7 Personal Branding Lessons From Arnold Palmer

  • PhotoGrid_1474920281048

    When you think of branding, you probably conjure up images of a Coca-Cola bottle, a Starbucks cup, or an Apple iPhone. These companies spend millions of dollars to remain relevant in an ever-changing world. Their goal is to make you feel a certain way every time you think about their brand. The more comfortable they make you feel, the more likely you are to remain a loyal customer.

Personal branding, however, requires you to not only sell your products or services, but to sell yourself. As the face of your company, YOU are the brand.

Every successful salesman knows this to be true. How you make people feel, will ultimately determine your success.

Countless celebrities have this down to an art form. The Rock, a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson, and of course, Oprah, immediately come to mind.

But nobody did it better than Arnold Palmer. The legendary professional golfer set an example that we all should follow.

Here are the seven lessons that “The King” taught us about personal branding.

1) Master Your Craft – Regardless of your chosen profession, the most important step is excellence. By honing your skills and committing yourself to being the very best, you put yourself in the best position for success. Palmer attained greatness on the golf course as a result of countless practice hours. Practice leads to competence. Competence leads to success. And in the sales world, competence leads to trust.

2) Be an Embassador – Represent your industry by being a vocal spokesperson. Wear your passion on your sleeve. If you are an ice cream man, talk about toasted almond bars with joy in your heart, and a gleam in your eye. Palmer was so passionate about every aspect of golf, his enthusiasm was infectious.

3) Put People First – Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz famously said, “We are not in the coffee business serving people. We are in the people business, serving coffee.” That philosophy applies to every business. Every business is the people business. It’s no coincidence that the most successful people focus on building relationships, not just sales. This was Palmer’s greatest gift. You’d be hard pressed to find one human being on planet earth, that he refused to sign an autograph for. One of my favorite stories is when a little girl was at a tournament, and began crying when she was unable to get an autograph because she dropped her pen. After finishing the 9th hole, Palmer made it a point to find the girl, give her an autograph and pull her over the rope to take a picture with him. He was legendary for doing this type of thing all the time. He never complained about signing autographs. He viewed it as a privilege.  I can personally vouch for his generosity in this area. I had the honor of assisting in the development and growth of a golf course that he designed. At the grand opening, he made sure that everyone on the staff got an autograph. I will always cherish my signed flag from Mr. Palmer.

4) Take Risks – In order to separate yourself from the competition, you must think outside of the box, and go out on the skinny branch. That’s the only way to grow. Sometimes you’ll fail, sometimes you won’t, but the main thing is to never be afraid to try. Palmer was famous for taking shots on the golf course that no one else would. He refused to lay up. He believed in going for it, and letting the chips fall where they may. His galleries loved him for it.

5) A Little Thoughtfulness Goes a Long Way – When I was hired as a Golf Course Superintendent, I got many calls and emails of congratulations. They were all great, and much appreciated, but one of my former bosses went the extra mile. He wrote me a handwritten letter wishing me well in my new position. That meant the world to me, that he would take the time to put pen to paper, and mail it to me. His thoughtfulness made an impact on me. Palmer’s M.O. was making an impact on people’s lives with thoughtful gestures. After borrowing someone’s locker at a tournament, the locker lender would typically return to find four new golf shirts and several sleeves of golf balls, accompanied by a handwritten note saying, “Thanks for the hospitality.” The recipients were always bowled over. Thoughtful gestures win lifelong fans. And makes you feel good, as an added bonus.

6) Stay Classy – Who knew? Ron Burgundy was dropping some serious wisdom between the laughs. Mr. Palmer stayed cool no matter how much pressure he was under on the golf course. No temper tantrums for him. He handled adversity and defeat with a gracious smile. He was class personified.

7) Treat everyone with respect – Every person that Mr. Palmer met was treated as if they were special. He made a point to always look them in the eye, and truly acknowledge them. Respect. For. Everyone. Regardless of political affiliation. Respect. That’s the reason that he was golf buddies with every president since Eisenhower. He didn’t agree with them all, but he respected them all. Respect. What a novel concept.