"People’s perceptions are their reality," my mentor Bob once told me. He is now the executive VP of finance to one of the largest real estate development companies in the country.
I diligently registered this quote in my memory banks and have used it year after year to build and manage my own teams, build alliances, or simply try to impact people's perceptions of me.
I also used this mantra to define and work on something much more critical to success: my own personal brand - creating a cohesive and consistent perception of me.
I would strongly recommend all of you aspiring entrepreneurs to give some thought to your personal brand: it is never too early to start building one! Do not forget, as a young entrepreneur you have to embody the values of your company, well at least at the very beginning, investors will be looking to invest as much in you yourself as in your idea - and first impressions will be critical.
What you represent and convey will carry a lot of weight in your potential angels’ go/no-go decisions. Therefore, make yourself as likeable, professional, competent and innovative as possible – actually make yourself as close as you can to what you want to be or what you need to be.
How? Let me give you a couple of key things to ponder. Take some quiet time and reflect on the following:
- What is it you want to stand for?
- What is it you want to be remembered for?
- How do you translate the above into tangible actions such as behaviours, language or even appearance?
You want to be associated with professionalism, so wear a suit, do not cancel meetings, show up on time, and re-cap key points made at that meeting. You want to be associated with expertise? Research your area thoroughly and come up with original ideas and solutions.
Inexperience often comes hand-in-hand with youth. For this reason, established individuals in business may be wary of young entrepreneurs. All the above are ways in which you can establish yourself and alleviate their discomfort. A title still carries a lot of weight in opening doors in business, it must be said. So, you must be prepared for the potential struggle of gaining access to the right people and the difficulty of obtaining things that youpreviously took for granted.
Think of yourself as a can of Coke, or a luxury bag – work on your personal brand. Because if you are not in control of it, who is?