Build a Brand, Not a Business

Build a brand, not a business.

I will break it to you gently. Simply building a business is a thing of the past. Focusing on activities, vendors, locations, marketing, hiring, firing, promotions, and the myriad of tasks related to operating will get you so far from where you want to be you might as well end up on Mars. Don’t get me wrong, those things are all imperative to survival.  But, if it is just about surviving, then sign me up for something else.

So, what is a brand?
A brand is your organizations identity. It is an extension of the leaders personal values, beliefs and morals expressed in the  business. Your brand is what makes you, you. And your business should mirror that. If your business is a reflection of you, the owner, what should it reflect? A brand is mostly defined by intangibles, which is what can make it such a challenge to recognize,  identify, own, and implement. Is sustainable manufacturing really a concern of your end user? Do people really care that you donate 10% to the local school system? Does your customer give value to knowing that you use all recyclable materials? Yes, yes and yes.

With massive competition in every industry, you have to be and say more than, for instance, that you cut hair. Everyone cuts hair…places that cut hair are a dime a dozen. Why you? Why your business? Why go to the people that work for you? Who are you?

As the business strategy of the modern leader, branding is everywhere and not just because it is the latest business strategy. Building a brand builds character and provides a backbone that shapes every business decision you make. So, while you will always have to create a marketing strategy, vendor list, finance system, choose a location and make a myriad of decisions on a daily basis, a brand guides you.

Now, for those that are saying, “I don’t have to worry, I bought a franchise”, please don’t stop reading now. You have the toughest of branding jobs and therefore need to be even more focused. Whether you bought a franchise, are an independent contractor for a larger organization or licensing a larger brand, you must find your brand within that brand. What sets you apart from all of the other license holders out there? Why should I come to you versus the other 50 people working under that brand? Thinking of a brand within a brand is complex and should not be taken lightly.

We get asked daily about what branding is and how to do it. While we can’t cover everything in a blog post, we can get you started. Here are the three questions to get your train rolling in the right direction.

Where do I start?
Start big and worry about the details later. Start by simply answering these questions. Who are you? Really, what do you stand for? What is important to you? If stripped of everything, what would you need to survive? Where do you spend your extra time? What causes or organizations do you donate to? What qualities do you respect and admire?

How do I find my brand?
Then, you find your brand within your lists. Create space to really answer and explore the above questions. Then go back and identify themes. Those themes are your brand.

What does it look like to implement a brand?
This is where the true “rubber hits the road” work begins. Begin to think in terms of the brand permeating everything, in every aspect of your business. Look for ways everything can be a reflection of your brand. It won’t look the same with each, but everything is a piece and part of the brand. This might be the place you become most paralyzed, as every mounting decision seems more important and distracting than the last. Be careful how you prioritize, organize and strategize. Then create and document. Yes, the system.

So, don’t take the easy way out and focus on your business first. Take the long road and work on your brand. Lay your heart on the line and take a bold step. Take a stand for what you believe in. Being in business isn’t supposed to be easy, it is supposed to be life changing. There is big work that needs to be done up front, then you can enjoy the fruits of your labor later on. Big work pays off. This is business. This is life. This is real.