Ask any of the most successful people or businesses in your industry what fuels their ongoing success, and they’ll probably include a reference to their positive reputation at some point in the answer.
While there is certainly some amount of skill and luck, there’s much more to success than being in the right place at the right time. You need a solid reputation to continue experiencing success over the long run. With it you can maximize your potential; without it you’re destined for mediocrity.
Your reputation could be bringing you more business, as long as you're managing it right. Below are the important aspects of your reputation,
Understanding the Importance of Reputation Management
While the word reputation is something that’s thrown around a lot, have you ever paused long enough to consider what it actually consists of? What makes a reputation?
One study analyzed this question within the context of organizational reputation and came up with ten main components. While they are specifically designed to describe businesses, brands, or entities, these factors can easily be applied to individual reputation. They are listed below with an explanation for how they look in light of personal reputation.
- Ethics: How the individual behaves ethically and whether respect is demanded.
- Employees/workplace. How well the individual treats employees and partners.
- Financial performance: The past financial performance of the individual and whether there is potential for steady growth in the future.
- Leadership: Depends on whether the individual leads or follows, and is innovative.
- Management: How the individual manages projects, tasks, and subordinates.
- Social responsibility: Refers to how much the individual cares about and supports good causes.
- Customer focus: Relates to the individual’s commitment to serving customers and clients.
- Quality: Depends on the quality of the good and/or services produced by the individual.
- Reliability: How dependable and accountable the individual is to others.
- Emotional appeal: How the individual makes others feel.
Related Article: 3 Ways You Could Be Harming Your Small Business' Credibility
According to the same study, other components like communication quality, value, presence and differentiation were found, but these 10 were the most powerful.
While each individual’s reputation depends on a handful of other external factors and personal decisions, these certainly provide a solid framework for understanding what issues you need to address, what you can capitalize on, and where you can improve.
A Look at Reputation Management
A reputation isn’t something you can build over night, but it’s certainly something you can destroy with one mistake or bad choice. That’s why it’s critical for every professional, regardless of industry, to understand what the three-step process of reputation management looks like.
Building. This is the beginning stage of reputation management and is usually carried out by young professionals or those entering a new industry, market, or niche with no prior connections or status. This is the most time consuming step and can take years to develop. However, it’s also the most important and should be approached in a diligent manner. Every hand you shake, email you send, and project you complete determines how you’re perceived and whether your reputation will be a positive one in the months and years to come.
Maintenance. While you never want to stop building a reputation, there comes a time when your focus should shift to maintaining. At this point, you likely have a solid reputation in your industry and may even have potential clients being referred to you. The temptation here can be to sit back and relax, but you always have to be focused on maintaining. Continue to treat every interaction like your career depends on it and don’t let off the gas.
Recovery. Even the best maintenance strategy is prone to flaws. If you make a mistake or garner negative attention, you should immediately switch in to recovery mode. While this step isn’t fun, it’s necessary to get you back where you previously were. In recovery mode, you’ll likely have to make personal amends with certain parties, clean up your online reputation, and invest in positive marketing and self-promotion.
3 Tips for Building and Maintaining a Positive Reputation
Enough with the theory, here are some practical ways you can build and maintain a positive reputation in your industry:
Value it. The only way you’ll be able to successfully build and maintain a good reputation is by understanding the value of it. You have to make a conscious effort to focus on your reputation and protect it at all costs. When ultra-successful entrepreneur and Virgin CEO Richard Branson is asked about his most valuable possession, he confidently responds by discussing his reputation. He claims it’s both his “most valuable possession” and his “most valued possession.”
Focus on your local area. Before you can build a reputation as the best in your industry, you have to start with your community. Whether you’re an ice cream shop in the suburbs or a personal injury attorney downtown, always aim for a reputation of excellence. You can do this by offering personalized attention that larger names and businesses don’t and capitalizing on your record of success.
Encourage social reviews. In 2015, much of your reputation is built and maintained online. You should work with customers and clients and encourage them to post reviews and testimonials on independent review sites, your blog, or social media pages. These go a long way in encouraging others to trust you and are the basis for a positive internet reputation.
How will you commit to building and maintaining your reputation this year? Review the 10 components of reputation and then develop a strategy for how to handle the three-step process of building, maintaining, and recovering.