Warren Buffett famously advised that “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
These 11 entrepreneurs have built impeccable reputations, and they’ve learned the secrets to reputation management the hard way. By following their advice, you can save a lot of time building and protecting your reputation in any market.
1. Turn negative attacks into opportunities.
When you start getting attention, it’s only a matter of time before somebody posts something bad about you online, resulting in lost opportunities and damage to your reputation or brand. Handle all negative social posts as opportunities, not problems. A dissatisfied customer or post can be turned into a fan when handled correctly. Do not respond publicly online to something negative, as you only bring more attention to it. Communication is best handled directly either by phone or direct message.
—Grant Cardone, top sales expert who has built a $500 million real estate empire, New York Times best-selling author of Be Obsessed or Be Average, and founder of 10X Growth Con 2017; follow Grant on Facebook or YouTube
2. Always be fully transparent.
Often, disputes arise from misunderstandings and/or lack of disclosure. Make it a point in everything you do to be completely transparent and provide full disclosure. If a business deal is ever anything less than crystal clear, refrain from getting involved. Usually it’s the deal which seems too good to be true that ends up being the worst—and everyone involved will remember you for it. I also stay away from doing business with friends or family because they’ll expect more from you in any deal and they’re more emotionally vested, which causes disputes or just generates headaches. And should the deal go sour, you will lose a good friend (or never hear the end of it) regardless of how many times you’d disclosed the risks.
—Manny Khoshbin, president of The Khoshbin Company and author of Contrarian PlayBook; arrived in America at 14 nearly homeless and now has a nine-figure net worth; follow Manny’s incredible adventures on Instagram
3. Endure the haters.
In the modern world, everybody has a voice through Twitter, YouTube comments, Snapchat, Reddit, etc. So you have zero odds of having a perfect reputation when doing anything big.
Nicholas Klein said a century ago, “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you.” Take Justin Bieber: a few years ago, he had the most disliked YouTube video in history. People hated it; then it died down. The same with Kim Kardashian. It’s part of the natural progression as you rise from nobody to somebody. It will pass if you persist.
In the animal kingdom, a new challenger is first ignored, then laughed at and finally hated—they’re challenging people’s current status, so people are suspicious. In the human brain, that’s what’s called the negativity bias. Negativity is more viral than positivity. Eventually, you’ll be loved—once people realize they can’t beat you, they start to ally themselves with you.
4. Relentlessly focus on your tribe.
I was once slandered by a guy who invented lies to ruin my reputation because I rejected his request. I chose success as my response. Anyone who doesn’t do business with you because of lies was never going to do business anyway. Serve those who love you with relentless love and service back. That’s how you build an incredible reputation.
5. Deposit reputation currency daily.
Someone I trusted made incredibly damaging accusations about me in an attempt to hurt me within the core groups we share. It could have been the end. Fortunately, some of my deepest friends came to my aid.
I learned that integrity is the currency of your reputation and someday you may need to make a large withdrawal. So make daily deposits. Surround yourself with a reputable tribe of equal integrity: When it comes down to your word versus another’s, the tribe’s objectivity will be key. When conflict arises, clearly identify and admit your part in it. At the same time, hold the other party up to the same standards, while acting decisively to share the objective truth and prevent gossip or assumptions.
—Chris Plough, entrepreneur advisor and serial entrepreneur
6. Always do what you say you’ll do.
Always do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. Screw up and your name is mud faster than you can imagine.
One time, we did a landscaping job and forgot to replace a dead plant that stuck out like a sore thumb. To rectify it, we returned, replaced the plant that day and planted several additional flowers. Take responsibility for screw-ups. Folks will appreciate it.
7. Cultivate your personal integrity before all.
As long as your actions are aligned with your inner values, others’ perceptions of you won’t have a long-term effect on your personal and professional life. If you focus on a high standard of inner integrity, everything in the outside world will eventually work itself out—even when you make mistakes.
—Nafisé Nina Hodjat, founder and managing attorney of The SLS Firm
8. Always own problems, then solve them.
I’ve spent nearly 20 years building both my personal and company’s reputation to be impeccable. The key factor has been my willingness to take responsibility for my actions, and for all of my employees and contractors. I work with multibillion-dollar public companies with stellar reputations. People make mistakes, but when you try to hide those mistakes, your reputation can be ruined. Don’t make your client find out from someone else you made a mistake. First, fix the error, train your people better, then provide your client with a solution, not a mess!
9. Look to your idols.
Look at anyone you admire. Their personal brand or reputation is crystal clear and out there for everyone to see: They’re true to themselves. And because of this, they elicit an emotional response that creates a connection, then a relationship, loyalty, support, backing and even love.
—Adèle McLay, business growth consultant, author, speaker
10. Take control of your character.
In today’s world, with a booming fake journalism economy, you have very little control over your reputation, especially as you gain more public exposure. But you do have 100 percent control over your character. Never compromise doing the right thing because you think your reputation will suffer. Instead, lean into transparency. Do the right thing and tell the world about it.
11. Protect your reputation like your life depends on it.
Even if you are successful, you will still be the victim of attacks online. That’s a fact every entrepreneur needs to make peace with and prepare for. Protecting your online reputation doesn’t happen by accident. Dedicate a budget to strategically build your online reputation so that when a malicious competitor attempts to divert your clients away with negative reviews, they don’t ruin your business.
Within the top 10 spots on Google’s page 1 is where your reputation thrives or dies.
Too many successful entrepreneurs contact me to help repair their online reputation after the damage is done. It’s a lot easier to defend against an attack if you’ve started protecting your online reputation before things go south.