Does Your Brand Have Staying Power? How to Make Sure It Does

According to the Small Business Administration, 50 percent of small businesses fail during the first five years and 66 percent during the first 10. I feel blessed to say I’ve been in the self-development industry for nearly 14 years. Before becoming a speaker and author, I was in the entertainment industry for 11 years.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a business owner or employee, keep reading. The approach to maintaining your staying power is applicable at work and in the marketplace. Outside of praying, these are the two essentials I do to ensure my brand doesn’t vanish and my business doesn’t fail.

I stay relevant by watching how the market is moving and decide what role I want to have in it. This often requires a redesign of my brand. For example, in 2005 I was an image consultant, motivational speaker, author, and columnist. Around 2007, I dropped the title image and replaced it with branding. My first presentation on branding was at the University of Delaware. It was an audience of about 300 people. From that presentation, Bank of America called for me to present on the topic and the rest is history. Note: I did more than change my title, I’ll share that in another communication.

The second most important decision I make to keep my business on a continuous incline is building significant, influential, and mutual partnerships. My first partnership was with Dr. Randal Pinkett. He’s the owner of BCT Partner, a multi-million dollar research, consulting and training organization. You may remember him as season four winner of The Apprentice. The goal was to collaborate with a powerhouse name for added credibility while diversifying my portfolio. In return, he got a reliable brand.

As I expanded my brand and grew my business, I received a call from Steve Harrison. He’s the marketing mind behind launches of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Rich Dad Poor Dad, and Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus. He was creating an online Speaking for Money Program and looking for six proven speakers with established brands. The founder of Chicken Soup for the Soul Jack Canfield and I were among the six.

Being on his platform of over 60,000 people significantly increased my brand’s visibility. After recording the program, he extended an offer to coach his clients. I accepted. For five years, I help hundreds of speakers and authors clarify their mission, craft their message, and assess the value of their brand. And the intellectual property I offered in his online program led to an unexpected call to sign my first book deal with Wiley. What did he get? A bankable brand that helped grow his organization by helping his client create results they were seeking.

Today I’m partnering with the Society for Human Resources (SHRM). I’m with their Speakers Bureau, speaking at their annual conference, and we continue to have ongoing conversations about additional ways to partner to make workplaces better and serve their 300,000 members.

Did you notice my gradual progression? Are you wondering, “how can I make myself appealing to a potential partner?” Consider the following:

Build a bankable brand. Astute business people make critical decisions every day that advance the strategic plan of their organization. Having a track record of continuous growth and success signals, you’re likable, marketable, and credible.

Communicate Your Value. Craft your message that communicates who you are and what you do in a way that pique’s interest to want to know more about you. It should be clear and concise with an appetizing value proposition.

Package, Position, and Promote Your Brand. Before there was ever a partnership offer, there was a reputable, relevant well-packaged brand. I met Randal at a speaking engagement. He spoke in the morning, and I spoke in the afternoon. Being on the same platform, leveled the playing field and created an opening for conversation. I came in contact with Steve at one of his workshops. When he called three years later, he said, “You are unforgettable.” I knocked on SHRM’s door.

Remember, before there will ever be a partnership, there has to be a bankable brand.

S. Renee is a nationally recognized Self-Esteem, Branding, Communication, and Executive Presence Expert, Speaker, and Coach. She is author of There Is More Inside: Personal Essentials to Living a Power-Packed LifeThe Bridge to Your Brand: Likability, Marketability, CredibilityOur Hearts Wonder: Prayer to Heal Your Heart and Calm Your Soul and 5 Steps to Assertiveness: How to Communicate With Confidence and Get What You Want(Callisto, 2018). She is the co-author of Self-Esteem for Dummies (Wiley, 2015). Visit her website at www.srenee.com.

How I Landed My First Paid Speaking Gig and You Can Too

It was 2005 and I knew I was being called to be a speaker. In fact, I had known for about 7 years that I would be a speaker. Nope! I didn’t have all the details. I didn’t know where to start, who I needed to talk to or exactly what I needed to do to get started, but I did know two things: I wanted to change the workplace and I wanted to see people succeed.

I was in the midst of writing my first book There Is More Inside: Personal Essentials to Living A Power-Packed Life. As I recall, I didn’t even have a website, yet. It was Summer 2005 and a friend asked me for a favor: “Will you come and speak to a group of HR (human resources) professionals? I’m responsible for booking speakers and I need a speaker for an upcoming meeting.”

Without intentionally exerting any energy, my heart rate increased and I had so many thoughts running through my mind that they disrupted my normal thought pattern. Have you ever had that happen to you? You’re so surprised by an opportunity that you don’t know what to think, do or if you are even capable of meeting the expectation? At that time, I wasn’t a proven speaker and I certainly wasn’t ready to step on stage in such short notice.

With a healthy balance of doubt and curiosity, I said, “Sure. What do you want me to talk about?”

“Anything,” he responded.

“Anything?” I thought.

For what felt like days, I debated within myself: “What should I talk about? Who will be there? How do I decide what to talk about?”

My first book was about discovering who you are and finding the confidence and courage to be personally accountable for creating what you want. That just didn’t seem to be a great topic for a group of policy-following HR professionals. Although I wasn’t going to get paid and didn’t have the experience to know how to process what I could possibly get out of this gig, at the very least, I wanted the audience to like my presentation—and like me. It wasn’t just me, right? Don’t you want to be liked and appreciated?

I decided to be true to myself. I spoke on the topic, “How to Find Your Passion.”

It turned out that I was completely wrong about HR professionals. Everyone started buzzing about the content. After the applause had ended, a line started forming. People were saying how inspired they were by the content and how much this message was needed in the workplace.

