How Young Entrepreneurs Can Build a Personal Brand (aka a reputation)

In this video excerpt, I talk with a young entrepreneur who’s early in the process of building his personal brand.

It’s advice that about 65% of my audience really needs on building a brand when you’re first starting out.

The video was one of my most popular ones of all time on YouTube. I think you’ll get a lot of value from it.

I hope you enjoy it!

Gary: How old are you?

Guest: 32

Gary: Perfect. You know the point now is to just take three years and just do and see what that tastes like.

Guest: Mmm.

Gary: I think one of the things that really works for me is I’m not worried about the micro but I think about the macro.

Like, what the fuck am I doing with you right now? There’s a lot more to do with showing up to the funeral than it has to do with the bank account. And you know what’s funny is, if you actually live your life like the funeral you end up making stuff from a bank account by accident.

It’s so crazy, when I think about like how I invested in Twitter and made all that money it was more about giving shit about my funeral. It was doing the right thing by a bunch of people which is what led me to go to the South by Southwest which led to me meeting the Twitter guys.

Guest: Yeah, like follow your passion, follow your bliss.

Gary: I think one of the things that people feel like struggle with is actually being very real with themselves.

Guest: What do you mean?

Gary: The difference between understanding who you are versus who you wish you were.

That’s something that I’m always very fascinated by when I have a meeting like this. Like, what kind of read do you have on yourself? I think I would struggle a lot if I didn’t really genuinely know who I was. And then once you know who you are you get more comfortable with what you’re up to.

So if I asked you right now — and I think it ebbs and flows when you’re 28, 32, when you’re 57 — if I asked you what you want to have happen, what would you say?

Guest: You mean like what would happen with my creative projects, or life?

Gary: Sure.

Guest: I want to have a life where I can create with a team. I want to put out content that affects people’s lives for the better. I want to travel with my man and have property, international property, and travel for fun. With also having time for work. But impacting people for the better in the process.

Gary: That’s cool.

So, what are you hoping [to accomplish] as you’re rolling up to this office? What are you hoping for, for real?

Guest: You know shit that I do not know. So I just want to pick your brain about a couple of key things, and ideally get in a place where I can hit you up.

Gary: OK. Let’s start with this. Listening to what you said, the first thing I will tell you is, don’t front. The number one mistake that people that aspire to the sentences that you just spit out of your mouth — the number one mistake they make is they try to over sell themselves because they think they need it to have people’s attention.  

So let me give an example: Whether it’s life coach, inspirational figure, business coach, whatever form it takes… I think it’s much smarter for you to talk to the world about your process of going through this than the advice you think you should be giving them.

And that’s where people are struggling.

I got real lucky. I’m not sure that if the internet was around in its current form, that I would be a successful. Because at 22 and 23 I knew I was special, and I might have not been patient enough to first build a business first get experience.

I didn’t start talking to the world until I was 35. And I love to say to you to be patient. I’m not sure if I would have been.

I love to hear myself talk. And it’s nice, there’s nothing wrong with that. It just sounds bad. It’s funny. A lot of what I deal with now is being okay with not being politically correct — work life balance, cursing, etc.

Did you see that I was on the Breakfast Club?

Guest: Mhmm.

Gary: So I don’t know if you watched that interview or some of the content that I’ve been building on. I’m on a hot “no excuses” kick. I have a lot of female entrepreneurs. I have a lot of fans that are African-Americans. I spent a lot of time in that community my college years. I just think I’m giving the best advice to women and minorities in business today which is: Tough.

And it’s crazy. In my body right now, it doesn’t feel great. It feels a lot better going somewhere else. The problem is, it’s the truth. The market just doesn’t care.

And what’s cool is when you actually say fuck it, you start betting on your strengths.

Do you know I was a businessman in a world where going to smart colleges was the only thing that mattered for businessmen? You were only a good businessman if you went to Harvard Business School, but then I reversed it. Like I’m like I’m a D and F student. I curse. I don’t dress the part. I do me. And then you know what happened?

The world came to me.

I would tell you that the best thing that you’re gonna walk out of here with is something that took me a long time to really realize: If you want to pull this off, and you want people listening to you, there’s only one thing. The truth.

It’s unbelievable how much that’s the reason I’m winning.

