Personal Impact Overview

Today is Tuesday, so this post is on Powerful Personal Impact.

All people with powerful personal impact have at least three things in common:

  1. People with powerful personal impact develop and constantly promote their personal brand.
  2. People with powerful personal impact are impeccable in their presentation of self.
  3. People with powerful personal impact know and practice the basic rules of etiquette.

In this post, I will look at each of these in detail.

Personal Brand

Your brand is how people think of you.  Tom Peters says that “a brand is a trust mark, it’s shorthand, it’s a sorting device”.   Think of the well known brands that you know – Coca Cola, Pepsi Coal, Dell computers, iPod – all of them are shorthand for a product.  When you think cola, you probably think Coke or Pepsi.  When you think computers, Dell probably comes to mind.  When you think portable music players, iPod is probably at the top of the list.  Some brands are so good that they have become a generic name for a type of product – think Aspirin, the original brand name for the Bayer product.

People can be brands too – Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan.  Peyton Manning is becoming a brand.  On the Super Bowl pre game show one of the announcers joked with him, saying that he was going to ask the question on all of America’s minds – “How can you possibly find the time to do one more commercial?”

I’m a brand – albeit not as well known as the people I’ve mentioned above.  I’m the Common Sense Guy. This didn’t happen by accident.  I work at it.  I’m starting to get some brand recognition.  A few months ago, a client of mine was doing a talk to an industry group.  He decided to give me a plug.  He said, “we used a consultant, Bud Bilanich, to help us with that project.”  One of the people in the audience said, “isn’t he the Common Sense Guy?”  Pretty cool, huh?

The point of this discussion is that people with powerful personal impact are their own brands.  This isn’t just for people who are self employed.  It’s for everyone.  In their excellent book, Be Your Own Brand, David McNally and Karl Speak suggest that you answer three questions in developing your personal brand:

  1. What are your core competencies?
  2. What are your standards?
  3. What is your style?

I’ll use my Common Sense Guy brand to illustrate.  My competencies:  I am good at 1) Presenting to groups, 2) Coaching and mentoring others, 3) Identifying and solving organizational problems, 4) Writing clearly and concisely and 5) simplifying the complex.

My standards: 1) I believe we too often make things more complex than they really are. I help my clients simplify the complex, and develop and implement common sense solutions to their problems and issues. 2) I believe in human potential. I assist my client organizations and the individuals in them to use applied common sense to achieve their full potential. 3) My clients pay a premium for my services. Therefore, I provide them with extraordinary value-added services in order to justify their faith in me. 4) My clients trust me. They openly discuss their hopes, fears, problems and opportunities with me. This trust is sacred. I will not violate it. 5) All of my customers are unique. I honor this uniqueness. I don’t sell one-size-fits-all consulting, coaching or speaking services. I am diligent about gaining a complete understanding of each client’s unique needs before I suggest a course of action.

My style: I am 1) Optimistic, 2) Pragmatic, 3) Results driven, 4) Engaging, 5) Interesting, and 6) Fun.

This is an excellent exercise for determining your brand.  Get a piece of paper and brainstorm answers to these three questions – your competencies, your standards, and your style.  Ask other people who know you how they would answer these three questions.  Sit and think about it for a while, and then boil down your answers to three to five salient points for each question. 

Remember, a good brand will repel almost as many people as it attracts.  That’s OK – you can’t be all things to all people – your brand should reflect who you are and how you operate.  For example, I know that people who are looking for a highly theoretical approach to solving their problems are not going to be attracted to me.  I avoid wasting my time trying to sell them my services because they aren’t going to buy my common sense approach.  Don’t be afraid to let your uniqueness show through as you build your brand.  You don’t want to be a vanilla brand (appealing to everyone); you want to be a Cherry Garcia brand – something that is uniquely you.

Once you settle on your brand, do everything you can to promote it.  If you read my website, you’ll see that the words “common sense” are all over it.  My speaking website is  My coaching website is   My other blog is  My soon to be opened internet store will be called   When I speak to clients and prospective clients, I say things like “the common sense way to go here is…”  You get the idea.

