I have a theory.
Over the past 10 years, I have almost exclusively worked with brands that were led by someone with a powerful personal brand.
I call these businesses personality driven companies. They are almost always solopreneurs or small businesses – and they like it that way.
When it comes to a powerful personality driven brand, the people running them are unmistakable.
If you follow them, you could name three things off the top of your head that matter to them. You probably can name one of their programs, their book, or something that they work on year after year.
And what do they do?
Usually, a lot of different things.
They refuse to be penned in by a particular job title, even if they used one to give people a shorthand idea of what they do.
They create programs at the intersection of their unique areas of expertise. They offer them annually or biannually. They offer a variety of ways to engage with them that ranges from one-on-one to group coaching to DIY programs.
They are generous. The giveaway so much of what they do for free.
They have the systems in place for their success to stay sustainable, across their life and business.
But it’s one thing to notice the similarities across these brands. It’s another to figure out if it’s a repeatable pattern that other business owners could use.
I’ve often wondered what separates them from brands led by a strong personality that don’t achieve sustainability.
They may gain some traction, but ultimately, many of these brands fail to survive.
Including mine. I was never able to achieve real sustainability on my own as an entrepreneur.
For me, I had mastered systems, but I didn’t have the support to be consistent. My content may have been excellent, but I didn’t have the ability to maintain predictable output or a schedule.
Over the past few months, I’ve been developing a framework of what makes these brands so special. I wanted something that was simplified enough to be useful but also had the depth to consider that we are not all operating on the same playing field.
And now? I can analyze any brand and break it down and show you exactly why it works – or why it doesn’t – in a half page of bullet points. Not only that, I can drill down beyond the strategy into the tactics with you.
(I hate that people brush over tactics like they aren’t important. They do. Tactics are your day-to-day – and really? They are what make or break you.)
As it turns out, it’s a pretty short list when it comes to what a brand is lacking: support, systems, or subpar content.
Support is without a doubt the most important of these. Why?
Because this is the part of that’s where we acknowledge systemic injustice, racism, poverty, mental illness, and more.
Not acknowledging the realities of these things is akin to putting your head in the sand when it comes to some of your biggest barriers and business.
Let’s be real. It is harder to build a personality-driven business when you don’t fit the blond-haired, pale skin archetype. It’s harder still when you’re struggling to maintain basic levels of self-care.
(And I’m not talking about going and getting a pedicure. I’m talking about things like getting enough movement, human interaction, and taking the right meds consistently – that shit is hard enough when things are going right, let alone when they aren’t.)
When you feel like your entire house of cards could come crashing down at any time, it’s hard to maintain consistency. A missed bus could mean missed networking opportunities. A late check from a client means you got late fees now because you don’t have the wiggle room to be able to afford that.
I want to make it really clear that these aren’t things to be ashamed of with a personal story.
This summer, I found myself unexpectedly unemployed for 4 months. I had some work, but not enough. Never enough to make it happen on my own.
So you know what I did?
I started cleaning houses. I actually cleaned houses through December because I really enjoyed it. By December, it was clear I was ready to be on to what was next.
Honestly, I probably would have done a lot more of that kind of work this summer if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to have a significant other who could help me financially while I figured out what was next. And I am really lucky to have that. It’s not something that I’ve ever had before, and it certainly isn’t something I take for granted.
My journey over the past couple of years and entrepreneurship has seen more than a few ups and downs. It’s certainly hasn’t been a linear process to finding my way into, of all things, a job – one that I really, truly love.
And I am keenly aware that I’m not alone in this. I have watched colleagues in similar situations to me have fantastic seasons in business, only to watch it all slip away when life got in the way.
Depressive episodes, crippling anxiety, the empty bottom of a client pipeline, the inability to pay for the systems that you know you need to be successful – these are the things that haunt people like me. And maybe, people like you, too.
Support comes in a lot of different forms.
Whether it’s having the financial backing in order to confidently take risks in the pursuit of an idea, having a community that supports youregardless of if it works or not, or a partner who is understanding and supportive when it comes to what you want to create, everyone deserves to have this kind of support.
But not everyone does.
