doable.

And two, the specific steps that I’ve gone through to get that done. Why I did my first event. Why I wrote this book and three others in the past. Why I’m always doing video, videos another thing. Video, video, video. So that’s what I would get out of it. You can do it too, and I leave some concrete steps and principles of how to do it.

Small Business Trends:  So I’m going to take a stab at somebody who I think could be a great example of this.

Ramon Ray: Okay.

Small Business Trends:  That we both know.

Ramon Ray: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Small Business Trends:  And probably a lot of people who see my videos know, ’cause he’s a partner.

Ramon Ray: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Small Business Trends:  John Lawson. Is he as good example?

Ramon Ray: Absolutely. And the reason why I take John Lawson as an example. So one, and again, this is just tongue and cheek here bit, he’s not known as this small business guy for everybody in the world. Nope. He’s not known for a lot of things. But what is he known for? If you want to know how to sell online, if you want to know about Amazon, eBay, John Lawson is the top, or one of the top there is in that. So he’s a great example of it. He’s talked about his battles with, which he’s won, with weight loss, right? He’s gotten a little personal, he’s on your show, does some things, he speaks all over, so yeah. His niche of e-commerce expert, his book Kick Ass, something or other, he’s a great-

Small Business Trends:  Kick Ass Social Commerce I think.

Ramon Ray: … Yes, thank you. Yeah. So great example of it.

Small Business Trends:  So how long does it take? How long does it take people, ’cause I mean you’ve been at this for a while now.

Ramon Ray: Over 20 years, yeah.

Small Business Trends:  How about somebody starting from scratch. They just got, you know, a great business idea, they start their business, they need to get out there, but they haven’t been out there before.

Ramon Ray: Yeah, absolutely.

Small Business Trends:  So, what do they need to do and how long will it take?

Ramon Ray: Always the tough questions. Like 60 minutes. Damn. That ain’t Oprah… So listen, here’s what it is. I would say, if I had to guess not knowing the person, six to eighteen months. I know that’s a long stretch, but I think you’ll begin to see … I’m not talking about being a flash in the pan. You know, Steve Harvey calls you on his show and you get a big uptake. But six month mark, if you’ve been doing your weekly something on Facebook or Twitter, you’ve been engaged on Instagram, you start your email newsletter with valuable content every single week, every other week, you’re going to your local chamber saying, “Hey, can I sweep the floor? And then after that can I be on your panel?” You know, ’cause that’s what you got to do; hustle, right?

Small Business Trends:  Yeah.

Ramon Ray: You do that for six months, and that’s been my journey. I think you’ll begin to see it, and then from there, Brent, it snowballs, because you know, Jenny will see Ramon being interviewed by Brent, or rather Jenny will be interviewing Ramon, right? Brent’s going to be like, “Who’s this guy, Jenny?” “Oh that’s Ramon.” Brent’s going to say, “Oh, could you be on my show?” And this has happened to me all day long.

Small Business Trends:  Where can they pick up the book?

Ramon Ray: You can pick up the book of course on Amazon.com, but also you can go to CelebrityCEO.com. Thanks for asking, Brent.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.