Are you brave enough to walk away from business?

Bravery That’s what branding is all about.  Walking away from business.

The wrong kinds of business.  The wrong kinds of clients.  The wrong kinds of growth.

When you brand the right way — you boldly proclaim what you stand for AND by default, what you don’t stand for.

I think that’s one of the reasons why so many companies either brand very superficially (our people are our difference or our quality sets us apart) or they don’t brand at all.

Business leaders and owners focus on the bottom line.  I’ve got no argument with that.  But many of them are unwilling to say "thanks, but no thanks" to business that’s a bad fit. Short term gain, for long term pain.   Branded companies are specialists, not generalists.  They don’t have to be.  Their brand attracts the right kind of business.  If they let it.

Every business has a sweet spot.  An ideal client profile.  Every time they connect with this kind of client, everyone wins.  There’s success, profit and everyone feels good.

A good brand attracts your sweet spot kind of client.  But you have to be willing to say no to the wrong ones, to make room for the right ones.

Are you brave enough?

Flickr photo courtesy of Splinter Group.

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8 comments on “Are you brave enough to walk away from business?

  1. I agree, Drew.
    As we discussed in the BlogtTalkRadio Round table discussion about branding last night, making choices about who you will and won’t serve doesn’t come natural to most of us. We’re all still very much caught in the selling at any cost mentality.

  2. David,

    This is one of those “easy to say, hard to do” marketing axioms. But the reality is that a company that narrows its focus is the company that resists the pull of becoming a commodity.


  3. You have to be brave to turn down business until your business reaches a critical mass. But if you take on the wrong kind of clients, it will hurt you.

    I learned this a few years ago when I was getting back into web development full-time. Clients were scarce and so I periodically took jobs I didn’t really want just to ‘get by.’ Those were hard times. And I quickly learned that turning away clients was better for me than taking jobs I didn’t want.

    Now I have enough success that I never take a client that I don’t absolutely want to work with. I use my free consultation as a screen and pre-qualify prospects.

  4. This concept of customer selection is best engrained very early in a company’s existence. Entrepreneurs tend to enjoy the ego stroking of new customers of any time loving their work. It’s a tough habit to break down the road and it has derailed many an excellent company from achieving its potential.

  5. Dawud,

    I think we’ve all made that mistake. It’s one of those “I knew better, I should have listened to myself” sort of internal scoldings!

    And of course you’re right. It’s a lofty thing to say until you can’t pay the mortgage.

    Then the weight of it becomes very different.


  6. Doug,

    An excellent point. How would you advise someone just starting out to build this into their culture?


  7. David Reich says:

    Drew, I agree that it takes a bit of bravery to walk away from business, especially when you’re a small firm. But sometimes the moral or ethical factors make it a really easy call.

    When I was first starting out on my own, someone approached me about publicizing an OTC health-related product. When I asked some basic questions about the product’s eficacy, I got a real runaround that made me doubt its real value. As much as I wanted/needed the income, I didn’t want to destroy my reputation with media people I’d have been pitching this to.

    No bravery was involved another time I walked away from business. It was for a big tobacco company, for a sports-related program. The money would have been spectacular. Although the work would have been promoting auto racing, it was ultimately about selling cigarettes. I said no.

    Call it bravery if you like. I call it having a conscience.

  8. David,

    Both excellent examples that I’m guessing most people can relate to.

    You’re right — most of the decisions live in the gray area. Not really 100% wrong but not 100% right either. And risking our reputation with key partners (like your media contacts) isn’t worth the price.

    I’ve always said I would never do any work for tobacco companies or furriers.

    Would you do work for a non-tobacco related product that happened to be in a different division of a tobacco company?


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