Building a better brand

Thomas Sullivan believes that in order to have a great work environment, all of your employees must be on the same page in terms of what they need to do to be successful.

To do this, Sullivan, managing principal at Greeley and Hansen, embarked on an experiment to create a new brand for his environmental engineering firm.

“The most important part of this was for our own people to feel that they understand the brand,” says Sullivan. “Once they understand it, then they are the brand.”

Sullivan enlisted the help of GolinHarris, a public relations firm with experience in rebranding exercises, to help his employees with the process. After more than a year of hard work, Greeley and Hansen has a new brand and a new logo to go with it. But Sullivan realizes that rebranding is an ongoing task and the process will never be completely finished.

Smart Business spoke with Sullivan about how he rebranded Greeley and Hansen and how he plans to maintain this brand in the future.

Why did you decide to rebrand your company?
It was my belief that it was important that everyone in the firm understand the values which are necessary to be successful and service Greeley and Hansen’s clients. In discussing this with our human resources director, we came to the conclusion that rebranding gave us the opportunity to get into an exercise where people could rediscover which behaviors on everyone’s part would encompass those values that we think are important.

How did you do it?
The process took a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of perseverance, especially in an engineering company. This is something that our people don’t have a lot of exposure to. They are very technical and very scientific, but not very marketing-savvy. We had to teach them about branding and we had to teach them about the benefits to branding and convince them that there really would be a benefit to this.

We began this entire process with the principals of the firm. We employed a facilitator who was very experienced in branding. That was necessary because, with our particular crew of people, they were very skeptical about this. The workshop was carefully prepared. We brought them along slowly and it ended up very successful.

The next thing we did, once we had the principals behind the effort, was form an image committee. That was selected from people across the United States —we have 16 offices. What we wanted to do was get people who were representative of different types of positions in the firm and different perspectives.

One of the next steps was to conduct a firmwide poll. We asked everyone in the company two questions: What does Greeley and Hansen mean to you? What do you think that Greeley and Hansen means to our clients?

Did everyone respond similarly?
Ultimately, the answers were similar, but one of the things that you learn as you go through this is everyone has their own language and everyone has their own way of putting it. If you have Employee A giving you one statement, they will use one set of terms, and Employee B will use something else.

They ultimately mean the same thing, but if they were listening to one another they wouldn’t think so.

We’ve been in business since 1914 and we’ve been doing the same line of work since then and most of our people have been here a long time. They know what it is that makes the company successful. We had to get them to realize that they agreed with one another.

How did you do that?
Talking about it and going over it and explaining to them how, in some cases, what Employee A was saying really was the same as Employee B. It took a lot of time and patience, and a lot of listening.

You have to listen to them and find out what they mean by what they’re saying. Keep driving back further and further until they understand what the basic part of that is.

What effect has the rebranding had on the company?
We are still in the process of this. Initially, there was a pretty good burst of energy from it. We were using professionals to help us do it — the people from GolinHarris. They have done this dozens and dozens of times with people.

What we ended up with from the first part of the branding was a list of descriptive phrases that stated what those valued behaviors were that we felt, if people emulated these, they would be successful in conducting Greeley and Hansen’s business.

Then we went on to our next step. We created a logo. We were really doing that in response to a request from a substantial number of employees who were looking around and saying ‘Gee, everyone else has a logo.’

All that we had was a name logo that said ‘Greeley and Hansen’ in a certain type face. So we embarked on developing a pictorial logo. We developed a lot of alternatives and then got a small group to cut that list down. Then we went to the principals and showed it to them.

We did some modifications and ultimately, by putting a little bit of what everybody wanted in there, we were able to come up with something that we felt would remind us of what our value statement was and remind our clients what our business is.

What does the logo stand for?
It is a box with wave forms in it. In the sense of reminding our clients what we do — projects that are involved with portable water and waste water — the box is supposed to remind one of water.

There are a lot of different wave forms in there and it is supposed to remind staff that everyone is a little bit different, but we are all working within the same context and that from time frame to time frame, we are going to need to change our styles, but our basic principal values are going to remain the same.

How do you plan to maintain your new brand?
We are doing a series of workshops in each office, which we call ‘living the brand.’ GolinHarris had a representative there to lead this for us.

What they and we did was design workshops that are interactive. They include some education, but mainly there are exercises that we have the staff go through, which is intended to reinforce with them the values behind the brand and the behaviors that are expected from them.

HOW TO REACH: Greeley and Hansen,

Daniel G. Jacobs contributed to this article.