How self-reflection is good for the soul of your business.

As Abraham Lincoln wisely observed, he who represents himself has a fool for a client. It was an aphorism that resonated with our firm, Blackjet. For ten years we have been helping clients build compelling strategies, identities and narratives for the brands. We have done tremendously well, but as we approached a decade in business, we felt that it was time to renew our own public face. The brander refreshing its brand.

I will admit that we were not our own best client. What would normally take 6-12 months took us two years. We all had strong opinions, which often differed. But the process of self-reflection and renewal was hugely helpful, something I recommend to any business, large or small. For us, it really helped shine a light on areas where we needed to improve and to give us a deeper understanding of our identity and mission. Here are some of the key steps and central lessons.

Eschew the echo chamber

We started by heeding Lincoln’s words and asking an outside consultant to give us an honest, unbiased appraisal, to act as a sounding board so that we would not be stuck in a self-reflective bubble and to help us sharpen our focus and challenge our assumptions.

Ask hard questions-include detractors

We always advise clients that branding must be honest and true to what you are, to be fearless. That meant asking hard questions where the answers might sting. We talked to our clients to get their comments on our work. We also spoke to those who choose to not hire us and asked them why. We asked ourselves elemental questions:  who are we, what do we do, how do we do it and why?

We built our own online feedback tool to support our in-depth research.  It gave us a wealth of insight.

Compare self-image with how others see you

The results were fascinating and enlightening.  Although Blackjet is now well-established, we are determined to maintain the attitude of a start-up, with an edge focused on creativity.  We love to walk into a client’s office with a presentation that will surprise, delight and maybe blow their socks off.

Our research told us that sometimes our energy could have a negative manifestation; because we were so passionate about our work we occasionally came across as unwilling to compromise on what we felt was the right thing to do.

How have you changed?

Blackjet has evolved over the ten years.  We now offer deeper business consulting services that go beyond branding in search of more profound analysis and guidance.  Our messaging needed to reflect the new reality.

We wanted our refreshed brand to be compelling to the kinds of clients we wanted to attract while honouring those with whom we have worked.

Apply the lessons to your image

With all of these insights in hand, we turned our minds to a new look.  The old colour palette on our website was dark and edgy.  We chose to move to fresher, energetic tones reflective of a firm that was still fearless but also highly professional–creative, but always willing to listen and collaborate.

Our art director cleverly turned the “k” in Blackjet on its side, suggesting “black” or “key” in the printing process.  The arms of the k are delicately balanced in mid-air, evoking agility because we want prospective clients to know we can quickly adapt to changing circumstances.

Insight into action

We listened to what our clients (and our non-clients) had to say and adjusted our working processes, to bring a new maturity to them with a greater emphasis on collaboration. But we have moved away from the big reveal style of presentation, where all the concepts are fully fleshed out with little room for refinement. We still exercise our creative muscles to deliver ideas that we hope will dazzle, but now we leave more room to incorporate the client’s input.

To thine own self be true

We were determined to not go the way of other successful start-ups, the ones that get bigger but not better, where the money flows in but the work grows mediocre.  We are still guided by the word fearless.  That can’t change.

However much you refresh your brand, always stay true to what you are.