Robby Fowler Articles
Personal Brands

7 Deadly Dangers of Starting a Personal Brand Business, Danger 1

"We become what we tolerate."

I heard this quote recently and it really got me thinking about what does it mean to build a personal brand?

We hear a lot about the attractive benefits of building a personal brand, whether that's leaving a nine-to-five jobs so that you can go build something that you're passionate about.

There's lots of reasons that being and building a personal brand is very exciting. It's fun. There's lots of joy to be associated with it.

Building a Personal Brand Business Comes With Hazards

But I want to just throw out there that building a personal brand. I think it can be dangerous. And you don't hear much talk about that.

You hear a lot, talk about personal brands being exciting.

You definitely hear some talk about personal brands and building a personal brand business being challenging.

I don't think we often take time to ask the question, “Is there anything that's inherently dangerous also about building a personal brand?” I want us to explore that together.

Back to the opening quote, we become what we tolerate.

I want to push that a little bit further because I think . We become what we value or you may say we become what we worship. And I believe what we tolerate is often lurking in the shadows of what we really value or worship.

And that is also true in building a personal brand.

As we start this series on The Seven Deadly Dangers of Building a Personal Brand, I want to start us there because I think an inherent shortcoming of being and building a personal brand in this digital age is that it can get disconnect connected from real personhood.

Yes, it's a personal brand. But you rarely see how my personal brand plays out in all of my life. You just don't have the privilege or the access to see that you're removed from that.

The Good...The Bad...And The Hidden of Building a Personal Brand

Personal brands are getting lots of press these days. Building a personal brand--it is a trendy thing to be doing or trying to do right now. And there's plenty of good reasons for that. Building a personal brand is fun. There's a lot of joy involved. It offers a lot of freedom and promise. It can be a great alternative to working a nine-to-five job. There's much out there about the positive aspects of building a personal brand.

You will also find some that will draw attention to, "But building a personal brand is also challenging." So you'll hear, talk about how great it is. You will hear some honest talk about how challenging it can be at times. However, I think we hear very little talk about the inherent dangers that come with just building or trying to be a personal brand.

And I think it's worth us exploring in this podcast over these next couple of episodes. That's why I've pulled together these Seven Deadly Dangers of Building a Personal Brand. I think it's worth us taking stock-- if we're going to give so much of our lives to trying to build a personal brand business-- we ought to be able to also count the cost.

So that's what we're going to explore in this series. And I hope you'll stick with me as we do this over the next couple of episodes. I want us to do what we do as personal brands with a full awareness of really all that's going on and all that we are giving ourselves too. So it may not be the most light-hearted topic, but I do think it's very important.

And I want us to walk through these Seven Deadly Dangers together.

Questions For You To Keep In Mind As We Dive In to These Deadly Dangers

As we kick this series off. I want us to have a couple of questions in mind. One of the questions I want us to start with is...
  • Why is it that we don't care more about some of these dangers that we're going to walk through? Why, why aren't they discussed more often than they are?
  • And what does that say about us-- about those of us who are trying to build a personal brand? What does it say about us that perhaps we haven't thought through some of these dangers that we don't care more about some of these issues? What is it about us?
  • Why are we so drawn to building a personal brand business without really taking into account or considering the cost or the dangers of what's associated with building a personal brand?

So that's the question I want you to have in your mind, as you listen through these next couple of episodes on the dangers of building a personal brand.

Why don't we care more and why are we so drawn to something like building a personal brand without stopping and taking these dangers into account?

So on this post, I just want to introduce the first of the deadly dangers of building and running a personal brand.

Deadly Danger #1: Almost Zero Accountability

So deadly danger, number one: Personal brands have little-to-no accountability. Personal brands have little to no accountability.

Now to be fair, there is some accountability. So if you're building a personal brand, like a coaching business, a consulting business, you're a creator, you're an author, your a speaker. If you're a solo preneur.

Yes, “Some” Legal Accountability

There is some accountability. We know that there are some legal accountability, correct? There are laws in your city or your state or your country, which do have bearing. If you're building a personal brand business, those laws would apply to you.

So yes, there is some accountability there.

Yes, “Some” Financial Accountability

We also recognize there's some financial accountability, right? You have to pay taxes. I have to pay taxes on my business. If we're running a personal brand business that generates any revenue or any income, then there is some financial accountability.

