1. Your appearance can actually be important
Now here is the disappointing truth, are you ready? Looks really CAN matter (although I would never tell my 15 year-old self that – I looked breathtaking with braces.) Presentation can be a factor in determining who you connect with, how you build relationships, and where you ultimately feel the most comfortable. More importantly, it shows how you want to be perceived, because that is who you will attract.
While building a brand, you will go through many phases of growth. The first logo you choose, the first website you build, and even the first office you decorate will not be perfect and you can expect it to evolve as your company matures and finds its place in the market.
You may never know when your brand is in its final stage – and even then, it will still need to be refined. The best you can do is set yourself up for success by putting in the work up front. Do the research and figure what your differentiators are, define your core values, and identify who your audience is before you choose any graphics or collateral material for your brand. Just remember, nobody likes looking at pictures of themselves with frosted tips and parachute pants, but it was still an important phase in your life.
2. You can’t be trusted online
“Irresponsible online activity” is practically a euphemism for “stupid teenager” these days, but they aren’t the only ones making regretful decisions online.
Your online reputation has to be a top priority because it is accessible by everyone, forever. This seems to be lost on some people (of any age) when it comes to social media.
That embarrassing video, private photo, inappropriate hashtag, angry tweet, shameful spelling error, or post that sounded better in your head – all of it. These are mistakes you only make once, but in some cases, one mistake may be one too many.
Remember when your parents used to tell you “look both ways before you cross the street” or to “measure twice, cut once”? These rules absolutely apply to social media. Even if you want to come across as loose, fun, and carefree, it never hurts to take a moment before you post and make sure it says exactly what you want it to say.
If you don’t understand it, aren’t a part of it, or can’t contribute to the conversation, just don’t do it. As a brand, if you aren’t familiar with what platform is appropriate for which audience, how to research and (effectively) use hashtags, or end up posting in the heat of the moment, you run the risk of either becoming famous overnight (for something you’ll probably regret) or you will just be talking to yourself.
Remember, social media is about building real relationships and providing valuable content.
3. You’ll experience a lot of rejection
One of the hardest things about high school (or even younger) is realizing that not everyone is going to like you. What’s worse is that almost everyone is still trying to figuring out how to accept this and make the most of it. And let’s face it, romantic comedies wouldn’t exist without these unrequited relationships.
Rejection is just something that happens in every aspect of our lives. Being different means that you will have a polarizing effect on people, but being the “same” means that you won’t stand out or you will be over looked for a more appealing option. You may eventually come to find that what makes you different, is what makes you better.
Most brands start by defining what makes them unique so that they can differentiate themselves from any competition. This is a hard, but necessary, step. You have to know who you are and what you stand for because not everyone is going to like it.
If you leverage your differences and build off of those who see value in what you are doing, you will find loyal followers who are just as passionate as you are and believe in you. Just don’t lose confidence from a few bad Yelp reviews or YouTube comments.
4. You will be judged for things that didn’t seem important at the time
Applying for college at age 16 or 17 can seem like a cruel joke. You sit there with an application in your hand (or on a screen), asked to define who you are, what makes you so special, why you should be chosen out of the many options available. Basically, you are deciding who you want to be for the rest of your life (or at least that is how it feels.)
They ask you questions you had never even considered before:
Describe how you have demonstrated leadership ability both in and out of school.
What do you see as the greatest threat to the environment today?
Discuss a special attribute or accomplishment that sets you apart.
Who cares about my leadership skills? And since when did the environment have anything to do with me going to college?
Whether you’ve thought about an issue before or not, it might be very important to someone else. How you react to these new challenges and issues will say more about your character than you think.
Items that may be low on your priority list (packaging, logo, community involvement) could end up being the main factor in what is holding you back. Listen to what your current and potential customers are saying and take them seriously. Don’t let it discourage or sidetrack you from your goals (see #3) but you need to be open, thoughtful, and intentional when it comes to growing as a company.
5. You’ll have big dreams but poor execution
Don’t be that guy who wants to be the best football player in the world but skips practice, doesn’t learn the plays, makes excuses, and blames others for his own shortcomings.
