What are brand pillars?

Most of us can list off a number of brand names off the top of our head, whether they’re world-famous companies or the local coffee chain in your city. Brands are everywhere, within every industry. A brand represents the emotional and logical associations that you make with a certain company, product or service. The interesting thing about branding is that it reflects internal and personal interpretations, which may differ between people and cultures.

We should mention here that branding doesn’t only mean visual things like a logo or company colours. Those things are part of branding, but there’s more that goes into it. Creating brand pillars is one way to design a brand for your small business that customers will react to positively.

What are brand pillars?

Brand pillars are the most important values and characteristics of your small business that you want to communicate to your audience. Your small business can have as many brand pillars as you like, but you should focus on the ones most important to your business’ image and values – for example, “Affordability” may be more important to your business than “Community Involvement.” But don’t worry – deciding not to include “Community Involvement” doesn’t mean you don’t care about the community your small business operates in! It just means that it’s less critical to your image than other brand pillars.

When planning your small business’ marketing strategy, identify your brand pillars very early in the process, and empower all your employees to use them to guide their customer interactions. You don’t have to expressly outline your brand pillars word-for-word in your marketing, but let them shine through in every part of your business. If one of your brand pillars is “Relaxed,” for example, you might choose minimalist packaging, or use casual and conversational language in all your communication.

Relying on your brand pillars will help you build consistency in your brand without having to scramble or reinvent the wheel every time. Take the time to narrow down the most important characteristics that’ll set your small business apart in the mind of your customer.

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Entrepreneurial inspiration from Vera Wang

“Success isn’t about the end result, it’s about what you learn along the way.”
— Vera Wang, American fashion designer

What does success mean to you? At GoForth, we love Vera Wang’s perspective on success. Entrepreneurship is a journey with lots to teach, and taking note of the entire experience – not just the end goal – is very rewarding.

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Why is your network so vital to business success?

Starting a small business is exciting, but it’s also difficult. One important resource you’ll need to marshal is your network – this means social contacts in family, social, professional and recreational networks, as well as professional role models. Later you’ll need access to another type of network as well, comprising lawyers, bankers, accountants, suppliers, potential customers and investors.

Why is an entrepreneur’s network of contacts so important?

Research shows that an entrepreneur’s use of networks is highest during the pre-venture planning stage and tapers off as the business starts and grows. This might be attributed to the lack of time the new business owner has for eating, let alone networking. Still, entrepreneurs can credit their success to networking and developing contacts to generate ideas, test concepts, and get support. Some cultures benefit from a strong connection to their faith or heritage communities. For example, Canada’s Indigenous community has a long history in the practice of storytelling. Stories are told to share the way of life of Indigenous people within and outside the community. Experiences are passed down so that other generations can benefit from the collective wisdom.

So, how do you expand your network?

Make sure to reach out to other entrepreneurs who can help connect you to other people. “Can you connect me?” or “Who is the one person in your network you think I should meet?” are two powerful phrases that you should get comfortable using over and over. Entrepreneurs like to help new and growing businesses succeed — it’s their way of giving back for the help that they too received in the early stages. If you’re shy or an introvert and shudder at the thought of networking, start slowly. Join a local business meet-up group, your local Chamber of Commerce or other business clubs to help get you started. When you’re a business owner, you’re in the sales business — and sometimes that means making small talk. But fear not! Learning to network effectively is a great skill to develop. Check out this blog post for more tips for networking for the networking-averse!

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How can you be a good business leader?

No matter how many employees your small business has, you have an important role as a leader. You need to make high-level decisions, inspire employees to be their best, and keep a cool head.

You know that small businesses move fast. They’re more prone to change; communication and recognition come easier; and few employees often do the work of many. Develop these characteristics and skills to help you be a strong leader in your small business.

Emotional stability and maturity

Stress and frustration a constant, so it’s important to face issues effectively without flying off the handle or taking things personally. You should be able to absorb any major risks or obstacles and hold it together during difficult times. Put your own recognition secondary to that of your employees and business.

Leading by example

If you’re always late for work or unprepared in meetings, why should your employees do any better? Nobody’s perfect, but a great small business leader is one who inspires employees through their own actions.

Enthusiasm and passion

Passion is contagious! Infuse the company’s vision and values into the company from the beginning. You don’t need to be able to see the future, but your team needs to see that you’re excited to take on challenges and put in the work to see the business succeed.

Risk management and decision-making skills

Here are some key tips to help you manage risk and make effective decisions:

  • Have a clear understanding of the decision to be made.
  • Consider the vision and values of the company.
  • Evaluate the consequences and outcomes of your decision.
  • Brainstorm as many alternatives as possible.
  • Evaluate the pros and cons of each alternative.
  • Be sure the appropriate person is making the decision.
  • Understand the timeline in which the decision must be made.

Thick skin and assertiveness

Learn to take criticism well and be respectfully assertive in your decisions. But don’t hog all the leadership! Rather than controlling and micromanaging, delegate and supervise effectively. Empowering others to make decisions and handle responsibilities will let the company to run smoothly while you’re away or busy doing something else. It’s also a great way to prove you recognize the value of your team.

High standards and the ability to recognize achievement

You must have high standards for yourself and for others and recognize the potential of your team. You should always try to do your best and encourage your team members to do the same. Be sure to recognize achievement and develop a welcoming corporate culture.

Good conflict resolution skills

When you do have to deal with conflict, do so maturely and productively. Look for a win-win situation whenever possible. You should also take time to uncover the real reasoning beneath trivial issues and recurring disagreements. Stick to your word when you make promises or plans, so your employees have a consistent and reliable leader — sounds simple, but it works!


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