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When should I start building a personal brand?

When should I start building a personal brand?

personalbrand Dec 12, 2020

Nearly half of newly created businesses in Canada fail before their fifth anniversary and fifteen out of every one hundred new ventures die before their first birthday.

These numbers can shake the confidence of even the most determined aspiring entrepreneur, and yet did you know that self-confidence is key for achieving entrepreneurial success? Studies have actually shown a direct link between entrepreneurial confidence and ensuing entrepreneurial success!

In Fall of 2020, we set out to find out whether personal brand building could be a confidence-enhancing strategy for aspiring entrepreneurs. After all, a strong personal brand means having a large network, being recognized as an expert, and enjoying higher levels of trust among prospective clients. Fair to say that this would be a confidence boost and would likely position a nascent entrepreneur for success!

We conducted a small research study of entrepreneurs who had commenced their entrepreneurial journeys 1-5 years ago. We were curious to see whether they had engaged in personal brand building and, if so, how it impacted their self-confidence.

Despite a small participant sample size, we made some intriguing observations! 71% of our participants indicated that they only started building a personal brand or even thinking about it after the launch of their entrepreneurial venture. And yet, what is fascinating is that 100% of participants said that, in retrospect, they wished they had engaged in building their personal brands sooner.

One of the two participants who believed in the value of having a personal brand before the launch of her business is Vanessa, a sustainability entrepreneur, and here is how she explained it:

“A personal brand is a very big asset. As an entrepreneur, so much of your job is about sales and marketing. You need to be out there creating content, visibility, and value for the people you're speaking to. And if they don’t know you and they don’t trust you, they're not going to buy from you, and they're not going to support your business, and they're not going to become diehard fans of what you're doing. So, I think that a personal brand is really important.”

Unlike Vanessa who was a believer in the value of personal branding before she became an entrepreneur, our participant Lindsay has had a different journey. Lindsay, a communications entrepreneur, did not even use LinkedIn, the world's largest professional network, prior to launching her business and did not see the value of building her personal brand at the time. When asked whether she now saw value in it, she emphatically responded:

“Oh, hugely, hugely! If I had known then what I know now, I would have done way more branding work. I would have started with branding, had I understood the power of it.”

Elena, a marketing entrepreneur, categorized personal brand building as a “go to market strategy”. Curiously, she – a highly experienced Marketer never considered personal branding as a go to market strategy when embarking on the entrepreneurial journey. Today, she wishes that she had and is investing her time and resources in creating her personal brand. She is already seeing results!

In fact, all of the study participants indicated that they are now either building their personal brands or are strongly considering it. And so the question begets itself - if entrepreneurs see so much value in personal branding, why did they not engage in it sooner?

As we continued our research, it quickly became clear how much ambiguity exists around the concept. Lindsay, our communications entrepreneur, who today dedicates time, energy, and resources to building a personal brand, nonetheless wondered:

                        “I still don’t think I have full clarity of my brand. Will I ever get there?”

Nogol, an HR entrepreneur, gave further insight into her hesitation to engage in personal brand building, despite being a full believer in its benefits:

“Personal branding could be quite scary for someone who's just starting as an entrepreneur, especially when you don't have the expertise or the minimum viable product, or your go to market strategy. It took me a while to have that confidence to build a personal brand. And I think that maybe if I knew better, or if I had the tools, I would have done it earlier.”      

Nogol is not alone in her concerns. Her hesitation and lack of clarity are not surprising considering a lack of clear definitions and practical tools surrounding personal branding. At Brand of a Leader, we are excited to be creating tools that aid entrepreneurs - both aspiring and experienced - to feel more confident as they create their businesses. Personal branding is a highly sought out, yet under researched concept and we are thrilled to be filling a gap through the work we do behind the scenes!

Our answer to the question of when you should start building a personal brand? We were clear on it all along and our study confirmed it further: don’t wait, start today, and your future self will be glad that you did!

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