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Monday, May 18, 2009

On Image/Identity

Working as an owner/manager of these businesses has been an intensely rewarding experience for me. I've learned a great deal about myself, others, and business--and I know I've barely grazed the surface. I expect that my next few posts will be experiments in sorting through my thoughts re: the businesses.1

One theme on my mind lately has been building the identity of the stores. How are we perceived, and how do we consciously create our image?

My feeling is that if you don't consciously build your business's image, the customers will define it for you. How? They'll base their own ideas on what you sell, your prices, your decor, and your location. Of course, those are all things that you choose as the owner of your business, but they aren't necessarily things you consciously choose in service to the image your business projects. (Even if they should be.)

Of course, if you don't have an great location and a halfway decent product, your image will be of a business shutting its doors. But here's an important thing to consider as you define your image: The image you project will determine your customers. It shouldn't be the other way around.

If you're in this situation, it might feel scary to make a change, or to alter the identity that's manifested itself. Do not let this feeling dictate what you want your business to be like.

I mention this from my own current experience. I think we've been more conscious about creating our image and building our own customers at store A than at store AA. Store AA, which has a history of more or less "finding its own way" has an image that has been built by those who simply show up and will take what's available. I admit that allowing that to happen has been a huge mistake, and very likely a significant cause behind store A's relative success compared to store AA.

I resolve to more consciously create the identity of my business based on my values, what I think is best, and what I feel will be most successful. Allowing anything else to happen is irresponsible.

1 Goodbye, anyone who still reads this blog!

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