Osborn Engineering had been in business for 116 years, and Gene Baxendale knew it was time to make some changes.
To get started on updating the firm’s image, the engineering and architecture firm last fall began a strategic planning process, through which it identified a need for rebranding itself. While the firm had a sports practice area that had been designing sports facilities since 1909, there was nothing in the company’s name to highlight that niche.
“We decided to celebrate the success and build upon it, so we pulled that out as a separate division,” says Baxendale, the firm’s president and CEO.
The department now operates under the name OSports-Osborn Sports and Recreation Architecture.
The firm also shortened its name from The Osborn Engineering Co. to Osborn Engineering and developed a new logo to update its look.
“We’ve always been known for engineering, but we wanted to re-emphasize it and update our image to a more modern look,” Baxendale says.
To make sure the company was headed in the right direction, Osborn hosted focus groups with clients to test out several potential names and logos before making a final decision.
“Most people knew the company for a long time, so this helped us get some outsider feedback and a fresh look to see if we were on the right track,” says Christopher Wynn, director of design with OSports-Osborn Sports and Recreation Architecture.
Once you’ve identified the changes you are going to implement, you have to communicate them to employees and get feedback from clients. To do that, Baxendale set up workshops with employees to discuss the strategic plan and vision.
“We tried to keep them involved and up to date on the rebranding and how we were going to make it happen,” Baxendale says. “We explained where we were, where we wanted to go, why we wanted to do it ... and then how we were going to make it happen.”
Sharing information with employees engages them in the process.
“If you’re not sharing, they’re not going to know what is expected of them and what the goals are,” Baxendale says.
While he says most of his 70 employees favored the changes, Baxendale sat down with those who were still unsure to explain the changes and the benefits more thoroughly.
“You’re never going to get 100 percent buy-in [initially]”, he says. “We explained why we were doing it and what direction the company was going. Eventually, everyone bought in to it because they saw the benefits.”
It’s also critical to get buy-in from your clients.
“We went to our clients individually before we went public,” Baxendale says. “We let them know ahead of time what we were doing and why we were doing it. We wanted them to feel important.”
Rebranding your company doesn’t happen overnight, and you need to give yourself enough time to get it right.
“Create a project schedule that allows sufficient time for the process to work,” Baxendale says. “Listen to your consultant’s recommendations. Schedule review sessions throughout the project and allow ample time for those reviews.”
The result can be new life for your company.
“Sometimes, when you have a brand that’s been around for a long time, you take it for granted,” Baxendale says. “Rebranding allows you to take that fresh look and communicate with employees and clients.”
“It gave our firm the opportunity to think deeply about our business. ... It forced us to step back from managing our day-today operations and allowed us to understand the company intimately.”
HOW TO REACH: Osborn Engineering, (216) 861-2020 or www.osborn-eng.com
A helping hand
Rebranding isn’t an easy process, but hiring a consultant can make it a little less painful.
“You don’t go to the grocery store and ask the clerk to take care of your headache, you go to an expert, somebody who’s trained and knows what they’re doing,” says Gene Baxendale, president and CEO of Osborn Engineering.
To find a consultant who best meets your needs, ask your peers for referrals. Look at a firm’s work history and make sure it not only has a good portfolio but also has positive recommendations from clients.
And finally, make sure the consultant is a good fit for you. Although someone might have the right skills, a good consultant should also be able to connect with you and understand your business.
“Some people might be good at what they do, but if they don’t relate with you, they’re not going to understand your ideas and you’re not going to feel comfortable telling them things,” Baxendale says.
When Baxendale began the rebranding effort at Osborn, he narrowed down a list of several consultants, then brought in the top contenders to learn more about them and to let them learn about the company.
“This face-to-face meeting gave us the opportunity to interact with them and get a feel for how we would work together, which allowed us to establish a rapport,” he says.