06/15/2012 10:24 am ET

Five Crippling Branding Mistakes To Avoid For Small Business Owners

When I first launched Pappas Group in 2003, I went from executing advertising strategies for some of the world’s favorite brands to doing much of the same, but running a small business, to boot. I spent long days at the office not only tackling the branding needs of my clients, but writing contracts, reviewing résumés, signing off on payroll, bills and taxes. In short, handling the millions of tasks (and unpleasant surprises) that small business owners face every day as they work to keep their companies humming.

I know that marketing and advertising efforts are seldom viewed as a priority. But in looking back on those first few months—and now with another decade of experience building brands ranging from start-ups to global brands—I cannot stress enough the value of defining your brand early on.

Your brand isn’t just a logo and a name; it’s part of your business plan. It’s the promise you make to customers about what they can expect in all interactions with your people, products, services and company, shaping sales, employee adoption, decision-making and more. And while there’s no cookie-cutter model for building a brand, there are a few cardinal mistakes that every start-up should avoid.

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