Nutritionists say you are what you eat, librarians and teachers say you are what you read, psychologists say you are what you say, fashionistas (and possibly retailers!) say you are what you wear and Frank Zappa famously sang ‘You Are What You Is’.
Well, as a business coach, I say that in business you are what your brand is. Be careful with it. It speaks a hundred words as to who you are and what you stand for. Focus a bit of time on building the right brand for you – work hard on discerning what it is you want to be known for, what you want to be recognised for, who you want to be as a business, and then put steps into place to make that become your brand.
As that powerhouse Lorde said in Sunday magazine last week, “Build a good name for yourself, because eventually that will be your currency” – it was something she’d heard singer Patti Smith recite on a TV clip awhile ago and it had rung true for her. Ella Yelich-O’Connor, aka Lorde, was talking about how she’s not willing to sell-out and become what the record company think she should become; she wants to stand true to what is true to her. She says that if that means missing out on “lots of zeros” then so be it – she’d rather be happy with the “brand” she creates than do what she’s told to do for the sake of money. She went on to say, “Every step that I’ve taken since I signed my development deal has been to ensure I am exactly who I want to be, perceived how I’d like to be perceived” and “If I’d granted every sandwich chain and skincare brand and coming-of-age blockbuster use of my songs, I’d probably be a millionaire. But I’m extremely fussy.”
Pretty astute actions – and also, in fact, really sound business advice. Which explains why this mature 16-year-old is allegedly on track to becoming a millionaire by Christmas, and has a long healthy career ahead of her.
Lorde’s conviction in the strength of her brand resonated with me. It is vital for a business to have a strong brand. How do you decide what your brand should be and what it should stand for? It’s often helpful to think about what you’d like to be known for personally. “Rich” doesn’t really give others warm fuzzies, and neither does “ambitious”. “Fly by night” is hardly going to make anyone feel fond towards you either. So what about truthful and sincere? (Or, in business terms, transparent?) Helpful and kind? (In business terms, perhaps helpful and friendly customer service.) Community-minded? Fair? What qualities of your business would you like to be known for? Is your company or product creative? Innovative? Reliable? High quality? Cutting edge? Local?
Every day, when making business decisions, think to yourself, does this add positively to my brand? A nuclear plant may offer you mega-sums to fit out their offices – but is this a good look for your brand? Your marketing team may come up with a fail-safe way to sell quadruple your normal units… it just requires a little bit of deceit with your customers – is it worth it? If you drop the quality of one of your products, you can triple the profit – but does your brand stand for price-point or quality? You can start making one of your products overseas and really help the bottom line – how much of your customers support you because you’re locally made?
Take today to have a bit of a think about your brand. How is your business perceived? How do you want it to be perceived? How should you act and what should you do to improve that perception and your brand? Think of your business as a person – what qualities do people like and support? What sort of person are they attracted to? How about you think about this from a “you” angle too – as in how do you personally want to be perceived? Are you really perceived the way you want or are you living in a dream world – what changes do you need to make so you are actually perceived how you want to be perceived! Remember perception is reality… Again, “Build a good name for yourself, because eventually that will be your currency.”
Zac de Silva is a business coach and former owner of Barkers Menswear. He currently runs Business Changing and works with over 70 clients, including BNZ, Westfield, Huffer, Foodstuffs, The Icehouse and Les Mills.