How We Built Our 20 Year Brand – Six Lessons to Help You Build Yours
It was the early spring of 1996. Richard Eaton and I had just left secure employment positions to set up shop in our first attempt at running our own consulting business. We felt young and courageous: if things didn’t work out, we could return to the Lower Mainland and get ‘real jobs’ again.
One year turned into five, five into ten, and now here we are celebrating 20 years as a management consulting firm - still based in Victoria and now serving clients all across the country. A lot has happened over the two decades as we have evolved from Berlin, Eaton & Associates Ltd. to today’s Berlineaton. We’ve grown from two relatively unknown consultants working out of our home, to a relatively well-known firm of 9 staff and associates in an office downtown Victoria. Our name change may seem subtle – however, it reflects a two-decade evolution of our brand and business offering.
Over these 20 years, Berlineaton’s brand has deepened. The changes in our logo tell the story of how we’ve evolved and what we learned along the way. We hope these lessons will help you build yours:
Lesson 1: Make your singular focus doing great work for your existing clients or customers.
Adopt this mantra: “Your current client is your best client.” In our first few years, we created modest financial goals, and focused on working hard for a very small number of clients. We were young and learning, and luckily we attracted bold, courageous clients who were doing the same.
Back in 1996, we didn’t have a logo and our business cards were simple, utilitarian, and got the job done: Name, address, phone number. Richard and I shared an email address. We managed our costs carefully and cultivated what we were passionate about.
Lesson 2: After you get some experience, reflect on what gives you the most energy and what you are most passionate about. Marry this with what clients or customers need – as spoken by them.
For us, passion, energy, and a strong desire to serve alongside clients were (and continue to be) central drivers. However these aren’t enough to stay sustainable. We needed to meet our clients’ needs as they defined them. We practiced listening and designed our work around their needs.
Our first logo was designed by a freelance designer, in a restaurant, on a napkin. He asked us lots of questions about our work and while Richard started describing this, the designer started to draw. Richard told him about our approach, what excited us in working with clients, and how we wanted to bring fresh approaches to help them be more successful. Here’s what the designer came up with and the logo we kept for the first 10 years:
Lesson 3: Once you’ve had some good and not so good experiences, define your ‘ideal client’ – and stick to this.
Our ideal client met six key criteria: a visionary leader (and they are everywhere in organizations) who is bold and willing to take risks, has an improvement mindset, aligns with our values, and is selflessly focused on improving organizational performance. We wanted to live where we work, and also wanted to ensure prospective clients could pay our professional fees – two final criteria. We set a weighting for each criteria along with a threshold minimum, and scored all opportunities. We said no to those below the minimum. We’ve learned over and over again that you will do your best work, learn a lot and have the most fun with your ideal clients or target customers.
Lesson 4: Continue to learn and reinvest those learnings into your products and services.
We developed methodologies for our three main practice areas: Strategy, Continuous Improvement and Leader Development throughout the first ten years. Over the next five years, we took those learnings and developed simple, easy-to-understand models, and then built templates and tools to scale what we created. We stayed open-minded to new ideas and adapted our methodologies accordingly. We made it a practice to ask our clients how we could improve, and built these learnings into future iterations.
Our second logo was designed to reflect the confidence we were building. It used bolder colours and a dot that moved around the page to show that we are a solid but innovative and creative management consulting firm. We also lost the uppercase in the firm name – to signal subtly that the company didn’t consist of just two consultants anymore.
Lesson 5: Make your brand bigger than yourself.
With our latest brand refresh it became increasingly important to us that our clients and potential clients understand that Berlin Eaton is no longer dominated by Richard and Shelly, but is an entity of its own: Berlineaton -- comprised of a team of nine consultants and associates.
Our new logo is intended to signal this. We also have a unique nine colour logo palette – giving each employee and associate his or her own Berlineaton brand colour. Beyond the logo itself, we have been taking tangible steps to move our team into the spotlight with our clients, in our networks, on our website, and on social media. Check us out on our website (berlineaton.com), LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
Lesson 6: See the future from a place of abundance and continue to learn.
These past 20 years have soared by, even with some long days along the way. We’ve always held a view of abundance – even during uncertain times, like the great recession of 2009. We firmly believe there is no shortage of opportunities to work with great leaders and their teams.
We don’t see Berlineaton stopping or slowing down anytime soon. We have never felt that we’ve ‘learned enough’ or are ‘expert’ enough. We are eager to learn new things with our clients, and work hard to integrate our learnings into our work. It has been fun!
Here is the latest iteration of Berlineaton’s brand, commemorating our 20 years in business. If you look closely at the 20 in the logo below, you’ll also see a sketch of a runner at a starting gate.
That’s how we see the next 20! We’ve really just begun.
To find out more about how to build your brand, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org