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Starting Out or Long-Term, Maybe It's Not About Innovation

In my last post Want Work? Start a Relationship, I touched on having a strong brand. I want to follow up on branding because when people ask me about finding work, they ask wondering if they can do the same or how to start a business in general.

When I was getting my MBA at Emory, I was working on two startups – Body Boss Fitness and Beachscape (as a Co-Founder and as a consultant, respectively). Getting started at Emory, my classmates (and others today) were interested in how I started. Many would lament the lack of ideas to start a business.

However, you don’t necessarily have to have a new, innovative idea to start a business. I’m not saying not to be disruptive, but businesses start every day without disruptive products or services.

Opportunities for wealth are many and large enough that grabbing even a sliver can reap meaningful returns personally, professionally, and yes, monetarily. The most critical element starting and especially sustaining long-term growth is branding.

Branding… meaning the relationship between the company and consumers (both buyers and non-buyers). Innovations like the iPhone are great at getting market share, but in the long-run, even despite patents, innovations become commoditized. What’s left is the relationship between company and buyer.

Consider how many accounting firms there are. How about consulting companies? Or how many services do delivery?

Businesses start out as products or services, but must quickly shift to become relationships-oriented. Consulting firms live and die by relationships. Apple has its loyal customers decked out in Apple gear standing in line for days waiting for the next iThing. Why? Because consumers trust these companies, and are eager to show loyalty. Strong relationships à strong brands.

So if you’re reading this wondering if you can start your own business and need an idea, you might not need something so game-changing. Develop and cultivate your brand. Like I said, “Have good great relationships.”

What’s another mechanism for long-term growth and sustainability? Why or how would branding and relationships not be a key driver for initial success? How would you address the problem of creating more companies and more “noise” in the marketplace? 

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