What Will They Say at Your Retirement Party?
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” —Warren Buffett
A principal of the architectural firm that I work with recently retired. As I listened to his colleagues speak and watched the video interviews with employees, managers, clients, and fellow principals I started to wonder, “What will people say when I retire?” Have you ever given it any thought? Here are a few of the things that contribute to your reputation and what others will have to say at your retirement party.
What did they see?
Actions speak louder than words. Were your actions authentic? Were you willing to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty? Did you set a good example for others to follow? People are always watching; your behaviors have a great impact on others and their perception of you. What did they see?
What did they hear?
Were you true to your word? How did you speak of others? Were your words encouraging or were they biting? Was your communication style open and honest? Was it consistent regardless of who you were speaking with? What did they hear?
How did they feel?
Did they know you cared? Was there a sense of mutual trust and respect? Were you willing to invest your time and resources into helping them become the best they could be? How did you make them feel?
What will they say?
When that day finally comes and people gather together to acknowledge the contributions you have made to their work lives, what will they say? What did they see? Were your actions authentic? What did they hear? Were your words encouraging or biting? How did they feel? Did they know you cared? Your legacy lasts far longer than the years you put into any position. What will you leave behind in the hearts and minds of those you worked with?
I Have A Brand And It Haunts Me
I was talking to my pal “Jonas” who recently decided to freelance (vs building a multi-consultant business) when he left a bigger firm to do his own thing.
Jonas is a global talent guy who works across the planet for some of the world’s most well known companies. He decided his best play—the one that would allow him to focus on what he loves most and live the life he’s planned—is to freelance for other firms.
His plan got off to a bit of a rocky start because—get this—none of the firms he approached believed he’d actually want to “just” freelance. He’d earned his rep by steadily building deep, brand name client relationships, practices and business, not by going off by himself as a solo.
Or as he put it “I have a brand and it haunts me.”
We both had a good belly laugh because he was already rolling in new projects, thrilled with his choice to freelance.
And yet, isn’t that the truth?
Good, bad, indifferent—our brands DO haunt us.
They whisper messages to those in our circle “trust him, he’s the bomb”, “hire her for anything creative as long as your deadline isn’t critical”, “steer clear—he talks a good game but doesn’t deliver”.
And thanks to social media, those messages—good and bad—can accelerate faster than you can imagine. One client, one reader, one buyer can be the pivot point that takes your consulting business to new territory.
So how do you deal with it?
Yep—you go for more of what comes naturally. In Jonas’ case, he stuck with what he’s known for—his work, his relationships, his track record for integrity—and won over any lingering skepticism about his move.
We weather the bumps in the road by staying true to who we are at our core.
So when a potential client says “Sorry, you’re just too expensive for me”, you don’t run out and change your prices. Instead, you listen carefully and realize they aren’t the right fit for your particular brand of expertise and service.
When a social media troll chooses you to lash out at, you ignore them and stay with your true audience—your sweet-spot clients and buyers.
And when your most challenging client tells you it’s time to change your business model to serve them better, you listen closely (there may be some learning here) and—if it doesn’t suit your strengths—you kiss them good-bye.
If your brand isn’t haunting you, is it really much of a brand?
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