The Donald Thompson Podcast

Hosted ByDonald Thompson

Donald Thompson, serial entrepreneur, mentor, and diversity-in-the-workplace trailblazer, chose Earfluence to amplify his influence for more speaking opportunities, business development initiatives, and networking with established leaders.

How to Crush 2020: Personal Branding & Networking

Today is part two of our 5-part series, How to Crush 2020.

Did you get the results you wanted in 2019? If you did, how do you get more?  If you didn’t, what happened? How do you make it better?

On this series, we’re sharing things that have worked in amazing way and things that have been fantastic failures.

Part two, Personal Branding & Networking.

Hustle Unlimited features Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and hustler himself, Donald Thompson.

Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

Hustle Unlimited is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on the Earfluence Podcast Network, visit @EarfluenceMedia on any social media platform.

Donald Thompson: So the backdrop for today is we’re going into a new year and after Christmas, there’s actually a lot of down time, and it’s a time for reflection.

It’s a time where people are thinking about the new year. They’re thinking about what happened this past year. Did they get the results that they wanted? And if they did, how did they get more? And if they didn’t like, well, what happened. How can I make it better? And what we want to do is share some of the things I’ve seen over now 25 plus years in business, working with hundreds, if not thousands of different companies and people, things that have worked in amazing way and things that have been fantastic failures.

I mean, total fucking train wrecks, right? And how to keep people out of the train wrecks and a little bit closer to their own personal success.

We also do need to make a disclaimer like everything that I say are the thoughts of Donald A. Thompson Jr. They are not the thoughts of Walk West.

They’re not the thoughts of any of the other companies I’m affiliated with. These are exclusively my thoughts. Occasionally I may drop a few words that we’ll decide to bleep out or not, but I won’t do it cause I like to cuss but sometimes for emphasis, right.

With that , I think we can just jump in and get started.

Meghan Hockaday: Hi everyone, and welcome to the Hustle Unlimited Podcast. I’m Meghan Hockaday, content strategist at Walk West, and I’ll be your host today as my guest is your usual host, CEO of Walk West Donald Thompson. Today’s episode is a part of our series on how to crush 2020. The topic today is personal branding and networking.

I’m excited to talk about this because I’ve heard a lot of people say that networking is the key to moving up in your career, so I’m interested to see what Don has to say. So Don, welcome to the podcast.

Donald Thompson: All right. Thanks a lot. And your network is your net worth is one of the things that I think about a lot.

And so I’m super excited about this topic.

Meghan Hockaday: That’s awesome. Me too. So in 2020 a lot of people are going to start making their goals for the year. They’re going to make goals within their industry, their business, their job, they want to get a promotion, maybe they even want to start their own company. What are some personal branding tips you can give to help them accomplish those goals?

Donald Thompson: So your personal brand is something that is really significant and it’s not gonna happen overnight. So you’ve got to create some little building blocks over time. A couple of things that I’ve done personally. Number one is just work on your LinkedIn profile. Does it really speak to who you are today, what you’ve done in the past?

But more importantly, what do you aspire to do in the future? And people need to realize that the business card days of old are really gone. LinkedIn, in my opinion, from a professional standpoint is really where people go to do research and investigate people that they’re looking to do business with.

Number two is a platform. I’m pretty bullish on LinkedIn because actually people are there to do business. Like if you send out an email to somebody that you’re wanting to connect with and it matters to their business and it’s authentic, it doesn’t feel like one of 3000 emails that were sent out.

I get people to respond and actually respond to authentic requests. Now, if I feel like something’s boiler plate or different things like that, I kind of ignore it. But if somebody writes a thoughtful introduction and tells me why us linking up matters, I do read and respond to those requests probably 90% of the time, and so it’s a pretty good platform doing those things.

The second thing is when you think about your personal brand, it forces you to think about your goals. And that’s always really a good thing. And a lot of us kind of wander through life a little bit directional. We kind of know we want to be in marketing. We kind of know we want to have a business someday, but we don’t really write down plans that we can follow.

And so thinking about your personal brand, getting new headshots. Like it doesn’t cost $1 million to get new pictures. And everybody’s got somebody that’s a decent enough photographer. And by gosh, these phones are amazing that are out today. So upgrade your headshots. The other thing in terms of your personal brand and then we’ll get to the networking piece is you do need to take some time and say, all right, what do I stand for?

What’s my personal call to action, if you will, if people wanted to get to know me? If you go to my LinkedIn website, you’ll know that I’m very focused on diversity and inclusion these days. You’ll understand that I’m very focused on helping entrepreneurs that are starting new businesses.

