Perhaps an oft-under discussed aspect of entrepreneurialism is that as you progress with your personal brand, you will gain a reputation whether you like it or not. It’s up to you to ensure this reputation is largely good, and that it speaks to your value as an entrepreneur.
Of course, the title of ‘entrepreneur’ may have negative connotations without any context to begin with. Entrepreneurs by their very nature are bold, confident and risk-taking, and sometimes, that can mean stepping on toes. It’s the price we pay if we hope to become great and to bring something truly new to the world.
Sometimes, however, even the most lauded figures are met with some criticism. Steve Jobs, for instance, certainly had his eccentricity, and left a poor taste in the mouth of many, despite his brilliance. Bill Gates was repeatedly placed in the firing line during his early days at Microsoft, based on how brilliant, domineering and overbearingly strict he allegedly was with his employees. Elon Musk often encounters controversy after controversy, especially when it comes to his business practices at Tesla.
So – it seems that no matter how proven we become, our past can carry with us. Reputation management then, is not about doing absolutely everything right in life (that’s impossible), but in staying consistent, in being fair, and in being able to defend yourself against false claims. In that respect, our guide below will help you as an entrepreneur more readily defend your reputation.
Stay Consistent & True to Your Values
It’s incredibly important to stay true to your values time and time again. This provides you with the means to keep consistent, and to know what your principles are.
Of course, first we need to know what our values are. Is it that while we don’t have the time to truly become friends with everyone who works for us, we can treat them with a baseline level of respect and never use our position to lord it over someone? That could be a good start.
It may also be that staying consistent means understanding how your actions affect people. It might be, for instance, that healthy competition allows you to get ahead, but predatory behavior, such as skirting the line of legal professionalism (as was the case in the Winklevoss case against Facebook), can cause some real reputational damage.
Furthermore, sometimes, we must consider exactly what our reputation means to us, as there are some considerations that may leave us vulnerable in order to do what’s right. Making your firm more transparent, for instance, might involve making past indescretions public, or in doing your best to prepare a statement that helps explain a difficult narrative that has gotten out of hand. We see this last example when firms admit doing business with cheap and ill-payed labor abroad. Staying consistent helps us keep an image that is largely uniform over the years, and that can help us no matter if we’re riding high or low reputation-wise.
The Mark of a Professional Is How They Treat Those Lower on the Ladder
Remember that your staff speak, as do your business connections. It’s very easy to let success go to your head, and to enjoy a jet setting lifestyle a little too much. At the end of the day, people will remember how you’ve treated them.
This could mean having the courtesy to privately discipline a staff member after poor results, instead of publicly airing their negative behavior to the whole team. It might mean staying professional and calculated even when highly emotive situations come to pass, such as when in a disagreement with a former business partner.
It could mean keeping up the gentle escalation of legal recourse after a debtor has missed his payment dates yet again, despite services rendered. What matters is being dignified, and understanding that at the end of the day, business is business, not a high school drama.
How Do You Present to the World?
It’s also important to consider how you present yourself to the world. Many people think this is felt in what car you drive or how cool your sunglasses are, when really it’s about how forthright you are about telling the truth, if you can hold eye contact with people you’re talking to, and if your handshake is firm and friendly.
We have a choice as to what mannerisms we put on display, and that defines how people regard us. As such, it can be very healthy to ensure we’re mindful of how we approach the world.
Reputational Management Services
Of course, defining your reputation isn’t always about how you act or whose hands you shake. It can sometimes be that narratives are false, or deliberately misinformed, or simply used as a tool to discredit your firm.
In this case, reputational management services can help you. They can help alter the discourse about how your firm and brand is spoken of, or can alter focus to more pressing and worthwhile topics. They can lessen the impact of a genuine mistake while vindicating a false charge, even if they refer you to:
Legally Defending Your Reputation
It can sometimes be that suing for defamation, in particularly egregious cases, can be your best recourse. This helps you better litigate against slander or libel, ensuring that your reputation is vindincated and that you can be compensated for your damages and that faulty narratives are measured in terms of their objective harm. In this way, you can claw back some of your reputation that may have been falsely damaged.
Even if you lose your case, it might be that using the civil appeal process to appeal against a legal failing in your ruling could help you redefine the faulty outcome you have experienced. In other words, there is always a way if you are in the right.
Being Active Online
If you’re shrewd at navigating the online discourse, it can sometimes be worthwhile to directly address complaints or to respond to reviews or to show your real personality. This can help you showcase who you are, and avoid having your hands tied in difficult situations. It can also help you grow your positive reputation in the first place, ensuring that customers feel like you’re more personable, and by consequence, that your brand is too.
With this advice, we hope you can get the best from managing your reputation as an entrepreneur.