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Why Building Your Personal Brand is Important

Updated: Dec 26, 2021

Did you know that you are the CEO of your personal brand? In today's episode, we are jumping into why personal branding matters regardless of your career path, and why it's important for each of us to invest in it.

Our special guest, and VIP client of AWC, is Nancy Surak, a Senior Advisor and Managing Broker for Land Advisors Organization’s Tampa Bay office. After wanting to level up her personal brand for over 10 years, she made the decision last fall to go "all in". She hired Allison as her personal brand coach, and she shares her journey with us on the show today!

She's a total rock star at what she does and now she's got a beautiful, very visible, personal brand that allows her to shine even brighter, attract new opportunities and clients, and position herself as the expert she is in media and through speaking engagements.

Tune in to hear Nancy's story, why she thinks it's important for everyone to take their personal brand strategy seriously, and lessons she learned going through this process with Allison.

Connect with Nancy:

Nancy's book recommendation:

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2022 Goal Setting Masterclass:

Greetabl: (Use code ALLISONW15 at checkout)

About Nancy:

Nancy Surak is a Senior Advisor and Managing Broker for Land Advisors Organization’s Tampa Bay office. She has more than 20 years of experience in commercial real estate, specializing in land brokerage since 2005 and earning recognition by Land Advisors Organization as a top producer since joining the firm in 2015.

Nancy is known for her expertise in transactional negotiations and marketing. Her in-depth understanding of the Tampa Bay land market and the objectives of the parties involved in the deals she is working with allow her to secure the best terms for her clients while ensuring the purchasers also value and trust her input. One of the important tools that Nancy has at her disposal is Land Advisors Organization’s proprietary technology, which maps growth trends, area transactions and land development. Combined with her knowledge of the market, technical understanding of transactions and communication skills, she stands apart from others in the Tampa Bay CRE sphere and has established herself as a trusted advisor, which has allowed her to successfully negotiate and close on many of the most significant land deals in the area.

Nancy has become one of the most trusted land advisors in Florida thanks to her ability to not only anticipate and navigate complex transactions, but importantly, her ability to maintain the confidentiality of a deal as the parties are working it. Where many brokers may want to brag about being involved with a major deal, Nancy keeps it ‘close to the vest’ to protect the parties involved and give them the time required to work through the details and terms by keeping it confidential – she is keen on protecting her clients and the integrity of the deal first, rather than seeking notoriety for her involvement in high-profile transactions.


Loved the episode? Check out the transcript here:

Nancy (00:00):

It's really about my message. And as long as I'm conveying the proper message, everything else doesn't matter. Because ultimately we all have a personal brand and if we are not cultivating that message and we're not cultivating those images, we're leaving it up to our audience to do it for us. We're allowing them to say, here's who you are instead of us saying, here's who I am.

Allison (00:30):

Hello there and welcome to the She Believed She Could podcast. I'm your host, Allison Walsh. I am so glad you're here. I'm a corporate exec, entrepreneur, coach and mom of three, who is obsessed with all things related to mindset, goal setting, and leveling up your personal brand. So you can go after opportunities that you never even thought possible. I live by the philosophy that the whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be. And I created this podcast to motivate and inspire you and give you actionable tips and advice for you to use as you chase and accomplish your goals. I've also had the chance to build an incredible network of successful leaders, entrepreneurs, impact makers, and world changers, who will also be sharing knowledge and words of wisdom with you. Remember, no dream is too big if it's matched with ambition and action. Most importantly, I believe in you one, 1000%, and my goal is that you do too.

So sit back, relax and grab your favorite note taking device, because it's time to fill up your mind and soul with positive vibes and advice to help you achieve your dreams. Now let's get to work. I am so excited to introduce you to today's guest. She is a dear friend of mine and a client, and I cannot wait for her to share her story with you. She is phenomenal. So I'm going to introduce to you now, Nancy Surak. She is a senior advisor and managing broker for Land Advisors Organization in Tampa Bay. She's got more than 20 years of experience in commercial real estate, specializing in land brokerage since 2005, and earning recognition by Land Advisors Organization as a top producer since joining the firm in 2015.

