Ash Borland Interview | Personal Branding Coach

On the MLC Show for Property Professionals we had the privilege of interviewing Ash Borland – Personal Branding Coach, Speaker, and Podcast host.

You can learn more about Ash Borland and the FREE resources and training available by clicking on the link here.

Ash was previously a mortgage broker so he knows the sector inside out. Ash originally was a performer and has high expertise in 1:1 interactions, media content, branding, and building your online and offline reputation.

Ash understands the financial services sector and combines this with his digital marketing skills.

Ash offers an in-depth online personal branding programme.

The “Personal Branding Mastery” programme has been carefully designed to give you all the knowledge, tools, and processes required to understand, plan, implement and refine your own personal branding for your business so that you can not only survive but thrive online.

Ash offers online courses you can progress in your own time or you can request 1:1 coaching with Ash directly.

We interviewed Ash in late 2020.

Scroll down to read the transcript of the interview, or you can listen via our podcast, or watch the interview via our YouTube channel.

Click on the buttons below to listen to the interview on our podcast or watch via YouTube

Ash Borland Interview

Could you tell us a bit about your background and the journey from performing arts to becoming a personal brand expert, speaker, and podcast host?

I started off in performing arts so musical theatre, did not know I could dance sing, or act and about 15 years old turned out I could. I got a scholarship, and that is where my personal brand journey started because I started to learn, when you walk into a room full of people, how do you own that room?

How can you make sure that you stand out over 50 other people, and unintentionally I started to learn things, obviously combining things like NLP and stuff like that. I started to realize that if you exude some form of being, not be afraid to stand out from the crowd, people start to notice you. So, at the time I used to wear cowboy boots I had very, very long hair, I was just completely over the top, and it kind of taught me to embrace that kind of individuality.

Fast forward on, something many people do not know is I left performing arts as I had a bit of a mental breakdown, couldn’t deal with it and went into a property, estate agency and then became a mortgage advisor, which is how I ended up talking with you guys originally.

Then set up my own mortgage business and started marketing myself as a kind of video mortgage advisor. Gary Das, became a friend of mine. It was only really me and Gary at the time we were doing videos. It was a long time ago now. It feels like a long time ago anyway.

Over the course of maybe three years all of this training that I’d had and all of this stuff from performing arts that I just kind of locked away and hadn’t really thought about it, started to come back with vengeance.  It was one of these moments where I remember sitting down and going, “Well, why am I not doing this as my job? ” It’s what I’m qualified in. “It’s what I know.” I hated being a mortgage advisor because I am dyslexic, and I’m creative so it got to the point in my mortgage business where truthfully I’d be spending 95% of my time making videos and getting leads from it and then not being able to service those leads because I didn’t want to, and because I’d rather be making content.

The natural progression was that people started to reach out to me. From there, pre-COVID was where I made the decision to go all in, shut the business down, go all in on branding, and that was the best decision I have ever made in my life.

So many clients I have worked with, so many incredible people I’ve met, and it was the best thing I’ve ever done. The podcast launched, it is blown up, I’ve started doing TikTok now, that’s doing really well. I was not built to be a mortgage advisor, sadly.

When people say personal branding, what do they mean? I know that is quite subjective but what’s your own definition of personal branding, particularly for property professionals, mortgage brokers, and so forth?

So, when people say personal branding, 95% of the time people do not know what they mean. The problem with personal branding the term as I have gone very deep into this is, it’s become a bit of a coined word used by loads of people for loads of different reasons. And yet photographers talk about it, digital marketers talk about it, all these different people talk about it in different capacities, and they use it to prop up what they do. But when you actually look at personal branding as a complete entity by itself, in my opinion, the way I have seen it and the way my method has been built around it, you have to make the intangible tangible.

So, saying things like being authentic and that is great, but how do you do that? So, for me, I look at it as reputation management. I know that people talk about reputation management being like PR and stuff, and it is a bit like that.

The idea of a personal brand is what comes to someone’s mind when they think of you, that is it. You can have a lot more control of that than you realize and once you start to control that and you push the narrative in a focused way by hitting a brand ecosystem, which is five key areas, if you hit all five key areas with a consistent message and a consistent feel,  you will start to reprogram people’s minds. This is where for mortgage brokers and people in the financial world, it needs to be the personal brand.

