Last Wednesday, the 20th of April, 2011, marked a historic day for me and The Listening Tree. We conducted our first Brand Masterclass for 12 visionary CEOs and business owners.

I introduced this new service because I had often heard from business owners of smaller companies that branding was the last thing on their minds. Their hands were already full trying to juggle HR, delivery, payroll and new business development.

I wanted to enable small companies and startups to create the right foundation because the beginning is the ideal time to brand.

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This is when your strategy will dictate the type of people you should have on your but the kind of services you offer and if those services are relevant.

I concede that small businesses struggle to survive on a daily basis and branding is often perceived as a luxury. So with this in mind, I developed the Masterclass as an affordable yet effective way to enable them to develop their brand strategy.

They came from diverse industries from media to trading to car detailing to radio and were very courageous in their ability to really scrutinise their brands in terms of their strengths, their failings, their dreams and their hopes.

The atmosphere was highly supportive. As we showed them successful case studies and took them step-by-step through developing a coherent brand strategy, participants felt free to share their output as well as give meaningful and relevant critique.

This proved invaluable as now CEOs were able to get feedback from their peers. And so the room became a powerhouse of collective expertise and knowledge both from a business as well as a brand perspective.

Midway through the day, one CEO had a profound realisation – he, in fact, did not have a brand. He had a product. Others discovered the missing link needed to complete their brand strategy and thus their offering. Some struggled to find a differentiating factor that would make them stand out from their competitors but later had a eureka moment when applying the “So What?” challenge.

I was blown away by the amount of sharing and giving that went on. CEOs were giving valuable suggestions and input to help other CEOs with their strategy. This is learning at its best and I would like to thank the participants for their trust and openness and for teaching me about courage and perseverance.