Once upon a time, starting a business seemed like an obscure and unachievable mission reserved only for courageous souls. But now that the barrier to entry for creating an online business hassignificantly lowered and opportunities for entrepreneurship continue to rise around the globe (thanks, Internet!), more people than ever before are jumping ship from their 9-5 jobs to start their own business and this trend is not slowing down any time soon.
I’ll be the first to say that the benefits of entrepreneurship are alluring: in addition to being the path to time, location, and financial freedom, it may also be the ticket to a more satisfying life.
But, while it’s great to be able to sip a coconut by the pool as you work from your laptop on a Tuesday, the hard work that inevitably goes into starting and growing a profitable business should not be overlooked. The challenges are endless, and the payoffs aren’t always immediate: hundreds and hundreds of hours will be clocked into generating leads, perfecting sales funnels, creating content, managing finances, and doing ALL the things. It’s enough to beg the question: will your efforts be worth it in the end?
That depends on whether you are building a business or a brand.
There is a big difference between creating an organization that sells a product or service (that’s the definition of a business) and creating a brand that lasts for years to come and infuses the world with value.
If all you’re doing is building a business so you can make more money and free yourself of corporate chains, it’s not going to last you for long. As soon as your service or product becomes irrelevant, priced out, or overtaken by competition, all those hours of time, sweat, and tears spent over building your time/money/freedom machine are gone.
To have a lasting impact, your business needs to be bigger than you and what you’re selling. It needs to have a long-term vision, defined values, and a story that moves your audience to action, not to mention a kick-ass product or service that transforms people’s lives.
Maybe you’ll get lucky and your business will blow up without a brand. Statistically speaking, probably not — only half of small businesses survive past the 5-year mark. It’s also no coincidence that the most profitable companies in the world also have the most recognizable brands (Google, Apple, Starbucks, to name some).
If you’re looking to build something that reflects your values, motivates you to get out of bed every morning, brings in customers no matter what you’re selling, gives you flexibility to change your offers around to reflect your growth, changes people’s lives, and you can carry with you for life, then…
You need a brand. That’s much more powerful and fulfilling than just having a business that you pour life force into for financial return.
Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, once said: “In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart.” Considering he built one of the most profitable and recognized brands on the planet, I’d say he knew what he was talking about.
When done right, a brand works for you. It holds your story, vision, and purpose. It keeps your audience loyal and committed to you, no matter where life takes you.
With a strong brand, you can make changes to your business and your clients will follow you because you’re you. Your industry will recognize your authority, the media will seek you out (instead of you scrambling for their attention), the right people and opportunities will find you, and your actions will have ripple effects on the world.
Pay attention to how you’re showing up as a business beyond your bottom line: 94% of consumers said they would be highly likely to recommend a brand they were emotionally engaged with, 91% say they are more likely to purchase from an authentic brand, and 64% of consumers cite shared values as the primary reason they have a relationship with a brand.
Ask yourself: what do you stand for? What is your story? How are you communicating your vision, values, and benefits to the world? Is how you’re operating your business truly aligned with what you want out of life?
Build a strong brand and you’ll build a legacy whose fruits you’ll be reaping for years to come. Every minute of time and energy that you invest into your brand will generate a return that is above and beyond profit: in the end, the loyalty, credibility, connection, and impact you create is what will feed your soul.
Originally published on: Forbes