by Brian M. Fraley
The 4th of July holiday is associated with family vacations, parades, barbecues, and fireworks, but the true significance of the holiday is to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the birth of America as a free nation. It is also meant to recognize the men and women of our armed forces that have sacrificed so much to preserve the freedoms that we enjoy today.
So how did the American brand come to be the most revered, timeless, and widely recognized brand in the world and how can you use those lessons to enhance the brand of your business. The American brand evokes strong emotions; no other brand can bring tears to the eyes of its believers. The concept of America is intrinsically wired into the American brand. The loyalty to the brand originated with the immigrants that arrived on our shores and carried though to future generations.
While a country and a business have many differences, they bear many similarities. The core principles defining the formation of a strong brand are consistent and there is much to be learned by trying to emulate the unrivaled American brand.
Consistent Use of a Powerful Symbol
Every strong brand requires a symbol that is used consistently over time. It would be difficult to identify a more globally recognized symbol than the American Flag. It is known in even the most isolated civilizations across the globe. While variations of the flag have been used, the red, white, and blue color scheme is associated with America around the world. In business, we use a logo and a certain color combination that best reflects the firm. In addition to creating a logo that properly reflects your company’s history, culture, and expertise, you must use the logo consistently over time in order to brand yourself in the marketplace. Repetition is key. The way you use your logo in print and digital formats must be sacred. If it will not reproduce properly in a certain application, don’t use it.
Effective Slogans Strengthen the Brand
There have been several slogans associated with America including “America the Beautiful,” “In God We Trust,” “E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One),” and “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.” All of the above define the culture of the country and are used by our citizenry to rally around the American brand. In corporate America, we use a slogan or tagline, which is a brief statement that defines your business, or product or service offering. It should be relevant, brief, and memorable. And it should be one that your employees are proud to represent. While a slogan is not essential, the proper combination of words can bring added strength to a brand.
Who are Your Brand Patriots?
The term “Patriot” originated during the American Revolution and included rebels from a diverse array of social, economic, ethnic and racial backgrounds that were committed to escaping British control. Perhaps the most famous Patriot associated with the American Revolution was Paul Revere who rode across Massachusetts on horseback and literally went door to door to warn his fellow citizens that the British troops were coming. Paul Revere accepted the danger of his mission and was ultimately captured by the British.
Who are your Brand Patriots? They can be employees or satisfied clients. These Brand Patriots build your brand through their actions and positive word of mouth because they believe in your mission. They are the lynchpin that holds your business together. Ask yourself continually whether you are still earning their loyalty. Are they still waving your flag and feeling “Patriotic” about your brand?
The Declaration of Independence adds to the mystique and provides a historical link to the value of the American brand. This document commemorated the escape from British rule and the birth of the United States as a free nation. This document was a reflection of the passionate speeches, fierce debates, and bloody battles. Much effort has gone to promote this as a sacred document in museums and historic venues across the U.S. Not to mention, there has been extensive literature published to educate generations of Americans on the significance of the Declaration of Independence and the events surrounding it.
While the story of your company and its history is not as compelling as the freedom of a nation, there is a story that must be told properly to elevate the power of your brand. There are some great legacies behind many firms in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industry. What makes your firm unique? Now take that aspect and use it to add value to your brand. This aspect should be incorporated into your Marketing materials, your media publicity, and all outgoing materials on your firm. Use it internally as well. Give your employees a concept to rally around. Was your founder an immigrant with an empty wallet and a dream, or a member of a minority group? Was your company founded during a difficult economy? Most people appreciate stories of perseverance in the face of adversity and it has a way of creating unity. In the case of the American Revolution, citizens united against foreign occupation.
Develop Meaningful Traditions and Customs
The American brand is also built on the use of deeply rooted customs and traditions. We wear red, white, and blue, fly the American flag, say the Pledge of Allegiance, and sing the National Anthem just to name a few. Most of these traditions celebrate historical events and milestones and create unity and pride among the American people.
Strengthening the brand of your business can also be accomplished through customs and traditions. The repetition of traditions can build comradery and morale among your employees, while increasing the standing of your brand in the eyes of your employees. One effective method is to host an off-site team building retreat. You might also consider a strategic planning process that allows your employees to work in teams to address the various aspects of your business. The Strategic Planning process should be employed annually; it’s not necessarily a once and done process. Other ideas include hosting an open house to commemorate a significant anniversary, new location, or new product line. Look for opportunities to bring your team together and they will be converted into Brand Patriots.
Fortify and Understand Your Brand
No business-related brand will ever rival the American brand. The extensive history, passion, and mass appeal of a nation like the United States is impossible to replicate. The core principles described above, however, can build and fortify your brand if properly implemented.
