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– By Jim Pytell, Managing Editor, New Jersey Business Magazine –

Branding and image are important prerequisites to having a successful business. At a panel discussion Thursday at the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s 9th Annual Women Business Leaders Forum (WBLF) in Newark, four experts shared their insights on brand building as a way to strengthen both your personal and professional image – ultimately leading to more successes in both areas. 

 In speaking on the foundations of branding, Renee Altomonte, retail market president at TD Bank, said that how you present yourself, particularly with how you dress, is important. 

 “One of the things that I learned early on is to dress for the position that you want, not for the one that you have,” she said. “That doesn’t mean spending thousands of dollars on a suit you are not comfortable in, but dressing for the position that you want with your own style is critical.” 

 At the same time, Altomonte added that in order to reach your true potential, you need to be comfortable being your authentic self. 

 “If you are not being your true self, you are not bringing your full self to a situation,” she said, explaining how her own extroverted personality – which was not always conducive to the position she held – still shined through and became an asset during her banking career, as more customers connected with her. 

 Rosanne DeTorres, Esq., managing partner, and co-founder of DeTorres & DeGeorge Family Law, said that she believes people end up buying from you based on who they think you are.  

 “They want to know why you are doing what you are doing,” she said. “When I go into networking groups and tell people that I am a divorce attorney, that ends up falling pretty flat with people – it is not a conversation starter.” 

 Instead, DeTorres said that she often uses humor to pique people’s interest in what she does. 

 “What I think people end up buying when they hire me is my personality and my ability to align and identify with them,” she said. 

 Panel moderator Donna Miller, chief visionary officer of C3 Workplace, and founder of Donna Miller Business Growth Consulting, added that getting clear on your own personal values is an important foundational piece to building your brand. 

 “People tend to do business with why you do what you do more so than what you do,” Miller said. “Getting clear on values is the foundation for building your ‘why’. My values happen to be faith, impact, and joy. Everything I do and every decision that I make both personally and professionally have to align with my values.”  

Birdia Chambers, founder & CEO of Epic Transformation, and licensed realtor at eXp Realty, echoed similar sentiments when she talked about portraying an image for your brand. 

 She said that some questions to ask yourself when thinking of portraying your image include: What is it you want to represent? What is the mission of your business? Who is your target audience? What value do you provide? Are you an expert in your industry? Are you a thought leader from a professional perspective?  

 “Whether you are thinking about your individual professional brand, or your business, start with who you are,” Chambers said. “What is it that separates you from someone else who may be doing the same thing? You then need to show up and be consistent online and offline.”