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I Am My Own Brand

by Anthony Bontrager on June 13, 2016

“Personal brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.”

Jeff Bezos, Founder @ Amazon



If you’re not following Rishad Tobaccowala’s blog “Re-inventing by Rishad” you are absolutely missing out. In a highly insightful and informative way, Rishad covers a variety of topics around branding, technology and of course the future. He’s a true master and I highly recommend digging into it.

Recently, Rishad and I were chatting about personal branding. I have an insatiable curiosity – part of that entrepreneurial DNA I guess – and was genuinely interested in getting a better understanding about what it truly means to have a personal brand. Specifically, how does personal branding come about, what key components drive this and will my personal brand evolve over time?

Truth be told, we all have a personal brand, whether we realize it or not. It derives from our innate ability at self-expression. However, like breathing, very few actually understand how it works. So let’s discuss…

According to Rishad, your personal brand can be defined through three key elements – your niche (I defined this as my professional focus or passion), your voice (I defined this as how I communicate and express myself) and your story (I defined this as what made me who I am) – each of which has its own set of three defining attributes. Who doesn’t like the power of 3’s, right??

While this sounds easy enough, it is anything but. Defining your personal brand takes both a dispassionate self-assessment and trust in those who know you well in order to dig under the surface to identify and assimilate your defining attributes into a cohesive personal brand. It’s an iterative process and my personal exercise looked something like this:


3 words that define my niche:

  1. Change – Helping organizations embrace, manage and profit from change;
  2. Growth – Identifying new markets or product opportunities for growth;
  3. Message – Assisting companies by establishing a consistent messaging platform that supports their brand.


3 words that define my voice:

  1. Fortitude – Having the strength to trust my efforts and those of my team to achieve our goals;
  2. Authentic – Maintaining an environment that is open, honest and transparent to ensure everyone is on the same page;
  3. Passionate – Living and breathing the mission with enthusiastic intensity.


3 words that define my story:

  1. Challenge – Understanding and embracing the challenges life has sent my way and how to not let them deter me;
  2. Driven – Being unwilling to settle; to push for excellence in all that I and my teams do;
  3. Agile – Realizing that flexibility is key, especially in the rapidly evolving technology and marketing industries.


Now, the tough part – distilling down the attributes to one word that speaks to each definition of niche, voice and story. This took some thinking, but my results look like this:

Niche = Change     Not to sound cliché, but I am typically cast to play the role of change-agent when engaged helping clients with issues such as strategic planning, turn-arounds, product development and M&A. Thus, change aptly captures my “current” niche.

Voice = Fortitude     Change can be difficult to effect in even the most welcoming environments, and whether as an internal stakeholder our outside consultant, maintaining the trust and conviction in our purpose and that of my team requires tremendous strength. Therefore, fortitude takes the honors for my “current” voice.

Story = Agile     The ability to be flexible and recognize when a shift or all-out pivot in strategy or direction is needed is absolutely critical in my profession. Too often organizations are unwilling to challenge the status quo in the face of mounting evidence that change is needed. Those who can recognize this early and react decisively are those who succeed. Since Agile combines elements of “Challenge” and “Driven”, it gets the nod for my “current” story.

Did I say tough earlier?? Well, here’s where the rubber meets the road. Now, assuming you’ve mastered the ability to establish your key attributes for your definitions of niche, voice and story, and distill those down to a single word for each, you’re ready for the final task. What is the one word that can summarize your personal brand?

For me, as I looked back over my work, one word stood out that captured elements of each definition and the individual attributes that made them up. Not wanting to jump to any conclusions, I put the work away and spent the next few days challenging my assumptions, definitions and possible pre-conceived notions about my conclusion. Only when I was 100% comfortable did I make my decision.


Anthony’s Brand = Agile


To me being agile requires a deep familiarity with change and how that change is managed and communicated internally and externally. It requires strength of purpose based on an honest assessment of the situation and proposed solution and a passionate pursuit of the goal. Finally, it requires conviction in the face of ongoing challenges and the ability to adjust when necessary.

As you can see, my personal brand represents who I am, what I do and how I communicate. It reflects my belief in the importance of thoroughness, quality and logic, but not at the expense of relationships with people. Being willing to listen and integrate others’ input is critical for developing and executing on innovative solutions. It is a hallmark of true agility.

I have to say this was a challenging exercise and one that I intend to perform from time to time since Rishad reminded me that our personal brand, like traditional commercial brands, is a living thing and will evolve over time as needs and market demands dictate. Which actually comports precisely with Rishad’s personal brand of “re-inventing”. He is clearly walking the talk as they say.

Finally, now that I’ve defined my personal brand, it’s incumbent upon me to ensure that how I communicate, operate and engage supports that brand message. If it does not, I need to reconsider what I’m doing and whether I’ve accurately captured the brand correctly. This is what I mean by an iterative process and living brand. Defining is just the beginning. Living the brand is where it’s at.

To see Rishad speak directly on this topic, I invite you to visit this link and see for yourself – Rishad Tobaccowala’s Exercise for Building Your Personal Brand.

[Note: For those who know Rishad, know he’s an extremely busy guy. So a big thanks for his constant generosity of time and insight.]


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