Take advantage of this 4th of July holiday to reflect on the true meaning of the American brand and the men and women that have sacrificed their lives to preserve it. Then take a moment to reflect on the state of your own firm’s brand. How strong is your brand? Who are your Brand Patriots? If you can answer affirmatively to these questions, be thankful, but never grow complacent when it comes to your brand.
Fraley AEC Solutions, LLC has been launched to provide Marketing and Public Relations services to the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry in Pennsylvania and the surrounding region. The firm was founded by Brian M. Fraley, who has been providing Marketing and Business Development solutions within the AEC sector for more than 20 years. Starting his career in a construction and industrial advertising firm, he served as editor of a regional Highway/Heavy Construction trade publication, Marketing Director for a statewide transportation construction association, and Director of Marketing and Business Development for a civil engineering firm.
“There are many firms that provide Marketing and Public Relations services, but they lack the in-depth knowledge of the AEC sector,” says Fraley. “This is an industry with a unique language, history, personality, and way of conducting business. Fraley AEC Solutions was formed to cater to this underserved and often misunderstood marketplace.”
No stranger to the start-up environment, Fraley started his career with a small family-owned construction advertising agency in Bucks County, Pa. “One thing that has not changed in 20 years is that firms in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction sector must differentiate themselves with effective Marketing practices,” Fraley explained. “That need has been exacerbated due to a number of paradigm shifts that are currently underway from the technology revolution to the emergence of the next generation of management. Fraley AEC Solutions has the historical knowledge of the industry, which will be necessary to help our clients to adapt to current and future industry shifts.”
Was, Is And Will Be Your Best Investment
By Greg Sitek
No matter what equipment, vehicles or tools you own or use, it will perform better, longer, more profitably when maintained.
There are things you buy and write off as a business expense. Tools, vehicles and equipment should never be included in this mix.
Say maintenance and almost immediately you think of the “equipment,” the “machines,” the stuff that drinks gallons of fuel hourly and is critical to the continuation of your operation.
When you hear maintenance do you think about the portable generators, light towers, pumps, welders, and all the other “back-savers” you haul around in the bed of the pickup?
For that matter, what about the pickup? Do you think pickup when you hear or read maintenance?
While we’re at it, do you think about the impact wrenches, grinders, drills, hammers, drill bits, chisels, ratchets and all the other tools that go with you to the job site.
The big stuff is hared to ignore because it’s so obvious. You schedule the routine maintenance for engines, transmissions, drives and all the electric and hydraulic systems; suspension, tires or track/undercarriage and other major systems and/or components. But, do you include the work tools the machine uses — the bucket teeth? the cutting edges? – for example? You know that dull, blunt and worn ground engaging tools may not effectively dig into the material you’re trying to remove but they very effectively cut away your productivity and raise havoc with fuel consumption.
What can be more frustrating than trying to start a compressor on a remote jobsite and discovering that it won’t start because the fuel filter is really dirty or the air filter hasn’t been cleaned since the unit was acquired? Or suppose it’s a welder. Or any other portable piece of equipment.
Doesn’t it make sense to think that if “I needed it enough to buy it it should be important enough to make certain that it is always ready to do what it was designed to do?”
Every piece of equipment, every work tool or attachment, every vehicle, every portable tool, every hand tool, virtually every thing that’s made comes with some kind of manual or instructional document that tells you at least two things:
1. HOW TO USE IT
2. HOW TO MAINTAIN IT
There may also be some warranty information and of course an endless listing of all the bad things that can happen to you as a result of using this “whateveritis” thing.
The point is that there are literally thousands upon thousands of people who spend their workday writing this information; these instructions. I know. Many years ago (before the advent of the Selectric typewriter, fax machine, computer, cell phone – you get the idea) that’s what I did; write shop and service manuals for the auto industry.
The reason, everything man-made demands man-care. It’s that simple.
Your investment in the maintenance of what you use to do your work will result in greater productivity, longer machine/equipment life, lower fuel consumption and improved profitability.
If it was important enough to buy it is important enough to protect. The dollars you invest in maintaining your equipment, machines, attachments and tools you use to do your work will give you a greater ROI than and other investment plan available.
National editorial appeared in the June issues of the 13 ACP magazines.
I, for one, am glad winter is finally over. It took long enough to let spring finally emerge because in Michigan we had a couple of inches of snow in mid-April setting a record for number-of-inches in many areas of the state. This winter almost everyone in the country was a victim at one time or another.
Resulting road and infrastructure damage will be measured in the billions of dollars. Individuals will have racked up excessive auto repair costs, lost work days and higher-than-normal home-heating and electrical costs. The economic pain doesn’t stop here.
Virtually all construction suffered due to the cold and snow and the pain won’t dissipate with higher temperatures. Materials costs will increase due to shortages resulting from the cold.