Now she is widely decorated when it comes to all of the accomplishments and awards that she has earned over the years. She was named the top woman land broker in the nation by Realtors Land Institute for 2020 sales volume. And she is consistently ranked among the top commercial real estate brokers in the Tampa Bay area year after year. The list of awards go on and on, but I'm going to let Nancy tell you her story and why she decided that it was time for her to finally invest in her personal brand, which was something that she wanted to do for many, many, many, many, many years. And she did it and it was... It's an amazing story and that's exactly why I wanted her to be on the show today. So please welcome to the show, Nancy Surak. Nancy. I'm so excited that you're on the show today. Would you mind introducing yourself to the audience.

Nancy (02:49):

Sure. My name is Nancy Surak and I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. After I earned my bachelor's degree in International Trade and Finance from LSU, I moved to Gainesville to pursue my masters in Mass Communication at the University of Florida. And then I worked for about 12 years in corporate America and then found myself on the west coast of Florida working for an engineering company that was female owned, doing their outbound sales. It was a phenomenal job. And what many young mothers would say, was the perfect job. I had managed to get my boss to give me part-time hours, full-time pay, a company car and I could really be everything I wanted to be for my children. It was fantastic. Only I was not fulfilled. And so mid thirties here I am saying, is this it? Is this the rest of my life?

Is this my career? And I kept coming up with no, no it wasn't. And so I did a lot of soul searching and trying to figure out where I really wanted to go in my career and what I really wanted to be when I grew up. Through that work, I discovered a lot about my childhood and how I was always that kid playing, that little girl playing in the backyard with her Barbie and the Tonka truck and building things in the dirt. And so I spoke with my parents and my husband, and what I was coming up with was I wanted to be in commercial real estate. And as ironic as it was, my dad had told me in my late teenage years that I would be a great commercial real estate broker. And at the time, when you're 17, 18, 19 years old, I was like, what do you know?

And here I was in my mid thirties, going back to him saying, I'm going to go and get my real estate license. And I'm going to focus on commercial real estate. And if that's not a challenge enough, I'm going to focus even further on vacant land that's heading towards development. My dad was ecstatic. My husband was probably, I think, certainly, not even probably, certainly way more nervous because I sat him down and said, I want to do this. It's a hundred percent commission. I don't know how long it's going to take me to make a single penny and I need you to stand with me and support me. And luckily, we took about nine months to really save and prepare. I developed a great business plan and I quit my salary based job and I jumped in on the deep end, and it was fantastic.

I joined a boutique firm. I'd done some great deals. I was there for about 10 years. I was the only female broker on an all male.... The rest of the team was male. And I got that tinge again of is this it? Is this where my career is going to end? Is this really what I want? I sort of hit a ceiling of how... What I was earning.

And I was beginning to see that the firm was growing and I was the one teaching these younger folks coming in. And I just woke up one day and said, I don't think this is where I'm ending. And at the same time, I began to really pray for guidance. And I was, please, what is the next step for me? And while I was going through that, just soul searching again, I got a phone call from a national company that was looking to expand in the Tampa Bay region on the west coast. And in 2015 I left the other firm and I established the Tampa Bay, the west coast of Florida, office for the Land Advisors Organization. And it has been a wild ride ever since.

Allison (06:37):

And you have made quite a name for yourself in this industry. So there's so much here that I want to kind of dig into. First of all, being brave enough to pivot and to really evaluate and to self check and make sure that you're in alignment with where you want to be or should be at different phases and stages of life. But I really want to talk about how you've made such a significant splash when it comes to being a female in a male dominated industry. And this is something that you champion for so many women and you really make sure that women are represented, that they have a seat at the table. If not, you're building your own table and you're inviting everybody in. So can we talk a little bit about that, because the fact that you've been able to do that so successfully is something that I know will inspire everybody that's listening right now.

