Drinking Our Own Champagne: What We Learned in 2022
Having a crisp, clean, and differentiated value proposition for your company is no small task. Being able to speak accurately and authentically about where you are and where you’re going is useful beyond your next networking event. We do this work every day with our clients, and over the last few months, Audacia Strategies went through this process too. I want to give you an inside look into what we learned from putting our money where our mouth is.
Having a value proposition describing who you are today and where you’re going in the future matters. Think about it like sailing: If you’re one degree off, that doesn’t sound like a big deal in the short term, but over a whole voyage, you can end up hundreds of miles from where you were intending to go. Creating a value proposition is about making sure you’re on the course that’s right for you and your business.
How do you begin the task of writing a statement (yes, it needs to be one single statement or talking point) of who you are today, what you believe in, and who you will be in the future? And what it is really like on the inside logistically, professionally, and emotionally?
The Value Proposition
It’s hard to explain your business and what you offer in 15 seconds over your second glass of wine at a cocktail party. But when you do, it can transform how you talk to customers about both their visions and their pain points. And the way you communicate your value will attract the clients who need what you offer.
Creating the right value proposition is a reflective and often research-intensive task. When we worked with our client, Xator, we spoke to 35 employees from across the company and around the world. We reviewed their customers’ feedback, looked critically at all of their marketing material, and evaluated their top competitors’ message positioning and language. With this research in hand, our team shared our findings and highlighted opportunities for Xator to better define who they are, what they do, and why it matters. You can read more about our work with Xator in this case study.
The result was a succinct, evocative, and authentic statement of what Xator does—no jargon needed. When you hit the nail on the head, you see the shift: eyes light up, and people get excited to hear an accurate, authentic reflection of who they are and where they’re going. When this process is complete, it feels like magic, and companies know they finally found their secret sauce. It’s empowering to discover the right words to describe what you’re offering to the world. And once you have those words, you want to share them with everyone all the time!
After witnessing several of our clients’ transformations, we knew we needed to experience it for ourselves.
The Opportunities and Sacrifices of Drinking Our Own Champagne
As we enter our eighth year (!), we knew it was time to reconsider how we talk about Audacia Strategies. Our firm has evolved since our launch in 2015. You can’t throw a stone without hitting 12 communication firms of various shades. And while people have an idea of what a communications firm does, Audacia isn’t a communications firm or a PR firm, or a marketing agency. Let’s face it, we don’t fit the standard mold. We choose to see this as an opportunity, rather than a disadvantage, though.
Audacia Strategies is an advisory firm helping business leaders build the businesses of the future and uncover opportunities they never thought possible. We do this through a relentless focus on communications.
Our mission? We help businesses change, lead, and succeed.
Yep, those sentences sound simple, but an incredible amount of work went into gaining that clarity.
As I’ve said before, it’s hard to see yourself from the outside. Reflecting on where we’ve been and where we’re going has been a rich experience made possible only by investing and redistributing time, resources, and energy towards this project. Time that would otherwise have been spent on day-to-day tasks was instead filled with reflection, research, dreaming, hard conversations, and lots of listening. We listened to feedback from our clients, our employees, and our leadership about where we make the biggest impact for our clients and the type of work we absolutely love to do.
From the Founder’s Seat
As a leader and founder, one of the hardest parts of this process is letting go of what I thought the company might be at its outset. The dream of Audacia Strategies started on a bus between San Juan del Sur and Managua, Nicaragua in a notebook I just happened to have with me. Revisiting our value proposition presented an opportunity to view the company not for what I expected it to be, but for what it is and what we hope it will accomplish. This is an essential mindset shift for doing this work (more on this in a minute).
In the beginning, I thought we’d bounce from transaction to transaction and focus on M&A. Our original focus on transactions taught me some lessons about how transactions could be done even better:
- As I got deeper into the business, I realized that the pre-transaction and post-transaction work is just as meaningful as the work that happens in the war room with lawyers and bankers.
- Also, having a plan longer than 35-45 days post-close is crucial. Focusing on employee engagement, customer experience and awareness, metrics for success, and subsequent strategic and organizational changes sets a company up for success post-close.
Leaders must look honestly at their company and whether their vision matches reality. We chose to invest our resources in asking:
- Who is Audacia today?
- How do we view ourselves aspirationally?
- What language can we use to better connect with our clients?
The Emotional Side of Value Propositions
As a founder, I must be willing to take on the challenge of viewing the company not for what I expected us to be, but for what we are. This process sometimes involves mourning what might have been, even if what’s coming is probably (certainly) better. Because I’ve been on the other side of the table sitting across from leaders who needed assistance in moving through this grief, or moving beyond fear or ego, I was (somewhat) prepared for this process.
Getting the reflections needed for accurate self-perception and self-definition requires humility. When I’m in a meeting with customers or employees, I have to remind myself to be present and listen without interjecting and without trying to course-correct. I might think that because I have the vision I have the right answers, but that isn’t necessarily true.
Just like our clients, I have to trust that we will discover the right charter through this process. That taking in every perspective means that we can think bigger about ourselves, and help our clients think bigger about what opportunities we can offer them.
Looking Forward: Finding Your “Why”
In all of this, Audacia had to do what every company we serve must do: find our “why.” Without your “why,” a value proposition is empty.
Companies aren’t people, but company culture is very much built by people. Finding the individual and collective “why” gives companies their secret sauce, and it’s hard-won. This process brings up core questions about identity, value, and security. It’s especially hard to do this process when you’re as emotionally invested as most leaders are.
For me, having our “why” made it easier for me to let go of my early vision for Audacia. I began to look forward with even more clarity. We help business leaders build the businesses of the future and uncover opportunities they never thought possible. Holding to this value proposition—one that speaks to our employees, partners, and clients as much as it speaks to me—allows all of us to look ahead and see the next evolution of Audacia Strategies.
I’ll leave you with a final thought about why we do this. Business is at a turning point right now. While our parents put their heads down and worked, companies demand more of individuals today. In turn, individuals are demanding more from companies. To stay competitive and functional, companies need to be more reflective and insightful.
Serving your clients and employees the way they serve you requires learning how to be authentic in the business world. Society and expectations about work are shifting rapidly. Beyond knowing why you do what you do—a core component of what makes or breaks a sense of purpose—an authentic value proposition helps your clients and employees share your excitement about what you do. Just like coaching or therapy, it’s hard, but it’s some of the most valuable work you can do. Trust us, we’ve been through it.
Ready to take the leap and find the value proposition that speaks to your secret sauce? Reach out to the team today.
Photo credit: Group Of People Raising A Toast by Scopio from NounProject.com