By Zev Herman, President of Superior Lighting.

Branding should begin from the inside out, even though we often think of it as the outermost presentation of a business or product. Many entrepreneurs face challenges of losing brand consistency, or worse, brand narrative. How do you get other businesses and customers to see you the way you want to be seen? That process begins with you as an entrepreneur, sometimes before your business has even started.

Base Your Brand on Values

Sometimes brands are based on the nature of a product or service. However, entrepreneurs who start here underestimate just how quickly and profoundly they may have to pivot to find success. Don’t be surprised if your new direction means you have to leave major ideas you once considered non-negotiable behind.

However, you can keep your brand strong through any change if it comes from your own system of values. For example, George Jenkins, founder of the supermarket chain Publix, placed a high value on employee treatment. It was a high priority for him when he opened his first store and it is the first thing employees are taught about to this day. That’s the difference between branding by product and branding by value.

How do you brand by values? That begins with you. If you don’t embody what you want from your company, it will be difficult to make your key leaders and employees believe it. If your employees don’t believe it, there will come a time when customers don’t either. For example, I am passionate about energy-efficient solutions. I believe business and ecologically-conscious solutions go hand in hand. I make that clear everywhere from my products to my website.

Your brand will be challenged at some point, probably sooner in your career as an entrepreneur than you suspect. You don’t know how far that challenge will spread in the days of social media. You won’t know what the direct impact on revenue will be. And worst of all, you don’t know what that challenge will be.

How do you prepare for it? There’s an old saying: If you have a bad reputation, you’ll be blamed for everything. If you have a good reputation, you can be forgiven for anything. The first people who can damage your new brand’s reputation are investors, business partners and potential clients who detract from you and your work. That being said, who have you and your key people been during these interactions?

Are your employees informed, friendly and quick to respond to concerns? Are you? A pattern of positive behavior is the difference between someone giving you the benefit of the doubt while you fix the problem and someone trashing your brand to the first people who will listen.

You can start things off in a positive direction by being transparent and honest with everyone you deal with early on in the life of your brand. Specifically, this means following through on what you say you will do and being upfront about delays and obstacles. Most people can relate to obstacles that are out of your control. This is how I try to run my own company.

Relationships drive an incredible number of business decisions. Your personal brand will have a direct impact on the quality and loyalty of the relationships you build. When your personal values are synonymous with your brand, you have the solid foundation from which any other branding necessities can grow.

Zev Herman is President of Superior Lighting. He is focused on growing wholesale light bulb and lighting business, specializing in energy-efficient lighting design and retrofits.