Merge Gupta-Sunderji Career Presentation

Five ways for CPAs to build a kick-ass personal brand

Want to build a kick-ass personal brand? Get real, says Canadian Accountant columnist Merge Gupta-Sunderji, CPA, CGA

Author: Merge Gupta-Sunderji

Personal branding is all the rage nowadays. Everywhere you look or listen, pundits preach about cultivating a personal brand, nurturing and growing it. But should you really care? Or is it a fad, just another Beanie Baby, Garbage Pail kid, or the Macarena, destined to lose its lustre and slowly fade out of existence?  

The unequivocal answer is no, it is not a passing fad, and yes, you should build your personal brand. Sure, over time the phrase “personal brand” might morph into another business buzzword, but the essential concept will continue to matter. 

Your personal brand is how others see you. If you want to grow your business, obtain a better job, get noticed by your peers, take your career to the next level, or meet high-quality professional colleagues, the impression others have of you will have a huge impact on your success. 

But how do you build your “best” personal brand? How do you build a brand that “kicks ass”? And just what does “kick-ass branding” mean? Think of the last time that something or someone made you step back in wonder and appreciation. A kick-ass car. Kick-ass customer service. A leader who “kicks ass.” You were amazed and impressed. You wanted to tell everyone about it. You wanted to own it, follow it or be just like it. 

Ready to kick some ass? Then follow these five steps. 

1. Get real.

You can’t “create” a kick-ass brand. You can only uncover and accentuate what is already there. If you think personal branding is about manufacturing an image, you will quickly fail.  

Your brand has to be authentic; it has to be what is genuine, real and unique about you.  Anyway, it takes an immense amount of work to maintain a sham persona and (some) people can spot a phony a mile away. 

So, for example, if you’re inclined to be sarcastic (and occasionally snarky) in real life, then don’t try to develop a brand that says you’re gentle and empathetic. Instead, embrace who you are and find a way to celebrate it.  Brands are revealed, not fabricated. 

2. Lose the split personality.

Stop thinking about yourself as having separate professional and private lives. A personal brand is about the whole you and the various parts need to harmonize and resonate as one. 

Besides, in today’s digital world, it’s not like your private life is that much of a secret anyway.  Now, I’m not saying it’s impossible to keep aspects of your life confidential, but I am saying that it takes a whole lot of work to keep the personal private … so why expend that energy?  

Recognize that people want to know you as a real person in all aspects of your life and that includes your strengths as well as your flaws and idiosyncrasies. Your imperfections make you human and because that goes back to being authentic, it actually amplifies your brand. 

3. Manage your digital footprint.

Speaking of the digital world, you’ve heard it before: Be thoughtful about what you post online.  

Update your LinkedIn profile regularly and make sure you upload a professional-looking photo of yourself. Please, no selfies from your iPhone!  Routinely Google your name and audit what the entire world sees about you.. Build your digital presence by sharing information online but be purposeful about what you put out there. Before you post, ask yourself, is this really what I want to be known for? 

4. Develop a reputation.

Your overriding objective should be to be recognized as someone who has credibility and integrity. And a foolproof way to accomplish this is by being known as an expert in something. 

So work at developing an expertise – it doesn’t matter whether it’s tax accounting, strategic leadership, powerful networking, or something else – and take action to be known for it. Share your knowledge freely but without being arrogant.  Speak up when asked for advice. Step up to volunteer in roles that will showcase you and your expertise. 

5. Stay open to trusted feedback.

Your personal brand is fluid, constantly changing and growing. In order to keep it moving in the right direction, always be open to learning more about yourself.  

Seek out mentors to help you foster a strong, positive personal brand. A good mentor will tell you what they think of you, and give you the low-down on your strengths and your weaknesses. And what your mentors tell you will give you solid insight into what others think of you. 

Trusted information gives you the power to choose to make positive changes. Sure, sometimes what you hear may be a tough pill to swallow but suck it down with a gulp of water, because chances are it’s exactly what you need to hear. 

Merge Gupta-Sunderji CPA, CGA (@mergespeaks) is a leadership and workplace communication expert who turns managers into leaders, drawing upon her over 17 years of first-hand experience as a leader in corporate Canada. Reach her or join the conversations on her blog at

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