I can't remember if it was the BBC's WatchDog or a similar programme on Channel 5 exposing rogue builders but the ease with which unscrupulous businessmen seem to be able to create and then discard ailing limited companies with impunity was quite astonishing.
On whichever programme it was, the man in question had about ten companies listed against his name, all in varying states of dissolution due to insolvency and bad management.
None seemed to have had more than cursory attention to branding of any sort - no logo or proper headed stationery. I think that's probably one of the areas that gives you the biggest clues about the passion of any potential supplier/customer - have they taken the time to develop a proper corporate identity. And I don't mean that in a big, swish office type of way. Just the attention to detail that is involved in designing and working through the visual representation by which people will remember you.
If they are not passionate enough about their own business to invest the time and money in such a pursuit, then it is a good pointer about the nature of their feelings towards their clients/suppliers.
I've spent a lot of time (and money) recently, working on my own branding. It was Facebook's fault. The rules pertaining to their cover image meant that calls to action and wording were no longer permitted. It had to be a visual representation of any business.
But, even before that, I had begun to realise that words like SEO and social media optimisation were not naturally occurring in the vernacular of most of my potential customers. I had to find a way to make them understand what my company actually does.
I was lucky enough to be invited to an event at the Institute of Directors in London, hosted by my friends at Corporate Battlefields. Graeme is a retired soldier with a passion for Napoleonic and World War I battles. He and his colleagues take groups of employees from big corporate companies to those battlefields and help them to understand the implications of decisions made in haste using the examples from history to apply them to more modern commercial man management.
I was seated next to another member of his regiment, the Green Howards. We talked about a video that Graeme had shown me of the retiring of the regimental colours. Jim told me how the flags and banners were the mustering point of any soldier who was displaced from his unit during a battle. Isolated and separated from their colleagues in the heat of the fighting, they would search their surroundings for the familiar pieces of flapping cloth and make their way towards the other survivors.
The flag themselves are blessed in a chapel before being allowed into service and, from then on, they go everywhere with those men. However, when a regiment is retired or disbanded, they are taken back to that same chapel and left to moulder and rot until they are reduced to dust.
For the Green Howards, there was a big parade where members of the regiment marched in bowler hats with umbrellas, escorting those familiar scraps of cloth to their final resting place. Just as Graeme had when he talked of the day, Jim's eyes filled with tears of pride and sadness
It's that sort of emotion that should be engendered in business owners when faced with their own logo. The symbol of their promise to look after their customers, to serve and do the right thing by them. It's something that used to happen when people stayed with a company for 40 or 50 years - loyalty and a sense of belonging. Logos have become an extension of the symbolism of those company colours and directors and employees alike should feel that same passion for both the image and their work.
It is that passion and enthusiasm which should come forth when speaking about your services to a potential customer. If it's just about the money, then, as a business owner, you've lost the plot. People can tell.
I have lost count of the number of times that people have told me it was my enthusiasm that persuaded them to choose us over larger competitors. We invest a lot of time and energy in our clients' success.
It matters to us personally. We Direct Traffic is our slogan and our ethos.