In a 2011 TD Waterhouse Business Succession Poll of over 600 small business owners in Canada, 23% of them said they would simply close their business down when it was time to retire. A further 27% said they were not yet sure what they’d do with their business. In other words, 50% of small business owners in this country – half of them! – didn’t think there was much or any value in their brand.

Don’t be in that group. The best way to ensure you won’t be is to develop a strong and meaningful brand. That brand will grow and bear the sweet fruit of brand equity for you, the kind that can have you comfortably sipping piña coladas on the beach in your retirement.

From default to intentional brand

It’s never too late to develop an intentional brand. If you’ve been in business for over 5 years, you’ve already beaten the small business survival odds, so congratulations! Perhaps it’s not a great business, but you’re able to make enough to carry on. Perhaps it’s even a pretty good business but you know it could be better.

In either case, you’ve got where you are today by means of your default brand. There’s something about how you do things, how you treat people, the quality of your product or service that aligns with what people want. Those are your core brand qualities, the ones that have enabled your success.

Unfortunately, there are also other things you do, say or ways you work and behave that are at odds with those qualities, and deter others from engaging with your business. Your “off-brand qualities” are what’s putting a brake on business growth, greater profitability and your personal job satisfaction.

Brand Clarification

If you’re a small business owner with a record of enough success to survive, but not enough to thrive or sell, then you’re in a perfect position to clarify your brand. Brand Clarification will audit what’s working and what’s not, what to do more of and what to stop doing. It will put your brand into words, then convert those words into pictures and copy and into a brand management plan. Together, these will give you the tools and strategic directions that illuminate your core while enabling you to discontinue the off-brand activities that side-track you and are wasting your time and energy.

Is there enough time?

If you’re approaching your fifth, tenth, or any significant anniversary date, your timing couldn’t be better. Anniversaries are a time of reflecting on beginnings, progress and the future. They focus attention on who’s, what’s, why’s and how’s. Fundamentally, anniversaries are brand-centric. So go there intentionally.

But what if you’re nearing the end — how much time does it take to effectively deploy a brand management plan? While there are no hard and fast rules, it typically takes 3–5 years for a small business to fully embrace their brand truths, communicate them to their audience and begin to build a credible track record of delivering on their brand promise.

If you’ve got the time, the inclination and a real desire to leverage the value of the brand you’ve given your life to, talk to a brand communications agency about what your brand future could look like. You can also download my free e-book on the ROI of branding right here.

There’s a beach in your retirement future if you want one…

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1 comment


by Jim Sellars

Al, just caught this branding advice, and approaching September 26th, as a significant anniversary date in Our past. I just wanted to say Hi from Vancouver Island. I am guessing He would be pleased with your drumming on branding for the business owner, large and small.


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