Guidance for Firm Management and Principals
When it comes to your firm, branding envelops every aspect of running the company. Every impression you make on clients, potential clients, vendors, employees, potential employees, and others is part of branding. Principals and firm leadership have the responsibility and the duty to not only identify the brand, but also to control it.
Brand is your mission and values. One of the best ways to communicate brand is through your mission and values. What principles and ideals do you pursue as a firm? At the end of the day, what is most important to you and your business?
Brand is your home base. For many clients, this is the most visible feature of your brand—especially as an AEC company. We spend so much time designing and creating spaces for others that we often forget that our own environment is a reflection of our brand. Make sure your office space and the way you run it reflects you appropriately. Does your design reflect your skill and intention? Are spaces clean and uncluttered? Is your signage consistent with visual standards? Your brand works from the inside, too, where your employees feel they’re working in an organized and cared-for space. Maintain that.
Brand is your people. Brand is your team and the way they represent you. Having a good team starts with good hiring and continues with strong and consistent training and development. It is essential that your employees know your goals, methods, and expectations for the company as a whole—top companies move beyond adherence to a brand style guide, and into embodiment of the brand.
Brand is your customer service. If an eager client calls your company and is left on hold long enough that it leaves them frustrated, that’s your brand—one that says you don’t prioritize your clients. If they come to a project meeting and the project managers are unprepared or insecure about project solutions, your brand reflects an embarrassing lack of leadership. If managers are distracted and surly, they’re your brand, whether they’re wearing a logo-emblazoned hard hat or not.
Brand is your visuals. Your brand is greater than a logo, but a great brand still needs a solid logo. Not only that, but all graphic design and visuals should reflect your quality of work. Something so seemingly simple can make the difference when the customer is deciding on which firm should design or build their facilities.
Ask yourself the following questions to get a thorough understanding of your brand:
- If your firm were a person, what would they look like?
- What would that person talk about in a conversation with a client?
- How would that person dress?
- What age would reflect your firm?
- What feeling would you get when speaking with or just being around this person?
- What would make you want to work with this person on a project?
By answering some of these questions, you can get a better understanding of who you want to be as a firm and what impressions you want to portray to the community that interacts with your firm. Give your clients, vendors, employees, and others a branded experience when they work with you. Teach these principles to the entire firm and help them practice living the brand daily.