I guess when you have been working in the marketing and branding industry for long as I have; you forget just how much knowledge and experience you’ve picked up along the way. Much of that knowledge comes from having worked alongside people who are much more intelligent than I will ever be.
So when I met with a young entrepreneur yesterday morning, I couldn’t help but share his enthusiasm as he explained to me what his world changing idea was; how he’d came up with it and how it would improve the lives of millions of people. I was hooked. Then – and this is where I found myself defaulting to my experience – he made in my estimation what was the cardinal sin of any pitch – he started explaining to me all about his exit strategy.
You see for me, I’ve spent my adult life working with people who are building brands and by building, I mean on-going work that will continue to adapt and evolve to an ever-changing world and continue to exist long after we’re all gone.
In my experience and drawing on what I’ve picked up over the years from those people whose drive has created multi-billion-dollar companies, is that they didn’t have an exit strategy. Creating a brand and a business is like having a child:
- Conception – the fun part; coming up with the idea.
- Pregnancy – carrying the idea around for months working out how to turn it into a reality.
- Labour – the hard part, bringing your idea into the real world.
- Naming – creating a name that people will like, respect and want to get to know.
- Teething – the sleepless nights when you are up to all hours nurturing the company or brand you’ve created through it’s problems.
- Teaching – instilling the knowledge, principals and life knowledge needed to succeed.
- Pride – watching your creation growing into something that you can be proud of.
OK – so it’s a simplistic analogy, but you see what I’m getting at. You put a lot of work into bringing your idea into the world not to mention a lot of time and money, so why be so ready to leave it all behind? Are you not proud of it? Better yet, if you as the parent of that company or brand are not fully and personally invested in its long-term success, why the hell should your customers?
The greatest companies are built not on exit strategies, but the drive, character and long-term vision of their founders to grow, expand and be the best at what they do. Look at some of the most successful brands and companies in the world and what you see are strategies built on growth and vision – not getting out as quickly as they can like a carpet bagger.
In it’s simplest terms – what future is there for a brand when your guiding vision, mission and values statement are based on getting to hell out of dodge as soon as you can?
As for my exit strategy, well that’s simple. They will carry me out off here some day in a box but The Mission Control Communications brand will continue.