Warren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Your startup reflects your personal brand, so harness all the positives you learned as a child.

By Debra Walton (Chief Content Officer, Thomson Reuters)

Like many women, I realize that as I age, I am “becoming my mother.” And as such, I’m learning that her words and wisdom, which over the years sometimes seemed like a bit of a burden, have had a profound impact on who I’ve become and have formed the foundation of my personal brand.

For my mother, the concept of “personal brand” was entirely foreign, but the underlying truths weren’t. Her advice in matters such as my appearance — she never wanted me to leave the house without being impeccably dressed — now make great sense to me. She instilled in me, rightly or wrongly, a concern for how others perceived me, which is perhaps not unusual for someone from a small town, and her ideas resemble to some degree what today we call personal branding.

Her lessons were about being conscious of my impact on others, being generous and thoughtful, and about stepping up and out into opportunities that presented themselves — all things that would ultimately positively impact my personal reputation.

Of course, there is a lot more to building a personal brand than wearing the right clothes, but the fundamental issues that my mother instilled in me at an early age have become important markers for me in how I try to live my life – and what in turn have burnished my personal brand.

Thousands Of Possible Role Models

As I progress through my career, I realize how much of an impact a personal brand has on individual success. People readily understand this in the big picture, but they don’t always focus enough on the individual, seemingly smaller things, the components that aggregate to form a personal brand.

One of my absolute “pet peeves” is people who routinely don’t return phone calls, or make good on their commitments. I find myself sometimes scratching my head and wondering if they have any notion of how that behavior ultimately catches up and becomes a part of their brand — obviously not in a beneficial way. I will say more on that later.

Branding, of course, is crucial to succeed in today’s business world, and some strong parallels can be drawn between how corporations and individuals create them. The measures by which we judge a company, such as quality, service, reputation, etc., are also relevant on a personal level.

In other words, it’s not just the product, your skills or your job title, that count. Having a strong brand means standing apart from the crowd because of other attributes.

Corporate brands these days aren’t what they used to be. There are many more companies flooding the market. Consumers are far more fickle in their loyalties, while events that perhaps in the past were minor or contained are spread virally and can have an overnight brand impact both good and bad.

People focused on developing and managing their personal brands would do well to keep this in mind. The playing field is large, the competition fierce and there are a lot of fronts upon which your personal brand must shine: with your immediate colleagues, in the wider company, and in your industry.

Some people you will meet with face-to-face, others only via phone or e-mail. And others whom you may never meet will draw their perception of you from your social media footprint. You must successfully manage all these points of contact.

Amplifying Your Own Brand

As is true with the world’s most-admired companies, success builds a strong brand, and having a strong brand helps generate future success. It’s a circular phenomenon. You won’t be able to forge a personal brand without first achieving some key goals, then using those as a foundation for reaching new heights.

Forging a great personal brand means having something that others are drawn to and want. Look at Apple. It’s known for innovative design and great quality. By imbuing a small number of products with the highest degree of these attributes, it generated huge demand. The underlying reasons were technical, but the result was market dominance that makes Apple a leading global brand — one that continues to grow with each new release in a self-reinforcing cycle.

In the case of an individual, a brand is based upon such qualities as presence, integrity, reliability and knowledge. The end result will be growing influence as your brand amplifies, attracting the attention of colleagues and other people in your field, giving you a path to further success and an even stronger brand.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

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