First things first, start with value

Before clients can care about your WHY, they need to know "how can you help me?"

TLDR — your business may have the coolest, most amazing reason for existing. But before clients can care, they need to know how you can benefit them.

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I recently saw an article from Andrew Holliday that refuted the iconic advice of Simon Sinek. It was a bold move and had a specific application — your business.

Andrew posited that “starting with why” is just plain wrong.

If not ‘why’, what do you start with?

Andrew is the CEO of Special Sauce Branding, a branding agency that I’ve come to respect immensely over the past year. If you want to get meta for a moment, he does an excellent job of both branding his business and himself.

If your business shouldn’t start with ‘why’, what should it start with? That’s the question he answers in the article I read. While Simon Sinek says to start with why your potential clients couldn’t care less. Their first and most pressing need is to understand how your business can benefit them.

You must make it glaringly obvious how you add value. Right from the start.

Once you’ve answered that question, you can then share why your business exists and provide reasons to highlight why that should matter to your prospects.

But Special Sauce Branding doesn’t stop there.

As a new series of articles (and a purported, future book), Andrew and his gang of branding gurus are doubling down on problem branding.

Problem branding starts with a problem that you can solve repeatedly and then you work forward from there. It’s the opposite of the a**-backward way most businesses are born. This is their approach to helping more businesses thrive instead of dying.

While Special Sauce targets non-service-based businesses their approach is highly relevant to your service business. Every business should start with this exercise. And every business should seek to identify recurring problems that lend themselves well to a consistent solution. A solution that can be productized, at least a significant portion, so that your business can grow independent of headcount.

Did you see something uncommon in that approach diagram? Yep. It didn’t talk about funding or blitz-scaling or any of the other over-hyped BS that is shoved down your mouth across most of the internet. Andrew actually just advocated for the potential of passing down a successful business to the next generation. When you build that way, you must value integrity and sustainability at the foundation. Love it!

My experience varied somewhat

I wish I could say that my first consulting firm was built using the Problem Branding approach but that would be a lie. I didn’t do the first 3 steps — instead, I shared what I could do and was lucky that my existing network valued my skill set.

It took years before I appreciated the “solve a problem repeatedly”, not to mention the concept of productizing a service. The closest I came with that business was building out a managed services offering.

Managed Services helped demonstrate how I could grow my business by mitigating client risk. The better I did, the less the client had to worry. And coincidentally, the less they had to use my resources so my margins grew quickly.

I had recurring revenue and could leverage my team over more clients. It was a win-win for both of us.

How are you doing?

With so many firms started by domain experts that have never run a business before nor had formal knowledge before jumping in head first, your business likely started similar to my first one.

What resonated here? Where do you struggle the most? I encourage you to reply to this email and share your wins and losses with me. Sometimes just having someone that understands your frustration can make all the difference.


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P.S. I’d love to hear your stories. If you want to video chat over the next month, send me an email so we can explore a date and time to connect.

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Sincerely,

Casey 👋