You’re simply the CEO of a development business, the entrepreneur that has brought this team together. An analogy that I like to use is that of a cabinet minister. Today, they may be the most important person in Defence, yet one reshuffle later, they could find themselves heading up the Department of Health. How can the top person in the Health department be appointed despite having zero health experience? The answer is that their skills lie as a departmental head, effectively a CEO. They’ll be inheriting a large team of civil servants and advisors who have millennia of health experience between them and who provide all the knowledge and technical expertise needed for the minister to run the department and make any necessary decisions. That’s effectively the same CEO role that you’ll be playing; heading up your team of professionals who bring all the technical experience to your business.
Hopefully, you’re now feeling a bit better about your lack of development experience. So where does branding fit into things? Well, while your team of professionals may be doing much of the technical heavy lifting, it’s your responsibility to find the deals, crunch the numbers, source the finance, and ensure the project gets off the ground. This means that you’ll be the one who engages with commercial agents, vendors, lenders, brokers, private investors, as well as hiring your team of professionals. And, no surprises, you’ll need to come across well if you’re going to get them all onside.
So, what are your tools of the trade, branding-wise? Firstly, you’ll need a name for your business and a logo. I’ve seen some people agonise for months over this, yet we give our students just 24 hours. Why? It’s because you’re the only person in the known universe that cares what your development business is called or what colour the logo is. So, every minute you spend designing a logo is a minute you’re not hunting for your first deal. That’s not an excuse to be sloppy; the key goal here is for your brand to look ‘professional’; however, you can quickly and cheaply outsource logo design and make a point of giving yourself a deadline of tomorrow morning to come up with a name. Note that your business name doesn’t automatically need to be set up as a limited company since you will have to set up a separate limited company for each project you undertake anyway.
Now you have a name and logo; you’ll be needing a business card and a website. Again, don’t overthink it. You’re not trying to stand out from the crowd; you just need to look professional. For business cards, avoid anything quirky or gimmicky, as they look like you’re trying too hard. Good quality, rectangular cards without your mugshot on the front are the way to go. Insert your logo, name, and contact details together with your website address for good measure, and your work here is done. Just don’t be tempted to save pennies by buying cheap cards; they’ll cost you more in the long run. Your website is next, and it’s important to understand the critical role it plays in underlining your credibility. New developers often make the mistake of believing they’ll have untold hordes descending on their website from the ether; however, the reality is that even your mum will struggle to find you on Google without scrolling through page after page of listings. Luckily, we’re not trying to get ranked, as the only people that will be visiting your website are people you’ve already met or who have heard about you. Just let that sink in for a moment; the only people who will see your website are the estate agents, professionals, private investors, and commercial lenders that you’ve already spoken to. And the only reason they’re looking at your site is to check out your credibility. So, the same rules apply – keep it looking professional. Five or six pages covering your business, your personal bio with a headshot and those of your team, relevant case studies or projects if you have them, plus a home page and contact page is all you need. Use good quality images, but don’t make things look too busy, and go for a traditional layout. Critically, outsource the copywriting if you’re not an excellent wordsmith, as it’s an area that can let many websites down. Also, use a web designer or website template provider to create your website rather than going on a WordPress crash course yourself. You have far better things to do…