At the time, unbeknownst to me, the head of HR for the State of Delaware was in the room. He approached me and said, “Great speech. I have two statewide conferences coming up for support staff. There will be about 300 people at event. I’d like for you to address how to present with confidence. How much will it cost to book you for both conferences?”

“Wow!” I thought. “They must really mean what they are saying,” Do you ever feel like people are just appeasing you? You know, they don’t want you to feel bad so they tell you how great you are, but never take your follow-up call. Well, despite the buzz I didn’t absorb it as honest feedback.

For me, in this context, the truth to admiration and appreciation is the answer to this question: “Are you going to hire me to speak for your organization?” 

After that offer, I felt a surge of confidence in the chatter so I calmly asked, “When are the conferences? How long do you want me to speak?” He gave me the dates and said 45 minutes each. Without hesitation I said, “I have to check my calendar, but thirty-five hundred ($3,500) per conference.”

He shockingly said, “3500 per conference! You’re not worth $3,500.” Without knowing how to demonstrate my value, I responded with a smile, “You may not be willing to pay me 3500, but I’m worth 3500.”

Clearly, wanting me to keynote his conferences, he retorted, “I can pay you $1,000 per conference for 45 minutes.” It didn’t take me long to make that decision. I had just spoken for 30 minutes and got paid $0. He’s offering me $1,000 for 45 minutes, plus I quickly assessed that if I revved up my efforts, I could have my book done before the conference.

I boldly asked, “I have a book coming out around that time. “Can I sale it after I speak?” He enthusiastically said, “Yes!” I had just negotiated my first speaking contract and gave birth to my full-time speaking career.  

From coaching over 300 speakers in the last five years, many of them spend years investing their time and money speaking for free or for minimum compensation. My philosophy is this: be careful of setting a standard of devaluing your mission and message. Over time, not only will you be speaking for free, you’ll start to question yourself and the value you bring. This can severely impact your self-esteem.

The lessons I share with upcoming speakers is this:

·     Be Yourself. Many speakers, authors and other professionals, including employees struggle with knowing and really believing in themselves and their message. Do your homework and just present your message; don’t try to prove that your message is right or how great you are.

·     Be Honest With Yourself. Recognize that if you are not being booked, you may need a coach to help you develop your brand, speech and speaking abilities. Your presentation has to be so good that you are memorable!

·     Brand Your Business. I’ve discovered that for most of my clients, there is an internal battle of wanting to craft and communicate an authentic, valuable message and trying to figure out what’s most popular in the marketplace. Don’t bounce around trying to be everything to everyone; believe in and evolve with your message as the market and workplace changes.

·     Be Dynamic. Give your audience a compelling reason to want to hear you speak again. You have to work on your presence, presentation and performance. Be magnetic, innovative and energizing. When you do, someone in the audience will ask, “Are you available to speak at my event?”

© 2018 S. Renee Smith-Larry All rights reserved. S. Renee helps professionals around the world increase their income and influence by becoming more likable, marketable and credible. As a nationally recognized self-esteem, branding and communications expert, speaker and coach, she also is the bestselling author of 5 Steps to Assertiveness: How to Communicate with Confidence and Get What You WantThe Bridge to Your BrandOur Hearts Wonder, There Is More Inside and Co-Author of Self-Esteem for Dummies. For booking information call 888-588-0423 or visit www.srenee.com.

8 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting Your Business

LinkedIn is celebrating its 15th birthday today.

They are asking their community of users to share what they wanted to be at age 15 (#WhenIWas15). I love that! What a way to engaging a community to be thoughtful about their lives.

At 15, I wanted to be a model. At the time it seemed every female teenager wanted to be a model–or at least look like one. It was the 80’s and I don’t recall conversations directed to females to consider fields like science, math and technology. If there were, I wasn’t a part of them.

As I reflect on being 15, I can recall wanting to be pretty enough to model, which I wasn’t but I was ambitious enough to start a cake decorating business. Yep! Entrepreneurship is in my blood.

Although I didn’t think of myself as a small business owner,  I got paid to bake and decorate cakes for weddings and special events. Sure hope the IRS doesn’t read this! 🙂

I can remember my first wedding cake earned me $150. I didn’t know about income vs expenses and my parents didn’t think to teach me. So I stashed it away and gave no thought of how much time I committed, the cost of my ingredients, electric or delivery.

Isn’t funny how even today many small business owners don’t count up the costs to launch and build their businesses. Or even run a new campaign. I wasn’t any different when I first launched.

After working for a bad boss (or perhaps I was a bad employee), I just knew I didn’t want to do that again–work in an environment where I didn’t feel valued. Are you feeling the same way? Stuck and stuffed in a position that suffocates you? Do you give your best, but it goes unrecognized?

Before taking the leap, here are just a few questions to ask yourself:

1. Is there an active market for what I want to sell?

2. Where is the market?

3. What do they want to achieve?

4. What are they willing to pay?

5. How much should I charge to create the income I’m looking for, plus take care of my expenses?

6. Who do I want to be in the marketplace–high quality or high quantity?

7.  How long will it take to yield a profit?

8. Is it best to continue to work a job and start building the infrastructure for my business or am I ready to go cold turkey?

Warning: Don’t get caught up with tactical marketing lingo, beautiful pictures of affluent life styles and promises for a quick 6 and 7 figure business. Nothing is quick to build that has longevity and anything you want to grow requires your attention.

By the way, I launched my modeling career after leaving a corporate position and worked as a freelance model for 10 years. The money earned was used to pay taxes :), purchase my first home at age 25 and buy my second car–#WhenIWas15.

Copyrights 2018. All Right Reserved S. Renee Smith. I offer practical advice and strategies for steady escalated personal and business growth and marketplace position. I can be reached at 888.588.0423 or here.