A good personal brand is the first time I think of a mortgage, I think of you. That is how you’re trying to create this link.  Like a cognitive bias, that as soon as I go, I need a mortgage, I am going to go speak to John.

And you can do that, it is very simple, I mean, when I say simple, one of the questions I think we want to talk about is how long it takes, but I think it’s doable if you apply the right amount of effort and you don’t muddy the waters with other things.

Nobody cares about what food I have got; nobody cares about my family and nobody cares about my dog, but what they might, care about is what I want them to know me for which is personal branding.

So, if you ever look at my social media, I do not post anything really, other than what I want you to know me for. I do not want you to read my quote, read my blogs, watch my videos, even listen to this, I don’t care. You have seen me. You have seen my face and it says personal branding across the top and means that it has done its job. That is what personal branding is to me. It is just reprogramming people to know you for that one specific thing.

2020 has obviously been crazy for everyone, particularly in the property sector, and with mortgage brokers, networking, traditional networking methods, they have almost bit the dust this year and there’ll be a lot of people that would say, that was going to come anyway this decade potentially, with the way that everything’s going digital and maybe that’s accelerated a little.

There is always going to be a place for proper face-to-face networking and meeting up, but it can waste a lot of time, commuting to an event, parking, not knowing if you are going to connect with the right people.

How can property professionals continue to network in a different way during the lockdowns and how could they form new habits for the future?

– I think you are right to touch on what you said at the beginning, just then about how has it sped up what was coming? I think this was coming, you are right, it was always coming, it has sped it up. But what I noticed with this and I love it it is my favourite quote, it is really powerful … it’s an Eric Hoffer quote and it says, “In a world of change the learners shall inherit the earth, whereas the learned will be perfectly equipped for the world that no longer exists.”

And I think to me it is just so pointed with what is going on right now, that for years people laughed at what I did because they were like, why, I do not need that. Face-to-face, it is fine and I am a big advocate of face-to-face. Never underestimate the power of face-to-face, I am terrible at selling over the phone. So face-to-face is the end of the funnel for me, that is the idea, it is the end of the funnel.

But when you remove that face-to-face referral system how many businesses suffered?

Tons, I know they did because that is where my business thrived because people reached out. What I would say is to master that you need to have a better online presence. You know this is visibility over ability. It does not matter if you are the best agent, you’re the best property investor, you’re the best mortgage broker in your town, when I remove the hustle and bustle and mixing and networking groups and all that stuff out of the equation.

John Smith who set out three weeks ago, but makes a video every day, is now the best. And that is quite scary, but it is also something I discovered quickly. Truthfully, I was a terrible mortgage advisor. I say that all the time, I was terrible, I did not know what I was doing, no one really does but I mean, I did not really know.

But I was the guy that everyone came to, and that was because I figured this out quite quickly and anyone could do this. What I have noticed with someone is if you want someone to listen to this and you are like an old school mortgage broker who has got the knowledge, really got the knowledge, and knows what they’re doing, you guys are even better because all my clients who have the ability means when we apply the visibility to it they blow up.

The authority is already there we just have to get it out there. Truthfully, the methods can still work if you are new and you are starting out which was me. You are new and you are starting out and you can try and kind of peacock it and do that type of thing. But if you have got the ability, if you’ve been there for 25 years, if you adopt a new method which is genuinely communicating through Facebook, LinkedIn, it works and it all depends on what you’re after.

If you are looking for national coverage and reach you need to be on LinkedIn. So, if you are a broker and you’re trying to reach investors get on LinkedIn, stop thinking it’s just a networking platform, it’s not, it’s a sales platform.

If you want to be the local guy, and I have got clients who do different things, if you want to be the local guy, then you need to really look at Facebook. Facebook is a local community, but do not think that you’re going to be on Facebook and you’re going to get referrals from London if you’re up North because it doesn’t work that way. It is local versus national.

So, understanding those things and what you want from them are vital but do get online, start making content, make video content no matter how uncomfortable you feel, people need to feel like they see you.