One last word about your personal brand.  Become known as a person of high integrity.  Be direct and truthful.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said “nothing so astonishes men, as common sense and plain dealing”.  Astonish people with your straightforward communication style.  Admit your mistakes.  We all make mistakes.  When you own up to your mistakes, you’ll gain a reputation as a straight shooter – someone who is as honest with himself or herself as he or she is with others.  Become trusted by delivering on what you say you’ll do.  Keep confidences, avoid gossip.  Do your job and give credit to others for doing theirs.  Finally, join only those organizations and associate only with those people whose values are in line with your own.  If you aren’t comfortable with your surroundings, you’ll have a hard time making a positive personal impact.

Presentation of Self

Let’s begin this section with the reminder that “business” is the first word in “business casual”.  Don’t kid yourself, how you look is important to your success.  People may not say anything, but they do pay attention to your clothes, shoes and grooming. 

I have a simple rule that has worked well for me over the years.  Dress one level up.  If jeans are acceptable at your place of work, wear chinos or khakis.  If chinos and khakis are acceptable, wear dress slacks.  If t shirts are acceptable, wear golf shirts.  If golf shirts are acceptable, wear dress shirts.  If an open collared dress shirt is acceptable, wear a tie.  If it is acceptable to wear a zip up jacket, wear a blazer.  If a blazer and slacks are acceptable, wear a suit.  You get the point. 

The same advice is true for women if jeans are acceptable, wear nice slacks.  If nice slacks are acceptable, wear a skirt occasionally.  If a sweater is acceptable, wear a blazer occasionally.  Understated jewelry is always best.

No matter if you’re a man or a woman, always keep your shoes looking good.  Men can get away with two or three good quality pairs of shoes.  Women need more.  Regardless, keep them in good repair, and keep them shined.  I see almost as many women getting shines these days as I do men.

Take care of your hair.  Keep it looking good.  There are a number of styles that are acceptable these days.  Choose one that suits you.  The important thing is that your hair should be neat, and most importantly, clean.


There’s an old saying: “Those who know, know.  Those who don’t know, don’t know.  Those who know, always know those who don’t know.”  This is just a clever way of saying that it is important to learn and use proper etiquette.

For example, when you are seated at a crowded round table at a business dinner, you might be confused by the placement of your water glass and bread and butter plate.  You should know that your water glass is to your right, and your bread and butter plate is to your left.  Knowing this can save you some embarrassment – and possibly a job or a promotion.  Besides, if you’re not worrying about your table manners, you’ll be better able to concentrate on the conversation at the table.

Thank you notes are a lost art in these days of cell phones, e mail and text messaging.  You can make a positive impact by handwriting a simple thank you note expressing your gratitude for a small favor.  If you want to make a powerful positive impact, buy and use note cards imprinted with your name for these notes.  Men usually use a single sided, 4 ½ inch by 6 ½ inch card imprinted with their name at the top and their return address on the back of the envelope.  In the past, it was more common for women to use a fold over 4 ½ X 6 ½ inch card with their name imprinted in the center of the front sheet.  However, in today’s business world, many women use single sided cards, just like men.

Finally, being polite never goes out of style and will always help you make a positive personal impact.  The National Institute of Business Management says it quite well: “long term, there is not better success strategy that to be nice to others.  People’s feelings are at the heart of business etiquette.  When in doubt, determine the best way to put your colleague or client at ease and then follow that course.” 

There a re few rules that you should follow however.  Wait for people to exit elevators before you get on.  Hold the door for others – whether you are a man or a woman.  Return calls and respond to e mails promptly.  Be brief when you leave a phone message.  Don’t respond to e mails when you are angry or upset.

If you work at making a positive personal impact – by building and nurturing your personal brand, creating a good first impression by your presentation of self, and following basic rules of etiquette, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a star in your life and career.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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