Welcome to New Business Ownership

It’s time to work on your strategic value proposition.

By Beth LaBreche

If you're a new entrepreneur in the state of Minnesota, please accept my congratulations and warm welcome to the club. You're one of the largest wave of new business owners in the history of our state.

Right now you're probably busy outfitting your office, putting together your database of prospects and crunching your first budget numbers. But, in the midst of all those checklists, make sure you take time for getting something else in place:  your strategic value proposition.

Many businesses make the mistake of jumping into the entrepreneurial pool without memorializing why. Every business, whether it is just days or hundreds of years old, needs to clearly define who they are, what they do and why they are different. But most of all, defining why all of that should matter to your stakeholders is the most important definition of all. It's called your strategic value proposition

Having a solid strategic value proposition will be imperative for managing your business' reputation. Your proposition provides a benchmark against which you will measure your reputation by asking customers, prospects and influencers if they know, understand and can interpret that proposition. You will see your business through others' eyes.

Here's a simple-stepped process to get your going:

Capture your mission and vision  » Your mission is to do something. What is it? The vision you have for your company is what? Your core value to yourself, others, your clients, community, the environment is what?

Mission, vision and values are things your business "holds on to." They are internally focused-a rally cry for your team. Capturing these is important pre-work to defining your strategic value proposition, and how to position your company externally.

Ask yourself some simple questions » Who are we? Who do we serve? Who are our competitors? How are we different? What are the unique benefits that are derived from our product or service? What does it feel like to work with us?

This may seem deeply intuitive to you and, thus, unnecessary to capture on paper. After all, the answers to these questions are what keep you coming to work each day. But remember that this may be obvious to you alone. You must begin to organize the words that express these answers, because they are words that you will tell others, which they will then use to spread your good word.

Project your business through brand personality association » If you were a famous person, who would you be and why? What automobiles are most like your business; what brand attributes do you share? Is there an important building, person or object that represents your business?  Explain why you made that choice.

Associating with people and companies that stand for a certain something will help you project your business in similar ways, borrowing characteristics from perceptions of brands that already have a following. 

Listen to your stakeholders  » What do they know about you? What do they think about you? What do they tell others about you? How do they compare you to your competitors? How would they describe the experience of working with you? 

If you skip this step, you'll end up with what you envision yourself and your business to be, without checking on the reputation equity you may already have out there in the marketplace. Stay open to listening, even if you hear some things that surprise you.

Stake a claim, and make it real » Find a quiet place to start organizing your thoughts and research. Start collecting images and words that reflect your findings. Wordsmith statements about your company that are visionary yet grounded in truth. Write about the uniqueness of your company and move into making strong yet realistic statements. And stop being so humble. Choose strong, maybe even edgy words, that authentically capture you and your business.

Try it on for size » Before you set them in stone, use your statements in conversations-from the elevator and cocktail party, to sales calls and networking coffees. Observe how your words resonate with others. See if they feel natural to you, and notice the ways you paraphrase them. Don't forget to do a gut-check; do your messages sound solid, natural and personal to you? 

Fine-tune and start the buzz » Every touch point you make-from one conversation to millions of people-is an opportunity to speak for your business.  Over the culmination of all of your future years in business, it will be important to be strong, unique and consistent no matter when and where you (or others) talk about your business.  Your strategic value proposition will be the most important start-up or revisiting time you spend getting your business ready for its future.