Say you’re reading this, or say you’re coming across this clip-on social media or whatever, and you think, “Sounds a great idea. Do I see the benefits of having a personal brand, whether that be offline or online?

I think 99% of people would say undoubtedly, “Yes.”

But the next thing is where are we going to find the time between wanting to earn a billion pounds a year, trying to see my family, trying to see my friends, look after wherever I live, deal with all the bills, deal with the work, do sales, continue to get more leads and service my existing clients, and then try and exercise and then try and eat well and then do the shopping etc….

If I am looking at that I am saying A, where do I start, and B, where am I finding the time for that?

Okay, I will give you two answers to this one.

So, the first answer, this is when I say I will give two to you, and then I just ramble on and we only have one. So, I will try and give you two.

So, the first one is where do you start?

Truthfully, we all start at ground zero. For me, even with me being a performer it was six years since I had done any performing, so I had forgotten, and I just misidentified that I didn’t realize I was a performer. It was only when I started doing it that I was like, “Oh, I know this.” I just stuck a camera up against the jar on my kitchen table and filmed a video. It is one of those, start now and get perfect later. As an example, one of my clients is an amazing broker. I said to him, I kind of had to interview him but it wasn’t for the podcast, we were just chatting with him for a live and said, “Why did you start?” And he said, “Because I want my business to be relevant.” And he said, “And I owe it to myself, that I want to feed my kids and feed my family, and if I do make content that’s going to have more of an impact than if I don’t make it, it has more impact than me, carving out some time to do it.”

So, I think the first thing is getting over that hurdle of, I do not need it, people are going to laugh.

The thing with that is people do not care, most people aren’t going to watch, which sounds really like urrghh, but the truth is they’re not going to watch and understanding that the content is actually for brand touchpoints, so you’re just trying to appear in their feed.

The old school estate agents where you post letters through people’s doors – well it is the exact same thing! You post letters through people’s doors and they throw it in the bin, and they throw it in the bin 85 times then on the 86th time, they are like, “Oh yeah, I really need that window salesman guy.”

That is exactly what’s happening on social media, nothing’s changed, it’s just the way in which we consume it.

Now, finding the time is the biggest one. I stress when I am working with clients, align your expectations with your input.

So, this is something that I get all the time. Do not watch me, I produce content at a stupid scale. I use TikTok, I will do anywhere from 10 to 20 TikToks a day, I have three YouTube videos coming out a week, I have a podcast, I post four times a day on our LinkedIn and Facebook, it’s what I do.

Now my expectations match my input. I want to be the number one in personal branding in two decades, which means I cannot do that by posting once a week and hoping it’s going to happen.

Now, the other side of the spectrum though is what do you want from it?

So, if you are someone who is like, “I want to be the best, number one broker in my area.” Okay, three times a week, commit that time, commit. And three times a week that can take you two hours a week.

Now truthfully, how badly do you want it? We make time for the things we want, that is it, as simple as that. I was really into fitness; I do not really work out anymore and it is my fault because I don’t make time for it. I think that is the hardest bit.

Now you do not need to do stupid amounts of content, but you get what you put in. That is where if you want to dominate your market, the best advice my wife gave me was when she said, “Make every single day a piece of content, every single day, and not one little minute, but a proper piece of content,” she said, “and drown them in it. If you drown them in it in eight weeks, you’ll be seven years ahead of your competitors.”

And I was like, “No,” and it worked. That is why I said, “If you want to be the guy in your town, “make your competitors, think “there’s no way I’m even going near you.”

Dedicate the time or on the flip side of it, post three times a week, one minute, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, you know name a tip, some advice, some dictionary posts, whatever. Make it work for your business but do not expect crazy results from minimum input. But also, the more input you put in you will get crazy results. All will yield results, but just get the expectations aligned with the input I think is a big problem I see on a reoccurring issue.

I do not know what your thoughts would be on this, but if you take the view I want to provide extreme value to my community and not expect anything in return.

– That’s it.

