The topic of personal branding is currently occupying many entrepreneurs as it is increasingly viewed as a strategic tool. In an interview with FLEX managing partner Peter Waleczek, entrepreneur Felix Haas, a partner at 10x Group and FLEX Capital and chairman and host of Bits & Pretzels, reveals what personal branding means to him and how he built his brand.
Peter Waleczek: Thank you, Felix, for taking the time to talk to me about personal branding. I only know a few people like you who have successfully built multiple companies and brands in a row. You have also firmly established yourself in the entrepreneurial world. Please introduce yourself.
Felix Haas: With pleasure, Peter. I want to start with a note on personal branding. I have never actively pursued this topic. At some point in my entrepreneurial journey, I realised that personal branding can be a helpful tool to achieve business goals.
This process started with my first company, amiando GmbH. Our presence at events as founders of amiando increased our prominence. We were often mentioned in angel investments, which is when the compound effect set in. Personal visibility can increase on its own, but you must steer the direction in which it moves. Through our last successful venture, Bits & Pretzels, this personal visibility has naturally grown a lot.
Felix Haas: You should separate them very consciously because there is a danger of falling for the personal brand as an end in itself. When a personal brand develops positively, this is emotionally good for you. But it can also develop in a negative direction. For this reason, a conscious separation is important.
As soon as the topic of personal branding comes up, it is important to ask what you want to achieve with it. These can be personal goals, but business goals are the most effective. It brings up a question that does more visibility in marketing or sales mean more success?
The perfect answer is Elon Musk with Tesla; one of the most successful personal brands ever. But the entrepreneur Richard Branson, who supported us with Bits & Pretzels, should also be mentioned because he is in no way inferior to Elon Musk. It was interesting for me to observe how the Virgin Group deals with personal branding. In 2016, Branson was a keynote speaker at Bits & Pretzels. It was impressive to see his management related to branding. Truly unbelievable. As organisers, we even had to get custom-made leather pants stitched with the colours of the Virgin Group so that they fit their image. I think in Germany one could learn something from such detailed branding.
Felix Haas: As I mentioned, I honestly never sat down to define my brand positioning. I made a lot of decisions, consciously and unconsciously. After we sold our company amiando, I positioned myself as a business angel at events and analysed the message successful labels wanted to convey.
Ideally, you will find an authentic narrative that can be directed and controlled. For example: Felix Haas, CEO of Bits & Pretzels or Peter Waleczek, managing partner at FLEX Capital. This narrative can be controlled and promoted at the same time on social media channels such as LinkedIn.
What's important to remember in all of this is the fun factor. For example, I run my Instagram account @pilothaas. The account has nothing to do with business issues and is irrelevant to the business. But it brings me joy when I share pictures of flying.
What you should not underestimate is your gut feeling when it comes to social media.
Felix Haas: I think sometimes you should follow the principle of "just do it". It is also important to always be authentic and remain so. Striving for a certain ideal positioning doesn't get you any further. However, at some point you lose your personal authenticity. Another aspect to consider is adapting to the target group on various business related social media channels.
Felix Haas: Certainly. A good example of this is a statement that, after publication, unexpectedly encounters criticism from many people. You must be able to deal with this criticism. It is important to always keep an eye on the reach you have built on social media and to remain authentic. My advice and my personal rule: just be yourself.
Felix Haas: Here I can recall my experience at Bits & Pretzels. My recommendation is to approach the organisers with a concrete, unique proposition. Conference organisers are always looking for interesting personalities and stories with which they can enrich the event. The applicant should add value to the conference and the corporate world with unique content.
Felix Haas: A big role model for me is Satya Nadella, the current CEO of Microsoft. Nadella communicates authentically and inspiringly. I think his personal brand was crucial for Microsoft.
Felix Haas: I do that myself. For a certain company size, however, it is important to have a team. Because once you've identified this work as a lever for business goals, it makes perfect sense to organise a professional team.
Peter Waleczek: Felix, thank you very much for these exciting insights into your personal background as well as the insights into Bits & Pretzels.
Felix Haas: Thank you for the interview.