And I think it’s easier when you have a level of success and it’s harder when you’re climbing up the ladder. But I think that there’s a lot of people who, if they talk about the journey of the climb, could win.

I think it’s the best piece of advice I can give right now to a bunch of 20 to 30 year olds who feel that they should be talking to the world and bringing value. Talk about your journey of trying to find that voice and synthesize it properly.

The problem is, if a 30 40 50 year old is listening to your one minute rant video on Instagram, there’s a level of cynicism like “what do you know?” And I think that that’s fair. And look, you could just be a whiz kid about the world and that exists. But I do think there is a smarter way to context it. You know it’s like the difference between starting the sentence with “you should” vs “my intuition says.” Right now I can say “you should” because I built so much.

But if I was at 20, it would’ve needed to be “my intuition says…” And that changes everything. Or “when I look at…” Or “when I met with Gary today the takeaway I got was…”

Guest: What’s your perspective on cultivating relationships with people who not only believe in your ideas but can actually help point you to some funds? Because right now, all my friends are broke and trying to create some stuff. Like, I can’t borrow from your negative bank account.

Gary: The market will give you money. I’ll give you money. You just have to tell me what you want it against.

Finding money is not the problem. It’s really not. I’ll explain.

It’s how you’re looking at the world.

There’s things like AngelList and Kickstarter, etc. You know much harder it was for your mother to get money? Do you know that the 1973 version of you if he was sitting here would punch you in your fucking mouth? Because money is the last thing you have to worry about. AngelList, Kickstarter. The world can give it to you. You start a Kickstarter campaign. You know why most of them fail? Because most shit is wack. Because most stuff isn’t good. Because most people don’t give a fuck.

You can go to AngelList and hit up all the angel investors. People always say to me, “Gary, I can’t find money.” And then I tell them, “cool, I’ll give you money. What do you got?” And then they don’t know.

So tell me, what am I buying? Your brand? In perpetuity? There’s a really interesting time in the world right now, where art and science and business are colliding and they’re all very different.

So what am I buying? Buying into Gary Vee would’ve been a really good idea for a lot of people. But It wasn’t for sale, and I don’t even know how to sell that. Like what you sell? Like what, are you going to make 20 percent of my speaking fees, or my book deal, or my TV deal? I guess you could do that actually. I do think that plays out over time. But if I said to you cool, I got money for you. What do you say to me? What’s the business here?

Guest: So what I’m hearing from that is, create more content that allows people to see what they’re investing in?

Gary: No. What’s the container I’m putting my money in?

You can have unlimited content. You could have 4000 episodes of a podcast, and the greatest Instagram account I’ve ever seen, and the funniest Snapchat stories I’ve ever seen. Great.

That lets people know a bit more about you, but what’s the vessel?

So when I meet Fuck Jerry, or when I meet The Fat Jewish, I know they got attention on Instagram three years ago that really matters. But what am I investing in.

Oh, Fat Jewish you’re making a Rosay? Oh I can put twenty five thousand dollars into that and own 8 percent? Now you’ve given me something to put the container in. Oh Fuck Jerry you want to become BuzzFeed? You’re gonna build a website and have traffic and sell ads?

You got to come to me and say what am I investing in. You have to put your thing you have to put your thing into a container that’s investable. Nobody’s writing a check to a person. And then it gets hard because once you package it, you have to be able to explain it in business terms.

And that’s not necessarily what everybody does.

This is where it gets into partnerships. One thing I would tell you based on the vibe I’m picking up: If you and I both grew up in Milwaukee, you know I would’ve been a great partner for you because I could have been the business man to the art Maybe you are the business part but it’s not what you’ve been bringing up yet.

Guest: I don’t know, I’ve been in a position where I’ve had to do both right now.

Gary: Well look, you should be putting out content on a very regular basis. You should start a pillar show — vlogging I think it’s very fascinating. You know you should be doing Instagram stories and Snapchat stories at scale. You should be putting out 7 to 25 pieces of content on both those platforms a day.

Guest: A day?

Gary: And let me explain how. Don’t go fancy. Document versus create. It’s a big shift. When I say seven to 25 you say my God how do I produce seven to 25 meaningful things that will have me respected. Versus, document.

