Scaling Your Business and Brand – Experience From the Trenches
There are volumes of literature available that can give you the straight up approach to how to grow your business. There are just as many relative to branding your business. Many will paint a very rosy picture of the success stories. But why are some more successful than others?
From our 20 years’ experience assisting the unique needs of private company owners, here are some of the key components of those success stories we have seen.
You will have asked yourself and your team what you think the company should look like after the goals are reached. Firstly, we should be asking ourselves what customer problems will we have solved and how did we solve them? What did we need to do it? From the perspective of size (assets, revenue, # of team members, etc), what did it have to look like? What type of infrastructure was needed such as technology, equipment, locations, team members, geographic location(s). We like to call this the “Program”. What type of culture did we need to create? We enjoy using “Potent Culture” as the descriptor of a culture that will stand out for both team and customers and stand the test of time.
You will never have enough of this. Plan on a lot of time to plan to get it right. If you have more than one shareholder or stakeholder in your business, you can expect to have more than one opinion on both the goals and how to get there. Even if you agree on the goals, what will the messaging be to your team and customers. These can be very time consuming and difficult issues to work through. You would be well advised to look outside for assistance from a growth and branding perspective in how to craft the message. It may never be perfect in anyone person’s opinion, but consensus is critical so that the message is always consistent.
You will not have given up along the way. Growing your company for most is a slow process and branding is like your first move away from home to the big city – nobody knows you. It takes time to cement trust and respect within your community. Your corporate brand, being no different, will take a lot of time to develop, redevelop, nurture and of course, protect. Therefore, having an understanding of your goals is important. Throughout this period, flexibility will be paramount. The brand strategy may need alteration to fit changing customer needs or demographics. Changing customer needs and wants will impact the overall growth of your company (See Kodak or Blockbuster Video for what not to do).
Of course, this will all take money. The biggest and best suggestion we make to our clients is that this is an investment, not a cost. While necessary to look at every dollar spent, some spends don’t generate returns immediately, or even necessarily, in the medium term. They are generally long term investments that ultimately add to the sustainable long term value of your company. It is similar to asking yourself what is the long term value of each customer? When you value a customer long term, it is easier to justify that refund or credit being asked for today. You will earn it back multiple times over through goodwill created. The advisors you may need along the way, the time it will take, the rabbit holes you many go down and come back from and the frustrations you may encounter from the concern that none of your efforts appear to be effective, all are expensive. But if done correctly, the investment will pay off.
How does growing and scaling up of your business connect with your brand? Our experience is that if your brand and messaging is on target, unless there are major shifts in customer demand, the bigger challenge is how to keep the message on target as your business grows.
We have a term we use with our clients called the “Relevant Range”. This is a range of revenue and profit where you continue to have excess capacity – whether it is planned, or market directed. As you reach the upper side of the range, it is said that you will hit a wall – you cannot produce any more as you are at either full productive or administrative capacity (or maybe both). Knowing that range and its upper limit allows you to plan to scale up to the next relevant range. This will likely mean further investment in productive assets such as equipment and/ or people.
Part of the planning process into that next relevant range is your branding. Does it support the next range? Do you have to appeal to a larger or different customer base? While this may sound like sales and marketing, it is also consideration of your brand itself. Is it still relevant at this new level? Are there new considerations? What alterations to the brand message may be required?
Every business should be considering how each strategic decision made creates or enhances long term value to the shareholders, the team and its customers. While it is difficult dealing with the day to day activities of a growing private business, not having sight lines of a value creation management mindset is a true opportunity lost. This is not the privy of only the largest public companies. Every company had to have started somewhere. The recognizable ones have made a purposeful effort in recognizing the need to scale the business and the value of having a brand around which your team can rally and your existing and new customers will support for a very long time.
Stawowski McGill has successfully advised private company owners, family-owned and entrepreneur led enterprise on sustainable growth for over twenty years. We use our own experiences learned with and from our years of client service to assist our private company owner to clients scale up their own businesses. Please do not hesitate to contact any member of our team should you want to discuss how our methodologies can relate to your specific business. Our purpose is to bring impact to you, your business and your path to success.