Your company might have a strong brand, but do you? Retailer-turned-Brand-Guru Linzi Boyd has carved a formidable career out of understanding how the cult of personality turns some entrepreneurs into superstars. Here are some of her top tips.
1. Banish the old guard
Taking advice from someone who knows there stuff is one thing, but beware anyone that says, “I know best and I’ve been doing it for years,” warns Boyd. The business landscape is changing fast, and nothing will turn you into a beige has-been like slavishly following the footsteps of a beige has-been, just because their caution paid off 30 years ago. Be brave enough to question the status quo and have your own thoughts.
2. Learn by doing
“I’ve only ever been an entrepreneur,” says Boyd, who left school at 16, sold her first venture (a high-end fashion store) at 20 and then sold her second company (a footwear brand) to Caterpillar at 24, before setting up leading PR company The Surgery in 1999. There’s no real way to prepare for the realities of running a business except by running a business, and by being ambitious, energetic and active, you can make a name for yourself as you go. After all, it’s no use sitting in your bedroom writing blog posts – to be taken seriously as a business personality, you do have to be out there proving your worth.
3. Surround yourself with the right people
“Understand the power of celebrity and find out what it can do for your brand,” says Boyd. A big believer in celebrity endorsement, she says that the breakthrough success of her footwear brand came after she became one of the first people spot the potential of a “footballer’s wife” tie-in. Think about who out there already represents what your brand (both your company’s and your own) is all about, and then think about how you might be able to work with them to reflect some of that personality.
Plus, while you probably won’t be able to publicise the connection, tracking down a business figure who is as much like you want to be as possible and asking them to mentor you is an amazing way to guide your personal brand development in a way that feels right for you.
4. Work out where you fit in
“Understand your voice in the market,” says Boyd. “How do you want to show up?”
This, she explains, isn’t just about making sure you’re an expert commenter on things in your field, it means figuring out your public persona – the version of yourself that you want to project. Is your brand more fun and disruptive, or seasoned pro? You can’t flipflop easily between tone, so pick who you are to the public and stick to it.
5. Be bold
The different between being a business owner and being a brand in your own right comes down to force of personality. “You’ve got to have a bit of Branson’s balls,” laughs Boyd. “Branson’s got the biggest balls on the planet!”
This means being determined and driven, but it also means taking risks and putting together a “fame plan” alongside your business plan, she says. Many small business owners are afraid to promote themselves (as opposed to their company) in case they end up looking like a one-man band, but the truth is that people primarily buy from people, and if they trust, admire and respect you, that will carry over into your commercial projects too. Focus on getting attention for you, as well as for your work.