Never before has our reputation been so vitally important and so vulnerable at the same time. I've spent so many years (and a lot of time and money) building my personal brand, my credibility and my reputation, that I consider it my single most important asset and I would do anything to protect it.

My reputation is what gives other companies (and individuals) the confidence to partner with me, to give me high-level projects, to book into my coaching programs, to book me as a speaker and so on. A reputation built on repeatedly delivering on my promises and exceeding expectations. This doesn't happen by accident.

So after all of this time and effort, why on earth would I do anything to damage my brand and my reputation? Of course, the answer is that I wouldn't, yet so many people destroy their brands either through an act of stupidity (think about the number of sporting stars who have fallen from grace, let alone movie moguls) or tarnish their brand by partnering with a company that has a bad reputation.

My advice is that we all need to do everything we can to protect our brand (both personal and business) at any cost. So how do we go about doing this? I think there are seven key areas to focus on:

  1. Be really clear about what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to behavior from other business partners. Never ever partner with someone who you think could be dodgy in any way. Remember, as soon as you start working with them, if they do anything that lacks integrity, people will assume your brand also lacks integrity.
  2. Take note of the conversations you have with potential partners to see what they say about protecting your brand and theirs. Look for respect, concern, cautiousness - and ideally, you want the words "protecting your brand is just as important as protecting ours" in the conversation at some stage.
  3. In any situation you find yourself, ask the question "is my brand at risk here?". If it is you have to seriously consider taking action and having some hard conversations with your business partners.
  4. Know when to walk away from a business partnership because the company or individual you are working with is no longer as reputable as they used to be. Things may have started out differently, but with time and a change of personalities, others things can change as well.
  5. Be really clear about what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to behavior from other business partners.
  6. Always do your homework on potential partners. Never assume that what they say they are doing is actually what they do. It's surprising what a simple google search can reveal. Be cautious of every partnership you enter, no matter how well you think you know a company.
  7. Build a reputation for being a person who treats other people's brands with respect and you will never struggle to find people who will want to partner with you.

Branding is a giant topic and a complicated one. In the world of social media, it has undergone major reinvention and transparency. If you take care of the personal and business brands that you create, they will serve you for a lifetime. Sadly, one bad mistake can end it all, so clearly the moral of the story is to not make that one mistake. Is that unreasonable to expect from anyone? Probably, but it's just the way it is.

Published on: Apr 24, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.