Unlocking the secrets of building a personal brand, getting noticed, and getting your business acquired | The UnNoticed Entrepreneur — step into the spotlight.
By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur .
Christian Espinosa is a multiple-time entrepreneur, author, and creator of the book, “ The Smartest Person in the Room .”
In the new episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, he talked about why a personal brand is so important for a serial entrepreneur — and how he’s done it. He further shared some lessons in building a cybersecurity company in the medical devices business, which he successfully sold after only five years of running it.
Do You Need a Personal Brand?
There are a number of reasons why you, as an entrepreneur, need a personal brand. One is if you build up a company and sell it, then its brand goes away. You’re kind of starting over if you don’t already have your personal brand and personal website.
The other reason is forward thinking.
A lot of entrepreneurs have a message or a vision. If you’ve already created a personal brand and want to write a book, you can leverage the contacts you’ve got along your journey. When you’ve already created a following, it will be helpful, especially if you launch a book.
This and all other things will tie in with your journey instead of the company you’ve created or are creating.
But how will an entrepreneur not be distracted from the business they’re building with their personal brand? Christian believes that a business is a reflection of the entrepreneur. If your personal brand is aligned with your business, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Though you may want to go too personal, it’s still a professional image you’re projecting — not the private Facebook page you share with your intimate friends.
When Christian sold his business to a publicly traded company, one of his struggles was there was a lot of scrutiny on things. They would scrutinise his personal brand, and he had to stop doing a lot of personal promotion because they thought it was detracting from the parent company.
Things like that do come up but it’s just a matter of being aware: Are the actions you’re taking with your personal brand helping or hurting your businesses? In his case, though those people scrutinising had a different opinion, he believed it helped the parent company because it aided their marketing and brand exposure.
Why Niche Down?
When Christian started a cybersecurity company called Alpine Security , one of the things he didn’t do well was taking virtually every client. He thought back then that any revenue was good revenue. Basically, he wanted to be something to everyone.
However, he realised that he was commoditising himself. And because he and his company became a commodity, people would only work with them if they lowered their price to a certain point.
He took some time to reflect and decided to niche their focus down to medical device cybersecurity. It’s very specific, and there are not a lot of players in that niche. It’s more of a blue ocean strategy than the red ocean strategy he was following.
Once they niched down and dialed in their messaging, they landed a contract. They were able to leverage that experience. They focused on their website and inbound leads. They focused on that one specific industry, which helped them take that next leap in growth.
The StoryBrand Framework
In the early days of Alpine Security, they offered penetration testing to everybody — to all industries. And that was very broad. When they narrowed it down to medical device manufacturers, Christian used the StoryBrand Framework by Donald Miller for their messaging.
It forces you to understand who your character and customer is and what are the real problems they have (including external, internal, and philosophical problems). This framework positions you as a guide who comes in and helps them solve that problem. You have empathy, authority, and an understanding of the problem; then, you give them a plan and help transform them to make them successful.
If you walk through that framework, it really forces you to think through what it’s like to be in your target audience’s head. The specific individual you’re going to be dealing with is going to make a decision, so think about what they need to hear from you or what you need to do for you to deliver and make them comfortable taking that step forward with you.
This framework is used in many movies, such as Star Wars. Christian’s company would be Yoda and the client would be Luke Skywalker. He has a problem and the company is there to guide him. Still, Luke is the hero of the story — just like how your client is the hero of your story and not you.
A lot of companies like to brag about how great they are, but the framework that Alpine Security uses is the opposite approach. With it, they’re trying to make their clients awesome by being that trusted advisor and giving them the plan and the guide.
This idea of the hero’s journey is becoming really quite significant. But, as he said, you have to niche down.
In college, Christian went to the Air Force Academy in the US, and they took all these classes. They’d always joke around that they’re so well-rounded they have no point. And it’s kind of the same thing in business: You don’t want to be well-rounded.
When he turned his business around and decided to do medical device security, it wasn’t as if a light switch had just flipped on. It was within a year that they gained a lot of traction.
Once they got one big client, they asked for referrals from them (because their industry is small).
They also focused a lot on the website. Once they understood the hero’s journey, the pain points, the requirements, and the problems they’re trying to solve, they were able to write blogs or speak about those.
That resulted in them becoming Google’s top ranker when somebody typed in “medical device cybersecurity.” Personally, Christian is a massive fan of inbound leads, as they’re much more effective than outbound reach.
Knowing the customer’s journey gives you clues on what you could be writing or making videos about. It gives you clarity on the challenges that they’re facing, what they’re trying to get resolved, what their day looks like, how they feel about things, and what would make them feel better.
Beyond Technical Aptitude
Business-to-business (B2B) tech sales are famously fraught: On one side, there are sophisticated products and sophisticated pre-sales consultants and engineers; on the other side, there are clients who, by and large, don’t have the same level of knowledge.
