Laura Wallace said she believes in being “gutsy” and practicing what you preach.
Wallace is the owner and creative director of Worx, based in Hagerstown, Md. The firm specializes in branding, working with companies on everything from logos and websites to their physical spaces.
Worx recently rebranded its own physical space in a downtown Hagerstown building, and one of the first things you see when you walk in the door is a long row of awards and honors under a slogan, “brand your gutsy.”
The Worx website says, “We exist to get others as pumped about your brand as you are. We are your team of experts, brand guardians, and creative interpreters, who thrive on working with growing, small to mid-sized companies just like yours. We bring your big ideas to life through a highly-personalized, unconventional approach and continue that relationship as your brand evolves. Let’s see what awesome you have to share with the world, because you do.”
Wallace recently exchanged some emails with the Crossroads Business Journal to talk about business, branding and being “gutsy.”
Let’s start with the bad news. What’s the biggest mistake companies make when it comes to branding?
Branding is more than just a visual element. It’s an experience. One of the most common mistakes we see is the lack of consistency in the brand experience. Every interaction you have with your customers is an opportunity to reinforce the brand. For instance, if your marketing is colorful and lively but your office is low energy and dark, there is a brand disconnect. If your ads have a very serious tone but when people work with you they’re dealing with a more laid back approach, there is a brand disconnect. Anywhere that anyone interacts with your brand, be it online, social media, print advertising, trade shows, in your office or on the radio, you have an opportunity to create a unified look, sound and personality. That’s where the power of a brand comes in to play, followed by meeting and exceeding the expectations that you’ve set.
Branding these days can mean everything from a logo to a bricks-and-mortar lobby to print presences to a website to social media and everything in between. How do you break this complicated world down into manageable chunks? Is there a common place to start for all businesses?
We go into every project looking at the core brand first. These are your foundational items such as a logo, color scheme, fonts, tone and message. If these items are not strong, it can be challenging to build a successful visual brand. We also tell our clients, just because everyone is marketing a certain way doesn’t mean you have to do all the same things. Knowing your customer and where they are is an important filtering system. Just because everyone has an Instagram account doesn’t mean you have to if you clients are primarily Facebook users. Understanding what you want to accomplish is also important. We can create brochures all day, but if they don’t serve a purpose, they’ll end up in a box in the closet. And being proactive vs. reactive. Many businesses waste a lot of money on marketing items that they had to make rash decisions on. By planning out your branding and marketing goals, we can work ahead so the message, visuals and distribution all align and serve a purpose.
You encourage clients to be “gutsy” in branding. What do you mean by “gutsy?” How does that play out specifically for clients of your customers?
The word “gutsy” refers to being brave, bold, daring or courageous. It took someone having an idea and acting on it to turn that idea into a business. That’s gutsy.
When we’re branding gutsy, we’re bringing out that “secret sauce” that makes people who they are. We’re shining a light on the characteristics that make people tick because when people are in their zone, doing what they love and do best, they take care of their clients really well. We’re not making a brand gutsy. We’re just showing the world what passion and dedication is behind the companies they’re doing business with. We’re bringing their gutsy to the forefront. In turn, they’re able to attract like-minded people who share the same morals and values, creating long-lasting and meaningful relationships with both clients and employees.
How do you make sure your staff keeps a high level of enthusiasm for clients’ projects?
We’ve come to appreciate the importance of accepting the right project and client relationship. There are some industries that we don’t have a natural draw to and others we can’t get enough of. Working with organizations with morals, values and goals that align with our own really raise the enthusiasm bar and keep things exciting as well. We’re also always implementing new ways to do things and suggesting new ideas to our clients to help them continue to grow. And we have fun. We take breaks from traditional work time to get involved in organizations, volunteer our time in the community and have team outings to get to know one another on a deeper level.
Worx has operated from your basement and from a meeting space on South Potomac Street in Hagerstown, Md. In the past several months the company moved into new quarters at Mulberry Lofts, 22 N. Mulberry St. What was the reasoning behind the move, and how has it worked out so far? Did you change the way you brand your own business?
We worked with a long-time client to brand the interior of their new office space and saw the positive impact that it had on the culture, business growth and community impression. We began to promote this service, brand your space, to other clients and quickly realized that we needed to do the same. We’re advocates for practicing what we preach, so we scouted out a loft-style office in the heart of downtown Hagerstown and built it out to reflect exactly who we are as a company. Our clients can now physically interact with our brand in our space, setting the tone for what is possible. It reinforces who we are, what we do and how it makes a difference and has drastically increased our business presence.
What are some challenges you’ve faced as your business has grown, and how have you tackled them?
One of the most challenging things about running a small business is everything is new: every scenario, obstacle, leap of faith. I don’t always have the answers on how to do something or know how it should be handled, so I learn. I lean on mentors and other business owners and absorb their wisdom and then learn from my mistakes to ensure they’re not repeated. Managing people can also be a challenge. Understanding how to communicate with each person is crucial to building a strong relationship. You have to know them as people before they’re seen as a client or employee. And getting out of my own way. I’m very intuitive and know when I need to take a risk but sometimes my brain and my gut like to have internal battles. Learning to trust my intuition has been integral to the growth of Worx. It’s one of my super powers and when I tap into that energy and trust what I am feeling, amazing opportunities are typically on the other side.
Any “gutsy” 2018 predictions for the region’s businesses?
I think we’ll continue to see an increase in new small businesses. With shows like Shark Tank, pop-up-shop programs and increased City incentives, more and more people are excited about taking that first leap of faith to turn their idea into a business because they feel supported. Businesses are also getting back to basics and have the courage to be themselves through their brand. There’s been a business “standard” for a long time which taught businesses to be like one another. Now, individuality and creativity are celebrated. Brands are speaking to their target audience in a way that resonates with them which creates a loyal following and long-term customers.