“Events Shape Your Personal Brand”

episode #724 – MAY 22, 2022

HOST: Lorraine Ball

As I watched the cup of coffee bounce, I saw my personal brand bounce as well. 

the episode

This is a marketing story about personal branding that took place about 30 years ago, I had just started working for Lennox industries. At that time, Lennox Industries was a male oriented business. With men in all the senior roles, this company was trying to change their boys club image. It was also, surprisingly a personal, family run, $750 million business. It was a personal family business.

Three weeks into my job, we had a party for one of the men on our team. He’d been there for 20 years, and we were having cake and coffee to celebrate. There was an executive meeting and they all came down to personally congratulate Roger.

My boss thought this was a great time to introduce me to the president of the company, and his entire staff. As I walked over to meet them  I had a cup of coffee in my right hand.  It is a simple maneuver when you have a cup of coffee in your right hand, pass it to your left, and you extend your right hand. Somewhere between pass and extend I lost a cup of coffee.  It would have been okay except it was a full cup of coffee and it bounced.

I looked over at my new boss, who was wearing coffee from his knee to his ankle. Pretty sure my career was over, I was hoping the ground would open up and swallow me whole. It didn’t. But at that moment, I learned the human brain does amazing things when fired by a little bit of adrenaline. Time slowed down around me and sped up in my head as I ran through all the possible things I could say or do. I had a chance to evaluate all of those options based on what I wanted my personal brand to be.

More than anything else in that job wanted to be taken seriously, to be respected as a strong professional woman. I knew if I ran off to get paper towels and started mopping up everything I was done. Instead, I looked at the the chief financial office who was standing in front of me and said, “Tell me, do you always have this effect on women?”

He started to answer and then he stopped, realizing he couldn’t say the first thing that popped into his head because it would be inappropriate in a culture trying to make women feel welcome. He started to answer me again and stopped one again. There was silence echoing through the room, when all of a sudden, I heard this really loud burst of laughter. The president of the company, pushed the CFO out of the way, walked up to me and said “congratulations, no one has ever left him at a loss for words!”.

In that moment, my personal brand was established. I had this marvelous career at Lenox industries. I was respected as a strong, knowledgeable professional, who delivered on what I said I was going to do, who would stick to my guns and be a little bit in their face.  Someone who was just a little bit dangerous because they were never really sure exactly what I was going to say.

Shortly after I left he company I was at an industry conference and I ran into the president of the company. He offered to buy me a cup of coffee  . . .  as long as I was sitting down when it was served.

about the marketing minute

Each week, host Lorraine Ball shares just a few words on a marketing topic. She boils down creative ideas, practical tips, and decades of real-world experience into a mini podcast which is always less than two minutes.

Look for these mini bits of marketing inspiration every Sunday.  Then come back and enjoy the longer interviews every Thursday.

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