And that I’m very focused on intentional  and authentic marketing. So I would be in that realm of personal business development for new people. And you can see that through the content that I have online.

Meghan Hockaday: How did you determine your personal brand and what advice do you have for people who are seeking to focus on a certain topic for themselves?

Donald Thompson: So one of the things about your personal brand, it should be something that you’re good at. A brand without credibility is kind of not effective. So it’s where you have knowledge, skill, and experience, very simply, So you’ve got to look in your background and look at what you’re doing and where’s your knowledge high, where’s your skill high?

Where’s your experience high? And that’s what you need to highlight in your personal brand. Then from that launch point, you can get into aspirational things. But you’ve got to have a foundation of success for people to listen to you and listen to you with enough credibility that they’re actually going to call you and seek your advipce.

Meghan Hockaday: What advice do you have for someone who’s really passionate about a certain subject, but they don’t have the experience yet to back that up?

Donald Thompson: So when you’re in the frame where you’re moving in a direction, but don’t have the experience to back it up, then be a curator of what’s hot in that space.

Talk about things you’ve read, things you’ve learned, seminars that you’ve gone to. So use the third party validation of other experience in an area that you want to become an expert while you’re developing it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. So become, have your personal brand be about discovering new insights in an area that you’re passionate and interested in while you’re developing your own knowledge, skill, and experience.

Meghan Hockaday: What tips do you have for people who are trying to find the right person to network with?

Donald Thompson: Trying to find the right person to network with is an important skill and more important than that skill, it’s an important habit, because you can’t do anything that’s magnificent by yourself. And so number one, what do you have in knowledge, skill, and experience to offer to other people? Because I think networking when it’s a two way street, when it’s a two way transaction, is really, really powerful.

A friend of mine who’s in the room, Rich Font is a videographer, a storyteller, and we connected. I was at a speaking event and Rich was one of the videographers. And so after the meeting, he reached out and said, Hey, I’d love to just get a cup of coffee with you and just talk to you about entrepreneurship.

And I usually say yes to a cup of coffee with most people. So we sat down and we talked for about 15-20 minutes. But during the conversation, as he was kind of picking my brain on business entrepreneurship, he said, listen, I just want to be clear if there’s anything I can do to help you in what you’re doing and what you’re growing, I want to pay that back cause I appreciate you spending time with me.

So that creates kind of a powerful contract that you’re not just there to be a taker, but you’re also a giver. I think that’s super important in getting with people that are super busy. Cause there’s a bunch of people calling that just want to be a taker. And what separates people are those that say, listen, I want to network for business reason, all that good stuff, but I have some things to give also and let’s help each other.

And I think that’s powerful. In terms of your specific question, how do you know who to network with? It’s trial and error. And then as you’re building a good business network to help you, whether it’s career-wise, starting a new business, all those different things, that network starts to create a life of its own and you’re going to have four or five people in your network that are connectors.

And you can call them and say, I’m looking for somebody in data science. I’m looking for somebody that’s a great videographer. I’m looking for somebody in this, and they may not know a thing about that specialty. But they know people in most every genre of business or life. And you gotta be really, really smart about cultivating the relationships with those connectors in your network.  A lot of times when people say, Hey, listen, I just want to pick your brain. I want to chat with you. Like what in my personality said, I just want to hang out with you for no reason, just for fun. Like how does that, how does that make sense? Like I said, I’m your friend. I’m the one telling you this.

Nobody else will tell you, that sounds weird. Feels weird to me when I get the message. Sounds stupid when you say it. But I am available and most people that have reached any level of success are available where they can see and link a reason for your request to what they’re doing that’s important in their life.

And if you don’t know enough to create that linkage, you probably shouldn’t be calling them right now. Cause it feels weird, is weird, not effective. And what you want to do is be effective. So if you’re calling an entrepreneur and you’re trying to pitch them your new business… I’ve got a friend of mine, I won’t say his name, but he’s written a book. Anybody that sees that I’m linked with him on LinkedIn that asks me for a recommendation, I tell him to read his book first. Don’t hear back from a lot of people. If they read his book, then they come. He said, Hey listen, I read his book was amazing.

Then I, then I’ll tell him twofold, cause this relationship with this very successful VC is important to me. I want him to take my call when I call, so I’m not sending them like 37 random people that I just met that just saw that I was on LinkedIn with him. And then I’ll say, let me see your pitch real quick. And I’m not making investment decisions for this guy.

He can do it on his own. I’m just not sending him ridiculous. Does that make sense? Right. So I’ll look it up like, yeah, that’s ridiculous. Like I’m not sending him that. And then some of the things are good ideas or whatever. It might not be something I meant to, but I’m like, Hey, you should meet so-and-so.

