Personal Branding or just self indulgence...

I got it in my head a couple of weeks ago I needed to update my professional photograph as part of my ongoing, ever evolving personal branding to ensure I’m portraying an image that reflects my value. It’s a classic marketing pursuit.


After a quick Google search you’ll find Wikipedia defines Personal Brand (or Personal Branding) as the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging. The term personal brand is thought to have been first used and discussed in a 1997 article by Tom Peters. And if you take it a little further, the same Google (with the help of Business encyclopedia) defines Brand Equity as a marketing term that describes a brand’s value. That value is determined by consumer perception of and experiences with the brand. If people think highly of a brand, it has positive brand equity. When a brand consistently under-delivers and disappoints to the point where people recommend that others avoid it, it has negative brand equity.

Yes that is exactly what I was doing — keeping my Brand Equity front and centre using the subtly of a photograph to reinforce it.

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Being an accomplished Sales and Marketing Leader with a reputation for effective strategy, creative problem solving and execution; highly experienced in sales and marketing management with a number of awards. And also someone who brings a wealth of cross-functional skill sets in product, price and marketing management as well as sales management and development to help business leaders with their commercial problems, I set out to build a brand.


Using my initials and the belief I’m clever, I built the name GPEStratagem — I adopted the Scottish Unicorn as my logo (because it is unique, speaks to my heritage, and is full of character, as well as strength), and adopted the moniker iamgpe. I had a very professional photograph taken and build a web site with social feeds where it made sense.

And then I started to blog for no other reason than if you want build a personal brand you need to articulate its value.

Over the years I have evolved my web site and expanded my social channels but I hadn’t done anything with that original photograph. Why get a new photograph now after all this time? Maybe it was the desire to keep my brand and image fresh, or maybe the belief that social media photographs shouldn’t be “too dated”, or simply a belief there were subtle changes in who I am, or what my value has become. Whatever the reason, it seemed new photographs were the only way to get the message across to support my personal (and professional) branding efforts.


A very talented photographer named Phillipa Croft (who likes to work with natural light) was able to help me in this regard. Having the photographs in hand I have know uploaded them onto my web site and various social media feeds, and even got a blog topic out of the little adventure as a bonus.

Arguably I’ve done a reasonable job of couching this in my personal branding strategy… although I suppose I’m just indulging myself by showing off my new pictures and how the natural light captures my features nicely.

In either regard, you have to admit Phillipa takes a fine photograph.


PS — OK, OK… it’s self indulgent. But then again, isn’t that an important component of effective Personal Branding.

Dreams are worth shit...

With full disclosure this isn’t about self-reflection, disillusionment with my lot, or wanting something so badly but never achieving it — in some ways it’s really a simple “bait and switch”. I suppose I should have titled this “Dreams are worth shit unless you actually do something” (although, with continued disclosure, I wanted to see if it’s true you can get higher open rates and readership when you put a swear word in the title).


I digress a little.

It sits in a box in the basement now (because frankly my definition of workspace has changed so dramatically), but at one time a little sign followed me from office to office, cube to cube, and I would always ensure it found its way up onto the wall — it consisted of six simple words: “Wish it. Dream it. Do it”.

I mention this because I’m a big believer in having dreams (and aspirations) that are bigger than life. I’ve always loved the bold vision because it will take you very far and fuel you when you the going gets tough. And even if you fall short, you’ll find you’ve gone much further than ever imagined. It’s crucial to “wish the impossible dream” — every inspirational story has this at its core.

As I picked up the phone I could hear the enthusiasm in his voice — and it was the same enthusiasm I’d heard two months prior, except it was bigger. The dream had him going international, had $20 Million in the bank, and cocktails on the beach; his idea would go viral. It was a solid idea in my mind, although I was a little wary of the “hop, skip and jump” to those cocktails on the beach. A solid amount of dreaming had been going on for the last couple of months but as far as I could tell, there was little else going on that would move the dream into the realm of reality.

Maybe my title isn’t a cheap “bait and switch” after all.

This is an absolute truism — once you’ve identified that “impossible dream”, you need to get it down on paper (literally), get it up on the wall as a constant reminder, and then get down to work. Anything less and it’s nothing more than a dream, and as the title suggests, isn’t worth very much.

“I’m exhausted”, she said as she raised her glass. “I haven’t had a vacation in two years — on the bright side, we finally closed that client we’ve been chasing for two years, and all the video blogging over the past three years has finally paid off; I have a conversation tomorrow about being a key note speaker. I’m getting there.” I raised my glass because I can remember when she started her journey five years ago; she’s come a long way with her business. Then her phone rang, she apologized with a shrug, and took the call.

I don’t have any research to back it up but I don’t think you get very tired dreaming (although maybe frustrated), but what I do know is you get very tired making your dreams happen — at least that is what I’ve observed.

And I don’t see any other way (although I am a Capricorn).


Around this time of the year 94 % is concerning...

As a sales leader was lamenting about the performance of one of her sales representatives she looked at me and said, “You know, 94 % is a great mark on a chemistry test but not so great as a performance to plan”. I couldn’t help but nod in agreement — if only I had gotten ninety-four. As for being 94% to plan in October, I also had to agree. There is just so little time left in the year to make it up.


If you are in sales (or marketing for that matter) you will probably know what the sales leader was referring to; if you are not, I will try to offer a perspective that may help.

At the beginning of each year everyone in the sales organization is given an annual sales target* (also called a quota or sales plan) and performance is measured against how they do relative to the target (and usually compensated in some way). This annual target is usually divided into four quarters, with each quarter divided into three months; ultimately you end up with a sales target for each month that adds up to the annual target. In effect, each month is a performance benchmark that allows progress to be measured. As an example, if your actual sales in January was $100,000 and your target for January was $90,000 — you are 110% of target; if your actual sales after the first nine months is $940,000 and your target is $1,000,000, then you find yourself 94% of target (with a deficit of $60,000). That means, in October, you not only have to achieve your target for the final Quarter (October, November and December) but you also need to make up the $60,000 deficit to ensure achievement of your annual plan.

It should be pointed out that when you are looking at performance versus target you need to consider monthly performance for sure, but most importantly how you are tracking to your annual plan — some months will have you above target, and some months you will be under, but it is the aggregate by the end of the year that is important. Being significantly below target so late in the year makes the likelihood of being below target by the end of the year much greater, and this was part of the issue the Sales Leader was wrestling with.

At this time of the year, it is all about CONFIDENCE in being successful by year end — the clock is literally ticking. Behind the Sales Leader’s lament with a lead performance indicator of 94% was the concern that there was no “line of sight” to how the sales rep was going to make up the current deficit, or for that matter, an understanding of why there was a deficit in the first place.

And this is the real issue regarding the situation — a lack of understanding of the situation, why the deficit is occurring, what is being done to correct the situation, et cetera. The reality of sales is there will be times you miss your target (sometimes there are situation that happen that are beyond your control) but it becomes a real sin if there is not an understanding what is happening. I know for a fact the Sales Leader would be a lot less concerned if her sales representative had proactively addressed the reasons for being at 94 % of plan, what the situation was, what activities were being taken, what the new opportunities were to address the deficit, et cetera.

Without any of this, there is a very good reason to be concerned with 94%… sales is not a chemistry test after all.


*If you are leading (or part of a sales organization) that does not have an annual sales target you are pretty much guaranteed not to succeed over the long run.