Does Every Business Need A Front Person?

If I googled your name, what would I find? A few old pictures and a dormant Twitter account, a fully-fledged portrayal of you as a person and professional, or something in between? Perhaps you’d be absent from the internet all together. But which is best? If you’re trying to build an impressive company, should you be active and present or does it make no difference?

Mike Winnet has an opinion. In 2017 he sold his business, Learning Heroes, for $11million and now shares insights about sales and marketing on his Contrepreneur YouTube channel (with 90,000 subscribers) and in his Views Are My Own membership community of 6000 members. Within the community, Winnet and members explore topics such as building personal brands, whether paid networking events are worth it, anti-marketing methods and sales strategies for marketing professionals.

I spoke to Winnet about how necessary having a personal brand is to building a significant business.

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What benefit does a personal brand bring?

“For me, it’s opened doors to people I wouldn’t otherwise be able to talk to,” said Winnet. With a solid platform, an audience in the business niche as well as over 200k subscribers and followers, hard-to-reach people want to take his call. “They have seen my stuff, they know my content, and they know there is something worth discussing. They can see the benefit of speaking with me.” For Winnet, that’s the power of a personal brand.

“I wasn’t following a strategy,” admits Winnet, about how his personal brand grew from scratch. “I just made observations about my industry and shared them whenever I felt like it. I tried to make them humorous.” Rather than following a formula, joining an engagement pod or trying to please the algorithm, Winnet simply posted what he thought would resonate with the kind of people he’d like to do business with. It worked. “If you’re thinking about how to be authentic, you’re probably not. Authenticity is what people think you are, not what you try to manufacture.” Your true personal brand is who you really are, online and offline, and that’s the version that brings benefits.

Access to a large network, connections with powerful people and a primed audience of people who know, like and trust you without having actually met you is enough to make anyone want to be famous for their work. But what’s possible without this in place?

Can you grow a business without a personal brand?

“There are plenty of multimillion pound businesses that don’t have a front person,” explained Winnet. This includes the startup he sold. “Apart from a LinkedIn profile that I rarely used, I didn’t have any social media before I sold my company.” He was spending his time beavering away winning sales rather than sharing a message with the masses. And that’s important.

The best personal brands come as a result of being successful, not from telling people how successful you are without having something to back it up. Be the example before you preach it, just as Winnet did. “My personal brand has come as a consequence and result of scaling, then selling a business and people wanting to know how I did it.” One step at a time, one move after the other, trusting that it would happen when the time was right.

“You may never have heard of Nick Read, Noel Quinn, Roisin Currie, Jitse Groen and Nick Beighton,” explained Winnet. “But you have heard of Vodafone, HSBC, Greggs, Just Eat and ASOS.” So yes, your personal brand can be important, “but you can be incredibly successful in business without posting on LinkedIn.”

So which should you spend energy on growing, your business or your personal brand? Winnet says the former. “Limit time spent mindlessly scrolling and forcing posts” in favour of your “challenging to-do list tasks to build a strong business that serves your customers well.” Pleasing the algorithm and growing your followers isn’t the goal, pleasing your clients and growing your business is.

“The reality is that for most people, posting content isn’t going to interest people or grow your followers.” If you don’t have the time, ability or support team to share consistently and intentionally, perhaps hold off all together. As Winnet joked, “no one cares that Colin from Coventry who runs a roofing business drinks 3 litres of water and mediates at 5am.” Instead, focus on business fundamentals, not “posting online and passing it off as real work.”

Are there downsides to building a personal brand?

Being famous online and in real life can have its downsides. If your online presence is setting the bar high, others have high expectations of you that you’ll have to match it in real life. “Building a great personal brand can be damaging for some people because they are so dull,” warned Winnet, who said he has met people that are “like dishwater in real life.” He has noticed a huge difference between, “the version they’ve created in their content, which is often outsourced to a branding agency,” and the person they are for real. He said it’s the business equivalent of being catfished on Tinder. “You wouldn’t like it done to you, but that’s what a lot of people are doing with their personal brand.”

How similar is your online persona to the one that comes alive when the camera isn’t rolling? When the ring light is off and the audience isn’t watching, who shows up as you? Ideally they are exactly the same.

What’s the verdict?

While you can absolutely build a business without a personal brand, having one can grow your business faster. The missing ingredient is substance. “The biggest personal brands on LinkedIn are people trying to sell personal brand services,” said Winnet. That creates a bubble that can easily burst. “Any idiot can build an audience, but there’s a huge difference in building the brand of someone who sells a solution to a real problem.”

If you’re selling the solution to a real problem, talk about that. “You can’t pay the bills with impressions, likes and comments, so share content that speaks to your ideal client about the things they are searching for,” advised Winnet. “Fix their problems.” This isn’t about building an audience for the sake of it, of “going viral, stirring up controversy in order to court views, likes and attention of any kind.” Stay away from that side of personal brand building in favour of the value-adding, genuine things you can share.

Finally, choose your partners carefully, warned Winnet. “Hiring a personal brand expert that doesn’t have any business experience won’t work,” he said. If they say they can grow your business to nine figures but they’ve not managed to do it themselves, “I’d question their ability to do it for you.” Your personal brand strategy should be created with the goal of making sales, not of building an audience by whatever means. “Enlist the help of someone who gets it,” he advised. Someone who has practised what they preach to roaring success.

Be present when you’ve got something to say. Share content that adds value. Grow your business before growing your audience. Substance, not smoke. Actions, not words. Quality, not quantity. If done well, a personal brand is a multiplier of entrepreneurial effort. If done badly, it’s a shallow endeavour that is a struggle to maintain and worse than not bothering.

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Does Every Business Need A Front Person?

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