Create an authentic and indispensable brand with advice from a straight shooter.
Whether you are fresh out of college or a seasoned professional, chances are you’ve heard about constructing a personal brand. Women in a variety of industries can and do use personal branding to achieve their career goals. Since she created Sol Marketing in 2003, Deb Gabor’s branding wisdom has skyrocketed the company to success, generating approximately $3 million in revenue. Here, she spills her secrets to creating and sustaining a personal brand without feeling like a fraud.
Name: Deborah Gabor
Title: Founder and CEO, Sol Marketing
Her bragging rights: Leading brand development for household names like Dell, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft and NBC Universal, as well as digital organizations like Allrecipes, Cheezburger and RentPath, and beloved Austin icons like Austin Ventures, KUT/KUTX, Zach Theatre, HomeAway, RetailMeNot, the University of Texas and St. Edward’s University.
Her communities: Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Austin Chapter; Jewish Community Association of Austin; Austin Children’s Theater; Live in the Game; Zach Theatre.
Her proud moment: Running and building a company while being the single mother of her highly active daughter and pets Comet and Beyoncé.
Time lived in Austin: 18 years Her hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Her best advice: “The best advice I ever received was to not give or receive advice! When you share advice with someone and they don’t take that advice and things go badly, you always have that between you and the sharer. When you share advice and the receiver does take it and things go badly, you always have that between you. Either way, advice sharing creates an environment rife with risk for confusion, misinterpretation and judgment. Instead, sharing real-life stories of actual experiences creates a nonthreatening and nonjudgmental environment. Everyone can learn from stories. There is no room for misinterpretation and you create a safe environment for exploring ideas for making profound changes in your business, family or personal life.”
Convey authenticity. With Austin’s growth comes new jobs, but also more competition. How can you set yourself apart? It turns out the same old adage you’ve heard since you were a kid is true: Just be yourself. “You want to make sure you aren’t turning your personal brand into a platform for shameless self-promotion,” Gabor says. “I’ve seen that here, and it doesn’t fly. Austin is a community that really sincerely values authenticity and down-toearthness. I am a plain-talking, straight-shooting, very direct communicator. I’m not going to beat around the bush with anybody.”
Be indispensable. Do you have that one pair of jeans, face wash or bottle of wine that you always go back to? Think of yourself in the same way. “Create a condition of irrational loyalty,” Gabor says. “What does it say about a person if they hire you, use your service or buy products from you? What is the singular thing that you deliver that nobody else does?”
Get it done. A sincere and indispensable brand won’t survive if you fail to stick to your word. “In my 18 or so years in Austin, what I have seen work for professionals is to really deliver on a promise,” says Gabor. “It’s kind of a get-s–tdone thing.” Embrace your differences. A business can benefit from a hodgepodge of personalities, and in the case of Sol Marketing, fostering a space for employees to show their true personalities has proven fruitful. “One of my very favorite employees here at Sol Marketing is somebody who is pretty introverted and introspective,” says Gabor, who is outgoing and direct herself. “However, she has this unique [ability]of being a natural connector. She sees two people who might have a beneficial business relationship and makes those connections. She’s somebody who totally delivers on promises. As a young professional, that is this magical combination of ingredients for success.”
Reconnect to the why. If you’re fighting professional fatigue or feeling overwhelmed while growing your brand, revisit your purpose. “Rather than focusing on what I’m doing and how I’m doing it, I’m really reconnecting with why I do what I do,” Gabor says. “What ultimately gets me out of bed every morning is this compelling need to see other people be successful. It gets me really excited to see other people do well. Whenever I have low energy, I just remind myself why I’m doing it.”
Photo by Arthur Marroquin.