Christian’s book “The Smartest Person in the Room ,” which aims to help people with high intelligence quotient (IQ) overcome low emotional quotient (EQ), aids those in high-tech companies in terms of overcoming such bottlenecks.
In his cybersecurity company, Christian hired people based on their technical aptitude. He thought that was what mattered. When he zoomed out and reflected on the problems he was having in his organisation — problems with clients and internal problems — he realised that most of those were not because of a lack of technical aptitude. Instead, they were because of a lack of people skills.
In his and other high-tech industries, it’s accepted that if you’re super smart with technology, it’s okay that you’re not smart or good with people. And that creates a lot of problems.
At Alpine Security, he worked to solve that by implementing weekly training. He had people come in and talk about communication: How to have crucial conversations, emotional intelligence, and neurolinguistic programming.
They went over many different tactics and techniques because they wanted to solve the company’s problem, which is about clients who they’d get for a one-time project but won’t sign on for an annual contract. The clients were happy because Alpine was able to deliver, technically speaking. However, they weren’t wowed by their experience with the organisation.
Once Christian implemented all the training, his team became better at communicating with clients. Many of their clients then became annual rather than one-time because they enjoyed working with them more.
On Implementing Core Values
To make that knowledge part of their organisational culture instead of just a one-off thing, Christian implemented his core values. It’s because he also realised that most of the problems he had in the company were due to the lack of core value alignment.
He used to think core values were just taglines big companies put on the wall.
However, as he did a lot of reflection (as an entrepreneur, it’s important to zoom out of the scenario and look at the force, look at where you’re going, and look at what the obstacles are), it dawned on him that their problem wasn’t just the people’s lack of people skills. It was also because he himself found it frustrating when people didn’t do certain things — and those certain things were the things that he values.
He wasn’t making hiring decisions based on a good cultural fit or alignment with his core values. He was just making them based on whether that person checks all the boxes technically.
When he made that shift, started hiring people based on core value alignment, and enforced that culture in the organisation, things started to get better.
Nonetheless, note that this isn’t something that organically happens. As a leader, you must enforce it.
For instance, one of his core values is to listen carefully and respond clearly.
If he has a salesperson who’s not listening to the client and the problem they’re saying, they’re out of line with that core value. After that call with the client, somebody (typically him), will tell the salesperson about how they’re not following their core values and how they’re probably going to lose that sale as a result.
Another core value is “own the problem, find the solution.” And they use it when hiring.
They would ask an applicant to describe a scenario where they ran into a problem and how they handled it, and see how they responded. They’d leave it open. If the applicant didn’t show any ownership of the problem — if they only pointed externally to the solution — then that person isn’t a good fit. Or, they’d have to ask a follow-up question for more clarity.
To impart these core values to clients, they share these core values on their website. The company’s staff carries those themselves. They also come across their reports and meetings. Core values should be part of everything in the organisation.
And, for him, it should be obvious in the interactions with the company that they value these certain things. Otherwise, if people can’t see or feel that, it means it’s not being implemented properly.
On Getting Alpine Security Acquired
Christian managed to get the company acquired. But when he started the company, he was one of those “ready, fire, aim” people. He simply took steps and started doing things but didn’t have a great plan.
Years before he sold the company, he hired a consultant to do a one-page strategic plan for Alpine Security. It regimented the goals, the messaging, the sandbox they wanted to play in, and their key performance indicators.
Though it’s not clear to him if it’s because of that or how they showed up and how they were organised as an organisation, people started reaching out to look to buy the company within about a year after they got organised.
At that point, he wasn’t sure what to do or if he wanted to sell the company.
That was December 2020. He has gone through COVID and had to lay off some people. He started entertaining the offers to understand what people were looking for. He simply wanted to talk to them — just like doing an interview.
When the offer came in from CISO Global , he felt it was a good one. It was a stock offer (not a big cash upfront), but it allowed him to join a company that was going public and to go through that experience as well.
He also knew the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) through some other people, and it just seemed to align appropriately.
Your Messaging Can Get You Noticed
In terms of getting noticed, Christian advises focusing on your messaging.
There are other frameworks out there but the one he used was the StoryBrand Framework. It forces you to understand your client and their problems, how to have empathy for the problems, how to establish yourself with authority, what success looks like for them, what failure looks like for them — and how you can provide the bridge to get there as a guide — all whilst they remain the hero of the story.
For him, dialing in the messaging was the most important thing he did that helped get him that business.
To find out more about him, visit www.christianespinosa.com . He’s also on and other social media platforms. You can check out his book on and .
The UnNoticed Entrepreneur podcast is sponsored by Prowly, the all-in-one software for leveraging PR activities. Boost the media relations game for your business — get more coverage while saving time and money on everyday tasks.
This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.