Now, I don’t know about you but, when I was younger, the concept of sitting at a desk on a day-to-day basis never even occur to me. Your dreams and passions tend to take the shape of dramatic actions and tangible results, however, the journey is just as (if not more) important than the finale you always pictured.
Astronauts, filmmakers, doctors, architects, athletes – they did not just jump to where they are now. All that hard work to get to where they are cannot be ignored, and they didn’t do it alone. You need the right team and support, and you need patience and dedication.
Don’t lose sight of what inspired you in the beginning, but also acknowledge the need for a lot of planning, research, analysis, strategy, and yes, even spreadsheets involved in making those dreams come true. Whether you like it or not, a lot of this requires some serious bonding with a desk (or at least a desk chair.)
So go on, dream big! But don’t ignore or get discouraged by the necessary work that must be put in, in order for your dreams to become a reality.
6. You’ll try to act older than you are and forget to enjoy the journey
It is easy to compare your current self to where you want to be, however, this can be more detrimental to your end goal. You may want to be able to do the same tricks as David Beckham or play as well as Joe Satriani, but they dedicated a lot of time to studying, learning, and practicing from the very beginning. Similar to #5, it can be so tempting to take short-cuts and skip some very important steps thinking it will accelerate the process, but usually this ends up coming back to haunt you.
You can’t compare yourself to a more established brand or you will race to achieve something you just aren’t prepared to handle or don’t have the resources to do properly. Set short-term, achievable goals that will allow you to see the progress without getting frustrated – you will enjoy the moment so much more.
We’ve all thought about making a big impact on something as simple as a Vine video, Instagram account, or Twitter feed. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, it just means that those who are successful either have the dedication, resources, confidence and/or timing necessary to make it work.
Things don’t (usually) happen overnight and you can’t compare yourself to the big dogs. Macy’s may have 14 million followers on Facebook, or an even smaller, local boutique may have more than a few thousand. This kind of competition leads to unrealistic expectations and inorganic methods of exponentially growing followers that are not actually potential customers – some companies have even bought these followers. You have to build a brand slowly and sensibly through organic relationships that will turn into loyal followers. Be in the moment, realize where you are, and figure out where you can realistically be in the next six months.
7. You will experiment (for better or worse)
Don’t pretend like those pictures of you with black lipstick or a mohawk don’t exist. Everyone has those “seemed like a good idea at the time” moments, but you can’t get caught up feeling like you did something wrong and not taking a risk when the next opportunity arises.
You WILL try something, and it won’t be right the first time. Use that as an opportunity to find out what worked, what didn’t, and most importantly, why. Learning from your mistakes and moving on can be hard, especially if you aren’t even aware that your actions may be detrimental to your future. Hindsight, right?
Business owners might be too close to their own brand to know what the best decisions are in order to move forward and be successful. An outside perspective is exactly what they need, but most of the time, this is met with resistance. A lot of brands have to experiment before they find their “secret sauce”, but they can be successful as long as they are open to change and willing to move on to a new solution if something isn’t working.
8. You’ll have to learn that you can’t do it all alone
It is easy to think you can do everything by yourself. This usually means taking on too many burdens that can bog down your mental, emotional, and even physical health. Sharing the weight with others can be difficult, but it is even harder to break the cycle once it starts and can snowball into larger issues.
Brainstorming ideas, making decisions and taking action does not have to fall on one person. So what if the best logo you could design involves stick figures, and maybe you aren’t the best with finances? Guess what – there are professionals for that. Don’t spread yourself too thin, or you will burn out. If you have a dedicated person to help you take care of specific tasks, you can focus on what is important: growing your brand, defining and meeting key goals, working efficiently, and, most importantly, not losing passion.
This just reminded me how happy I am that I’m not in high school anymore. But I do love watching small companies grow and flourish when it is executed properly and organically.
The best part about creating a new brand or company is that there are so many opportunities ahead of you. This can be extremely overwhelming for some people. While small business owners are some of the most passionate people we have met in our industry, logistics can get in the way and quash that passion. Slow down, build real relationships with people that share your passion, ask for help, learn from your mistakes, and of course, have fun.