It’s the new year, and you’ve decided to — finally — get in shape. Maybe you should hire a personal trainer. But what do you expect from her? Do you want someone who stands next to you at the gym and tells you what to do, or do you need someone to teach you how to exercise on your own, enabling you to maintain good habits over the long term? Do you want someone to help you develop a long-range plan covering the next several years, or do you want someone to just get you to swimsuit season?
Instead of hiring a personal trainer you could decide to go it alone and buy some exercise equipment. There are thousands of products on the market, each one attesting to the ripped abs and sculpted physique that regular use will produce. Infomercials, print ads and online testimonials make all kinds of promises. You can buy magazines that provide advice on how to do the most effective bench press or the top ten exercises for biceps.
But whether you hire a trainer, get a gym membership or buy a roomful of equipment, the final determination of your success will be determined by how you execute. You must do two things: first, learn how to eat right and exercise effectively; second, motivate yourself to execute that plan. No one can do it for you. The personal trainers and authors of those magazine articles can’t make you work out or take the bag of chips out of your hand. You have to take the advice and the products and the training and integrate them into your daily routine.
The same thing happens as you enter the world of entrepreneurship. Consultants describe how to improve your search engine ranking. Trainers offer tips on e-commerce and social media. Magazines describe the best ways to scale your business and publish lists of the top business trends. Every accounting and CRM system touts its ability to change your business. And they can — but only if you know how to execute. You must decide which tools to use and how to integrate them into your daily routine.
The most fundamental skill of entrepreneurship is execution. You have to evaluate all of the available options dispassionately. You have to understand what will work for your business — your brand — and what won’t. Then you have to take that knowledge and develop a daily routine that keeps the customers coming in.
If you don't know how to build a brand and you're struggling to figure out what to do, a salesman’s pitch may seem like a quick fix – a solution that doesn’t require learning a new skill or developing processes and procedures. And this is why so many entrepreneurs spend a great deal of money without getting what they hoped for (and why so much money is wasted on unused exercise equipment).
An ad isn't a business. Products can't sell themselves. All of these components come together to create a brand – the overall mental image that someone has for your business – and it's the brand that creates sales. Until you understand the basics of how to build a brand, you can’t determine which options will work for your business.
There are dozens of different ways to reach an audience and an unlimited number of ways to position your business. Look for a trainer that can teach you the skills you need to build and maintain a brand over the long term. Advertising, marketing, branding, the Internet — everything has changed in just a few years, and it will continue to evolve. Understanding the newest social media platform or Google algorithm changes will not make you a successful entrepreneur. But the knowledge and skills required to build a great brand enable entrepreneurs to reach and engage customers no matter how the landscape changes.