Nancy (07:27):

Yeah. So the commercial real estate industry very, very unlike the residential real estate industry, is predominantly or the majority are men. It is not uncommon for me, even today, to be the only woman in the room. And I was never afraid of that. When I actually built my original business plan, that was one of my bullet points was, it was going to make me different. It was a differentiation that I had that I wasn't just another man knocking on someone's door and I was hopeful, or maybe a little naive, that would help me get into more doors. I could say sometimes it did, often times it didn't. I still had to work. My dad raised five children... Or my mom and dad raised five of us and four females. And my dad would always say, "Look, be whatever part you need to be to get in the door."

But once you're there really make sure that you know your stuff so that people can't ignore you anymore. And so I worked really hard to be educated, to get my education, to understand what was happening in the marketplace. And that's a continuous progress. Now I will say, for the last, almost two decades, I look around, and even now when I'm the only woman or one of two or three out of 25 or 26 people in the room, or hundreds of people in the room and there's 20 of us, I'm, we have to change this. Commercial real estate brokerage and commercial real estate as an industry is a fantastic opportunity for go-getters, women who really want to have high income potential as a broker. There's no cap. It's as hard as I want to work, as many deals as I can get teed up. But there are very few of us.

So we have to really rally each other. And there are organizations that are built to help support that. But a lot of women in commercial real estate as an industry are support roles or in sales roles. They're not necessarily on the brokerage side of the deal or in development. So I've spent many years, just as you said, championing other women, trying to understand who are those women that are moving the needle. How do I become friends with them? How do I have lunch with them? How do I support their goals? How do we share our stories to help each other grow and reach the next stages in our careers or our lives? And, it's ongoing, but I take that very seriously. And I will answer a mentorship call from a female way faster than I will from a man. No offense, but I just... There needs to be more of us in the room.

I will say, in the last 18 months, I have seen a very significant change with the diversity inclusion conversation coming to the forefront. But my big fear with that is that women may still take a backseat to some of those initiatives. So I just make sure that I'm constantly saying, "Well, where are the women? And I know this woman." And if there's a speaking opportunity, making sure that I'm engaging with people, whether they're in my market, elsewhere in Florida or across the United States, so that we can and kind of bring them forward and let them be a part of this great industry. But it's continuous work, it's hard work. But yeah. I am a huge champion, huge champion of other women.

Allison (11:14):

Hey, there, it's Allison. And I want to invite you to Elevate. Elevate is my premier network and six month program for ambitious women who are ready to accelerate their impact, create unstoppable momentum and level up so that they can create the businesses, careers, and lives of their dreams. Now it's no secret that we often get in our way far more than we should. We allow our excuses to be louder than our why, and canceling on ourselves can easily become the reason we aren't living up to our highest potential. My mission is to help you accomplish goals that you never thought possible for yourself. whether you're launching a side hustle, investing in your personal brand, finally working on a passion project or scaling your business, I'm here to be by your side, cheering you on and supporting you every step of the way. My secret weapon is execution and helping my clients dream bigger than ever before.

It's amazing what happens when we start believing in what we deserve. When we trust our abilities, create a plan and ultimately execute, that's when the magic happens and that's exactly what we're going to be doing in Elevate. My clients will tell you that clarity and action are my superpowers and my ability to help you get across the finish line with whatever you're working on, will, number one, get you results. But most importantly, it will give you the confidence to once again, elevate your own own goals and expectations for yourself over and over and over again. So you get the maximum results that you're looking for. Now, this community is by invitation only, and it will only include individuals that are committed to getting the results that they've been dreaming of. You don't have to have it all figured out yet. You just have to be willing to give yourself this gift and try. I'll create the space and provide a supportive, uplifting community filled with women that are cheering each other on.

I'll get you connected with all of the right people and resources, and I'll teach you what you need to know to help you get to the next level. And then we'll dream bigger together because action leads to momentum and momentum allows you to elevate higher than you ever thought possible. If you're ready to make this commitment to yourself and to your goals, so that 2022 can be a year filled with action and results, head to to get your exclusive invitation. Again, that's I can't wait to see you there. I don't know about you, but I love sending personalized gifts to those that I care about. I especially like doing this around the holiday season when you've really got to stand out amongst the crowd. So if you're looking for the same type of impact go to, that is and pick out your wow worthy gifts that are so cute, so easy to make, affordable and super memorable for those that you're giving them to.

