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A vintage black-and-white picture of the Ranaldi Brothers' bakery delivery van and the words "Honoring your personal brand." above the van.

If someone walked into your office right now, what assumptions would they make about you and your personal brand? What if they looked at your work? Stop and notice your surroundings. Does the message you communicate verbally align with the message you send through your environment and output?

The truth is, our personal environment combined with the work we produce communicates our brand – sometimes far better than our own words. While the connection might be obvious today, it was a powerful lesson I learned as a kid, working in our family bakery.

It was 1992, I was 12, and the bakery provided the perfect environment for a preteen hoping to earn a little spending money. The scene was familiar – I had been working in the bakery for as long as I could remember. You could say I was an experienced worker, with a seemingly mundane task. Standing at the end of long and winding conveyor belt, the smell of dough and fruit filled the air. My fingers worked feverishly, adding sticky labels to freshly packed boxes of prized pastries. Once packaged and labeled, hundreds of cases of these pastries would ship to super markets across the US.

I daydreamed as I worked, paying less attention to placing the labels and more attention to what I would do later in the day. I was snapped back into reality however when my father appeared beside me. The churning of the belt slowed and the boxes froze a few feet from my reach. He pointed to a label. “What does this say?” He asked. I replied, “Ranaldi Bros. Frozen Foods… Apple Turnover?”

He asked me to notice the label, half adhered to the box, crinkled, and very crooked. “If you were to judge the contents of this box, based on the label alone, what would you expect to find on the inside?” He held my gaze, knowing the question was rhetorical, and went on. “People will make assumptions based on what they see first.”

The statement was heavy. Our namesake, crooked and pinched glared at me in an unfamiliar way. I thought about the opportunities I had because of the bakery. A business started by my grandparents and later re-imagined by my father and uncle. When it came to ordering goods, our customers had options. They chose Ranaldi Bros. because they believed in the quality of our product and the quality of our service. But what assumptions would they begin to make if we failed to adhere our personal brand with care and precision? If we placed such little value on our brand – on our own name – what value did we place on our products and services?

For some of you, maybe that feels like a stretch. Do people really make such broad associations? I think they do. Think of it in terms of hiring. Are you likely to interview a candidate who had errors on their resume? If a person does not protect their personal brand at the start of an interview process, what is the likelihood that the same person will protect your brand once an employee? Attention to output matters. It speaks to how you notice and protect your personal brand.

For me, the symbolism of that label is stuck in my memory, as are the words of my father. The work we produce and put into the world communicates our brand in every way.

Observe your environment. Look at the work you are producing down to the medium you use to display your output. Where are the wrinkles in your brand? What assumptions are people making, and what impact will it have on your success?

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