This week, I’m featuring my interview with Jeff Bull, owner of Bull – a brand management firm where he builds and grows brands that capture people’s attention. Jeff has over 15 years of experience in the world of brand direction and has collaborated on brands that many in Minneapolis will recognize, including Cardigan Donuts, Gray Fox, Fitsok, TC Running Company, and more.
For the last several weeks, I’ve been highlighting some incredible small businesses in the Twin Cities – it’s my way of lending a helping hand to our local economy during this surreal and challenging time. To learn more, you can read the first article in this series: How to Help in the Pandemic.
You can also read previous interviews with:
- Cardigan Donuts: 4 simple reasons why I absolutely love Cardigan Donuts
- Sprinkles & Confetti: 3 important muscles you need to hustle with heart
- Lauren Kirkbride Photography: the best way to let your skills shine bright
- Gus Dean Coffee: how to flip obstacles into opportunities
- The LinkedIn Gal: what’s your breakthrough vision for professional growth?
- Inspire Dance Studio: how to make decisions you can be proud of
Stay tuned for more interviews in the coming weeks.
Starting and growing a business is not a straight line. You’re going to experience bumps in the road. But, the struggle is where we learn and build new muscles. And, in life, the work of growing, problem-solving, learning – it’s never done. So, why should your business be any different?
In my conversation with Jeff Bull, there were 3 business-building tips that stood out to me – each will help you to navigate the bumps in the road that you’ll inevitably encounter along the way.
TIP 01: THERE’S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BRANDING AND MARKETING
Jeff Bull has built several successful brands over the years, so I had to ask: what is a brand?
Here’s what Jeff had to say:
“It kind of depends on who you ask – an executive told me this morning that a brand is a promise, I kind of like that. But, I think of brands as like personalities. When I sit down with a new client we work through a brand personality exercise that’s really about self-awareness. It’s about what they actually think their brand is and what it stands for. By far, people think that a brand is synonymous with marketing. They come to me and say ‘I need a brochure.’ That’s not what I do, I mean, I can make you a brochure, but you can’t do that effectively without doing the brand first. People think a brand is a marketing plan. A lot of people think that a brand is a logo, a slogan, or a tagline. A lot of people think that it’s their Instagram or their website. I like to tell people that a brand is the why and the marketing is the how.”
Marketing tactics, like SEO clicks, tweets, likes, followers – these are tools that can spread your message, but they’re a means to an end. A brand helps you create a more strategic focus, aiming your business and marketing efforts. Here’s an infographic to help explain:
TIP 02: STAY FLEXIBLE, BUT DRAW BOUNDARIES
Take just a quick glance at Jeff Bull’s portfolio and you’ll get a sense for how many different hats he’s had to wear as an entrepreneur. Here’s Jeff:
“Fitsok was my longest project – so it required a lot of flexibility and just straight up grinding and manpower and just making things work, like figuring out the product line, figuring out what customers wanted, and going and meeting with people. And, then as the business grew and we had success, it became more about struggles like ‘we need more funding in order to put more inventory in our warehouse so that we can ship more product.’ Our pain points and problems became a little more high level. I think a lot of entrepreneurs think you get to a certain level and the pain points disappear, but they don’t. They just change and evolve.”
If it needed doing, he and his team did it. Flexibility is essential to getting something off the ground. You need to bend, but not break. And, you’ll have to draw some boundaries too.
Here’s Jeff, again:
“I also learned some hard lessons in what you shouldn’t do. There’s a lot of people that I talk to now that have their own business, a lot of it is ‘no don’t waste your time with that, don’t bury yourself into a problem that’s taking up all of your bandwidth that should be put on other areas.’ The best way to learn that though is to go through it and have to be flexible and have to do all these different things. You figure out over time, often the hard way.”
The next time you’re bending, just ask yourself: what is the highest and best use of me? Then, give yourself permission to pause and weigh your options.
TIP 03: IF YOU WANT TO COLLABORATE, BUILD UP YOUR SELF-AWARENESS
Jeff has been able to collaborate with a lot of talented entrepreneurs, so I asked him: what skills might new entrepreneurs need to master to be successful?
Here’s what Jeff had to say:
“By a country mile, the number one attribute someone can have is self-awareness – whether you’re an executive or an entrepreneur. Know who you are and how you relate to other people – it really affects how you cooperate and collaborate. How do people see me? What do I have to offer them? Just understanding that is huge. Entrepreneurship is such a give and take; unless you’ve got a product and a patent, and nobody else can compete with you, it’s really important to be self-aware so that you can give, take, share, collaborate and cooperate.”
I believe a self-aware entrepreneur is more easily able to adapt to a changing environment, to try new ways of doing things, and to grow their businesses – because they’re first willing to change themselves. That’s why (shameless plug) I spend so much time here with my clients.
You’ll need to gain insight into how you show up in different situations, including leadership, decision-making, and stress – all of which will be stretched in new and exciting ways through entrepreneurship.
WORK WITH JEFF BULL
Bull is open for business. You can learn more about Jeff’s work by visiting his website:
I’d like to thank Jeff for taking the time to speak with me over Zoom.
Stay tuned for more, right here on the 321 Liftoff blog.
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Starting and growing a business is not a straight line. It can feel messy. It zigs and zags. It starts and stops. It can feel frustrating even for the most seasoned business owners. And, that’s ok. It’s also an exciting challenge. It’s going to stretch you. You’re going to learn a lot – not just about business, but about yourself. And, that’s why it’s worth it.