How to Build a Personal Brand Without Compromising the Value of Your Business

When building a valuable company, social media is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, creating a personal brand can be an inexpensive way to funnel leads to your business. However, by its nature, social media is a human medium, and people would prefer to follow, like, and interact with a person, not a business, which is why many founders have much larger followings than their company:

  • Tesla has around 14.6 million Twitter followers, whereas company founder Elon Musk has six times more at 86+ million.
  • Salesforce has fewer than 600K followers on Twitter compared to founder Marc Benioff, who has almost twice as many.

The downside of using a personal brand to build your company is that it makes your business too dependent on you, which can feel suffocating. You must always monitor and feed your social presence, making vacations difficult. Lead flow can be sporadic based on the fickle nature of social media, and having an owner with an outsized personal brand can undermine the value of your company. At The Value Builder System™, we refer to this owner dependency as your “Hub & Spoke” score, and it is one of eight significant factors that impact the value of your business.

How do you leverage social without undermining the value of your business?

Take a look at the story of Yorkshire-based James Ashford. Ashford built GoProposal, a software application accountants use to write faster and better proposals. As he recounted in a recent episode of Built to Sell Radio, Ashford started his business using the cash he had left over after a business failure, so he had little money for marketing. Instead, he dedicated himself to mastering the art of producing and posting short videos about selling on social media.

Ashford’s videos caught on in the accounting community, and he started to get new leads for GoProposal every time he posted. The strategy worked, and by 2019 GoProposal was up to more than £1 million in turnover. Ashford started to receive inquiries from acquirers but knew he would struggle to sell his business if it depended on him continuing as the rainmaker.

Ashford embarked on a strategy to minimize GoProposal’s reliance on him. He came up with a theme for the year 2020 called “Kill the King,” which served to remind his staff that the goal for the year was to lessen GoProposal’s dependence on Ashford without slowing down their growth.

Their first step was to promote GoProposal’s operations chief, Heather Elkington, as a spokesperson for the company on social media. Next, they carved up the content of Ashford’s book, Selling to Serve, into standalone content assets staff could post without Ashford’s involvement.

The strategy worked. GoProposal boosted its revenue to £1.5 million and ultimately attracted a “healthy eight-figure” acquisition offer from Sage in 2021.

Building a solid personal brand can be a great way to start a business, but if you want to sell it without strings one day, remember that your role must fade over time as others pick up the torch.

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