Life as a house is more than just a Hayden Christensen movie. It’s the way that everything seems to work in the world. We start at the bottom. By laying a solid bottom layer, that gives us the chance to build on top of it. And that bottom layer in business is four pillars (or cornerstones) that can’t be ignored when it comes to building something strong and lasting.
Before diving in, quick personal story about math.
I have spent my whole life sucking at math. It just doesn’t click for me. In fact, my mom was once so proud of a C that I got on a math test, she put it on the fridge.
But after talking to my husband about my math problems (pun totally intended) we have figured out that it's not that I’m bad at math, it’s that I never got a solid foundation. I never learned some basics that I needed to build the rest of my understanding around, so I have not done well since that point.
Business is the same as math. What you lay as your foundation is vital to the overall health and well being of the rest of the layers you put on top. So without further ado, let’s talk about the four pillars you need to be strong for the rest of your business.
Branding is one of the four most important things that you can do for your business. Your branding doesn’t just include a spiffy logo and a beautiful website. Those things contribute, but only at the superficial level. No. I’m talking about your messaging. I’m talking about the feel of your brand. The personality that people vibe with.
This is a more in depth process that is all about that emotion that you want to leave someone with. And while it’s not going to resonate with everyone, your brand should have a relatable, personable aspect that is what connects people to you and your brand.
Brand elements can be put into two categories; tangible and intangible. This is what both of those look like.
Social media graphics
You see how I didn’t say plan? Or budget? Or team?
That wasn’t an accident.
I’ve seen this scenario play out way more than I’d like to.
Business owner pays thousands of dollars for branding. They love their branding collateral. The designer has helped them build the intangible pieces of their brand and they feel connected to it. But now, they have all of these pieces and don’t know what to do with them.
This thought makes me shudder. But this is where strategy comes in.
Strategy is all about how you go about getting people’s attention. This can come in so many different shapes and forms, but it all leads to the end goal; getting your brand in front of the people who can benefit most from it.
There are lots of ways to do this:
Paid ads (not for the beginner)
SEO best practices
All of these can provide an opportunity for you to get in front of the people that matter most. The real rub of it is deciding where to spend your time, which as I’ve said before is your most valuable resource. The single most important thing to remember about strategy is that every move is a part of a coordinated effort to reach a goal.
I’ve seen a lot of misconception about what a system is in the creative entrepreneur world lately. For some reason, we have started equating systems with softwares. But let me throw it you this way. When you shower, do you have to remind yourself to wash your hair? What about dry off after?
Of course not. You have automated those responses. You step into the shower, wet your hair and start shampooing (or no-pooing as it were) but you don’t have to think about it. It happens. And the reason for this is because for the last how ever long you’ve been showering, you did the same thing every time. You created a system that allowed you to turn off your conscious function and automate.
The same thing can be applied to your business. Workflows that you follow again and again turn into second nature. Routines that you form are eventually automatic.
Systemizing doesn’t mean always mean software, but it can too. And software doesn’t always mean an expense. Giving yourself the chance to get creative with your systems really allows you to adapt, organize, and mold your business into what you want it to be.
It's all well and good for me to talk about foundations in your business at the most detailed level. But if you honestly do not have the knowledge to take words on a blog and put them into action, then there is no point for either of us to keep going like this.
Education is the single most consistently needed pillar of a strong business. Education is the ongoing learning and experimentation to perfect the brand, marketing strategy, and systems that you have in place for your business.
What education is not is an MBA. Or any other degree. It is not about thinking you have ever learned it all. It is not about ever being done.
But learning and developing further all the time doesn’t mean spending money on courses or coaching or school. Education in this context (and most, I believe) is the constant pursuit of something more to learn.