“You are your business” – or are you?

mage of Lynne Stainthorpe Brand Strategist with the words “You are your business” Or are you?

“You are your business” Or are you?

I hear the phrase ‘you are your business’ a lot – in online posts and in networking meetings. When I hear it, I’m not too sure it applies to every brand and situation.

What makes me question this well-worn phrase?

It’s because I’ve been working with many types of brands for a long time. (I interchange ‘brand’ and ‘business’ because I do agree with the adage ‘business equals brand, and brand equals business’).

So, if you’re a business owner, creative, consultant or coach who wants to expand your business beyond its current size. You may want to consider the advantages of differentiating your personal and business brands.

This is my simple model

For business founders and owners

You – heart, soul and essence

Who you are and what drives you in your business, lies at the heart of everything you do, including your business idea.

Like a diamond, you may have many facets. Perhaps you’re a mother or father; a brother or sister; an aunt or uncle. You may have many or few interests – from sports to books and movies, reading tarot to birdwatching; cats and dogs to arts and crafts.

You could be an extravert or an introvert. Whoever you are, you’ll have a distinctive mix of values, beliefs, character and personality traits. 

It’s your choice how much you want to share of your heart, soul and essence with others, or not.

image of a light bulb and concentric circles illustrating the principle of you, your personal brand and your business brand

Your Personal Brand

Personal branding used to be called your personal reputation and image. When Tom Peters wrote “The Brand Called You” article for Fast Company magazine in 1997, the idea of personal brand was aimed at professionals working in large organisations. His premise was that you could take control of your career by actively promoting yourself like a brand, so that you could stand out. This concept still applies today for people working in corporate.

The rapid rise of social media now means that personal branding applies to everyone online. This focus on personal branding has accelerated with the growth of celebrity culture.

My view of personal branding is well summarised by PwC. They say:

“Your brand is your reputation. It’s your calling card. It’s what you’re known for and how people experience you. It’s about bringing who you are to what you do and how you do it. Delivering your brand clearly and consistently will create a memorable experience in the minds of those you interact with and can open doors to new opportunities.”

Best self…

Your personal brand could be described as your best self. It’s the ‘who’ that you choose to present to the world and your clients. You’ll pay attention to your image, style, the way you dress, the colours you wear, along with what you say, and how you say it. ‘You’ are your personal brand. This means it’s vital that your your heart, soul and true essence is aligned with your publicly expressed values, beliefs, character traits and personality.

When there’s a disconnect between ‘you’ and your public personal brand, you’ll feel as if you’re wearing a mask. In turn, this creates stress and internal tension. When you grow emotionally, spiritually and develop new interests, you may find that your personal brand gets stuck in past perceptions. Then you’ll know it’s time for a personal brand refresh or reinvention.

When you believe that your personal brand is your business, the benefits include:

  • Being passionate, dedicated, and invested in its success – because your drive and motivation can fuel the growth of your business.
  • Authenticity – because your personal brand values and personality are the same as the business. This can help build trust and loyalty with clients and prospects.
  • Control and consistency – when you embody your business in your personal brand, you control decisions, direction, and the overall vision.
  • Your personal touch and reputation – this could be important in making connections with clients, contacts, associates and collaborators, as well as helping stand out and impact.

Your Business Brand

When you set up your business, you may use your own name (especially in fashion, interior design, coaching and consulting), or you may choose a company name. (For information on brand naming read this blog).

Initially your business may feel like an extension of you. However, as you grow and scale your business, your business brand has a bigger scope than your personal brand. Intentionally building your business brand is key to elevating your business, adding strength and power. Of course, your personal brand is an ambassador for your business and the face that represents your business.

Alignment doesn’t mean identical

Your personal brand aligns with your business, yet they do not have to be identical. Consider the example of Richard Branson (personal brand) and Virgin (business brand). Detaching Richard Branson from Virgin made it easier to delegate responsibilities, accountabilities and to sell a Virgin business. 

There’s another reason to emotionally detach ‘you’ from your business – when it comes to marketing and selling. Remember that you’re selling your products and services – you’re not selling yourself or your soul. 

The foundations for building your strong, different and distinctive business include:

  • Having a brand purpose based on who your business wants to help and serve (so this is about making the world a better place through the ripple effect, as well as personal fulfilment). Along with your brand vision and mission.
  • Clarifying the brand values which determine how your business operates and provide its moral compass. These values may be the same as your top personal values or they may expand beyond your personal values.
  • Expressing your business brand personality – the who of your business – which embraces how your business behaves, as well as the brand style, colours, imagery and voice.

When you view your business brand as a separate entity…

It will be easier to manage your business evolution, growth and scaling. This is because you’re responsible and accountable for another (imaginary) person, with a life force, purpose and vitality of its own. It means your business brand is aligned with your own personal brand values, yet has the freedom to grow and evolve with a distinctive brand personality, image and reputation.

Think of it as birthing a business instead of being a business. This fits with your many and varied roles, such as Founder, CEO, Sales Director, Marketing Director and so on. When you have this approach and mindset it brings an element of detachment which helps with delegating or outsourcing tasks – and employing people.

The benefits of this mental and emotional detachment include:

  • Establishing boundaries between your work life and personal life. This helps to avoid burnout, stress and strain on personal and family relationships.
  • Separating your personal and business identities (and reputations). This is invaluable when you want to sell your business or you’re confronted with illness or unexpected changes in the market.
  • Protecting your self-worth and confidence – if potential clients decide not to buy – they’re not rejecting ‘you’ personally. Instead they’re saying ‘no’ to the products or services that your business sells. It’s not personal. Having this perspective provides you with the emotional detachment to explore new options to market, sell and adapt to changing client needs.
  • Enabling expansion – when you own and manage your business brand you have a different relationship to being your business. This is an important mental step in upscaling your business which makes it easier to delegate and manage various aspects of the business.

In addition, your business can also capture many of the human qualities of personal branding:

  • Being passionate, dedicated, and invested in success for your clients and business – because your brand cares about them.
  • Authenticity – when the brand values are aligned with behaviour and actions.
  • Consistency – because you’ve created guidelines for brand management that share the ‘who’ of your brand and what it stands for to everyone working in or on the business.
  • Providing the human touch and emotional connections with clients using a carefully crafted brand personality.

For all these reasons, on balance, I’m in favour of separating the ‘who’ of your personal brand from the ‘who’ of your business brand. It’s still important to stay aligned, purposeful and values driven – so that your business expresses passion, authenticity and has a moral compass.

Building your powerful brand

If you’d like to read more about your core brand intangibles, take a look at these blogs on brand values and brand personality.

I’ve also written about brand colours Brown, Orange, Yellow and Green. 

I’d love to stay in touch – so do sign up here for my irregular emails – Branding Matters – for tips on building your standout brand. Or book a call with me here to talk about your brand.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I hope you've enjoyed it and found it useful. I work with coaches, consultants, creatives, therapists and experts, often ex-corporate. Together we get to the heart of what makes your brand distinctive and different, so we can communicate your value proposition effectively. You'll have a standout brand you love and your clients adore, with a brand personality and image that makes you feel proud of your work, and gives you the confidence and focus to accelerate your business growth.
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