Too Close

Category: Internal Brand Published on Mar 16 2015

Having worked with many small business owners to define their internal brand* I am always gratified to see the passion they bring to their business. Small business owners glow when they talk about why they really started their business. And they have an indomitable determination to do whatever it takes to succeed.


However, they also frequently have a blind spot when it comes to clearly defining their internal brand.

As Howard Schulz, founder of Starbucks, says in his book Onward: “…sometimes we are too close to a situation. Entrepreneurs can be blinded by emotion, by our love of what we have built, unable to see it fresh and with eyes of a more objective outsider.”


I remember speaking to the Main Line Professional Development Group. This group has met regularly for an extended period of time; therefore, they know each other and their businesses quite well. I was impressed as we were working on documenting their brands when they started providing pieces of the brand puzzle to each other.


It went something like this:


Mary: Bob, one of your core values is about giving back. How could you not know that?


Bob: Really? I guess I just never really thought about it.


Mary: You always donate both money and time for things that you believe in.


Or equally enlightening:


Jan: Sally, one of your operating guidelines should be about how you make it a priority to recycle or reuse those things you guide your clients to discard. You always go out of your way to keep this stuff out of the landfill.


Sally: Jan, you’re right. I forgot about including that. I guess I do it without thinking since I’ve done it for so long.


(Note: All names have been changed to protect the innocent.)


I was pleased and amazed to witness how clearly others see us. This objectivity brings a fresh look at our companies and our business practices. This distance enables those people who know us well, whether they are ideal customers or networking friends, to quickly and easily provide valuable insights that assist us in growing our business.


In larger companies, this short-sightedness can be offset by bringing together six or more people to work on things like strategy, values, and internal brand identification. As small business owners though, we generally lack this resource. And if you are a sole practitioner like thousands of small business owners, you may feel like you are going through life with blinders on.


However, it doesn’t need to be this way. Small business owners benefit from becoming involved with other people and groups that are willing to provide objective feedback. In fact, this is why I favor working in small groups to do strategic planning and brand identification. More than once I heard a strategic planning partner telling someone that they missed their most obvious strength.


So, if you are ready to receive business clarity through objective feedback here are a few resources you can consider:

 - Join a small networking group devoted to educational growth

 - Create or join a mastermind group

 - Hire a mentor or coach

 - Work on strategy and brand identification in a group setting


Regardless of the approach you use, what matters is that you respect and trust the people that surround you. You must feel safe to share both your successes and your challenges. You must be ready to be yourself, warts and all.


If you don’t already have a group that you regularly commune with, what is holding you back? It’s time to deal with that issue and move forward. After all, just think of all those insights you are missing out on.




*Brand – Vision, Mission, Values, Company Belief Systems