But in the back of my mind, if I do that long enough I will get stuff landing in my lap, but I’m just going to proceed with this from the point of view of I must do it and I’m doing it to provide that kind of value and I’m going to lock in time that works for me in terms of discipline whether that be first thing in the morning before the world wakes up, and I think a lot of this is actually stuff that used to be offline which you can do online. I do not think people quite figured that out. It is like you said, about reputation management, the old school thing of going to all the school fairs and going to BNI, going to the Chamber to Commerce, going to that town hall event, or whatever it be is pretty much no different in a way. Certainly, now if I were a mortgage broker or an estate agent I would be getting behind local businesses, with the pandemic, the crisis of shops being able to open, not open, people going online with the sales, which obviously local businesses can still do. I think getting beyond the local businesses in your community, you are going to be helping them and adding a lot of value. You are not just selling, selling, selling, selling. You are actually just trying to be a good person in the community. And there is no doubt that a by-product from that in time there’ll be a lot of businesses in the community that A) support you online but also B) because of good human decency, you will then get them no doubt interacting with you and engaging with any of the content you put out later.

100% I mean, people do not really talk about this first. In fact, it is the first moment we’ve spoken about it.

When I did this and then set this business up, I re-mortgaged my house which obviously seemed a bit silly at the time but very good now as it worked. I re-mortgaged my house and I said, “I want to be a content creator. “I’m trained in this space. I’ve wanted to do it, and I have no idea what’s going to come from it.”

And I have never once actually sold. Never once on an outreach. Never once and because the truth is the clients that I come to, and I have worked with over 50 clients in six months. I have not once gone, “Would you like to buy my program?” because I didn’t intend to do it.

It was just like, I have got enough money, I can do a year where I can really have a go at something that I love and take a crack at it because I’d watched and heard the YouTubers and you see people go for it.

The expectation of not expecting anything in return but giving them as much value as I could absolutely set me on a path to things I did not think was possible.

I think that is possible with anybody and you are so right with you saying things about networking and BNI. It is just the same. Like I went to a 4M meeting and they were like, the high street is dead. I was like, “The high street isn’t dead. The high street is online, but it’s not dead.”

The independent, small businesses are thriving more than they have ever thrived before, but it goes back to the quote, you have to evolve but apply the same stuff.

One of my clients is an estate agent, a letting agent she is the number one. She has been the number one in that town for years, 20 odd years. She is thriving now with what we are doing because she was like, “Oh, it’s the same thing.” I was like, yeah, it is the exact same thing. You just apply it to a new medium.

That’s where I think a lot of those meetings like that BNI, not hating on them, I went to them for a year and I found them a massive waste of my time because for two hours I was sat in a room full of people that I knew but they say you work through the room but in two hours I could reach out to 300/400 people on LinkedIn, connecting with them, talking to them on DMs. I can go live, I could create a YouTube video, there is so much more of my time I could use in that two hours that would reach more people than the BNI stuff. I think we need to really just evaluate our time a little bit.

Definitely. I think the biggest challenge with things like that is travel as well. If you are looking to get the most out of your day when you review travel and parking then you start to add up the minutes and the seconds, you start looking at whether there are more time-efficient ways of doing the same thing for, if not better results then at least the same.

30 minutes, either side to get there in two hours. So, it is being like three hours. I am telling you right now, if you do three hours a week on your content, you’ll be number one in your town. I promise you.

Well on that subject, the property market, many would say it is a bit of a bubble. Most property professionals, estate agents mortgage brokers, and the like, have got a really healthy book of current business right now, they’ve got loads of work in progress. They could easily be looking at this work as the last thing I need right now. I am turning off taps left right and center. But with a potential recession around the corner, I think winter is coming and in more ways than one metaphorically speaking. You can see stricter lending criteria. Definitely, I suspect private-sector job losses later in 2021. I imagine that a lot of lenders would just be nervous anyway because it is all good looking at the payslips or how established the business is but potentially many will be at risk.

How do property professionals go about protecting themselves against a bubble burst when right now they have tons of work?

In the property industry, I would not want to be in your guys’ shoes right now. I think that from someone who has been in it for six years and I love the property industry like I do I just couldn’t help it in my own way. It is tough, and I think if you make hay while the sun shines, by investing in this when it is going well.

I think it is not a matter of if but a matter of when. What I noticed was during the first lockdown, all the people who had built a brand and I know, that’s like plugging my stuff but people who built a community, who built something more than just a transactional business, they kept going because people wanted and were willing to hear from them.

I have got multiple friends who’ve been doing videos for a long, long time and creating a decent business from mortgages and through that they did all right, they survived.

I think that is the game right now is thrive right now but also think about what you are building that’s going to keep rolling forward. You know, things like podcasts, things like YouTube channels, that when you are not mega busy can you be stocking up ready?

You know I am recorded up to March for my podcast now like I’m so recorded up because I’m making hay while the sun shines. And I think it is the exact same thing. If you take your eye off the ball, when it is busy, though you’re probably going to have a harsh wake-up call, because I did you know.

I think that is why I would say you need to build brand now. And also, if you are so busy right now, which I know it is like that, you know, it’s mega busy. The new-build sector is ridiculous. One of my clients is a new build broker and it is just mad. The volume in which people are coming because it has been a pent-up demand, but this is your chance to build reputation.

So, if you are not shouting about this and making videos about this while you have got a captive audience that is where I think people miss out. I did this… I did this.

When I was younger I had a bit of a following for a career, like a job I did, and I had this maybe six months where I was I had lots of eyes on me. Looking back at it now, I just did nothing with it. And then it was like, now I want eyes on me and to get that attention’s hard. I would say, if you’re dealing with 20/30 clients a week and you’ve got a serious number of clients then funnel them to your YouTube, funnel into your podcast.

Start trying to build a community now because that will weather you through winter. And I think Winter is coming and it is funny because I said it to my wife yesterday. I am not a big “Game of Thrones” fan because I never really watched it because I am tight, and I wouldn’t pay for bloody Sky! But winter is coming in more ways than one, I think you are right. The lockdown is going to impact on jobs and everything that is coming into an industry that is directly affected by how the lenders perceive it as a risk or not is a bit worrying.

Mortgage brokers are often accused of treating their clients as one-off sales whether that is fair or not. What would your advice be to mortgage brokers to increase the word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business?

They will watch your content for education or entertainment. Nobody cares and I say nobody cares about it as it is not exciting. It is not exciting. Property is. Property is very exciting. People love to watch it, they love to see in people’s houses, they are drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

You start talking about mortgages and they literally switch off. It is a need, not a want. The problem with that is you can come up and make a podcast around mortgages. You can make anything, and no one is going to care, and this was the really hard thing for me, I was making YouTube videos, no one cares. You have to become more than that.

You have to add value in a different way that supports your community. So, you said something about local businesses and our agents. For mortgage advisors, estate agents that is how you do it.

You create groups, support groups, that help the local community. You become a name within your local community. Funnily enough, how I did it and it is why I am here today, I was very good at making video content.

So, I made a group on Facebook called Camera Shy Creative and I made content about how can business owners make videos?

I received loads of referrals because it is a skill set that then helped me help other people that then, in turn, wanted to help me back, which then increases reciprocity because that is a case of “Ash has helped me so I should really refer when that guy says get us a mortgage”, Ash has helped me I’ll go and help Ash.

Whereas if I am like mortgage tips, there is too much of it, everyone’s doing it, and nobody watches it. Unless they need it, so YouTube is a bit different.

But right now, I would say if you are trying to really get referrals you need to become a valid member of the community. Think of it like the elder’s council. You have got to be someone who is like THE guy or THE girl.

A good friend of mine called Thomas Honor is killing it on Facebook with this type of stuff as a broker and that is because he is part of his community. So, to be part of his community people are interested.

One of my clients is a guy called Mark Finch and Mark has a group called the New Build Help Group. And the group is just rocketing like we are getting anywhere from 50 to 100 people joining a day. We are about 3000 members now. The guy never once talked about mortgages he is just talking about the new build process because that is what he understands, and people want that.

So how can you add value in a way that is evergreen, and people are interested in instead of directly focusing on transactional sales. If you focus on transactional sales you might get some business, but I do not think you are going to be maximizing your potential.

