Long before we had the ability to quickly research Yelp reviews, or skim through someone’s LinkedIn profile, we would turn to our networks to solicit feedback on whether or not a person, or business, was trustworthy.
Friends would recommend a great restaurant for dinner, or provide you with the name and number for ‘their person’ in a variety of professions, like a good plumber, lawyer, accountant, or hair stylist.
But whether people are looking online or asking a friend, the bottom line that everyone wants to know is, can you be trusted?
Personal vs Business Reputation, Is There a Difference?
Everyone, and every business, is expected to have an online presence, so the days of keeping your personal and professional reputations separate are long gone. As an entrepreneur, your personal reputation is now your businesses brand. So, you must be vigilant to make sure that any information available to the public accurately represents you and your business appropriately.
Why is this so important? When you’re an entrepreneur, especially at the beginning of your journey, it’s your personal reputation that will carry the weight of your interactions.
It’s your personal reputation that can get you in the door to speak with the right people, or allow you to leverage your personal network for assistance.
Your personal reputation is what you’re judged on when discussing financing and investing opportunities for your business. It’s also the first thing that people consider when choosing to do business with you.
Let’s take a look at how you can strengthen your reputation.
Every interaction you have with another person, whether in person or via social media, is an opportunity to cultivate your reputation.
Individuals are information savvy and can easily come across content online that may give them a false-impression of you.
Whether it is a Facebook post, or a Tweet, or even participation in a closed online forum, the importance of conducting yourself professionally is crucial.
- Take the time to go through all the information about you that is in the public domain. This includes all social media accounts, professional account pages, and even closed forums that you participate in.
- Review the information through the lens of a potential customer, partner, or investor. Does your personal reputation online align with your businesses intended reputation? Can anything be misconstrued, or taken out of context and perceived in a negative light? If so, fix it. When in doubt, remove it.
- Start to take a breath before communicating. Both in person or online. You never know when, or where, you will run into a potential client, so conducting yourself with the utmost professionalism is important for your reputation, and that of your business.
It only takes a moment to find negative feedback or reviews about a business online. Poor customer service, dishonest guarantee policies, or unreasonably long wait times to resolve issues are only some of the examples of complaints.
Creating a positive reputation as you run your business, such as following through on commitments, and being accountable for your actions, all contribute to the kind of reputation that makes you proud.
This includes paying your vendors or freelancers on time, providing the product or service you promised, and staying true to the benefits and value that you state your offering can bring.
It’s also important to remain transparent with everyone you interact with, especially when mistakes are made. Let’s face it, mistakes will happen no matter how carefully you prepare. However, if you handle mistakes quickly, and are open about what happened, you will develop a reputation as the business that owns its mistakes and corrects them accordingly.
How does this affect your businesses reputation? Customers are more likely to pay top dollar for your work, promote you enthusiastically to their network, and remain loyal to you when faced with alternatives. Now that’s good business.
The Day to Day
While it is undoubtedly important to develop and maintain a positive, professional, and truthful representation of yourself personally and professionally, it is also important to develop boundaries.
Holding people accountable for their actions, just as you hold yourself accountable to yours, is another way to build a strong reputation. Abusive customers, unreliable vendors, and clients that refuse to pay on time, are just a few of the circumstances that you will experience as an entrepreneur. So, it’s important to exhibit firm and respectful boundaries that protect you, and your business.
For many entrepreneurs, especially those just starting out, it can be difficult to set boundaries for fear of losing business. Yet setting boundaries based on ethical and realistic business practices, will earn you and your business the respect it deserves.
The practice of cultivating and maintaining a good reputation as an entrepreneur, can be a challenge for some. Yet for those that understand the importance of merging their professional and personal reputation together, and executing accordingly, will reap the benefits for years to come.