Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Bill Gates. What do these three people have in common? Besides all making it to the billionaire club at a reasonably early age, they have another common trait. They are all known as the face of a brand.
However, this is a misconception.
Behind each of these hardworking billionaires are thousands of individuals who have helped to grow the success of the companies. Anytime you hear a quote from Musk, Gates or Jobs, they always mention the hard work of the team.
The myth of the founder
The media enjoys creating a focal point, a figurehead for a business. This is because it is easier than trying to explain the names and roles of a whole team of individuals. As the company grows, it creates a myth around the founder as having superhuman traits or abilities to create success.
When branding your business, one of the worst things you can do is to build your brand around you as the founder/owner. Why? Because it limits the growth potential of your whole business.
While it may seem glamorous, or create the persona of success, the reality is that you are then stuck. All your customers think of the business as needing you to succeed. They think of the rest of the team as interchangeable.
This means you can’t escape, you can’t delegate, and you can’t walk away from the business. You are the hamster on the wheel, simply because you’ve built the brand around you instead of the business.
For a brand to grow in value, it must create the sense of serving a need via a product or service first. Any personalities that are within the company should be secondary.
Business is a team sport
When you start a business, you are doing everything yourself. This will be the case for many months, sometimes for a few years. What is hard in the beginning gets easier over time. After a while, this just becomes the norm, and – if you’re not careful – you eventually start to think you are somehow the only one doing anything.
This is just ego talking, and not reality. Unless you are legitimately a one-man or one-woman band, then your team carries you a lot more than you realize.
I often think of business as a team sport. In this scenario, no single player on the team delivers all the success, even though there might be star players. Professional sports have shown that no single player can stay on top forever, and you as the business owner are exactly the same.
Be like Phil
When you think of Nike, you don’t necessarily think of Phil Knight. He founded the company in 1964 under the name Blue Ribbon Sports and then spent most of his career plugging away behind the scenes growing the business.
In 2004, he was able to step away from the company and watch the success continue to grow without him. This freed him up to focus on philanthropic causes.
If you walked past Phil Knight on the street, you probably wouldn’t know who he was. Despite the massive success of his brand, despite having a $30 Billion net worth, he has deliberately cultivated the image of a non-celebrity business owner.
The reality of business is that for 99% of us, we aren’t going to become Elon Musk or Bill Gates. We have a business in an industry that serves customers in a particular way. Fame is not the goal, and despite how good it might feel to say you ‘do everything,’ it’s not a great strategy.
When starting to do marketing for your company, even if you are working the hardest, make sure to put the customer needs, and the company brand ahead of your own image. You can be proud of what you’ve achieved, but it is wiser to let the company grow despite you, rather than because of your superhuman talents.
In this age of digital marketing and with the rise of social media influencers, it is easy to get trapped in the ego stroking game of promoting yourself. But it won’t have the impact that building an amazing team, and a compelling brand can have over the long term.