You Good Name is All You Have

One of my early mentors taught me the importance of reputation. She used to say, “At the end of the day Bud, all you have is your good name.” She was right. I’ve worked hard to build a strong reputation as an honest, reliable, helpful person. All in all, I think I’ve done pretty well. However, I’ve had my missteps along the way…

About 30 years ago I was working for a company in New York. The HR Manager at their operation in Western Massachusetts asked me to come to his site and conduct a time management workshop. I decided to take an early flight the day of the workshop instead of spending the night away from home.

As luck would have it, my flight was delayed and I arrived two hours late for the workshop. The HR Manager was pretty amused that I turned up late to conduct a time management workshop. We remained friends over the years and he hired me on more than one occasion to do some consulting work for his company.

He retired about a year ago and I attended a dinner in his honor. When he got up to thank the people in attendance he noticed me in the audience. He looked at me and said, “I see Bud Bilanich over there. He’s probably the only guy in the world who showed up late to conduct a time management workshop.”

Talk about your past haunting you. 30 years of work and positive results and this guy still thought of me as the guy who showed up late to conduct a time management workshop. See what I mean about managing your reputation? If you want to build a successful career make sure that you don’t do things that will come back and haunt you – like showing up late to conduct a time management workshop.

That’s my sad story. Here’s another one, this time about a very successful friend of mine. He just sold a company he founded for lots of money. But this wasn’t always the case.

This guy and I met when we were both working for a very large Fortune 500 company. He’s a fun guy, a big sports fan and very witty. Somehow his fun personality got him tagged as “immature.” This is ironic because he is one of the most mature and hard-working people I know.

No matter, his immature reputation cost him several promotions at the company where we worked. Whenever his name came up in promotion discussions, the dreaded “immature” tag came up too. He finally had to leave that company and begin someplace anew where he could reestablish his reputation. It worked out well for him, as he is entrepreneurial by nature and was much happier running his own company than he would be working in a very large corporation.

Let this story be a lesson to you. If you don’t manage your reputation, others will – and sometimes the results won’t be very favorable.

Creating a strong reputation is simple, conceptually. Ask and answer these two simple questions: “How do I want people to think of me?” “What words do I want to people to use to describe me?”

Think about these questions. Take your time. Don’t settle for the first answer. Work to come up with the one that truly describes the reputation you want to create for yourself. Then do whatever it takes to make sure that other people think of you that way. In other words, act in a manner that consistently and constantly promotes the reputation you want to create for yourself.

For example, if you decide that “hard-working” is a term which you would like others to associate with you, then work hard. Do your assignments well and on time. When you finish one task, ask for another. Come early, stay late. Ask questions to help you understand the business. Pretty soon, people will begin thinking of you as a hard worker – “someone who does everything we ask, and then asks for more.” Once this happens, you’ll know that you’re on your way to creating your reputation as a hard worker.

The important thing is to take charge of your reputation. Figure out how you want to be known. Then consistently and constantly do the things that will ensure people think of you that way.

The career mentor point here is simple common sense. Successful people actively manage their reputations. Everything they do contributes to the reputation they are creating for themselves. Take the time to manage your reputation. It’s your most important career asset.

Your career mentor,




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