I Never Thought I’d Have a Personal Brand

We just finished company layoffs this week and to spice up the bony severance packages we added career counseling. A silver lining of delivering these separation messages was reading the career counselor’s lengthy proposal, which detailed a three-meeting plan to get these newly untethered employees back on the market. Always having my own professional development top-of-mind, I eagerly scanned the plan to see how I stacked up.

I was surprised by how much she stressed the importance of one’s personal brand, so, much to my chagrin (having spent countless hours mentally battling the advertising that assaults us at every turn), I got to thinking about my own personal brand.

I’ve always loved the brute clarity of the accountant motto “Make More, Spend Less”, especially when it comes to safeguarding my organization’s financial assets as CFO, though being the @EmoBusinessist that I am, it’s not quite hearty enough for me.

With some subtle refreshment in the environmentalism department it could become “Have More, Use Less”, wrapping in my ideas about product consumption, though the word “have” is a bit too open to interpretation for me.

Another tweak could come from a personal finance concept all too familiar to those of us losing sleep at night thinking about the skyrocketing cost of living: earning a higher salary. (And, as New York Times personal finance reporter Tara Siegel Bernard aptly observes in the slideshow section of this fantastic article about personal finance, “Do a ton of prep work before asking for a raise, and if you’re a woman, do more.”)

So now I’m looking at “Earn More, Use Less”, and I still think it needs a little work.

Being the start-up non-profit warrior that I am, further adjustment to my personal brand could come from considering the work my organization does in the landscape of charitable business. Leaders in this space are constantly vying for funding to increase what we know must drive every mission, every report, every KPI - impact - and I’m right there with everyone else.

I want to make an impact on the world. I want to make an impact on people. I want to be impacted.

So what about “More Impact, Less Spending”?

The challenge with this motto is that the key concept of making more money is lost, even though we all know Impact and Money are bedmates.

Business leaders have been talking about the intersection of impact and money since the 1990’s. The field of impact investing has not just gained traction; it’s gained wild momentum. Investors are now not only asking about return in terms of dollars and impact, but groups of impact investors like GIIN and Investor’s Circle are also convening regularly with a goal to rapidly scale these activities.

In non-profits the conversation often sounds like this: we can’t make impact without money, and we can’t earn money without making an impact. I’ve heard yogi Judith Lasater reframe the same concept, saying instead that “money is energy, and every time we spend money we are voting with our dollars”, articulating a common view in the spiritual community.

Despite the growing acceptance of impact as a key metric along with bottom line across all business sectors, there are still folks out there who won’t necessarily hear “money” when they hear “impact”, and I certainly don’t want to leave them out of fun times with my personal brand.

So as with most troublesome topics, I took it to my partner, who graciously listened to my inner monologue on the downsides of each motto. After a solid bout of seriousness, we concluded another long day like we usually do: stitched over in delirious laughter at our feeble attempts to understand the world. The butt of our midnight joke? My partner’s silly yet truthful synthesis of my ramblings about earning more and spending less.

“What you mean is,” my partner decided, “get more points than the other team.”

This facetious interpretation really struck a chord, because it does speak to my personal and professional trajectory. I want to get more points for Team Buy-Less, and I want to ultimately beat Team More-Stuff. And when our team gets all the points, I want to convince the other team to join us.

To do this right now, in 2016, I need money. I need to earn more personal money, and I need to help my organization become more profitable so we can increase our impact on team More-Stuff.

One of the beauties of partnership is this distillation process that happens when someone knows you and can articulate your passion. With my partner’s help (and a reminder that when in doubt, simplify), I think I’ve settled on my new personal brand:

More, with Less

What’s yours?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!



Now read this

Wanted: The Perfect Job

To my former and current directors, thank you. I can be hard to manage. I’m voracious and quick. I eat things in my path and demand more. I’m still refining the subtleties of effective communication I learned in the third grade (remember... Continue →