It’s a personality brand, not a personality business.

Running a business that incorporates some level of personality branding is like driving a car. You put yourself in the driver’s seat but you turn the steering wheel, not the car wheels themselves. You step on the gas pedal and a hundred tiny reactions make the motor whir & the wheels spin.

You are not the car.

The car still functions whether it’s you in the driver’s seat or your best friend.

There are two real dangers of personality business – as opposed to personality branding:

  1. You risk being the only engine of growth for your business.
  2. You risk creating a customer base of sycophants.

Let’s examine the first risk.

When you are the only engine of growth for your business, you can’t maximize your effort-to-results ratio. In other words, to get results, you need to put in a comparable amount of work. You don’t move forward unless you’re putting in the effort.

Your goal is find your sweet spot (click here for a guide to finding your sweet spot) such that all you need to do is flick a switch here or there to create big rewards for both yourself and your customers.

  • Do you have a product (program, blog, service, project, etc…) that generates new sales without advertising? That spreads exponentially through word-of-mouth from delighted soul to delighted soul?
  • Do you have systems or applications that automate as much of your workflow as possible?
  • Are your offerings progressive? Do they grow with your customers to generate additional revenue?

Now, the second risk.

This is an altogether more controversial statement. But one that needs to be made. There are too many businesses in this space that are driven by the desire of the customer to be more like the business owner. Are your customers working towards their own version of success or they working on being more like you?

  • Are they out to please you in anyway they can? Or are they willing to push back when they have a new need or a question about your vision?
  • Do they engage you in meaningful conversation or just want to be “doing things right?”
  • Do they apply your teaching, product, or solution? Or do they just keep coming back for more?

And in fact, these risks are interrelated. In an effort to launch a relationship-based, personality brand, many business owners – and rightly so – offer their services 1:1. Then, due to a marketing misunderstanding, they position the offer as essentially “spend some time with me” instead of “get xyz results.”

If your business is positioned to be about just spending time with you, it’s near impossible to not be the sole engine of growth. If all you’re selling is access to your world, you’ll be forced to create & recreate that world… and all the logistics that go along with it. It’s a slippery slope of of too much work, too much frustration, and too much energy drained.

You can be a role model without creating an atmosphere of “I wanna be just like you!” You can create offerings that sell your ideas instead of yourself. You can create a brand is driven by your unique talents, experience, and perspective without being a slave to a business that requires your 24/7 supervision.

Here’s a 3 point plan:

1. Sever the emotional attachment you have to your business. Yes, I believe in work/life integration. But I also believe that your business cannot thrive if you allow it to control your sense of self-worth or self-knowledge.

Just like being a mother or father doesn’t wholly define you, being your business can’t define you either. Personality brands blur this line but they don’t erase it. Understand where you stop and your business begins. Hat tip to Adam on this one.

2. Separate your work from your technique or ideas. Your ideas and your technique exist separate from the work you put into your business. Others can (and should) run with your ideas. Others can (and should) execute your techniques.

It’s easy to get caught up and assuming you are a necessary part of the equation. You are not. Unless you’re prepared to helicopter-parent your business (gosh, I sure hope you’re not), build a business that’s based on scaling your ideas or technique.

3. Save yourself from over-sharing. Some business owners like to leak their own gossip in the name of “authenticity.” It’s all out front because there’s little in the way of strategy on the back end.

Authenticity isn’t an excuse or a demand to air your dirty laundry. Authenticity is an opportunity ask potential customers to align with your values, the value you provide to them, and the vision you have for who they’re becoming as human beings. Hat tip to Ali Shapiro on this one.

The illusion of personality branding is that you’re selling yourself. The risk is that you find yourself sold to a business model that crashes into a tree.

Make your goal to be the confident, in-control driver of your business. Not the commodity being sold.

— PS —

Kick Start Labs is about to release a brand new resource on the basics of product development. If you’ve found yourself little more than a commodity in your business, it’s time to take a serious look at how you can develop a product or service that liberates you. Keep your eyes peeled – registration opens Friday.