Founder Friday Seattle speaker, (Founder of Ivy Talk), explains how your company is a reflection of your personal brand (and vice versa) and why it’s important to own the vision for your company. 

By Mary Jesse (Founder & CEO, Ivycorp)

I started my current company, Ivycorp, with several goals in mind. I wanted to create a very successful company productizing technology for good (#techforgood) as this is a personal passion.  I also wanted to be the one to raise the capital, drive the culture and formulate the vision for this successful venture; I wanted to be the CEO. I have learned a lot in my journey as CEO and Board Chair, but three lessons stand out in my mind as particularly applicable to women leaders.

Manage Your Brand

Everyone has a brand. You are perceived a certain way based on how you look, what you say and what you do. The message you send when people interact with you reflects your personal brand. When you are leading a team, talking to customers and investors, and the visible spokesperson for your company – your brand is broadcast. Personal branding should be consistent and authentic. In the case of CEOs, personal branding can propel a company’s brand.  Look at Richard Branson or Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg. They reflect their companies and their companies reflect them. Unfortunately, there are fewer visible women CEOs. More women need to get out there, proactively promote their own personal brands and fearlessly be role models.

My personal brand message is that science and technology are needed to solve today’s big problems. Technology can empower and lift up the less fortunate and that helps everyone. I also believe globally we will all be better off with more children pursuing STEM and with more women in leadership roles.

Build Your Networks

I really didn’t consciously build my network at first. Little did I know that every time I was approached by someone in business for a favor and responded by helping, I was building professional capital.  When it came time to build my business, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had a substantial professional network with much good will built over time.

Many young people today have incredible social networks, but don’t put as much effort into building their professional network. Yes, a social network can be very helpful in business, but a strong professional network is irreplaceable.

Own Your Vision

You discover rather quickly that investors and advisors may not all give you the same feedback. In fact, many times, they can give the exact opposite feedback.  Opinions and data from a variety of sources can be very useful, but in the end, you must own your vision. Your vision may change and evolve, but whatever it is – you must internally own it as yours.  That internalization is what powers the passion, stamina and optimism needed to be an entrepreneur.  Ultimately, you will live or die by the strategy you push forward. No one will come to claim responsibility for your vision if you fail.

I have detoured more than a few times trying to accommodate the vision of potential investors, valuing their view of my business more than my own.  Advice from experienced investors and entrepreneurs is so valuable, but they can never have the contextual benefit of all the details that you take in daily having to run the business. I think women tend to second guess themselves more than men and women often underestimate their own worth more than men. One of the important lessons I have learned as CEO is – simply – to be confident. I thought I was confident before, but found that CEO confidence is a different animal. CEOs are out in front risking everything.  I have learned to trust my instincts and to not undervalue my own opinion when contemplating big decisions.

How much do you think personal brand influences your company brand?

maryAbout the guest blogger: Mary Jesse is a wireless industry expert with more than 25 years of experience developing wireless solutions. She is currently founder and CEO of Ivycorp. Jesse designed and led deployment of the first large scale wireless cellular data systems and the first implementation of wireless Internet communications over cellular.