Why Reputation Is Essential for Building Your Business

Your reputation is your good name. It is also your character. It takes a long time to cultivate. It’s value can be priceless. Shakespeare weighed in on the topic in Othello, Act 3, Scene 3. . “But he who flinches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him but makes me poor indeed.” What is yours?

The concept of reputation appeared twice this weekend. The first was during the sermon at religious services. The deacon asked: “If one person asked another in the community about your character, what would they say?” In the second instance, we were telling our weekend houseguests about life in our 2,400 person village, where everyone knows each other. I explained the close community fostered a level of trust because if you cheat anyone, it will be remembered down following generations. Our guests, a couple of accounting professors I met on LinkedIn, wondered what people would say about me if they walked around town and asked. Lets save my answer until the end of this article.

The Building Blocks of Your Reputation

Suppose someone approached a client, learned you were their financial advisor and said: “What do you like best about your advisor? Would you recommend them?” How might that conversation go?

  • Are you honest? Years ago, I met a financial advisor who was a golf pro in a previous life. He explained “You can learn a lot about a person by playing a round of golf with them. The game of golf has it’s own set of rules. Players are given handicaps based on their level of skill. (In this instance, handicaps are a good thing.) Some people will cheat at golf if they think they can get away with it or no one is watching. Do you cheat at golf? Do others know or suspect you do?

  • Are you ethical? “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching?” (2) John Wooden is credited with this one. The honesty answer about addressed “Do you cheat?” Ethics involves following the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • Do you treat everyone as equals? England has often been described as a class based society. It has been said a great feature of America is you are not confined to the economic class to which you were born. There are people who only associate with people on their economic level or higher. There are others who treat flight attendants, waiters and hotel porters as equal human beings. The people around you notice how you treat people employed in staff positions.

  • Are you true to your word? Years ago, there was an expression: “If he says he will do something, you can take it to the bank.” In the financial services industry, we say: “Your word is your bond.” There is a concept in business of deals being sealed on a handshake. If they were asked, would someone say you honor your promises?

  • Service before self. Rotary, the community service organization has the motto, “Service above self.” It has another “One profits most who serves best.” (3) The financial services firm where I worked previously had a rule when the opinion on a stock was changed, you must first contact clients who own that stock and give them the opportunity to act on it, before trading in your own account. This is to prevent front running. Would your clients feel you put their interests before your own?

  • Are you a giver or a taker? You know both these types of people. Ever go out for drinks in a group and find there is one guy who leaves the table when it’s his turn to buy the next round? You also know people who feel they have been fortunate in life and give to charity without drawing too much attention to themselves. Would friends describe you as a giver or a taker?

  • Are you kind? You have heard the expression “Love is kind.” We hear about Boy Scouts helping older people across the street. Do you let the other car merge into your lane when stuck in heavy traffic? If you arrive at the supermarket checkout at the same time as someone else, do you offer to let them go first? As an ex New Yorker, I have a problem with this, but I try. It is being gracious.

  • Are you knowledgeable? On a recent Friday I met up with a fellow at Starbucks I previously met at a museum reception. He has a business focused on 1031 exchanges, an accounting strategy allowing taxes on real estate capital gains to be deferred. After our conversation I realized he was a subject matter expert in this area. Do you know what you are talking about?

  • Are you an active part of the community? This is part of the giver vs. taker observation. Do you contribute to charity? Attend community events? Are you seen around town? Do you recognize people on the street and vice versa ? Are you a known quantity?

  • Are you here for the long haul? One of the stereotypes in Hollywood is the actor waiting tables until their big break in film comes along. You know other people who do a job, but are only going through the motions. They would quit in a heartbeat if something better came along. When people hire a financial advisor, they want someone who is planning to stick around for a long time. Is that how others see you?

  • Are you a gossip? That is such a negative word, but the simple question is: “Do you talk negatively about others behind their backs?” People will question your confidentiality. They will also wonder if you would talk about them in a similar way.

Back to the earlier question: If asked about us in town, I think people would say we are kind, ethical and generous. We are involved and give back to the community. I have an advantage many others do not, yet is easy to attain. I am a lector in our local Church parish, meaning I present one of the readings, usually once a month. I have been doing this forever. I am always dressed in a suit and well groomed. When people see you standing in a pulpit, they award you lots of positive attributes. Plenty of people recognize you on sight too. The main qualifications are a desire to volunteer and a good speaking voice.

If someone asked a friend: “What can you tell me about (you)? What would they say? Their answer is your reputation.

  1. https://www.anoisewithin.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Othello-Side-2.pdf

  2. https://madeyousmileback.com/character-is-what-you-are-when-no-one-is-looking/#:~:text=Read%20this%20popular%20quote%20from,when%20no%20one%20is%20watching.%E2%80%9D

  3. https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-mottoes

Related: What Is My Client Not Telling Me?