It was a bad winter but it should be offset by an exceptional spring, summer and fall over the next seven or eight months. Or, will it…
According to Wells Fargo Economics Group:
Weather Effect has Largely Faded
Housing starts posted a second monthly gain in March, increasing 2.8 percent to a 946,000-unit pace. This report shows that while the housing recovery hit a snag in December and January due to weather, it is still on track. Although today’s gain is welcome, the reading was below consensus estimates. Moreover, permits fell 2.4 percent, but the decline was concentrated in
Single-Family Starts Rebound
Single-family starts increased 6.0 percent in March to a 635,000-unit pace, the second-straight monthly gain. The consecutive gains in single-family starts and increase in purchase applications should alleviate fears that the housing recovery has lost its luster. Wells Fargo expects single-family starts to increase 19 percent in 2014 and 18 percent in 2015. Multifamily starts fell 3.1 percent on the month to a 311,000 unit pace.
New Sales Plummet in March
New home sales dropped a more-than-expected, 14.5 percent in March, while forecasts were looking for a small pickup on the month. Weak builder sentiment and still-tight credit conditions continue to suggest sales activity will be challenged during home buying season. One bright spot was the jump in inventories, which reached its highest level since late 2010. Median home prices also rose more than 11 percent year to year.
Builder Confidence Remains Low
One tell-tale sign of the slower pace in new home sales activity is builder confidence. Sentiment has been stuck in a narrow band over the past three months, but remains below the key threshold of 50 where more builders see conditions as “good” rather than “poor.” Moreover, prospective buyer traffic also remained at a low level. We suspect weather is still playing a role in the tepid pace of sales activity, but reports in April and May will confirm.
According to American Road & Transportation Builders Association, (ARTBA) “Data from a new government report shows that if all the structurally deficient bridges in the United States were placed end-to-end, it would take you 25 hours driving 60 miles per hour to cross them. That’s like driving the 1,500 miles between Boston and Miami. And it’s a problem that’s close to home.
ARTBA will announce the list of the top 250 structurally deficient U.S. bridges, state rankings based on the number of deficient bridges and estimates to repair them, and a list of each state’s top 10 deficient bridges.”
This and other related information will be released after this issue goes to press. We will post the results online at site-kconstructionzone.com as soon as it is available and include it in next month’s issues.
Winter may be over but winter woes will probably be with us for some time to come. If the road situation was bad last year, it is considerably worse this year. And, don’t forget, the current Highway Bill is in the hands of Congress.
By: Matthew Wisla
“Economics, politics and personalities are often inseparable.” – Charles Edison (1890-1969); Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New Jersey and Thomas Edison’s son.
Something has to give. While China’s journey down the road of economic expansion has transformed the country into the world’s second largest economy, China cannot continue on its present course. The consensus among business leaders, politicians and economists alike is that Phase One of China’s economic development has run its course and the remarkable era epitomized by 30 years of double-digit economic growth is over. If the journey toward lasting economic prosperity is to continue significant economic reforms are needed. Phase Two will require a refueling of political will and a new map. However, if the reforms are not successfully implemented then the glory days of positive economic progress will likely be behind China and a period of stagnation will ensue.
Whatever happens, China’s future economy will be significantly different from what we have known so far. The country’s economic fate is in the hands of its current reform minded leaders and their actions will determine if China stagnates or continues to prosper. What’s known for sure right now is that things will not stay the same.
Currently, American companies in China have mostly continued investing and expanding operations there, even though they realize that China’s economy is at an inflection point. Through ongoing investment, companies are looking to maintain or improve their competitive position while continuing to generate revenue based on the size and ongoing growth of China’s economy, which even as it has slowed recently still outpaces most countries and is the highest among the world’s major powers. China recently announced that the growth target for the economy this year will be 7.5-percent, the same as 2013. In making the announcement, Premier Li Keqiang signaled a break with the past by emphasizing that growth would not be allowed to get in the way of reforms.
“Reform is the top priority for the government,” Li said. “We must have the courage to fight on and break mental shackles to deepen reforms on all fronts.”
For decades, a common refrain among foreign business leaders in China went like this, “China is a tough market where everyone has frustrations and setbacks, but we’ve never gone wrong betting on China’s long term economic success.” Unfortunately, China’s past economic triumphs offer no guarantee for the future. In fact, historically, when most countries reach the crossroads where China presently finds itself, they fail to make further economic progress. Economists call it the Middle Income Trap, and Russia along with several South American and eastern European countries are snared in it.
