Many service-based professionals enter the market with the aim of scaling a business, but without a strategy to reflect that goal. As a service provider, there is a common tendency to focus on selling yourself and shaping your brand framework around your own professional expertise. However, if growing your brand is the goal, this may not be the best approach.
Once you clarify your broader vision, there are several key ingredients to creating a solid foundation for a brand bigger than yourself.
What’s in a name?
Your brand name says a lot about your company. There is no right or wrong, per se, but be aware of how your brand’s name impacts its presentation in the market.
Is your service-based business named after you? If so, you’re in good company. This is common, particularly within high-fidelity industries that require extensive confidentiality and trust (such as lawyers, therapists, and accountants). Whether intentional or not, a brand that is named after you is going to heap the lion’s share of expectations on you as well. Naming your brand after yourself signals to the market that you alone are the brand expert, and that you are selling your personal expertise.
If this is your strategic goal, this won’t become an issue. However, it is difficult to scale a business that is framed in this way. You are one person, with a finite bandwidth. If you choose to brand your business around yourself, the growth of your firm will be limited by factors including:
- How much time you have
- How much money you can charge for your expertise
- Whether customers are sold on your level of expertise
- The avenues in which you can deliver your service
While successful brands using this strategy can gain a high degree of customer loyalty, firms with visions that revolve around the founder’s expertise also tend to stay small (with notable exceptions, such as Steve Jobs, Ray Dalio, Warren Buffett and Gary Vaynerchuk, to name a few).
Because you have sold yourself as the expert, customers will want to work with you, and they may resist working with your employees if you try to scale your brand.
Separate to scale
If scaling your business is the goal, it is essential to establish a brand identity that is separate from your professional identity as a founder. Start by clearly articulating and mapping out what you envision for the future of your brand. To scale, it is crucial that this vision is something that is impossible to reach alone.
Thought leader Jim Collins refers to this as a “big hairy audacious goal,” or a BHAG. What is the BHAG you want to reach? At Reconciled, our vision is to serve 10,000 customers and impact 100,000 jobs in our customers’ communities. There’s no way that any one principal could achieve this goal—our vision demands a unified team.
Regardless of what your specific vision is, make sure it is something that is worth waking up for—not just for you, but for your current and future team as well. Your vision is only scalable if it motivates others too.
This doesn't mean that you need to push your personal values aside. These values—if strategically aligned—form the foundation of your brand’s organizational culture, which is the fuel for your vision. Culture is a set of tangible behaviors and it is important to clearly outline your expectations and live them out as a leader. The strength of your culture determines whether your vision is within reach.
At Reconciled, we’ve nailed down seven team rules that keep us focused on our goals.
Define your vision
To scale your business to the next level, you’ll need to not only solidify your brand image as a service provider, but also identify who your brand’s ideal customers and clients are and communicate this to prospects almost immediately. It should be part of your brand’s image itself, cemented in your go-to-market strategy, so that you weed out the “wrong” clients early on in the sales process.
Are you aiming to reach the masses with your brand, by promoting quantity or value over and above a specialized experience? Or is your brand elite and selective? Think Supercuts versus Aveda. With a high-volume, low-ticket brand like Supercuts, services are usually templated, and the focus is on quick service, rather than the person behind it. Low-volume, high-ticket companies such as Aveda, on the other hand, offer premium service—and many extras—at a premium cost.
Broadcast Your Vision
There is no right or wrong in your brand positioning. Both premium and high-volume services can provide a path to profit. And professionals leveraging their own expertise can create a wholly satisfying small business that works for their lifestyle and preferences. It is merely a matter of vision.
But to scale your business and grow beyond what one individual can do, it is crucial to identify and expand your vision. Then build a brand that broadcasts it, attracting your ideal clientele so you can find each other quickly and work towards that vision, hand in hand.
Your brand’s scalability all depends on your ability to articulate—and ultimately sell—your vision, both internally to your team, and externally to consumers.
Your vision is a journey, not a destination. There are always more people to reach, or a new problem to solve, and at the end of the day it is about embarking on a mission that you are willing to invest in, day in and day out. When you share your vision with others, don’t simply share your end goal—connect them with the experience that they can have if they choose to reach for it alongside you.