An interview with Mr. Jacky Tai, Branding Specialist

Branding is the most important element of your business that you need to be thinking about especially when you are approaching your launch date.  If you get things wrong before you start, you are going to confuse your initial customers and to restart it, is an expensive process.  

  1. Why is branding important?

Branding dates back to ancient Egypt 4,000 years ago when they start branding cows with a hot branding iron with the owner’s initials.  A mark is burnt into the back of the cows to differentiate them from the cows of other owners. Hence, branding is about differentiation.  Today, branding continues to take prominence. If your company or product or service is not differentiated from your competitors, it will not fetch a good price.  Selling cheap is a viable business model but the question is “Can you sell cheaper than everyone else and still generate a decent profit?  He has written a Book called “Killer Differentiators” that speaks about the 13 strategies that that he used to differentiate his clients from those who remains at the core of what he does with clients today.

  1. Why did you choose branding as a career?

Two very important elements converged to make that happen.  One, I found branding to be a very fascinating subject.  I love the challenge of branding or differentiating a company – especially an underdog – against better-funded and more established competitors.  The results can be very satisfying when clients do better.  The second reason is that GOD gave me the talent to do this well, and I try to use my GOD-given talent well so that my clients are blessed and GOD’s name is lifted and glorified.  I remind myself of this very often. 

  1. You ran a brand strategy consulting business with a business partner until that company was acquired in 2016.  What are the ups and downs of running a brand strategy consulting business?

The ups are very obvious.  When you do a good job, you get the satisfaction of seeing your clients being blessed by your work, and you know that the money that was paid by your clients is money that has been properly earned.  The downs are also very obvious.  Consultancy work is not steady work.  There are lots of peaks and troughs.  You start every year at zero and you have to find new work.  There are also a lot of people problems.  Managing people is a huge challenge and something I really hate doing.  When you are the boss, other people’s problems become your problems.  Also, a friend of mine who used to work for one of the world’s largest management consulting firm told me once that consulting is 10% methodology and 90% the individual consultant’s genius.  As such, if you give the same piece of work to 10 different people using the same methodology you could end up with 10 different strategies.  It’s hard to control this aspect.  But I thank GOD that He has always found us enough work to keep the business alive, and we always have enough to meet our expenses. 

  1. What is the difference between running your own company solo and running one with a partner/s?

If you have a partner, you have one more problem to deal with.  If you have two partners, you have two more problems to deal.  Don’t get me wrong.  Partners can be great if you find the right ones but no matter how good your partners are, there will be disagreements on how things should be done so you have to manage that which is tiring and unproductive.  Even if you have partners who are very much-aligned with you to begin with, over time people change.  Or you change.  That’s when serious issues will creep in.  

  1. So, do you encourage partnership?

That depends on whether you have the skills needed to run a consulting business on your own or not.  If you don’t, then what are the areas that you have gaps in, and can you find a business partner or partners who can compensate for your shortcomings?  Partnerships only work if:

  1. a)  The partners have complementary skillsets.
  2. b)  And very importantly, the partners must stay in their respective lanes on focusing on their areas of expertise.  Problems will arise when the partners stray from this path.
  1. Why don’t you do something else for a change?  Why stick with branding?

The answer is simple.  There are a lot of things that I don’t know much about.  There are a lot of things that I am actually really lousy at.  Branding is one of the handful of things that I know better than most people and do better than most people.  So, why do something else where I can at best be average when I can focus on the one thing that I am pretty good at?  

  1. What are the keys to success and to overcoming adversities?

There is only one key: Plan your work; work your plan.  Do your best; and trust GOD for the rest.  I always ask GOD to make up for my shortcomings because despite my level best, I can still fall short.  Having GOD and our Lord Jesus to lean on,  has helped me though the most difficult times in my life.  I thank GOD that even in my darkest hour, He never left me or abandoned me.  And I thank Him for what He has done for me daily. 

  1. How would you encourage budding entrepreneurs to have branding for their business? 

First of all, you have to ask yourself if you are in the right business.   Why are you doing this business?  Do you have certain skills and knowledge that make you suitable for this business?  Is this what GOD has planned for you?  Pray about it.  Wait for GOD’s answer.  Be still and hear GOD’s plan for you. 

If you are a Christian, then this piece of scripture is very relevant to you: 

 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 

Sometimes it’s hard I know.  When I first started in 2007 in StrategiCom, a consultancy firm that I eventually became a partner and shareholder in, I took on the role of business development.  After 4 months, there was not a single project and I was getting anxious.  Every day, I prayed and asked GOD why He put me in that company and I am not blessed with any projects.  One morning, while I was sitting on my sofa and putting on my socks, I prayed the same prayer and GOD spoke to me.  He said, “I will give you the projects when you are ready.”  I told GOD, “But Lord, I am ready now.  I have been ready for months.”  Then I told my wife about this and she wisely told me this, “You might be ready but your firm is not just you alone.  Is your business partner ready?  Are your staff ready?  Have they been properly trained?  If the answer is NO then GOD will not give you the projects because then you will not be a blessing to your clients.”  How true! So, we evaluated our staff, trained them more and hired new ones if the current ones could not or didn’t want the challenge.  We did that diligently and GOD was ever faithful.  That year, my first year, we had 6 times the number of projects that the company handled the previous year.

 So, you need to trust GOD and listen to his command.

 After you have done all that, then ask yourself these questions: How is my business differentiated from all my competitors?  Is that differentiator relevant to my customers?  Is that differentiator properly captured and communicated inside out?  Or do I have any real differentiator at all?

Be honest with yourself. 

  1. What are your future plans?

I will continue to do what I do until GOD tells me otherwise or until He calls me home.  I am a simple person.  I keep things simple.  I don’t need to be big or have a big team of people around me or all the usual status symbols that society normally uses to judge a person’s success because I know how much I am worth in the eyes of our Almighty GOD and I know my position in our Lord Jesus Christ.  A lot of people ask me, “How come you don’t want to grow your team?  How come you don’t want to take on some of the job offers to be CEO of large firms with lots of people under you?”  Most people find that very puzzling but to me, it doesn’t make any more special, any more worthy, or any more successful whether I run a company of one or a company of 300 people.  As long as I focus on what I am good at, be a blessing to my clients, and glorify GOD’s name in the process, that is all that matters.+

(Note:  If you have any questions regarding Branding, you can write in to [email protected] and Mr. Jacky Tai, Branding specialist will answer you in the next issue.)

Mr Jacky Tai 

Founder & Principal Consultant

Unbroken Branding Pte Ltd

(Jacky believes that when a company has the right brand strategy and executes this strategy consistently, it will create an unbroken winning streak that transforms the business into a powerful brand.  It was this idea which had inspired him to name his firm “Unbroken Branding”. Prior to this, Jacky was the director of brand strategy at PwC Singapore after his former consulting firm, StrategiCom, was acquired by PwC.  

Jacky is the author of 6 highly-acclaimed brand strategy books, including B2B: 10 Rules To Transform Your Business Into A Brand; Killer Differentiators: 13 Strategies To Grow Your Brand; Get A Name: 10 Rules To Create A Great Brand Name; Brand Zero: The Complete Branding Guide For Start-Ups.

Jacky has a degree in marketing from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and he is also a PMC-certified consultant.  +

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