Yes, “A Smidge” of Customer Accountability

And also to some degree, there is some customer account ability, right?

There's some customer accountability. If you do a job over and over and over again, for people, you will lose customers and it will be harder to attract new clients or new customers. So there is some basic accountability built in there.

No Independent License or Board

But I want you to think when you want to launch a personal brand business, there is there's no license you have to get. There's no board that needs to approve you.

If you want to start a personal brand business this afternoon you can. You can start one whenever you wanna start one.

Qualifications, Be Damned

Who's qualified?

Anyone who wants to attempt to do that. That's one of the strengths of, of being a personal brand-- that there's no degree or expectations necessarily inherently that come with building a personal brand.

If you want to practice law, there are, there's obviously steps that you have to take. You can't just say, you know what, tomorrow? I think I want to start being a lawyer.

But when it comes to personal brand, if you want to start, you can start.

And that means there's little to no accountability.

Think about this crazy reality, that there's really nobody to remove you or disqualify you from your personal brand business, for example, based on your character or your lack of character. There's nobody that's going to come along and remove you or disqualify you from that.

In so many other markets or industries or places where you could have a job or work, there is something in place whereby you can get removed or disqualified.

So if you're the CEO of a very large company, yes. You have power. You may be able to use that power to keep things under wraps for a while, but at some point, a board of directors can absolutely remove you or disqualify you. And they can do that based on your character.

Yes. They can do it based on performance, but they can also do it based on your character.

There's nobody checking in on the character of a personal brand per se. So nobody can remove you or disqualify you.

You Are (Responsible For...) The Brand!

So we need to recognize, Hey, building a personal brand that puts even more responsibility on you personally, knowing that there's nobody else out there keeping an eye on you or your character.

That's really just up to you.

Yes. That sounds great because of the freedom.

But it's dangerous. It's dangerous.

Surely you've known other humans, right? That is dangerous.

So just be aware of that.

Don't Count On Customers

Another thing I would say is, when it comes to customers-- and we think, "Well, the customers, the client, like they'll keep me accountable."

Well, we also know if we give customers what they want. Or maybe even more so, what they think they want, I'm telling you, you can run for a long time with that. You can run a business a long time giving customers what they want or at times just giving them what they think they want. You can play that game out for a long period of time before it ever catches up with you.

And that's what I mean, when I say. " Hey, think about this deadly danger. Personal brands have little to no accountability. It's a strength, but it's also a danger or a weakness."

Personal Brands Are Great at Roaming, But...

The last thing I would say under this is, personal brands are great at roaming. So think how many times someone who runs a personal brand business-- coach, creator, consultant...

One of the things that often gets put out there and dangled out there, like a carrot for the rest of us that want to build a personal brand, or maybe we're thinking about pivoting into a personal brand business...

One of the carrots that gets dangled out there and there's no, there's nothing wrong with this.

It's true. One of the carrots though, is when you have a personal brand business like me. So the promise goes, so the carrot goes when you have a personal brand business like me, you can work from anywhere, work on.

I can't tell you. I've sat on webinars where the first 10 minutes of the webinar is, "Hey, if you'll stick with me, imagine working from a beach. Imagine traveling the world and working from exotic places."

Yeah. That's sometimes that's a little bit hyperbole, but whether it's overdone and it's hyperbole, or maybe it's a little more subtle because you look at my news feed or my Instagram feed or my social media, and I'm bouncing around all over the place and you see me at some cafe in Italy working with my laptop.

And then the next thing you know, I'm in the Swiss Alps or whatever. Personal brains are great at roaming. That's one of the benefits and it's one of the things that they offer.

So for many of us that sounds great, particularly are strapped to a nine-to-five desk job or cubicle job. You're like, "Yes, a little freedom, a little roaming about."

Personal brands are great at roaming.

Personal brands are NOT great at putting down roots.

Personal brands are not great at putting down roots.

Oftentimes when you run a personal brand business, it's very common for you not to have actually any business clients, customers, audience that lives in your building that lives on your street, that lives in your neighborhood. Sometimes that even lives in your town or your city.

Because we can do business in an internet age, anywhere, all over the place. For me personally, I have very few local clients. Everybody else I work with is non-local. They cannot pop over to my house tonight. And I can't pop over to their house.

Therefore... yes, it's easy for me. I could roam about. I could work somewhere different every week. Pretty much. If I wanted to.

