How to Build a Successful Business – 1: Branding

Last Updated: May 1, 2020

Leading Irish entrepreneur Colm O’Brien focuses on the importance of branding, in the first of a three part series for AGENT on how to build a successful business. In simple terms, branding is everything. Here, Colm teases out why branding is such a crucial aspect of business and why no entrepreneur can afford to take it lightly.

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WHEN considering how to build a successful business, it’s useful to picture yourself sitting at a wobbly table in a café or a restaurant. If you’ve been unfortunate enough to experience this, you’ll know the frustration of searching around for something to plug under one of the legs to steady it. Sometimes the problem might be an uneven floor. Sometimes the problem is that the table’s adjuster legs require fine-tuning to make all legs rest solidly on the floor. Meanwhile, your coffee and muffins are all akimbo.

The simplest and best way to solve this wobbling problem is to design tables, chairs or stool, with three legs in a triangular formation. Three legs guarantee that the piece of furniture will always sit solidly on the surface on which it is placed. It does not guarantee that it will be level, but the design ensures that once placed, it will remain steady. Interesting, isn’t it? See? You learn something new every day!

So, what has this got to do with how to build a successful business? Well, allow me to explain by way of the ‘Coffee with Colm’ video below, before reading on.

Let’s imagine the market as a café floor—vast, uneven, patchy, and largely outside your control. Then imagine your business as a stool on this floor (trading/operating within the market). It’s a stool of your design and making, totally within your control.

The question is: How do you design your business so that it has the best chance of remaining steady and growing in a market that you aren’t the master of?

The answer is: Build it across three legs. I’ve always found that the most effective, successful and potentially sustainable businesses MUST have three legs. Any fewer than three, and they just can’t stand. Any more than three, and they run the risk of being wobbly for reasons outside your control.

So, in planning how to build a successful business, consider that the most effective business model is strong across all three of these legs:

1. Brand

2. Systems

3. People

This time, I will concentrate on brand, and in the coming weeks, share my views on the other two vital legs of the three-legged stool that will become your rock solid business.


How to build a Successful Business – Brand

In my book, Feeding Johnny, I wrote about branding at length. Brands have always fascinated me. They’re so simple conceptually, yet convey such deep meaning and associations. Good branding enhances a business; bad branding hurts it. Some brands and their trademarks are as valuable as the business they represent. In the case of Coca-Cola, it’s reported that of a business worth approximately $160bn its brand worth is estimated at almost $80bn.

Branding must be considered carefully in any discussion of how to build a successful business. It’s easy to severely minimise business impact by using a brand that is too parochial. If you live in a small village and have a business that uses the name of the village, the brand might well tell clients exactly what the business does, but it is unlikely to have any impact beyond the immediate geographic area.

“Everything. Your brand is everything you do.” defines the noun ‘brand’ as ”kind, grade, or make, as indicated by a stamp, trademark, or the like: the best brand of coffee”.

The best definition of brand I’ve heard came up in conversation recently with Col Campbell of the Campbell family, owners of Bewley’s, the best known Irish brand in Ireland next to Guinness. His response to the question was: “Everything. Your brand is everything you do.”

Col is right. It is everything. The brand is your logo and/or your trademark–that’s obvious. And the quality of the product or service, naturally. It can be seen in décor, livery on vehicles, on business cards, letterhead, websites, even uniforms.

Less obvious, perhaps, is how you answer the phone, how you treat your employees, how you deal with your customers. Perhaps even less obvious is how you treat your suppliers and even your competitors.

Your brand is everything and yet it is only one leg of the three-legged stool that is (or will be) your solid, successful, sustainable business.

The question of brand must be considered carefully, from every perspective. However, here’s the kicker. This is only one of three three key aspects to consider in how to build a successful business. Brand reputation will be fed or starved, enhanced or vilified, by how you build other two legs on the business stool–Systems and People.

Next time, we will look at Systems.


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