Early in his career, Jeff Braid recalls he was once told, “If you’re going to buy flooring, you want to buy it from someone you know.” In 1979, Braid had moved with his young family from Winnipeg to Saskatoon, and in 1986 he established a small flooring company with a couple partners. He took that advice about flooring and combined it with his strong interpersonal skills, and soon forged connections in the city’s open and accepting philanthropic community.
Twenty-five years later, Braid Flooring and Window Fashions Ltd. had become a leading local supplier for commercial, residential, and retail customers. Its reputation has made the family name into something of a bona fide brand in the prosperous Saskatchewan city. Braid, however, began looking to ease himself out of the day-to-day operations in 2009 so one of his three sons could take the helm in the next few years.
In 2003, Braid and Brent Banda, a Saskatoon marketing and branding consultant, began developing a plan to transform the company so it would be less strongly linked in the public’s mind with Jeff Braid himself. The process has involved everything from management changes to a complete overhaul of the company’s marketing materials, website, and trademarks. “Now the name Braid is out there,” he says. “We’ve built on that. But it wasn’t ‘Jeff Braid.’ ”
Moving beyond the founder
Brand equity, as Jeff Braid learned through years of hard work, can be an invaluable corporate asset, with the potential to become the basis of a much larger enterprise. Indeed, when Ray Kroc, a multimixer salesman, found Dick and Mac McDonald’s modest but popular California drive-in in 1954, he leveraged their quick-serve business model, the image of their mascot and eventually the iconic arched M to build a vast corporate empire founded on powerful and instantly recognized brand elements.
But while a strong brand may become a license to print money, it also needs to be protected and bolstered, especially during transition periods. So, for entrepreneurs like Braid, the business of orchestrating an orderly succession means figuring out how to fortify the brand so it survives. For many businesses, the founder is the brand: he or she has developed the original product or service, enjoys long-standing customer and supplier relationships, and has imposed their persona on every aspect of the way the firm functions.