Singapore and South Korea are among those countries that avoided the trap but typically, following an initial burst of frenetic, prolonged economic growth, countries get caught up someplace between poverty and prosperity where growth dramatically stalls. In China’s case, years of fast-paced economic expansion created inevitable imbalances within the economy. Now those imbalances have ballooned enough to stand in the way of further economic progress. Mae West once said, “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” But she wasn’t talking about economics.
Whereas permitting economic imbalances facilitated, and were in fact integral to, Chinese growth for decades, now they are a roadblock to ongoing growth and China is set up for the Middle Income Trap. The key issue is that the government’s investment-led growth has increased debt to unsustainable levels.
According to Tom Orlik, an economic reporter with Bloomberg and author of the book Understanding China’s Economic Indicators, “The biggest worry about China this year is the state of the financial system. Massive credit growth has left banks overexposed, and as the economy slows the cracks are starting to show.”
It is imperative for the debt to be addressed and the economy rebalanced away from relying on investment as a primary growth driver. “The clock is fast running out on China’s tactic of using runaway credit to fuel investment-led growth,” said Patrick Chovanec, an economist with Silvercrest Asset Management. “At best China faces a growth squeeze from a mounting burden of bad debt, at worse that bad debt will blow up in its face. Either way, China faces a wrenching economic adjustment.”
China’s leaders hope to install a new economic model powered by consumption, services and innovation. Time is critical now because the old economic model is no longer working and reforms to drive the rebalancing are not fully implemented. But time is not the only enemy. Even if the leadership has designed a perfect plan, strong forces within China will try to thwart its execution.
At the heart of the challenge sits this fact: Reform and rebalancing will alter how the benefits of growth are allocated within the economy and the Communist Party leaders, working level officials and government institutions that have been reaping the greatest benefits from China’s growth to-date will receive smaller pieces of the pie. As the prominent economist Michael Pettis points out, currently the interests of the economic elite and the needs of the greater Chinese economy are not aligned.
Those most affected form a powerful group resisting economic reform. Or to look at it politically within the context of China’s one party system, Party leaders now seek to act against the self-interests of many of the most powerful members and ardent supporters in the Party’s base.
All the while, the current anti-corruption campaign against government officials may already be creating dissent within the Party. As Cheng Li, Director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, has written, “The anti-corruption campaign has not come without serious political risks. Though popular among the Chinese public, President Xi Jinping and his main political ally Wang Qishan (who is known as the czar of the anti-corruption campaign) may be alienating the officialdom—the very people on whom the system relies for effective functioning.”
Regarding economic reforms, the main opposition includes cadres and businesspeople who manage the state sector of the economy where much of the previous investment was funneled, along with government officials at the national, provincial and local levels who fed off the system through corruption. The previous growth model also concentrated tremendous wealth and power within certain economic sectors, such as real estate, and those who were enriched are not going to willingly relinquish their privileged positions within the economy.
By any measure, China’s economic expansion has had an incredible run. To-date it has lifted more people out of poverty than at any time in history, and created newfound opportunity and widespread prosperity for average citizens. Many are the Chinese parents and grandparents who can scarcely believe how their living standards have improved, or the modern wonders available to the younger Chinese generation coming of age in this new world. So, although ordinary households benefited to a disproportionately smaller extent than other segments of the economy, as China grew at a breakneck pace everyone felt like they were winning.
From the US standpoint, American companies and our economy overall have much to gain from a rebalanced Chinese economic model. For example, as China’s middle class gains spending power there will be new opportunities for US companies in the service sector. An area where the US is inherently strong. In addition, China’s plans call for creating more free trade zones which will allow American business to compete without some of the market restrictions encountered elsewhere in China. And recently the Chinese government has emphasized that markets, not state controls, will play a bigger role in the country’s economic development, a change that if it comes to fruition could satisfy a long standing demand from the American business community.
Like China, the United States once faced a Middle Income Trap of its own, according to economists. The roaring 20’s were a time of unprecedented growth for our economy which created imbalances and an unsustainable state of affairs. The reform era which followed escalated tensions within American society as those who amassed wealth and power during the boom years sought to maintain the status quo, but a tough breed of reformers helped the US avoid the trap.
Now, in China, the mettle of a new tough minded group of reformers is being tested. Their economic decisions and, perhaps more importantly, their political calculations and actions will determine if the Chinese economic miracle continues or stalls. Many US companies and the success of key sectors of our economy have a stake in how this turns out.
Matthew Wisla recently returned from nine years in China helping American companies succeed in one of the world’s most demanding and challenging markets. He co-founded the Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations Forum for the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing and later served as the organization’s Vice President of Communications. Previously he worked in the US and Beijing for the leading global communications consultancy Fleishman-Hillard. His expertise includes brand building and managing corporate reputations, as well as issues and crisis management and policy communications (www.matwisla.com).
This article appeared in the April issues of the ACP magazines.