We tell people – adults and kids – to be themselves. To be proud of themselves. But it’s not always easy to apply. Social media hasn’t changed much about human nature, but it has seemed to amplify certain aspects. For example, there is something in most of us that wants to please others. We want to be what we believe others want us to be.
And yes, that’s important. But only to a degree. Life is a lot more like a Venn diagram. You find the authentic side of you. You find where that crosses over into the lives of others. And in that middle you can usually find solid work and solid relationships.
The same is often true with a business. A brand. It’s what you do every day. That’s what a brand is. It’s not something you assign. It’s something you discover. And then it’s something you use to make your decisions. And you build upon it little by little. Over years.
Not embracing that brand often leads to problems. If you skew too far into what you’re not just to please others you’re setting yourself on a path for failure. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not even for years. But at some point in the future the lies and the fraud catch up with you.
Then it all falls apart. You have to start over. You often have to build something new.
So how do you embrace your brand?
Here are a few thoughts…
Discover what you’re already doing
The biggest part of embracing your brand is actually knowing what it is. It’s often not one thing. It’s often a pattern of behavior. The things you do. The things your employees do. Not just recently, but over a long period of time. Obviously that makes things difficult for a startup company. But even then you’ve often had a history of decision making.
Take time to think about your past. The decisions you make. The way you interact with people. What makes you upset. What makes you really upset. What makes you happy. What you smile about first every morning. What you go to bed thinking about at night.
A brand is what you do without thinking about it too much. It’s what you live.
Now, you can certainly change it. Maybe not drastically. But you can figure out what the brand is. Who you and your team are. And you can learn how to lean more into the authentic side of things and make that work as an organization.
Consider learned behaviors
We are all raised by someone. We all make friends over our lives. We all spend time with coworkers if we’ve had even one job.
We can learn behaviors over all those relationships. Some are authentic to who we are. Some are not. We just learn them over time through repetition.
It’s possible that in your organization that some decisions and actions are not really part of the brand. One manager. One employee. One vendor. One customer. They can all bleed their authentic selves into your brand and make things murky. They can lead you to stray from your true self.
Consider the people that have come and gone through your organization. Consider if they’ve led things astray from what the brand really is. What the real behavior is that you’re proud of. For yourself and your team.
Tell the truth
You don’t have to preach your brand. But when confronted about it you do want to be truthful. That might mean turning customers away. It might mean firing team members that don’t fit with what you’re doing. It could mean a lot of things.
Not telling the truth can ease suffering. It can do some good things. But it will almost always get found out in the long run. Being an open book about your brand can lead to less frustration in dealing with pain down the road. You take it now and move on to what’s next.
A brand is a tricky thing. I remember I was in a meeting early in my career. It was about naming a new brand that the company was launching. A consultant was in the room and he said that we were overthinking it. A name or a logo or a brand is not what you decide it is. A brand is what you do over time. It’s how you treat each other. It’s how you deliver products and services. When you look at a business name or a logo that’s what you think about. Your interactions with that brand.
How do you want people to feel about your brand?
They’re going to feel something. It’s worth taking the time to understand it yourself. And then figure out how to find the middle where you’re fulfilled and your customers are as well.