A seasoned entrepreneur will realize that without a positive professional reputation we aren’t going to get very far. For any new entrepreneur, establishing an excellent reputation is not something that is achieved overnight. It is the product of consistently good behavior, over time, and it is earned. Whether you realize it or not, you started to lay the groundwork for your professional reputation the day you began your very first job. You began to build that reputation through your actions. A good reputation is important no matter what kind of business you have or are working toward. What people think about you is frequently based on what they have heard even before they have met you!
Opportunities can come as a result of establishing and maintaining a good reputation. Your good reputation can help you to receive a recommendation for new customers/clients, a job you want, or an introduction to other professionals who can help advance your career and bring you new business. The bottom line is that people want to help and be associated with those who have good reputations.
However, one major mistake can significantly damage your reputation, leading to missed opportunities and making it difficult to restore other people’s confidence in you. Why am I writing about something that seems so obvious? Because I have seen how basically decent people can suffer after making some poor, often uncharacteristic decisions. These mistakes are damaging. It takes a significant amount of time to rebuild relationships and repair a damaged reputation. Being cognizant of the potential mistakes and attempting to avoid them is well worth the effort, versus wasted time on damage control.
Each and every person that you interact with, online or in real life, is an opportunity to enhance your professional reputation. Ensure that your interactions with people online and IRL are professional and responsible. You’ll be remembered based upon those interactions. For those just starting out, the connections you make now, if they are positive, can go a long way towards building your business and last throughout your career.
To avoid reputation-damaging actions, here are a few pitfalls to pay attention to:
BE CONSCIENTIOUS ABOUT YOUR ONLINE ACTIVITIES
You need to be diligent about maintaining your Internet profiles and online presence. We all have diverse backgrounds, opinions and actions will differ, misunderstandings will happen, and debates will occur. I have seen discussions, particularly those in online forums; go awry when people are passionate about a topic. I’ve also seen actions online that would insure that I would never associate with certain people. As a businesswoman, your best bet is to steer clear of those situations; you never know who is lurking online. Even though they may never post a message, important contacts could be forming impressions about you as a result of your actions and posts. Do your online profiles and actions convey what you want customers or clients to know about you? Search for information about yourself on Google. Take a look at what is posted and ask yourself, “Would I want a customer or client to see this?” Remember that every piece of information that you post or that someone posts about you on the Internet can last in cyber-space forever and customers/clients are checking up on you online! Invest in setting your social networking profiles to private!
HONOR YOUR OBLIGATIONS AND BALANCE THEM
Over-promising, overextending, overestimating and overdoing do not allow you to show your best to others. Live a balanced life, take care of yourself, and develop a positive professional identity. Carefully selecting your activities and opportunities is one of the most important skills to master. Saying “no” and respectfully declining enticing opportunities will serve you much better than taking on a project only to end up quitting and letting people down once you are involved.
BE GENUINE, TRUSTWORTHY AND LOYAL
Genuine people are credible. Credibility breeds trust. And trustworthy people are loyal. A credible person is an expert due to her experience, qualifications, intelligence and skill set. Someone who is trustworthy is honest, fair, unselfish and caring. Loyal people are valued because they are faithful to a cause, ideal, custom or institution. The possession of these characteristics will enhance your reputation, while exclusions of the same are observed and damaging.
GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
Allowing others to shine when they’ve given you a helping-hand enhances your integrity. After all, nobody is successful without the assistance of others. It is important to acknowledge those who have had a part in your development and achievements. Reputable professionals understand that they never lose credit when they share the fame of their accomplishments with those who have helped them along the way.
In the end, a solid reputation cannot save you from your worst mistakes, but it can buy you understanding and time to respond so that others know that your mistake was out of the ordinary.