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TP Bites: Founders & Executives – personal reputations attract finance and talent

In this episode of TP Bites, Jordan Greenaway and Luke Thompson discuss how the personal reputations of CEOs and business founders can be leveraged to competitively attract finance and top talent.

two men shaking hands in a meeting

In this episode of TP Bites, we talk about our latest research report and how CEOs and company founders can leverage their personal reputations to gain a competitive edge in attracting finance from investors and hiring the best talent.


Jordan: So I’m here with Luke, a partner at Transmission Private, to discuss our latest bit of research that came out last month. It's called ‘Reputation attracts finance and talent’. It was the result of a survey of 2,000 people, and we asked them whether the reputation of company leaders would impact whether they were inclined to join a company or invest in a company. 

The results were not surprising, but interesting. A lot of focus in PR and investment in HR is on the corporate reputation of a company and how a company is perceived. 

I think for the first time in terms of global research we have shown that the reputation of the person at the top of that company — whether it’s the CEO, whether it’s the Chairman or whether it’s the owner — impacts these recruitment and financial decisions, too.

So I’ll pass over to Luke by asking whether there was any particular result from this research that jumped out to him.

Digital Profile: Giving visibility to your career successes

Luke: I think the biggest result that stood out to me — although I don’t necessarily think it was the most surprising, but I think it does solidify what we already believe to be the case — is that for companies that are looking for finance, having a strong reputation around the founder of that business is essential. Particularly around their business track record and what they’ve done in their past careers. 

I think, given the fact that 40 percent of people in this polling said that to be the most important factor for investors when looking to invest in a company, that is the biggest result. But again, not necessarily the most surprising.

What it shows is that, more often than not, a founder of a business or a CEO of a business has a backstory. But I think what this result solidifies is that you’ve got to make sure that everything you’ve done in your career is findable on the public record. Clearly, that is a key factor for investors who are looking at financing a business.

I would say this as well. Don’t leave your key successes throughout your career — your awards or whatever else it might be — don’t leave that on a CV saved on a computer somewhere. Make sure that it is accessible online for important people and stakeholders to find. That way, it’s not just a case of manufacturing success. It’s about being able to better communicate everything that you’ve done in the past.

Jordan: Absolutely right. A further reflection that is inspired by what you just said there, Luke, is that too many people see PR through the lens of sales and marketing. When they think about press coverage, media profile or digital footprint, they think how much more money will that make my business in terms of product sales?

What we’re showing here is that the reputation of an individual and the reputation of a company is much more powerful than just generating an additional sale. It could make or break an investment decision.

If you’re out in the market now, hurting because of coronavirus, and you’re desperately in need of £10 million of bridge financing for a financial institution, what’s that financial institution going to do? They’re going to search the company, but they’re also going to search you and what are they going to find? Does it tell the right story? Does it position you as a credible person who is head and shoulders above your competitors? Or is there just nothing there?

Personal Reputation: Having nothing online is damaging

Luke: I can think of some examples of people who understand that. But I think a lot of founders of businesses tend to feel that their search results online are not that bad. There’s no negative material, and therefore it’s fine. It drops to the bottom of their priority list. 

When actually I think they’re missing the point, which is it might not be damaging in the sense that there’s no negative material out there, but actually, it is a competitive edge if you invest your time resource and money into curating what that first page of Google looks like for you.

I think it comes back to this point which threads through everything that we do at the agency. Which is reputation is an asset. Having a strong reputation is like having a million followers on Twitter. I think more people need to view their reputation as an asset, and building up an asset that can be leveraged at the right time whenever and for whatever that might be.

Jordan: I can imagine some listeners now saying, ‘Yeah, that makes sense. But at the same time, I’m not in the need for investment. I’m a privately funded family office. I invest in companies, or we have enough buffer capital to keep us going.’ 

But I’ll tell you what every business needs. They need good quality talent. They need to be able to attract the best people, especially in this disrupted world where you’re having to navigate the changing world around digital technology. How can you hire the best people to ensure that your business stays abreast of all these changes? It’s talent.

This research was not only about attracting finance. It was about attracting top talent too. When that hire who you want to join your Board, or join your management team, or even join at a lower level as a graduate searches the company, they’re not just looking at your corporate reputation. They’re also looking at the individuals behind that company, and whether they want to join the business.

So if you’re thinking about this just in terms of finance, you’re only seeing a marginal fraction of the picture. This bit of research shows that any external audience is interested in working with people who have strong reputations. That’s the key takeaway for me.

Luke: Completely agree, and I think in many senses that’s more of a general need for every business. As you said, there’ll be a lot of people listening to this that don’t necessarily need to raise finance or investment. But every business needs to be surrounded by good people, and every founder needs to be surrounded by good talent.

I think the thing that stood out to me was strong ethics and integrity. This polled in second place for both attracting finance and attracting talent. And I think if we did this polling ten years ago, would that result be the same? I’m not sure it would. 

Obviously, I don’t have any evidence for that. But I think now more than ever, portraying and communicating your ethical credentials, which many businesses are very strong at, is a key differentiator.

Again, it comes down to a competitive edge. Which is if you do it and your competitors aren’t doing it, it’s going to give you the edge to hire the best possible people, which will then ultimately take the business forward.

ESG & CSR: Communicate your impactful activity

Jordan: And again, Luke, you’ve inspired me to bring up a particular point which is if this research was carried out ten years ago, would we have seen that same emphasis on ethics?

I don’t know what the answer is. My inclination is to say that ethics has become much more important, and everyone regardless of age, is thinking more about the ethical credentials and the CSR credentials of the people they work with. 

But I think there is sometimes a mistake that’s made. Just because this is a new trend of the last ten years, does not mean that this is only a subject or topic that young people care about. That was one of the results of this research.

We broke down our polling based on age. And across all age ranges, ethics and integrity were important. Actually, conversely to what you might expect, older people found it more important. So the fact that ethics and CSR credentials have become more important over the last ten years, shouldn’t be misread as this only being a millennial issue. Everyone cares about this.

Luke: Also, I think we did a bit of polling two years ago that showed one of the biggest positive influences that the public have on high-net-worth individuals and successful business people is how they treat their staff. And remember, this was polled specifically on not necessarily the company, but the founders of the company.

Again, it comes down to a competitive edge. Showcasing your ethical credentials, but also showcasing how you treat your staff, is an increasingly important issue. Even if you’re doing really good work inside the business, it comes down to having the processes in place to communicate. 

Making sure that when candidate A or candidate B Googles that company or the founder of that company, they can find some information that makes them say ‘Yeah, I’m going to apply for that job. That’s a company that I want to work for.’

Recommendations: Silence is no longer an option

Jordan: So, practical takeaways. If I were to give one bit of advice off the back of this research, what would it be?

It would be: don’t think of CSR activity as company activity. Ensure that your leadership and ownership is active and visible. And ensure that when a candidate or a financial institution searches an executive’s name, they can find not only a track record of their success but also their participation in impactful activity. 

That’s my suggestion. What would your one takeaway or one practical tip be?

Luke: I think if you’re a senior executive, you need to have a strong curated profile — both online and offline. It doesn’t matter what business or industry you’re in. Having a strong reputation and strong narratives that fit around you as an individual is no longer optional. It is now essential if you want to grow your business and progress in the world.

Jordan: Just as we leave, I would add by saying the first step to doing that is ensuring your biography, which captures all your business successes, is online and visible on the company’s website. That’s a key starting point.

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Transmission Private publishes a monthly newsletter that tracks the future of reputation management for private clients.

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Transmission Private publishes a monthly newsletter that tracks the future of reputation management for private clients.