To all intents and purposes, many economies on the continent have seen a slowdown. Businesses are being tested for resilience, they are being pushed to the edge, and the strength and acumen of their value chains are being tested. But come what may, businesses must go on. They may not thrive as they when the economy was buoyant, but they must continue in earnest.
As I think about these times, two things come to mind.
- The need to build a strong brand to have a sustainable and viable business in and out of a slowdown.
- The need to continually prepare and plan to scale your business around the core business activity at the earliest possible opportunity.
Building a brand. Building a business
What is the difference between a brand and a business? A business is an enterprise that creates an opportunity to trade and generate revenue. A brand is made up of intrinsic values, quality and characteristics that endear clients and aspirational clients to the business.
I always say when starting a business, it is crucial to focus on building the brand first, so that you can have a viable, sustainable business in the medium to long term. And building a brand is not child’s play. A business brand is almost always made up of the personal and business values of the CEO.
Especially for a small business, it is almost impossible to separate the personal brand of the CEO from the business brand. These become indistinguishable given that the CEO is the face of the business, and most likely the primary client-facing representative of the business.
For the business owner and CEO, this brings home the need to reflect on, define and articulate your personal and business values right from the outset. This delivers you your business brand. Understand and define what you are trying to achieve with your business and what values are aligned with that personal and business aspirations.
Then, commit to live those values – through how you operate your business, how you choose and interact with clients, the quality of your services and products, how you recruit and engage with staff, how you present yourself to the world – presentation skills, public speaking skills, networking, and personal style. When we focus on these from the outset, we endear clients, and essentially revenues, to our business, create brand loyalty, and, come what may, in and out of recession, we enjoy a level of brand loyalty.
Scaling your business
Most business start with one core idea, concept, initiative, but there is always an opportunity to scale and expand that business. Think of a fashion brand that starts initially producing clothes, then start to produce and sell accessories, then later on goes into interiors, and maybe even then a lifestyle venture such as a restaurant.
What enables such a business to do that successfully is the power of their brand. When a brand is strong, it has a following, and clients will seek out that brand for every aspect of their daily needs.
It’s an intentional decision. Many global corporations and their CEOs at one point decided to develop their personal and business values (=brand) to keep their clients and customers hooked. In the event of an economic slowdown or economic upturn, their business, through their brand strength, remains a viable and sustainable enterprise.
You can do it!
Someone recently shared with me a precise lesson in living. They said, if we knew the times and seasons, if we knew exactly what would happen to us or our business next month, next year or in 3 year, we would not need faith, we would not need to be resilient.
It is often the uncertainty in business and the ambition and determination to curb that very uncertainty that fuels the drive to success.
Risk taking buoyed by a strong brand can bring some comforting business stability.
When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist