Building your brand (Part 3)

Jul 22, 2019

Do you want to survive the next year, the next recession, and the ongoing reset of the workplace, the marketplace, and the recruiting space?

To succeed in this new era, we need to attract top talent and clients. We need to be accessible and have a presence across multiple platforms. If we want to standout, we also need to offer something different and better – something others want to be a part of and associated with. It is our brand that can help do this.

Building our ideal brand takes strategy, investment, and time.

Having a successful business and engaged employees are critical inputs, but ultimately it will be our culture, our connections, and our ability to transform and create impacts that positions us to win in ways others cannot.

Culture. Culture is a set of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors – spoken or assumed – that guide our actions. Our culture eventually becomes our brand. This is especially true today with social media and our connected economy.

A positive culture of excellence, growth, diversity, inclusion, and encouragement takes work. Similar to organizational growth and profits, culture is an outcome – the result of a series of strategic inputs and activities and produced outputs over time, all of which can be tracked and measured.

Our ideal culture unites and helps protect and guide us. It serves as the “mortar” that solidifies our values, it holds us together and helps leverage our different parts when stressed, and it connects us to a larger overall design and purpose.

As with business strategy and employee engagement, training, and development, leaders must be “all-in” on establishing and maintaining the right culture – the type our best talent and ideal clients want to invest in and be associated with every day.

Connection. We may have more “connections” today, but so many of us feel less “connected.”

Our ability to form and maintain meaningful relationships at the office and beyond has been compromised – often in the name of production and efficiency. There is a widening gap between the connections and the experiences we want and those we have. The same is true for our best talent.

Designing our business process and talent development systems to increase connections in the following areas adds value, depth, and appeal to our brand. They can also be platforms to help share our message to establish and elevate our brand:

  • At the office
  • Within the industry
  • Outside of the industry
  • At home and in our community
  • With ourselves

Transformation. Transformation happens when we are changed in some way by an experience. It is the highest level on the evolutionary economic model.

In terms of building our brand and promoting loyalty and retention, what are some ways to design and customize your employee and client experiences to guide positive change?

The following elements can be part of a transformation strategy:

  • Coaching, mentoring, training, and employee resource groups
  • Corporate impact and community service learning
  • Solutions design
  • Thought leadership

Impact. Impact is the difference we make in the world and in the lives of others.

Our desire for impact today extends across generations, demographics, and disciplines. Impact attracts, and as an industry we make an incredible impact every day. That is something we should be proud of and talk about much more than we do. But what about our impact on a firm level? What specific difference do we make? And how does that inspire those within and outside of our organization?

There are countless ways to do so, but the reality is that our impact on a firm level needs to extend beyond our projects to help us differentiate and build an in-demand brand. This impact needs to reach well beyond our business and into the heart of an inspired and active mission and vision.

Between establishing culture, increasing connection, designing transformation, and inspiring impact, there’s a lot that goes into building an in-demand brand. Unfortunately, for that very reason many firms either won’t start or follow through. This, however, presents an ideal opportunity for growth-oriented leaders and firms to stand out as they position themselves to win more through the challenges of today and the changes of tomorrow.

Peter Atherton, P.E., is an AEC industry insider who has spent more than 20 years as a successful professional civil engineer, principal, major owner, and member of the board of directors for a high-achieving firm. Atherton is now president and founder of ActionsProve, LLC, author of Reversing Burnout: How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners, and creator of the I.M.P.A.C.T. process. Atherton works with AEC firms to grow and advance their success through strategic planning implementation, executive coaching, performance-based employee engagement, and corporate impact design. Connect with him at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.