And if you don’t, finding solutions to that it’s going to be crucial in order to create your best work. I know this can be the hardest part of the work you’ll ever do. I know because I’ve done it. Many times, it wasn’t pretty, I had to make hasty decisions, often I was postponing things for the future when hopefully I’d be able to deal with them better.
As a result, I’m paying off tens of thousands in student loan debt. I’m twice divorced. (I didn’t want either marriage.) I moved out to a farm to do a work trade for rent is that unsurprisingly ended up being a complete dumpster fire. I stayed in an abusive relationship. I even lived in the backyard of a Christian cult trying to get back on top of my finances, my relationship, and my life.
When you don’t have the support you need, you make decisions so you can survive.
For the entrepreneur who is struggling to find adequate support, life’s little moments of hardship turn into insurmountable obstacles quickly. That’s real life.
Support is paramount. Even if you’re in this by yourself, you need to identify your pillars, build them up, and begin to build your sustainable business from there.
Next, let’s talk about systems.
As your Millennial friend, I’m just going to say it. Most of you just need a basic course on how to use the internet correctly.
All due respect, but if you don’t know how to Google the answer to a question the right way, you’re doomed.
But let’s go beyond that. Let’s talk about how the tech that powers your business can be simple, easy to understand, and easy to hand off to someone else to run.
That’s probably what you expect me to focus on here, right?
Sorry, I’m actually going to tell you that you’re talking tactics which, while they’re probably holding your brand back, are not the most important things you should be focusing on.
When I think about the systems that have to be in place for success and when I think about the people who are already doing it right, you know what I noticed? They have consistent fitness routines. They tend to be pretty honest about whether or not they’re hitting their workouts. And usually, they adhere to some sort of diet. I’m not talking about restricting what they’re eating. I’m not talking about trying to fit a particular body type or weight goal.
What they’re doing is consistently investing in the body that carries them to and from meetings. They are practicing an act of self-devotion by doing their best to care for their one precious self.
They have a way of working with social media that isn’t toxic for them. They aren’t constantly scrolling, watching people they wish they were more like or seem to have it easier. They aren’t engaging in Facebook groups where they’re not getting any return on the investment they’re putting in. They’re not trying to curate their life so carefully that it’s all about the gram.
When it comes to systems in your life and business, they’re the hardest thing to pin down at the beginning, but eventually, they’re the thing that keeps you most grounded. Your systems are rooted in your personal support systems. It’s why without adequate support it can feel impossible to implement new systems.
If you’re in a place where financially you can outsource some of this, awesome. That’s exactly what you should be doing. But, you absolutely should not be doing it until you actually understand it. It’s too easy to hire people who are incompetent, unreliable, or otherwise cheap for a reason.
Yeah, I said it.
It’s a balancing act, wanting to give people the opportunity to be great and also looking out for your best interests.
You should do both to the best of your ability. Also? If you’re a white person, you have a responsibility to make sure you’re doing your part in dismantling white supremacy, which includes reparations.
And trust me, you’re going to screw it up. I certainly have over the years. (IMHO, capitalism is a huge part of why. But that’s an essay for another time.) But we keep trying because it’s the right thing to do.
We learn how to educate ourselves. We pay for the time of those who help educate us in whatever way we can. And when we arrive, we take as many people up with us as we can because there is room for all of us at the top.
I said earlier that tactics matter, but I’m not going to go into them here. (But if you want help working on your systems, I’m here for that.)
Lastly, we get to your content.
To be honest, I think this is the least of most of your worries. Most of the people I work with are brilliant and have comprehensive, deep knowledge in whatever it is they are teaching, exploring, or creating.
The format of your content may need work, but the vast majority of creators in my experience have already created a body of work that is enviable.
Fortunately, as someone who is a content marketer for a living, this is also my deepest area of expertise. If you need help building at your content, I would love to help you.
Now, I’m not saying this has to be done sequentially. Far from it. I literally did this backwards. (That is something I do not recommend to anyone, for the record. It takes like five times longer tbh.) Because I have done everything the hard way, I am particularly good at helping you avoid those pitfalls.
I am looking for a few brands to test my theory with. If you’re interested in a brand audit, I would love to talk to you. It’s 100 for the hour, and at the end of it I will give you a page of recommendations based on our time together.