If you are like me, when you start to notice a particular company as being hugely successful, you want to know about the person who started it or who is at the helm.  I’ve been reflecting on famous companies and how many of them have a visible and recognizable leader.  I have 2 collages here, one of older famous business leaders and one of more current ones.  I purposely didn’t attach names so you can see if you can recognize them.  If you guess 18 out of 18 correctly, I wouldn’t be surprised because their image and personas are almost as big a part of the brand they represent as their logos.  In rare cases, the image of the owner actually becomes the logo as in the case of KFC Colonel Sanders.

I think that companies that have visible leaders have a greater chance of success, especially moving forward into the brave new world of voluntary or forced transparency.  We form opinions about countries based on their leaders.  Most of the bigger, powerful countries have high profile, recognizable leaders. Some companies tend to hide their leaders.  This lack of transparency I think ultimately may hamper their growth because I think people tend to become fans of companies where the leader leads the company’s crusade.  Some of the greatest companies in recent history were started by entrepreneurs with a dream. People love a good rags to riches, self made story.  It’s certainly more interesting than second generation spoiled brats who inherit their parent’s legacy.  We also love the David and Goliath parable.  Can one small man with a vision take on a giant corporation and win?  Yes, it’s possible.  And when it happens we love to celebrate, even idolize the champion who did it.  Why?  Because it gives us a chance to believe that we could do it ourselves.  We often become loyal fans and patrons of companies who have champion leaders.

Let’s bring it down to small or medium size business on a local level.  Probably everyone can think of at least a few local business owners who have raised their profile and are minor local celebrities.  They might be dissed or chastised for their “out there” personality.  They might even be obnoxious.  But they also might be laughing all the way to the bank because as it’s often been coined, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”  I have a realtor in my area, a woman, who always wears a hat…always, maybe even to bed, who knows.  She has a plain Jane name of Joan Smith but even if you can’t remember her humdrum name, you do remember the realtor with the hat and that’s enough to track her down.

If the business owner is shy, they sometimes engage a celebrity to represent them.  This is better than nothing perhaps because it is a human personification of the company but it’s still not as good as the owner doing it themselves.

This is not a scientific article, just a musing about something that I think many business owners and leaders don’t consider and that is the leader being visible and “real”.  As a marketer myself, it amazes me how many websites don’t show a picture or video of who’s running the show.  It’s often because the owner is shy or lacks confidence.  When I have encouraged owners to step to the plate and promote their business in a more “out there” fashion, it almost always leads to increased business growth.  There’s never been a better or easier time for small business owners to do that easily by writing blog content, engaging in social networking, making and publishing videos of themselves talking or promoting.

So, as Nike says, “Just do it”