If you enter the code, Allison W 15 at checkout, you'll get 15% off the gifts. How cool is that? So not only can you send something beautiful and personalized, you'll also get a discount, which... That's just a winning situation all the way around. So again, go, and use code Allison W 15 at checkout. We'll link it in the show notes, happy shopping.

Oh, and I love it. And I love watching you hustle and I love watching other women be inspired by you too, because you show them what's possible. And you've always, just for years and years, as long as I've known you, and as you know, as I've gotten to know you even better, you are always bringing women along for the ride. Right. Let's go together, we don't need to do this alone.

Let's build community, let's build connection. Let's show each other that we're here to support one another. And I love that about you, Nancy. So thank you for sharing more about that. And now I'd like to really talk about kind of the journey that you've been on over the last year or so, as you really invested in you. Because you do show up, you are abundantly successful. You've got on so many different boards. You give back to your community. You're always raising your hand. And last year you raised your hand and said, I want to do something for me that I've been thinking about for a long time, and that was investing in your brand and really showing up in a bigger way. Right. Really getting visible. So can you talk to us a little bit about why that was important to you?

Nancy (15:38):

Yeah. So back in the late nineties, I'm really dating myself. I actually have a very vivid memory of reading an article in Fast Company Magazine, which was all about personal brand. And this was in the late nineties. So it was sort of at the early stage of the internet. And I clipped the article and I carried it. I'm going to say, maybe 12 or 14 years. I kept it with me a lot. And the article was all about how companies and the people who work for those companies, those CEOs, the leadership and even your everyday employee, that the personal brand and the company's brand, or the corporate brand, would begin to blur. And we certainly have seen that in the last 20 years. Right. You can't really say much in your personal life without the potential of it bleeding over into your professional world. And for a long time, I tried to keep my professional world over in this corner and my business world over in this.... Professional and my personal life completely separated.

COVID changed all of that for all of us, including me. But even before COVID I had worked for 10 years with a company that was a great company, but one of the reasons I left was because I was building someone else's personal brand for 10 years. My successes, my awards became someone else's and became why people were doing business with the company. But I was like, Hey, wait a minute, one second. I did that. And I wanted it for myself, but with COVID, bringing it back to COVID, I think professional worlds and personal worlds completely collided. We were having Zoom calls and continue in some cases to have Zoom calls in each other's kitchens, in our backyards. Our lives have blended. And so now more than ever before, I think people have to have a personal brand because we're all looking into each other's personal lives. For me, at the end of 2020, I really saw this and said, you know what, doing great in my career.

I have great success. My clients are investing in me. They are hiring me. It's going well, but my clients need to get to know me more [inaudible 00:17:59] and get to know me faster and on a more authentic and deeper levels. So I made a conscious decision that I was going through really put my self out there on a personal perspective. And I hired a great brand photographer who helped me pose correctly. And I was so afraid, but the photography really came out beautifully and I'm so proud of it. Then I invested in videography and building a media kit, a website. And the goal all along was so that my clients and my future clients could get to know me better than a one page bio on a corporate website. And I'm with a great company and they help me enormously, but corporations are there to build their brand and I wanted to build my brand.

So I made that decision. And then, taking it back to sharing that message with other women. When I launched my brand, I actually invited 20 something women to come and sit with me and I told them all about what I did. And I was very transparent about why, about how much money I was investing and that my goal was for my clients to get to know me better. My goal was to be more visible. And this past year has been remarkable. I've been in different media opportunities, about a dozen or so articles have been interviewed for, being able to be podcasts like this, to be able to share that message. And I'm really thankful that I did it. It was super scary, but it was a great experience.