Now I happen to have a family and kids and those kinds of things. But that's possible. I could, I could roam about personal brands are great at roaming.

They're not great at putting down roots-- the kind of roots where real people know you. And you know real people. Real people outside of just your personal brand business.

So personal brands are great at roaming. They're not great at putting down roots.

You and I both know while it's great to be able to roam, putting down roots somewhere-- a place where people know you, a place where even outside of your personal brand business--you're accountable to other things. You're accountable to other people beyond just delivering a product or a service in your business or your brand.

So that's the first thing. I want us to just think about that. At least have that on our radar.

I think you and I need to think about this. I do think over time, these things will surface and they will matter. And if we don't pay attention to them or at least ask the question now and wrestle through a little bit internally, that we've taken account of that danger, and we're doing something about it.

Toddlers Are Danger Magnets

I know when our kids were young.. The minute you have your first toddler who can start walking. You you'd be amazed at what you now start to notice in the world that's dangerous that you never paid any attention to at all before. Even when they're babies and they're not able, you know, they're not toddler age and able to walk around.

But the minute they start walking around, it's comical almost.

When you look at parents with that first kid who becomes a toddler there's danger everywhere. The fireplace. All of a sudden, now the little toddler, who's still trying to figure out a walk. He or she can crack their head open on the brick fireplace, coffee tables.

In the kitchen, how many times have you seen a toddler come around that corner, running excited to go outside in the backyard and they clipped the top of their head on the corner of that bar. It takes their feet from underneath them, poor little things.

They're screaming and hollering and crying. They didn't see that at all. Parent of a toddler,you suddenly become aware when you go visit someone else's house and they don't have toddlers...

How many things on that coffee table that your toddler is going to go after and absolutely destroy. When you have one of those toddlers, you're like, "I never noticed that. But those nine vases on your coffee table, we're going to have to do something with that. There's no way I can keep my toddler's hands off of that."

I want us to at least be aware that we've taken into account that running a personal brand. Yes, it is fantastic. It's I love doing it. I love having one. Running a personal brand, yes, it is challenging. It is challenging.

I would argue probably what you hear out there--if you're thinking about building a personal or your you're just starting out, or even if you've been at it for a while-- what you hear talked about the most, let's say 70% of the time, is how great and freeing it is to have your own personal brand. That's the emphasis. That's where the spotlight gets shined the brightest and the most!

Maybe 25% percent of the time you'll hear about the challenges. Like, "Hey, it's not easy. There are challenges and struggles."

And thankfully some folks will be authentic and they'll speak to that. Others that have a personal brand will peel back the curtain a little bit and let you know that.

Rarely, I don't know if I've ever heard anyone honestly, address, "Hey, running a personal brand is also dangerous. It's dangerous."

Danger number one is: Personal brands have little to no accountability.

I want us to be aware of that.

There's nobody to remove you.

If you give customers what they want or they think they want, regardless of your own character or what's going on in your life, you can run with that for a long time. And nobody's going to call you on the carpet.

Nobody's going to stop you.

Nobody's going to show up at your door wherever you are and shut things down. You can just keep cruising, whether that's healthy or unhealthy.

And personal brands are great at roaming. That's fantastic.

They're not great at putting down roots--the kind of roots that, honestly, people for generations and centuries have had to put down roots.

We have a different world that we live in now. That's great freedom. There's lots of benefits there. But we are sacrificing something when we're pursuing a life where all we're doing is bouncing around and we have very little roots outside of, "As long as I show up for my clients, I'm all good."

So I want us to be aware of that Deadly Danger # 1 about running a personal brand business. And I hope you'll stick with me over these next couple of episodes as we share deadly dangerous numbers, 2 through 7. Deadly dangerous numbers two through seven.

And then I'll have some questions, some kind of thought provoking questions and a few more quotes to drop in there.

I just want you to spend a little time thinking.

I not saying you have to dwell on this. I'm not saying doomsday doomsday.

But I do want us to be aware that building a personal brand business is fantastic. It's great. It is hard work. But I want us to at least be aware of the dangers.

We are somewhat like the toddler running around unaware that we're about to absolutely clip our head and knock ourselves over on some coffee table that we don't even see the edge of it. Or some bar in the kitchen, we're rounding the corner... We don't even see it. And it's about to take us out.

I want us to be aware of these dangers.