What Does It Take to Build a Respectful and Powerful Brand?

How can we help your business thrive? That's HireSmart's objective. 


Co-CEOs Anne and Mark Lackey offer unique staffing solutions for U.S. companies, but the owners of multiple successful businesses also share entrepreneurial tips so others can succeed, grow, and improve the lives of many people. 


Anne recently offered young professionals advice on "building your personal brand" at a Madison County Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Jackson EMC. 


"You have a personal brand, whether you think you do or don't," she told the group. "And so the question that I want you guys to start thinking about is, 'Does your personal brand reflect who you want it to reflect?'" 


Anne said branding begins with identifying your core values. 


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"What do you stand for? What's important to you? And just as important, what do you stand against?" she asked the audience. 


Anne spoke of HireSmart's "SMARTER" core values, noting that values are the compass for her actions and her staff's. 


"My personal core value is that I leave everybody a little bit are better off than before they met me," she said. 


Anne talked about being available, respectful, and working well as a team. These qualities are essential for creating a personal brand that attracts the right clients, employees, and partners. 


She recalled working in the corporate world, where executives were often inaccessible. 


"I had something I wanted to say, but they were never available," she said. 


So, the HireSmart CEO vowed to be different by being easily accessible. She said entrepreneurs must be eager to meet and help customers solve their problems, and then availability will become a powerful part of their personal brand. 


"I have an open-door policy," she said. That is no joke. If you want to meet with me, go to meetwithanne.com. That's all you need to schedule a virtual meeting with me." 


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Respect was another focus of Anne's talk. She said there's no room for belittling behavior from anyone when brand building. She said an "intellectual, respectful conversation," even during disagreements, is a necessity, adding that agreement isn't always helpful since "iron sharpens iron," but ideas should be challenged in a respectful way. 


She also discussed ethics and integrity in brand building, adding that the "relationship is more important than the transaction." 


"You have to be able to do business ethically," she said. "And that is a line in the sand I will not cross. I want people to trust me, and I want to be known as a person they can always count on to do the right thing." 


She said being ethical requires a willingness to miss out on short-term gains if necessary. 


"There were times in real estate where I could have made a big commission but felt terrible about the whole ordeal," she said. "And I realized I wasn't going to put somebody in a house or I wasn't going to do something for somebody that I didn't feel was the right thing to do." 


Anne asked audience members to contemplate and discuss their core values, adding that people connect with businesses that genuinely work to improve lives. 


"When you're in marketing, or you're the business owner, and you're trying to establish yourself, you have to stand for something, or you stand for nothing," she said. 


Anne also discussed developing marketing strategies to build a brand identity with target audiences. 


For instance, she talked about creating educational "how-to" videos related to everyday tasks associated with your industry, such as HVAC companies showing people how to replace their air filters. 


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She urged businesses in different industries but with common customers to develop referral partnerships, such as roofing companies and HVAC businesses steering customers to each other.  


Anne emphasized the need to attend networking events regularly to build new contacts, even if it makes you uncomfortable. She urged entrepreneurs to ask for customer testimonials to use in marketing. 


"Testimonials are the best," she said. "But you have to ask them: 'What was it about the experience that you really liked?' Because here's the thing: what you think is important in your business may not be exactly what your customers think. Find out what resonates with them." 


She spoke of business owners determining their target audience and demographics and then identifying which social media platforms their target audience uses. She said it's important to maintain a consistent social media presence, not provide content in clusters and then disappear for months. 


Anne said personal branding is about attention to details, particularly those inside the self — the attitudes, habits, and focus on respectful relationships. 


"Does your brand reflect what you want?" she asked participants. "If it doesn't, you can change it. You start with what's inside here (chest). You start with your core values, your compass." 


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