Some might say I have a weird little mustache. It’s a signature thing for me, and when I look in the mirror, I’m glad it’s there. But not everyone thinks it’s as cool as I do. Maybe they find it too quirky or something. Either way, they’re not just making assumptions about me -- they’re also making assumptions about my company.
The way entrepreneurs present themselves becomes an inherent part of their startups’ identities. My mustache is an important clue to my personality and my company’s philosophy: We embrace weird. If someone can’t accept quirkiness, we probably won’t enjoy working with each other.
Related: How Great Entrepreneurs Got Started
Building a strong personal brand that propels your company starts with authenticity and a willingness to share yourself with the world. The personal brand you project should validate your professional goals and establish you as a legit player in your space. Here are five tips to help you align your personal brand with your professional endeavors:
1. Find the right uniform.
While 79 percent of millennials want to be able to dress comfortably in T-shirts and hoodies, 93 percent of large-company CEOs say an employee’s work style influences promotion opportunities. Before you show up to a speaking engagement or networking event in flip flops and a tank top, take a good hard look at how the most successful leaders in your industry present themselves.
You don’t have to completely sacrifice your personal sense of style, but being that one guy who’s way underdressed will make you stand out for all of the wrong reasons. It’s possible to still dress uniquely within professional confines.
2. Be engaged with your industry.
Obviously, it’s important to be able to talk the talk. Immerse yourself in your industry, and be able to provide expert-level insights when called upon. If you are a fashion vendor, you better be able to hold a conversation about clothing for more than 30 seconds at a time. If you’re the leader of a tech startup, pulling out a flip phone in the middle of a cocktail party won’t send the right message.
Don’t just engage with the industry from a leader’s perspective -- make sure you’re also on the same page as your target clients. CEOs who don’t understand the needs of their customers don’t last long.
3. Nail the first impression.
A great first impression is crucial, and the first tenth of a second can make or break your attempt at creating one. That doesn’t mean you should talk as fast as you can -- it means you need to project professionalism and confidence before you even open your mouth. Then, once you grab the employer’s attention, you can blow him away with your knowledge and passion.
4. Boost your visibility.
Tweeting the right person at the right time helped make Uber’s Ryan Graves a billionaire. Entrepreneurs need to be part of the conversation in order to define it, so get out there, attend events and build your personal and professional recognition. Being a fixture at every industry soiree and inserting yourself into conversations is an important signal to the community that you’re serious about becoming a key player.
5. Perform a personal audit.
When determining your personal brand, ask yourself: “What impression do I want to give off, and how can I replicate that impression every time I meet with someone new?” This might mean filling your closet with a certain type of clothing, stocking your shelves with industry-specific books or growing some really neat facial hair. Whatever it is, make sure your personal brand is clearly defined, sustainable and in alignment with your business goals.
In a world of flexible dress codes, impersonal communication tools and tech founders selling to other tech founders, personal branding is falling by the wayside. But that doesn’t make it any less important.
An investment in your personal brand is an investment in your business.