Start building your brand book with a visioning workshop

To be effective, each element of your brand’s ethos must be authentic. Your values must be aligned with your identity, your mission must match your purpose and your vision must be a moonshot that resonates with your team, your customers and, perhaps most importantly, with you as the founder.

A true ethos can’t be prescribed or copied. It must be extracted from the people building your company (sounds painful, I know). That’s where the visioning workshop comes in. A visioning workshop sequesters key players on your team in a room to dig deep into your collective motivations, inspirations and ambitions. It’s a collaborative, generative experience that surfaces the concepts that matter most to your brand and company.

Here’s how to do it:

Let the founder or CEO drive this process to signal the importance of the work. An outside facilitator could help you keep things on track, but the whole workshop can be DIY’d if budget is a concern.

Skipping ethos work is a costly mistake that produces a disjointed and rudderless brand, directly and negatively impacting the growth potential of the company.

You should select five to six stakeholders for the working team, ensuring a cross section of perspectives in the room. Most early-stage companies will find it practical to include department leads and members of the founding team. This team will do most of the heavy lifting and is responsible for bringing insights from their respective areas.

Then, gather the team (preferably off-site to limit distractions) for at least a four-hour session to participate in a series of exercises, both individually and as a group. Make liberal use of a whiteboard (take pictures of the board as you go) and encourage note-taking. You might even consider making an audio recording of the session to reference later.

These exercises should be generative in nature, and you’ll use the results to prompt discussions and identify patterns.

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Here are three of the most effective ones for early-stage companies:

Exercise #1: Is and will

Deceivingly difficult, this one is great to start with, as it tends to inspire productive conversation. Give each team member 10 minutes to complete the two sentences below. Responses should be short, ideally less than ten words total. Then share the responses and discuss as a group for 20-30 minutes.

“My company is…”

“My company will…”

The intent of this exercise is twofold: The first phrase helps derive your company’s mission, which is your team’s daily focus. The second phrase helps derive your company’s vision, which is your direction and purpose.

Exercise #2: Desired end state