You: (Knock, knock) Hello, it's me, Chris Williams from the Best Company.

Customer: And just who is the Best Company?

Have you ever been stumped trying to answer that question? Oh, you know it in your head; yes, you know all about your company in your head. You could talk for hours about what your company does, how it does what it does, etc. But who is your company? In one beautifully elegant, succinct expression. Who are you?

Well, the answer to that question is both simple and complex. The simple answer is, "Your company, to the customer and all your other stakeholders, is its brand identity." The complex part is exactly what that brand identity is and how you create it.

Yes, that's the theme of entrepreneurship, the story behind every great company, the position every entrepreneur needs to take for his or her company to stand out from everyone else.

Your customer, client, vendor, partner, executives, employees, bank, financial adviser, coaches, consultants--yes, everyone you interact with, from the very beginning of your company to the very end of your company--must get to know you. And the way they get to know you is through your brand.

Before you start trying to get better at all the communication you do, you must get to know your customer, who they are, what they do, why they do it, and most important, what's not working for them.

Only after you've gotten to know each and every one of them--truly gotten to know them--must you then go to work on your business to design it to solve their problem, to transform their lives, to fix whatever needs to be fixed in a way nobody else has attempted to fix it.

It will become your signature. Which will become your brand. Which is what every entrepreneur is looking for, no matter what kind of business he or she owns; the brand, the brand, the brand. The mindset, the makeover, the religion at the heart of your business, which everyone, yes, everyone, knows, believes in, and trusts.

So how do you go about defining and clarifying your brand? How do you answer the question, "Who is the (fill in your name) Company?" Consider these questions:

  • What do we believe in?
  • What drives our company?
  • What are we committed to?
  • How do we impact the lives of our customers?
  • How do we impact our community?
  • What standards define our methods?
  • What rules of the game define the results we are committed to produce?

This means, of course, that you need to come to a conclusion about each of these questions. They must live inside of you, inside of each and every one of your people, inside of each and every function within your company.

Which also means you must learn how to articulate them. And by articulate, I mean the exact words you speak, the exact way in which you speak them, the exact form they take in every document that goes across your desk and your people's desks, your telephone conversations, your website, your communications of every kind.

In short, these words must flow throughout your company, throughout your community, at every meeting, and in every meeting that follows every meeting. At home and at work.

In short, you must become an evangelist.

A true believer.

A true believer in the meaning of your business.

A true believer in the spirit of your business.

A true believer in the soul of your business.

So, how do you do that? You start at the very beginning. You start by taking a big, broad, bodacious look at your customer. At the one whom you're committed to serve. At the very reason you're in business in the first place. In short, you don't develop the words from inside your business, as many believe you need to do.

You develop the words from outside your business, as few business people know how to do.

This is not marketing or sales or good communication skills. This is getting to truly know the people you hope to do business with.

Your customer holds the secret to your success. 

Published on: Jan 20, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.