Building things (like brands)

The common lessons we can learn from building anything.

I built a deck.

It’s not a house, or an extension or anything,

But, if your back garden slopes like mine, it’s a big enough job.

Did it with my dad, which was nice. And stressful. But mostly nice.

He’s older now. Wiser. And, thank christ, a little calmer.

A DIY veteran. He’s been through the wars.

Failed forwards. Learnt lessons the hard way.

Mostly out of necessity. But he was always driven.

And, for the first time in maybe forever, I listened.

And I learned something.

Five super simple and straightforward things stood out,

That I think can be applied to building anything (including brands).

  1. The right start.

If you’re off a couple of degrees at the start of any project, it can be an absolute nightmare at the end. Like a ship leaving port, couple of degrees off at the start, could mean a different country at the end. Course correction is possible but it’s difficult, time consuming and costly. Better to measure twice and cut once. Spend the time. Sweat it. Over-invest. Everything else hinges on it. Or unravels because of it. No shortcut’s. This is hard work. But it matters. In the case of brand building, this is all about definition. The idea, proposition, purpose or essence. The personality, values and voice. All, critical to get right, from the start. Collective understanding and crystal clear definition.

2. Good structure.

I mean, it’s pretty f’ing obvious, but you need a structure to build anything. It provides a plan to follow but more than that, a structure supports, as you build. You lean on it. It’s foundational stuff. A platform. You build on a structure. You’re guided by a structure. It can be adaptive but it still needs to be there. Otherwise, you can get lost. In the case of building a brand, that structure can be whatever process or framework you’ve agreed to, at the start. That structure, signposts progress and becomes pivotal infrastructure moving forward.

3. Be flexible.

Agile, agility, yada yada yada. Heard it all before. But still, I heard recently “goals in concrete, plans in sand”. And it feels so true. We started to build with a structure, concrete blocks, levelled on sand and cement and a wooden frame to sit on top. But we adapted as we built. As the truth of the materials came to light. Bendy boards, or imperfections in our build had to be dealt with as we went along. Perfectionism was misplaced. The reality emerged and needed to be dealt with. Just like brands, best laid plans and all that. As Tyson said “everyone’s got a plan, until they get punched in the face”. The market is tough and the truth emerges quickly. Somewhere you’ll have bendy boards that you’ll need to deal with quickly if you want to progress.

4. Don’t gild the lily.

My dad said this on numerous occasions, when I was stuck fiddling around. It’s the perfectionists trap. Too often we can get derailed by something that in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t matter as much as we think. Sometimes, good enough is ok, when we consider the whole project. Sometimes we can unravel everything by over working, over engineering, or over thinking something. We need to remember the bigger picture. How things knit together. The sum of the parts.

5. Experience costs.

Sometimes we forget how valuable experience is. Experience means I’ve done this before. I’ve failed before. I’ve acquired the scars and know how to avoid mistakes. I see the bigger picture, because I’ve worked on lots of things just like this and I know how we can get to the end intact. I understand what’s non negotiable and what’s flexible. I get it. Experience is valuable. It’s risk management. It’s speed. And it needs to be acquired. At a cost. You can either pay for that with you own time and failures. Or you pay for someone else’s. Either way, it’s a cost.

So yeah, that’s what I learned.

Not ground breaking.

But it helped me.

And, it’ll help me moving forward.

I was glad to understand those lessons; deeply, 1st hand and in context.

Might help you too.

Now go build something amazing.