Allison (19:40):

And I think you learned so much about yourself through the process, because sometimes, people can think of personal branding as just the colors and the fonts and yeah, that's part of it, but it's so much more. Right. It's how do you want to show up, it's what are those areas that you really want to shine a spotlight on and allow people to know more about, and how else can you add value and where can you be the expert and all of it. And that journey for you has been awesome. And there's still so much more. I think that's the cool thing too, is that it's not done. It's just [crosstalk 00:20:14]

Nancy (20:14):

I'm just getting started. Yeah. It's an interesting process and there's a lot of personal growth that goes into it. You've heard me tell you the stories about, when I had to work with a videographer and really look at my videos. It was very challenging for me to sort of get over seeing and hearing how I speak. It was a little freaky and I would be, oh, I don't like the way this looks, I don't like the way that looks, I don't like the way I sound or my voice inflection. And I've really had to learn how to be much kinder to myself.

It's okay that I don't look necessarily exactly the way I hope to have looked. It's really about my message. And as long as I'm conveying the proper message, everything else doesn't matter. And so for me, the investment in the personal brand is about that messaging. It's about what do I want people to know because ultimately we all have a personal brand. And if we are not cultivating that message and we're not cultivating those images, we're leaving it up to our audience to do it for us, our clients, our employees, our employers, whatever. We're allowing them to say, here's who you are. Instead of us saying, here's who I am.

Allison (21:40):

Such a good point. Right. Control the narrative. We have every opportunity, we have everything at our disposal and it's so much and people that are entering into their careers, new fresh employees, or maybe they're reinventing themselves at this point in their lives. You've got to claim it. And it's never too early and it's never too late. And it's something that we need to take seriously and constantly evaluate and tweak and add to, refine. As we evolve as people we have to continue to evolve our brand as well. And I'm just so proud of you for doing it and for going for it and for investing in yourself because it makes a big difference too. And I think it also adds to our confidence level and it allows us to give us permission to get visible and show up. So.

Nancy (22:24):

Yeah. I'm glad you brought up the new employee. Right. My kids are... One just recently graduated, one is in... Halfway through college and I'm sure they get sick of me saying, your image, your brand, it makes a difference. And I'm not talking about the lipstick color you wear or whether or not you have a suit. I'm talking about your performance and the kind of person you are. How you show up makes a difference and it blurs into you. So if you believe... You have to also be aligned.

So if you work for a company that philosophically you don't align with, you need to move on. And that's really, really important. And I think we're seeing a lot of that right now. The great shift in employees going somewhere else. But I think it's okay too, because it's important to do that. I've done it throughout my whole career. I continue to do it. I always just want to be happy. Happy with what I do every day. Want to be happy with the people I work with, the people I serve and that's important to me.

Allison (23:32):

Absolutely. So if you were to give advice... I know we've talked a lot about how important it is, but if somebody's on the fence, they're contemplating investing in themselves... Obviously you've made a significant investment in yourself and your brand over the last year plus, but if somebody's thinking, I should do this but I'm not a hundred percent sure, what would be that piece of advice you'd give them?

Nancy (23:56):

I think the first thing would be to really understand your why. Why do you think you want to do it? And then once you can really hone in on what that why is then you can set a determination of, okay, what is it that I am hoping to achieve? So you know what the goal is, so that you can back into, well, how much of an investment am I comfortable with? So for me, I always said, I only need one more customer and it will all be worth it. Or I want a couple more media pieces. But for me it was about making more money and getting with more clientele. But that may not be everyone's goal. It could be, I am going to make this investment because I've been doing this side gig for a while. And it's time for me to jump all in. I think you need to know your why, and then set a budget for yourself and then figure out, well, what can I accomplish in that budget? And what do I need to be able to be ready for?

Allison (24:54):

I think that's great advice. And for the audience, I will link to the blog recap that we did after your launch party of just everything that you did. You've got to take a look at all of... Everything that Nancy did. From the brand guy, to the photo shoot, to the videos, to her media kit, everything, her website, it looks amazing. It allowed her to really shine bright, like the diamond she is. Nancy, I know you listen to this show often and one of my favorite questions, and I think it's one of yours too, but for everybody that's listening right now, what are you reading? What do you suggest for the audience? Who are you following? What should we be consuming more of?

