I am starting my own company. I have started my own company. I'm an entrepreneur, solopreneur, enterprising woman, business owner, founder...there are several things you could call me. How about this: I am my own company.
The concept of personal branding is not a new one, although it seems to be picking up steam in workshops, courses, books and the like... even in social media where we are essentially a brand, be it on Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, etc.
At a conference this summer I was asked to name a brand I love. Immediately I said Patagonia. I was then asked a few more things:
- What is it you think of when you think of Patagonia?
- What does it look like?
- What does it smell like?
- What does it feel like?
- Who uses it?
- What purpose does it serve?
- What values does it touch?
I talked about the Patagonia origin story, how it was born out of the intersection of passion, necessity and innovation, and how the Founder Yvon Chouinard lives and breathes the brand from the most authentic place. Patagonia extends beyond its products to be a company that is about experience, purpose, being a steward of the Earth, an explorer as well as a conscious consumer. When interacting with Patagonia and its products, you feel part of a community, part of adventure, enabled and empowered.
I was then told that this all points to what I value, what is important to me, who I am as a brand.
Interesting and true. Now what?
So we think about personal branding and we think about what we want to put out into the world and why. What do we value, what is the need and are these aligned? We think about how people find us, experience us, what resonates with them. We think about who we want to interact with and what that looks like and how we will find each other. We hopefully think about how to grow our "brand", our knowledge and presence in the world.
This is all very useful and important, inside and outside of the workplace. A lot can be learned and applied from considering our personal brand. And I believe we can take it a step further.
I am now thinking of each of us as our own business. Not only are we the brand that wraps it all up, but we are the actions, planning, intentions, skill set, knowledge, operations and experiences that make the brand really stick, that give it its worth. This holds true whether we are an entrepreneur, founder, freelancer or whether we work for the largest of corporations... and anything in between.
From this perspective, the value and worth is something we create in the entire collection of how we live our unique life, personally and professionally.
- How do we make decisions on behalf of our "business"?
- What edges and growth opportunities are we embracing?
- What is the intersection of capabilities, passions, experiences that uniquely position us?
- For what need are we the solution, based on all of who we are?
- How have our formal and informal education, professional experiences, personal adventures, relationships and curiosities created a person who has something of value to contribute?
- How do we approach problems, tasks, relationships, growth, innovation in all parts of our lives, ahem, I mean businesses?
- Would we bet on ourselves as a business? Would we be inspired and want to work with us? Are we being sought out for our exclusive skill set/experience combo?
- What is the cost of us not putting ourselves out into the world?
- Where are we driving growth independently and where are we bringing in a team to help?
- Are we taking care of our "employees", aka ourselves?
- What would our "quarterly reports" look like as a business? How are we checking in?
The list of questions is infinite.
Clients do not hire your business, they hire you. You are your business. They are paying you in exchange for the value that you uniquely offer.
Businesses do not hire you for an open role that they design. They hire you as a small business. You make an agreement to exchange your unique package of services and experiences for the money they will pay you. We do not have to be cogs in a machine going through motions.
This is an empowering perspective. This perspective opens up opportunities for self-actualization, meaningful work and deeper opportunities all around. This perspective is becoming more important in the connection economy, the sharing economy, the maker movement, the impact economy. How we choose to live our lives every day is also how we choose to build our business, the worth behind our brand. It requires vulnerability and inspired action, while also inviting personal responsibility and personality into the workplace.
This is an invitation to take your work personally and it is also an invitation to not be defined by your work...you know the ever popular question, "What do you do?" What you do is not equivalent to "how do you bring in money?" although that is usually what is intended. If we really think about the question, a more authentic and useful answer would be to describe who we are, how we live our lives in their entirety and what we have to give as a result... or even to answer what we do for fun. It all matters.
The traditional workplace is changing and so can our thoughts and demeanor about how we exist in relationship to it.