Build your community first, then launch your business!

Until recently, most business owners have done it the other way around (and struggled as a result).

The traditional logic for building a business has been: 

(1) come up with a great idea

(2) do market research

(3) talk to some customers

(4) build a product, then 

(5) take that product to the customers and try to sell it to them

Now, we see wise creators taking a more predictable, less stressful path to success by choosing to build their communities –  first.

Ideally, you should take this one step further and build your reputation before going into business.

Building your network first is a massive key to success because:

  • You clarify what’s possible and clarify your end goals
  • You see what others are doing
  • You discover great ideas
  • You see what others are doing and how well they are succeeding
  • You develop relationships with people with whom you can test your ideas
  • You take the pressure off yourself
    • Because you are building a huge asset for any business you start – there is no rush to come up with a specific business idea first.

Darrah Brustein has these 10 fantastic guidelines to consider when building your personal reputation (brand “you”):

  1. Do what you say you’ll do. It sounds so darn simple, but think about it: How many times did you request that your banker send you something, that your assistant picks something up, or that your vendor call you back, to no avail? You then have to remember to follow up and hope that they keep their word. Now think of a time when someone told you they’d do something and delivered on it. You probably think of them as reliable and dependable. You trust them. And in all likelihood, you’d give them a strong recommendation or referral, right? Aim to be that person.
  2. Go out of your way to help others reach their goals. Being reputable goes beyond a concern for yourself and your own advancement. Foster a mindset of helping other people. Is your friend’s child in college and looking to get some insights into the business world? Offer to spend some time speaking with him/her to offer guidance and answer questions. Do you know someone in sales who is looking for a deal? Ask them if you can help by making the right introduction. Does one of your co-workers need to leave 30 minutes early for a family commitment? Offer to cover for them.
  3. Make other people look good. Have you ever been thrown under the bus? No fun, right? It’s important to find ways to make other people look good (for reasons other than not being a jerk). Did someone refer you to a company as a possible client or for a job? Make sure to make them look great as a thank you! Get there early, be prepared, and follow up accordingly in a timely manner with both parties. By making the referring party look great for introducing you, your reputation continues to grow.
  4. Go a step beyond what is expected. Did someone ask for a reference from you? Offer three. Did you say you’d save them 10 percent? Save them 15. Did you say you’d follow up in 24 hours? Follow up in 12. If you had a great meeting, send a handwritten thank you note. These small gestures go a long way and will make you stand out.
  5. Look the part. An often overlooked and undervalued component of your reputation is your first impression. And like it or not, people make judgements before you open your mouth. Be sure to dress for the environment you’re in. Don’t be too casual. Always err on the side of being too dressy if you aren’t sure of the dress code. Make sure your attire is clean, unwrinkled, well-fitting, and modern. Have your hair groomed, and if you wear makeup, make sure it’s not distracting. Don’t lose your chance to impress someone simply because you don’t look appropriate.
  6. Consider your body language. Your body language tells people a lot. Make sure you have your body facing your audience, your feet pointed towards them, and a tall stance. Nod your head to show agreement, leaning into the other person at times, and smile here and there. 
  7. Be consistent. Being inauthentic will do you no good because you won’t be able to remain consistent. You need to show the same great qualities to everyone you meet, bad days included. If you are great in one setting and nasty, rude, and/or cold in other environments, your reputation will suffer. People are willing to share negative experiences much more readily than positive ones. And as you know, they can spread quickly.
  8. Act with integrity. This should be the foundation of everything you do. But, especially in the world of business, small acts of greed, selfishness and jealousy can work against you (in ways you may not even notice) and showcase your lack of integrity. If you wouldn’t buy the deal you’re selling, don’t sell it. If you know you can’t get back to someone when you promise, that is not being forthright.
  9. Get engaged with your community. Your community can be as small as your office or as large as your city. Your engagement will have everything to do with your values and goals. Being engaged means getting to know people, giving back your time and resources, and being available.
  10. Be likeable. Being likeable directly relates to being you. Smile more, approach someone you don’t know, offer a handshake or wish someone congratulations. These small things can all make you more likeable. What is unlikeable is being fake. Be careful not to falsify who you are just to be likeable.

The people in your life who demonstrate most or all of these traits are probably the people you hold in the highest regard. Their reputations precede them (in a good way) and they don’t have to sell themselves or brag, because others are doing it for them. And there is no greater value than a positive reputation, as it will open doors for you that you otherwise never could.

By Guy Wilson