The Giraffe Brand


By: Liezel van der Westhuizen

Bosses and managers are looking for good people to hire onto their teams. It makes their lives easier and it allows them to look good in front of their own seniors in the office. But what if your entrepreneurial streak and personal brand really scares them?

There’s a hitch in having supreme talent on any team. Word travels in industries and, before long, that hotshot employee could be headhunted by another company. Or even worse – shock, horror – go out and start their own initiative in the same industry in which that boss or manager has trained them up. Then, its back to the hiring “drawing board” for that manager – looking at CVs, mulling over the results of interviews and EQ test results, and trying to decide who would be a good fit for the position all … over … again.

Part of the fear your boss or manager may have, if you’re actively marketing your own personal brand while working for him or her, is that before long you’ll move on. They may feel that your loyalty is compromised; that you’re not 100 percent focused on the tasks that form an important part of your permanent job description.

“Employer fear” is the reason for all those pesky clauses you’ll have seen in the contracts you’ve signed. They’ll have you promising things like: 1) I won’t work for a competitor in the same industry within X months of leaving; 2) I’ll pay back any training courses my employer has sent me on if I leave before X months; 3) I won’t take any of my clients from one company to another; (4) I’ll keep all company information confidential; and so on.

But this can be a shortsighted approach to satisfied employees and staff retention. Moving on will happen either way and secure managers are likely to encourage staff as they set about developing their own personal brands, knowing these can serve to create a win-win for both the company they’re running and their most valued employees.

If a manager is running a fitness club and one of her personal trainers is already a household name as a provincial athlete, this attribute may well encourage members to sign up at that club. If a manager is running a comedy club and one of his part-time comedians is rapidly making a name for herself at other venues, this could fill seats at that manager’s venue too. My firm belief is that personal branding is about being real, authentic and building credibility. Employees with strong personal brands will create interest and draw customers, which is surely what any boss or manager wants to happen out there in the market place for their business.

There is a way that your personal brand and the permanent job you are doing can co-exist; that the two can in fact be highly beneficial to each other. But it does take a measure of understanding between you and your boss. You’ll stay for longer, and continue to be an asset in the position in which he or she has trained you up, if you’re able to exercise your entrepreneurial streak, too, within certain parameters.

Hard as it may be, attempt to brace the topic of what your boss’s main fears are with highly entrepreneurial staff members; if he or she opens up and you feel trust has been established, you could try to convey what you’re striving for in your own personal space. The two brands (the one belonging to his/her business and your own personal one) may be able to co-exist comfortably, side by side, such that they benefit each in the long-term. You may even be able to head up a new division of the original company by showing what you’re capable of in your own space. Good luck!

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