I’m going to share that recommendation with you. I don’t treat my network trivially. So then when I do make a recommendation to friends, associates, business partners, investors, they pick up the phone and they call the other person back because one thing in my personal brand is I don’t waste people’s time.

And that is a personal brand allows me to get call back from people that are very successful, very influential, and, and that’s something I take pride in, that if I pick up the phone and call you, that there’s something in it that’s good for you and I’m going to reciprocate if I can ever help you if you help me.

Meghan Hockaday: We obviously live in a really social focused era, social media in particular. Why do you think that in-person connection is still so valuable and effective?

Donald Thompson: In-person connection is even more critical in this social space because everybody puts up a facade on social media. Everybody’s super successful.

Everybody’s marriage is amazing. Everybody’s kids are on the honor roll. Everything’s fucking perfect on social media. It’s all a bald face lie. The personal connection is where you can actually get a vibe with someone, get to know someone, even if it’s a quick conversation to really sanity check if you guys have that synergy to do something further.

And also networking on purpose is now more common. It’s like it used to be, you had to go through this whole thing. If you’re going to network, let’s go grab drinks, let’s get a beer, let’s go do golf for six hours. And you just, you don’t have to do that anymore. Cause everybody’s so busy in this hyper connected world that really that in person meeting at a social gathering, that in person meeting at a conference, you exchange emails, but you talk for that four to five minutes and kind of elevator pitch each other and then say, Hey, we should really get together. Sincerely mean that, let’s do it. And so I think the in person is more effective in terms of sanity checking who you spend time with. The social is valuable for the research because you can really see what people are into, what things they’ve done, what they’re putting out on social, what brand they’re building, what companies they’ve worked with, their connections. You can do your research pretty quickly, quietly, on social to see who you want to rock with from a networking standpoint.

Meghan Hockaday: Yeah. That’s awesome. So what tips do you have for LinkedIn overall?

Donald Thompson: Number one, make sure your profile is up to date, that your sub, not, not just your headings, but the little blurbs underneath each thing in your career are impactful, that they tell a story in two or three sentences, not two or three paragraphs. Because people are busy.

But also what’s the best way for people to connect with you and contact you? And what kind of things are you interested in? Because if you let people know those ideas, you can create your own filter, for LinkedIn. And then in terms of the personal networking and the face to face, I’m starting to get more active at meetups.

Whether it’s for entrepreneurs, whether it’s for people that are in the marketing space and different associations that have learning events and education so that you can create that face to face interaction as you’re building your brand, building your education and knowledge, as you go into 2020.

Meghan Hockaday: Awesome. What thoughts do you have on other social platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter? From a networking perspective?

Donald Thompson: Um, Twitter, a lot of people are in love with Twitter. Super-popular I mean, you know, obviously I don’t mess with Twitter much. To me it’s more of a negative space. People are ranting about stuff.

Facebook for me is personal. I don’t do as much business on Facebook – a little bit, I’ll, if I’ve got something coming out, we’ll pitch it out. But Facebook to me is just more, I enjoy keeping up with family and friends and seeing what their kids are up to and different things like that.

And I think it’s really meaningful. For me, linkedIn is where I focus the most of my time, effort and attention because the most people that are serious about that platform are looking for opportunities, looking for connections, and we’re there for business and, and I like it. You know, I think it has a serious tone to it.

And for the most part self policing, there’s not a lot of political nonsense there. There’s not a lot of things outside of people just authentically trying to promote their business. And that’s okay. And that’s why I like it. Instagram is cool because everybody likes to see their picture and the visual component of Instagram I think is really helpful.

And the short kind of Insta videos, is that what they’re called?

Meghan Hockaday: IGTV. Stories.

Donald Thompson: Thank you. That’s why we work together. The IG Stories, cause I don’t, I don’t know if this stuff’s called, I just know it matters.

Meghan Hockaday: You just do it.

Donald Thompson: Yeah, we just do it, but I think Instagram is also pretty good because it’s short, it’s concise and highly visual.

And you’ve got folks that are really into the visual aesthetics of things. And I think Instagram is super cool for that.

Meghan Hockaday: Yeah. Thanks so much for your time, Don. That was Donald Thompson, CEO of Walk West and the host of the Hustle Unlimited podcast. Thank you everyone for listening and we hope this helps you reach for the dreams that you’ve had and crush 2020. If you like this show, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.

Leave us a rating and review as well and connect with Don on LinkedIn or any social media platform. This episode of Hustle Unlimited was edited and produced by Earfluence. For more podcasts that they’re producing, head over to Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time on Hustle Unlimited.

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