Specificity is what will set you apart from others...
You would never go to the gym without your shoes, your water bottle, ear buds and all the other bits and bobs that make your time there comfortable...so why do so many people forget to do this with the rest of their lives?
I recently worked with a highly skilled group of individuals who were culturally unaware of so many things that it was uncomfortable to be a part of the production. It's just common courtesy - do your homework before you get on the job - whether it's a commercial project, a website or an event - know your product, know your audience and respect the brand and yourself. All this applies to your business, your start-up or any project you are undertaking.
As a producer, research is the key to success or failure. Before I create a production book (that book includes everything I will need on the day of a production,.). I start with the production itself and then I go to every contingency ranging from local stores, to traffic and weather patterns - everything that would make the production day run smoother not only for myself but for all around me. This is particularly important if I am working overseas - so that I am culturally aware of how my presence can impact others.
There is no excuse anymore for being ignorant. There are so many blogs, books and articles available and if you don't have instant access to the internet - libraries and book stores are still your friends. What's even better...is taking the time to talk to people who live in the area where you are going and get their recommendations and ideas.
At the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Jackie Bartone and Peter Jensen taught me the importance on ONE simple word "specificity." That word applied to every part of creating a character. Whether it was how you moved, walked, thought, breathed, or even picked up an object - things were done for a specific reason. This was an integral part of our training. Knowing your character's every detail and making the choices that aren't specifically in the script is the difference between knowing your lines and living the life of your character.
I can assure you, when a professional actor walks onto the stage for the first time, they have studied their script from front to back and know everything there is to know about the character whose life they are embodying. They have written in a journal that includes every word that the playwright has to offer about their character: their character description, what others have to say about them, what they say about themselves. The parts that aren't in the script, they create and discover for themselves, where the character was born, went to school, studied. What accent do they have, why? Do they limp? Do they hunch over or walk with purpose? How do they dress? What do they do for a living.? Why are they coming into the room? All these things inform how the character develops and grows into the character that is seen on stage or on film.
These same theories apply to your business, brand or production. Mistakes are a part of life, but the more you know, the more you research, the more you understand about the process, the more likely you are to bounce back. Failure is a normal part of life - don't fear it! The extent of the failure is going to be based on how much work you are willing to put into the process and how much you are willing to learn from your set backs. At the Eugene O'Neill Center one of their mottos is "fail and fail again." They have it on posters around their campus. That is not an easy motto to embrace - but once you do - oh what a difference it will make. But you can't fail unless you try. To do THAT, YOU need a plan...for those of you waiting for me to get to the point...here it is...
DO YOUR HOMEWORK AND BE SPECIFIC
This IS KEY to a good business plan. Knowing everything about your business is what will set you apart from others and this is why creating your business plan and researching your brand and your brand's competition is so integral to your start-up. It is also what sets apart an amazing brand. They leave absolutely nothing to chance. The font of their letters, the mission statement, the purpose of their company all these items are clearly defined.
WRITING A BUSINESS PLAN
So when you are starting your business, don't leave anything to chance - if you aren't ready to write, then startwith a dream board or a notebook and write your notes. It may not happen in a day or a week, but the more work you do, the more homework you do, the easier it will be for you to put that plan in motion.
For some companies writing a business plan is going to be a little easier for others. I have some friends who have a fantastic business making English Toffee. Which at first glance, seems quite overwhelming - but that brand is one of the most specific and coherent brands you will ever find. They know what their ingredients are, where they source them, they have a clear purpose and a great sense of humor...their name reflected their personalities, they found a product that was simple and easy to define and they have thrived...that is what I mean by specificity.
so...what is your brand?
What is your company's purpose and strategy? The more specific your answer, the easier it will be for you to attract new clients and sponsors.
Market research: know your competition - not just so that you know who you are competing against, but also who you could potentially collaborate with and recommend to others. In fact, I would encourage you to think of this as a brand study rather than a competition - there is so much room to collaborate and enhance your skills and having an understanding of what others are doing and how you can fill in the gaps.
Figure out what the start-up and running costs are - even if you think there aren't any - there are always hidden costs that you have to manage, whether it's education, management, insurance, transportation - these all add up - so be aware of what they are and keep track of them - even if you aren't looking for a start up loan yet - knowing all of this will help you to have a better of idea of how much you should invoice, what the return on investment is and what your real costs of doing business are.
Know your mission? Be specific about who you are targeting for business, what are you celebrating, what are your values. Knowing these will help you to find likeminded individuals who will want to work with you and be a part of your company as you continue to grow.
Study other success stories - whenever I teach a personal branding course, I always highlight the success stories of others who are in the market - learn from them. Is your logo specific does it tell your story? What colors do you use - don't leave anything to chance. When you go to a coffee shop - notice the ones that have a brand identity versus the ones that have random items put together - what company do you identify with: the one that has awesome food but no great visual presentations? The one that has a great logo but mediocre food? or the one that delivers both consistently?
Be specific...I have pounded that into you enough...so I won't belabor that one here...; but there is one more...and it's one that I don't do enough...
Ask for help. This is not a sign of weakness...it's a sign of maturity. When you reach a point in your work that you know you've gone as far as you can but you can go a little further and you just need advice...do it. There are wonderful people who are out there to help, brand managers, friends and consultants...We all want to see you succeed because there is nothing better in life than a happy ending.
so go ahead! Ask!
Calia Brencsons-Van Dyk is a personal branding coach, public speaker and award winning-television producer. A graduate of Mills College and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, she has been working in the entertainment and consulting industry for over twenty years and specializes in live and branded events and engagements and food and lifestyle television and programming. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org