A lot of people are doing long hours right now a lot of stress, bashing their head against a wall with people further down the chain delaying things and bloody lawyers and clients, and post and whatever else going on. It is really stressful in life right now, a lot of people’s families are suffering. What would your tips be for people in terms of looking out for their mental health, whether it is a protection measure their feeling okay now, but it is something, maybe they’ve been a bit complacent about or maybe pain has started to become suffering at this stage. What would your tips be?

I think it is what I normally say when I do public speaking because it is very, very close to my heart as mental health I don’t think it’s spoken about enough. I can only really talk from my own experience, I am not a professional in it.

So, I suffered very badly from mental health, always have done. I would say that for anyone being aware of it was a big, big thing. I did not want to admit that I had it and I just blamed it on other things. As soon as I took ownership of it, and then realized for me it could be inside of my control. Then I am the person who is responsible for my happiness.

For me being self-employed was the only option because I had to be in complete control and that is something that, and everyone is different, for me was the way it worked was I had to remove any external factors that could put me under anxiety, under stress.

With a mortgage that is why I went self-employed as a mortgage advisor it was like if the client does not choose me, they did not like me, cool. I can deal with that, that is me to deal with. But if they did not choose you because they did not like the company or the brand that would set my anxiety off and spiral me off to something else.

So, I would say that bear in mind, be mindful of the signs. I am very bad for overworking and thinking I am strong enough to do it, and I am not. And nobody is, I do not know anyone even like Gary Vaynerchuk, who is like THE man said when he went into lockdown, he did not realize how burnt out tired and how it all fried his brain and he actually went off social media for a week. He has never done that.

I think we can keep compounding that on top, listen to yourself, listen to your mind.

Also, the biggest thing that I did was stop working with clients that cause that. So, you know if you have got a client who is a pain in the ass, sack them off, they are not worth the money, no matter how bad you want it there’ll be another client who loves what you do and believes in what you do. And that is what my hardest thing. I do not have time for it.

That is what I would say for anyone. But do not be afraid if the client’s a nightmare get rid of them and move on. They are not worth it. Do not spend that time on that because that will, it will inevitably feed into your life. Oh, it is just money and I will deal with it. It is not just money. It is going to be eroding your mental health. So, I would say that if you are feeling overworked now, establish what you need not what you want.

I am a big advocate of this. Of understanding what, like for me not my wants, but my needs. How much do I need to live right now? You know, I count my blessings. We are in a pandemic and awful things are happening and I still have a roof over my head. So okay, everything is great. And then I move forward every day I get to do something I love to do. I do not even have bad clients because I weed them out.

I would make sure that you put your environment and put yourself in a place ready for success. If you keep saying yes to idiots, if you keep saying yes to people who do not value your service, all of that stuff, then you’re setting yourself up with mental health and its very tough right now with what’s going on.

You are already going to have it from the lenders you are going to have it from the criteria. So, you are going to want a client, to make it more contextually relevant, but you are going to want a client who understands that they trust you, they like you, they have a lot of passion for what you do, instead of someone who’s just bouncing around and talking to different brokers. You are just going to feel stressed and burnt out, and you are going to have a breakdown.

I echo everything that Ash has said and obviously, if the pain has started to become suffering please go and get the help that you need and there’s a ton of resources free online as well. You could always reach out to us or Ash anyway. We could even help you on that non-professional personal level anyway.

The one thing I would say, I am just thinking brokers only because I just know what that feeling is. If you are unable to place that case because of criteria do not take it out on yourself.

I think that is something that we are going to see. I am seeing that within my friends who are brokers is they feel that they have failed. And that is only going to compound and get worse as the times get tighter and it is not, you know, the client might not understand but you just have to try to leave that at the door because I’ve got lots of friends who I speak to on a weekly basis who are like, “This is so hard.” And there is only so much, you know a body can only take so much pressure before it breaks, just like a bone, everything will break over time.

You cannot hold those things in. And I think it is going to be tough, winter is coming, you’re very right. So, you have just got to like you say reach out and I would very much say get in communities of brokers. There are great groups out there. You guys have got an amazing thing going on. It is this surrounding yourself with people who get what you do, that’s very important.