THE BLOG

What Your Business Wants to Be When it Grows Up

11/04/2013 02:23 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

One of the most valuable and difficult lessons I've learned building brands and businesses is that a successful leader must relinquish the desire to please everybody all the time.

At Maaco, I'm working to take our mantra, "One Maaco," from a vision to a reality. While we all recognize the same goals, our path to those goals often seems divergent. For this reason, our critical component for success becomes consistency -- consistency of message, product or service and customer experience. The challenge then becomes: How do you achieve consistency while growing a brand and leading disparate teams?

This can't be attained by focusing on individuals. The emphasis must be on bringing your brand story to life, developing plans for growth and profitability for all, yet remaining flexible enough to rise with the tide of the ever-changing marketplace. Ultimately, it's about striking a balance between who and what your brand is and the needs of those it serves. This isn't an easy road, but these principles have served me well:

1.Know Your Business Inside and Out: This means knowing your brand's organic story -- where it came from, why it exists, its foundational values -- and basing all brand actions on those core values. This doesn't mean putting aside market and consumer demands, but it does mean adjusting actions accordingly.

2.Know How You Want to Grow: To maintain your brand's story, all actions require a long-term view. Christian Haas, founding partner of Goodby Silverstein & Partners, New York, points out that, "Lasting brands are timeless, not designed after fads." This means that even when you're updating your brand, you'll want to honor the core attributes that resonate with customers. You can refresh them, grow and enlarge your audience, but you can't change what your brand stands for. And when you do grow, you must be transparent.

Explain changes in terms of your original story, values and goals. For us, we know consumers have a special emotional connection to their cars. So we tapped into that feeling with an optimistic view of the future of that relationship. Today at Maaco, our brand campaign revolves around the "#MAACOVER," which is simply our promise to "Turn the car you drive back into the car you love."

3.Know Your Team. Honor Ideas. This is particularly important when your team is made up of franchisees. Regardless of different locations or management styles, your story, and their story, should be of the corporate brand -- its pillars, its goals and its values. This eliminates confusion and creates transparency, consistency and value for all. The selection of a franchisee should involve determining not only whether the franchisee is a good operator, but also whether he or she shares the corporate values.

These three principles hold true for any brand, in any market. Starbucks has applied them to remain true to itself and its loyalists. The result is a brand promise as fresh as it was when it began in 1971.

Starbucks didn't abandon its coffee roots, but it has grown and expanded by evolving wisely in every aspect of its business down to its logo, which -- while having undergone subtle changes -- remains recognizable and representative of its high-quality products and service. Its most recent change, the removal of the word "coffee," didn't diminish its original offering. It merely allowed for brand extensions on the same scale. This simple change remained true to the brand's personal story, yet reflected growth in keeping with the times and consumer demands.

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