Guest: See, that’s the thing: Meaningful that will get me respected. I feel like anybody can put out shit. And I don’t want to put out shit.

Gary: But shit is subjective my man.

And I got good news for you. You’re fully in control.

Who makes the final call like productions? The producer? Great, you’re the producer my man.

But you gotta put out stuff. I still can’t believe how many people that live in New York don’t use New York people. Like, go back to your basketball roots, stand outside the garden right there and be like “what you think about the Knicks upcoming season?” One person gets into a thoughtful conversation, he was the former ballboy in 1957, it’s a nice story, and boom.

You see where I’m going?

Guest: Yeah.

Gary: People aren’t starting. They’re thinking. They’re pondering. They’re strategizing. They’re debating. The difference between people like me and the far majority is I’m just doing it all times. I’m doing so much that I’ve decided to have a man walk around with a camera and follow me because who knows when it’s going to happen.

And you know it’s so funny. I’m going to say to him, I want this whole thing cut. The whole thing. Like what I’m giving you right now, so many need right now. So I’m like fuck it let’s just put it out. Right.

 

Guest: So you’re saying you have to put out content all the time. I personally go through these periods of extreme creativity, and extreme chill. How do you motivate yourself? How do you continue this process of “go go go go go” and balance it with self care?”

Gary: I do what feels right to me. So if I got a check out for a week, I check out for a week. I don’t punish myself.

Guest: That’s really hard for me right now. Because I feel like I’m not doing enough. Like I’m not doing shit.

Gary: I agree.

Guest: (Laughs) Alright Gary.

Gary: See where I’m going?

I don’t know. Life. I don’t think you. I don’t I don’t think you should squander it. This is back to you know yourself, or do you aspire to be something you might actually not be.

This is the toughest question of it all my man. I mean if you want to be respected, and really known, so show the fuck up. Are you fucking kidding me with going a week without doing something?

I always say nobody you’ve ever met got there without the hard work. Nobody It’s just real. You know do you know insane DailyVee and the Snapchat stories has been to everybody? They didn’t realize how hard I was going at it. You know many fucking people used to say the word “luck”? Nobody has the audacity to say that to my face now. And I love it. 

Document over create.

Document over create. Click To Tweet

I mean there’s so much magic going on in New York City.

Do you know how many people are sitting in a place that’s not New York City? You got a billion stories out there. You don’t feel motivated to tell a story today? Go let somebody else do it. You have so much charisma. You could walk up on anybody in two seconds and get them to feel comfortable.

So you can’t create? Distribute. You can’t create today, facilitate.

There’s no excuse for not talking to the world. It just doesn’t have to be your thoughts and words every time.

Guest: What about building a team?

Gary: Don’t even think about that. You’re not even close to that right now.

Let me give you a real good answer, since I got a feel for you right now. You need to work on you before you worry about a team. You got to get your shit together. I can tell you you’ve got to have certain things that you need to do before you worry about a team. Get your thing in place.

Create. Distribute. Interview. There’s so much creative shit man. I’m way more creative then I realized because stuff comes so natural to me. Like, go take a picture on every odd Street in New York in Manhattan.

Like I don’t know, go start at 113, then 111, then 109. Like call it “Odd corner” and just literally do an interview every everyday on Instagram for a minute starting at 113th all the way down. That’s the show. Every fucking Monday you go to fucking 113th the next week 111th and literally stand there until somebody walks by and you interview that person. And that’s the fucking show. I think what I’m good at is building a pillar up top that creates content below. DailyVee, AskGaryVee show.

One thing people struggle with is they think it needs to come from them, and it instead it needs to come from the structure down. You know how hard it is to manifest that kind of original creative thing from the bottom? But think of yourself as like CNN or MSNBC.

Monday is Odd Corner. That’s it. If you’re white boarded now on mini shows that you could do — Monday’s Odd Corner. Tuesdays like Subway Shots. Wednesdays like Suburbs. You just literally going out and interviewing. And Suburbs clicks and all of a sudden Toyota is hitting you up and say hey we’ll pay you you’ll drive a Toyota to New Jersey. See where I’m going? But you’ve got to put yourself in that position. You know why podcast have worked for a lot of people? Because they interview people.

So they don’t have to do the work. My version of that is answering people’s questions. It brings value to those individuals and to the entire community.

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