I can’t believe it’s been seven—SEVEN—whole years since we started this crazy Resound adventure. As David, Jeff, and I talked through plans for 2016 and beyond at our annual partner retreat, we got to talking about lessons we’ve learned in these past few years.
Here’s a just a few of them — we hope you’ll learn from too:
1. Things “not going as planned” means things are going!
The ideas we had for what Resound might become, way back in 2009, are far different than where we’ve ended up. We thought we might become a film production studio or a creative collective or maybe just a 3-person consultancy.
We find ourselves in 2016 as none of those things. And while we might become disappointed if we really, really wanted to be something else than what we are—a brand agency—we instead find this surprisingly encouraging.
There’s this point in every company’s life when reality diverges from the high-minded plans you started with. At first if feels like everything is wrong—that maybe you’re selling out. But reality really is never quite like you planned. And it shouldn’t be. And this means you’re making it happen. What you’re building is no longer a plan, a dream, or an idea. It’s becoming reality!
2. Branding is hard to sell.
Like really freaking hard to sell.
There’s about a bazillion reasons for this but the overarching one is this: branding is so, so misunderstood. It’s not a magic bullet or a one-time shot or a single project. It can’t be quantified like a product. Brand building is a long-term process that must be internalized and embedded deeply into a company’s culture. It’s an ethos.
And selling ethos is hard. I mean, who wants to pay for ethos? And what’s the freaking ROI? And when will we be done? And can we do it without our owner, president, or CMO getting involved, pretty please?
For the record, there is (significant) ROI when branding is done right. And we do break the process into definable timelines and projects. But these are all mindsets we have to change before we can even get to a proposal.
Oh, and there’s no cookie cutters in branding—at least not in the kind of brand development that radically transforms. But almost everyone wants cookie cutters and short cuts and growth hacks and 1000% growth yesterday.
So to sum up: we sell long-term, strategic transformation that costs a significant number of dollars upfront and requires real buy-in from leadership. Yeah, that’s tough.
But we love building remarkable brands too much to give up. Ever. So we’ll just have to stay the course, preach the gospel of authentic identity, and build Resound — one brand at a time.
3. Start with values before you ever make a dime.
While much has changed at Resound since 2009, our values have remained much the same. And rightly so. They have become the foundation of nearly everything we do—from how we position ourselves, to who we hire, to even the kind of work we take on.
If there’s only one thing we believe passionately it’s this: the values of a company can make the biggest impact in building its amazing brand. And we’ve experienced this firsthand with Resound. What you believe and what you hold high are who you are.
4. Embrace the bomb.
Mistakes, slips, failures, F-ups. They happen. So you might as well embrace them.
There’s a lesson in improv: when the scene goes horribly wrong, own it and run with it. Turn your disaster into an opportunity to make something you never could have made otherwise.
We’ve done well and not so well at owning our mistakes. But these are lessons we appreciate more and more. Even this last year we have grown immensely through owning our many, many mistakes—whether it’s bombing a tradeshow or hiring too soon (or too late) or not keeping a close enough eye on the financials. Each of these has been a huge opportunity to learn and grow and build Resound into a stronger and more flexible company.
5. All-hands workshops are great!
I don’t think our whole team has been as excited and energized for the future of Resound as when we have our bi-annual all-hands workshops.
There’s something to be said for taking 8 hours to look up from our desks, get out of the office, remind ourselves of what we’re building and where we’re going. And, of course, eating great food and having some fun together.
Our first all-hands, all-day workshop was in June 2015 (and just recently we had another one to kick off 2016). We took time to learn about each other as individuals—what we like and don’t like and how we think. We talked about our vision for the future and how we’re lining up with that vision. We looked back at the past year and tried to learn from our mistakes and celebrate our successes. We brainstormed and planned internal projects to not only market ourselves and help us do better work, but also to have fun and play. And we spent quality time together, playing games and eating and drinking great food.
The collaborative, team-building power of these days has been surprising. And so very refreshing.
6. Collaboration with the client produces the most authentic ideas.
We’ve purposely built a collaborative process with our clients—letting them into our work early and often. As we produce ideas and concepts, we’re bouncing those off of them earlier rather than later in the project, getting their feedback and even fueling their own ideas.
This feedback loop has been instrumental in producing effective work. Not only do our clients buy in more to the ideas (because they feel a part of the creative process), but the ideas and concepts generated are truly rooted in the authentic identity of our clients’ brands.
The closer you get to your customers, the closer you’ll get to truly serving them in ways they really need.
7. You should have a website that tells your story.
Seriously. This one’s a big deal.
We live in an always-on, internet-connected world. Not only is having a website a must, but one that really tells your story is critical.
For us, our business has changed and grown far faster than we can keep up with our website. In 2015 we launched a huge overhaul to it, and the response has been incredible. Not only do many of our clients and friends find the new site refreshing and helpful but we’ve seen a significant impact on marketing and sales. We now have a platform that tells our story—maybe not perfectly, but far better than in the past. And this produces a level of confidence and trust in our communications that we lacked before.
No matter where you’re at with your business or what your goals are for 2016, one question you must be asking this year should be: Is my website telling my remarkable story?
If so, kudos! You rock! High five your team! (And then ask yourself if anyone is coming to your website and digesting your story.)
If not, it might be time to do some better storytelling.
And if you want some help, we know this pretty cool branding and experience design team. 😉