Shared on Women of Influence 2020
If I was a bracelet, I know exactly what I would be like. Apparently, so did two French sisters who in their seventies designed a spectacular chunky resin bracelet that became my favourite piece of jewellery. I found the piece on a sun-soaked summer’s day at the Brera market in central Milan, sold by a lovely elderly man with gentle eyes and wavy grey hair. Even if I hadn’t fallen in love with this bracelet, I think I would have bought anything from Alberto, this gracious artisan who spoke about his products and their origin with grace and pride.
Back at home, after months of constant outings, the bracelet broke when the elastic threading all the pieces together snapped. I felt lost without ‘her’ on my arm, so I was on a mission, when I returned the next year to Milan, to track down Alberto. Sure enough, he was right where he’d been last year. Same stall. Same smile.
Alberto looked concerned and understanding as I told him my story, and seemed genuinely happy that he could put this piece back together. I asked him how much he would need to fix it. He almost looked offended. “No! No!” he insisted. He would not take any money. This was his life’s work and I as his customer deserved his full service. Never in my life have I experienced such loyalty. Alberto was honourable and went out of his way to return my treasure, which not only made me happy but it generated many conversations about his integrity, so much so that here I am writing about him and his sincerity and inspired work ethic and practice.
When it comes to creating a powerful personal brand, we spend too long thinking about tricks and techniques — and too little thinking about values. Authenticity and integrity are the key to a personal brand that spreads around the world and sends customers and clients to you like magic. But how often do we make promises and not carry them through? How often do we taint our personal brand by not going out of our way to keep our word and make an effort to delight our clients? What do we need to do to in our actions to build more trust and loyalty?
In a busy world, we don’t often pause to ask, “Who am I?” and “What do I care about?” However, in answering these very big and existential questions, a template for defining your personal brand will emerge. And it emerges from honest and brave inquiry into what you believe and why because, as Gandhi suggested, beliefs rapidly manifest into becoming your thoughts, actions, habits, expressed values and ultimately your destiny.
Here is my brand definition checklist to help you connect with your values and create a personal brand as strong and authentic as Alberto’s:
Placing importance on living your values is a way to build your personal brand. There are many ways you can pinpoint what your values are. Making a list of your five most important values is a start. To do this, ask yourself, “What do I stand for in life?” and take note of the words that roll off your tongue.
It’s not always easy to identify the values that mean the most to you, but it warrants serious reflection so that you can pay more focused attention to what really matters in life. Look at your weekly schedule on your computer, phone or diary. If you value health and put it at the top of your list but you work 70 hours a week, then you need to make some serious changes to align yourself with this value.
How do you match your values with your area of expertise? What are you good at? Are you doing what makes you happy?
When you can answer the apparently simple, but actually complex question, “Who am I?” you will have found the most authentic starting place, or first block, to construct your brand. The next step is to follow through — and live according to these values in each and every stage of your business, just like Alberto.
The most authentic starting point when constructing your brand.