Choosing the Right Mentor

The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Develop a Persona 

“Create a developed persona for your brand whether it be snarky, witty, cute or any other character-leading quality. Give the brand a personality all its own, from captions and photos on social media to pitch decks and web design. This persona approach breeds authenticity as you are treating the brand like a human with likes, dislikes, and moods. This helps fans to relate on an emotional level.”

Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

2. Show Your Audience a Real Person 

“Using videos and getting involved in interviews and podcasts plus posting pictures and interacting with the audience are all great ways to show yourself, which is the authenticity that is necessary. Don’t be afraid that your personality is too quirky. Your audience just wants to see a real person out there telling it like it is.”

John Rampton, Calendar

3. Stand for Something That Sparks Debate 

“One of my mentors told me that if you put out a message everyone agrees with, it’s probably not going to go too far. The best companies stand for something that makes people feel strong emotions of agreement and disagreement. It’s what creates a feeling of true kinship with your brand and amplifies what you’re about both by word of mouth and through press coverage.”

Mark Krassner, Expectful

4. Share Things People Would Love About Your Company 

“The last thing you want is to be a company with a stiff corporate layer and then “faux authenticity” layered on top. People see right through that. Instead, think about the things people would love about your company if they got to sit in your office. What do you say when the outside world isn’t listening? Find a way to share that.”

Zach Obront, Book in a Box

5. Be Real and Transparent 

“Being authentic means not keeping knowledge proprietary to you, but instead sharing it with as many people as you can. Make your secret sauce the thing you share the most because it is always what you are most passionate about. Understand that it’s easy to talk, hard to execute, and that what makes you great is your ability to do what you say.”

Jeff Jahn, DynamiX

6. Align Your Personal and Corporate Brands 

“I previously kept my identity and my companies separate, but I’ve since moved most of my learning and challenges completely out into the open. I like to publicly ask questions of people I respect on social media, and I go through my frustrations and lessons publicly on YouTube every week. There’s little difference between my brand and my identity now.”

Adam Steele, The Magistrate

7. Host Live Video Streams 

“Live video is an incredibly effective way of engaging with your customers and driving authenticity into your brand. For instance, consider doing a live video tour of your office. Walk your viewers around and share stories about why you’ve designed your space the way you have. Leverage video to tell your story and to interview your team members and allow them to tell their story.”

Kristopher Jones,

8. Highlight How You’re Different from Bigger Competitors 

“One advantage as a smaller brand is that you can stand out. Consumers probably have some ideas about the big fish in your industry, so map out what their brand personalities are and then see what isn’t saturated. If holes in the market match up with strengths of your business, go in that direction. Just make sure and back up your value proposition with innovation; customers can sniff out a fake.”

Travis Nagle, Stem

9. Be Yourself 

“If you’ve ever seen me speak at a convention or in a panel, you know I try to be exactly who I am. I don’t put on a fake persona for the businesses sake. We should all be ourselves and let our personalities shine through our business. It’s the best way to make your brand unique.”

Renato Libric, Bouxtie Inc

10. Be Accessible 

“Allowing your customers to have access to you will demonstrate to them first hand what your brand is all about. It shows them that you are willing to put yourself on the line for your company, but also gives them insight into who the person behind the business really is.”

Abhilash Patel, Recovery Brands

11. Showcase Your Values At Key Consumer Touchpoints 

“There are a few shortcuts to amplifying your brand’s authenticity through its essence and values. Authenticity can be found (or not found) in just about every consumer touchpoint. So focus on each of those moments when people interact with your brand and take the time to align your brand with every moment of interaction. Authenticity can’t be faked, but it can be baked into the ethos of your company.”

Robby Berthume, Bull & Beard

12. Don’t ‘Inject’ It; Cultivate It 

“The idea that you can inject authenticity into a brand is contrary to the meaning and spirit of authenticity. It shows a profound misunderstanding of what authenticity is. Authenticity isn’t injected into a brand; it’s cultivated by the people in a company who sincerely respect customers and share their values.”

Vik Patel, Future Hosting

13. Put Design First 

“”Design-first” businesses are exceptional, especially when you are talking about physical product businesses. These are businesses that have a dedicated Chief Design Officer. Designers are often perfect blenders of art and business, allowing them to create an authentic voice for your company. Just look at Apple – design always comes first.”

Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

14. Recognize Customers As Authentic People, Too 

“The more you treat your customers (and potential customers) as authentic people, the more they’ll see you as an authentic brand. Make sure your social media, sales and customer service teams are actively listening and responding to individual concerns.”

Sam Saxton, Paragon Stairs

15. Perfect Your Personal Brand First 

“Every entrepreneur should invest in building their own personal brand as this allows them to hone their messaging and discover ways of truly engaging their audiences. Those who manage to successfully do this can more easily inject authenticity into their businesses, as they will have learned proper ways of demonstrating shared values with their audiences.”

Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep

16. Be Consistent In and Out of the Workplace 

“The definition of authenticity is being genuine. The only way to do that is to be yourself consistently. The person you are in a professional environment should be the exact same as the person you are around your friends and family, and in any situation. Write down the values you share in life, and make sure your decisions in any setting meet those values.”

Krish Chopra, United Medical Rotations

17. Show Your Vulnerabilities 

“There are two realities these days: the carefree, perfect reality you see on social media and actual reality, full of ups and downs, mundane tasks and personal growth. If you want to truly connect with folks, show your weaknesses. Talk about your failures, your struggles. We can all relate. No one is without flaws, so don’t hide your scars. They helped make you who you are today.”

Conor Nicholson, NSS RPO