Nancy (25:32):

Okay. This is by far... I love it all, but I really love this part because it's like my book list. Right. So I just finished a couple weeks ago, The Miracle Morning and... Which is phenomenal, by Hal Elrod. I have completely changed my morning perspective, how early I'm getting up. I'm getting up like 5:15 in the morning now. And my whole morning routine is completely different. And I am shocked at how I'm able to get up when my alarm goes off. I have been a snooze person for as long as I can remember. And for the last two weeks, I'm up the minute my alarm goes off. So it's pretty impactful. And I'm currently reading The Audacity to be Queen, which I know you love as well, by Gina DeVee. And I am finding myself kind of pumping my arms, Yes, and that's me.

And no wonder I've gotten to where I have been able to get because I'm a queen. I've always been this person. But it's a really good reminder of just stepping into taking control of your life and your destiny and what you want and being okay with that. For a podcast, I just started listening to Entrepreneurs on Fire. Love, love, love it. It's fantastic. It's short, it's great bite size information. And then on Instagram, one of my favorites, outside of you Allison, of course, is an influencer who goes by... I think her name is Amy and she goes by Rebel Nutrition. Oh my God. She's the Canva and Instagram hack queen. I am relatively new to that world and I love following her because I'm, oh, she's teaching me another tip. I did not know that. Now I know that. So she's not in my space, but I think her tips are phenomenal. So I actually really enjoy following her along her [crosstalk 00:27:37]

Allison (27:37):

She's great. I actually used one of her tips today. I wanted a cool new button for my stories and I was, I know I just saw that and I went back to her Instagram. She's great. But.

Nancy (27:47):

Yeah. I would say I learned a ton of tips through utilizing Canva and Instagram through her work. So.

Allison (27:55):

She definitely knows what she's doing, so that's great. And I second all of your recommendations. I'm a huge fan of Gina DeVee and her helping all of us just really own the queen inside of ourselves each and every day. So thank you Nancy. And for people that want to follow you or get connected with you, where can they find you?

Nancy (28:13):

They can follow me on Instagram and LinkedIn under Nancy Surak and that's SURAK or you can also follow me at

Allison (28:25):

Excellent. Well Nancy, thank you so much for being on the show. Thank you for everything that you do and for being just the amazing person that you are. I am blessed to know you and I am cheering you on every day.

Nancy (28:35):

Well, and I feel exactly the same way. You inspire me to be the best version of myself and there aren't enough of you in the world. So I want to be more like you every day. And I hope that your message just continues to grow and grow and grow. Thank you. Bye.

Allison (28:53):

Thank You. I hope you enjoyed today's episode. I'm going to go ahead and link, in the show notes, the blog posts that I wrote with the summary of Nancy's entire brand launch, because it was such an exceptional experience from start to finish. She did not hold back. She fully invested in herself. It turned out beautifully. And I would love for you to be able to see what it was from start to finish. So again, she's a total rock star. If you're thinking about doing something like this for you too, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I would love to be a part of your transformation, evolution, elevation, all of the things. So please reach out to me. I'll go ahead and include my contact information below as well. And if you love this show, I would appreciate you leaving us a five star review and sharing this with your friends, because we all need inspiration and motivation in our lives.

And I would love to be able to be a source of that for someone else too. So remember, we're going to keep the conversation going over on Allison Walsh on Instagram and of course in the She Believed She Could Facebook community. So I hope you are a part of both of those right now. And remember stay tuned. Every two weeks we release episodes. There's going to be some bonus episodes coming out before the end of the year. There's of course our free goal setting masterclass that's available. If you go to right now you can check it out. It's available for the next couple of weeks. So make sure you're getting super clear and motivated and focused for 2022. It's all available at your fingertips right now over on the website. And remember, I believe in you 1000%. And my goal is that you do too. Take care, be safe, and I'll talk to you again soon. Bye bye.


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