Why brand matters in your business (whatever its size)

 In Thought Leadership

I’d go as far as to say that ‘brand’ is the most misunderstood part of any business.  It’s not the logo.  It’s not the font.  It’s not the color scheme or the web design.  They contribute to it, but they are the means rather than the end.

Brand is bigger than them all because it is, quite literally, everything.

Our brand is our culture.  Our purpose.  Our very essence.  It’s a sense check for everything we do.  A guide and a brief.

Take Nike for instance.  Its brand isn’t the swoosh or its athletes or ‘Just Do It’.  It’s a mission to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.  It backs that up with a set of values:  Community, Sustainability, Diversity, Social responsibility. If an idea, an employee, a product or a piece of communication breaches any of those, it doesn’t make it through the system.

Brand is everything

For those of us who are owner managers of smaller businesses, it’s easy to think that our brand is an investment we can postpone until we reach a certain size.  That would be a huge mistake.  We need to build a business around our own vision and values.  That way, we will recruit people who can live by them.  And the business will be cohesive even as it grows and, as is increasingly the case, its people work apart.

At Simple Startup, our mission is to help entrepreneurs simplify their finances, understand their numbers and make smart, informed business decisions.  That’s how we benchmark success.

We have six values: To have fun.  To treat our customers and each other like Rockstars.  To do good.  To use all our strength.  To eat the frog.  And Kaizen.  No, you’re not the only one to do a double-take on the last two.  ‘Eating the Frog’ is based on a Mark Twain quote.  It’s about getting the difficult things out the way first and to enjoy the rest of the day.  Kaizen is about constant improvement.

Our values mean we are working collectively and collegiately.  New members of the team are recruited because they ‘fit’ with our values.  We approach challenges using a shared framework.  And yes, when we do some marketing, or need to choose a new font or logo then the first test of their suitability is whether they truly reflect our brand.

The brand can’t be wrapped-up and left for a rainy day.  It needs to be a living, breathing heartbeat for the business.  But that requires effort.

We keep ours front of mind by sharing  weekly ‘shoutouts’.  These are included in our weekly staff roundup, and link great things people have done to the values they have demonstrated.  One colleague got his hands dirty by analyzing firm bandwidth and retention.  That deserved a shout for ‘Eat The Frog’!  Another put in huge effort and extra hours to train-up a new colleague.  That was ‘Rockstar’ stuff!  And so on.

A great brand has an extraordinary effect on a business.  It means we become less dependent on any single individual, because we share behaviors and motivation and the team becomes greater than the sum of its parts.  It means that any individual who isn’t sure about the best way to approach an issue has an in-built series of values to work with.  And it means that the business becomes known not just for ‘what’ it does, but for ‘how’ it does it.  Which, in the long-run, is the key to successful growth into new areas and markets.

Lorne asks:

Can you describe the way your business behaves in three adjectives?

If so, you have a clear brand identity – and a base from which to grow an incredibly strong, collaborative business.

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