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Let’s take a break to admire an accomplishment: As I write this letter (far past the date my good friends in the Ratchet+Wrench art department needed to put it on page in a timely manner), I’m sitting at my kitchen table at home, sitting in a chair I just built.

Well, “built” is a stretch; I put it together.

If you met my wife, she’d be quick to tell you that I’m not a “handy” person. I’d be quick to defend myself, but I’d have very little proof to support my defense. The semblance of pride I feel at this moment that the chair I’m sitting in hasn’t fallen apart likely settles the argument on my wife’s side.

So, I bring this up to make a point (yes, I do have a point!), and it has nothing to do with furniture or “handiness”—well, not completely, anyway. Clearly from the above anecdote, my self-image doesn’t come from my ability to “build” physical objects. I mean, I try, and being a homeowner, I’m often out of my comfort zone doing minor improvement and fixes. I’m learning. But this isn’t how I (or anyone who knows me) would define who I am.

I’m not going to go into my own self definition here. Even though I’ve spent the past 200 words talking about myself, I swear I’m not that self-absorbed. No, I bring this all up for the point I promised I (eventually) would make. Our lead feature this month examines two distinct and very different brands, two companies on very different growth plans, each with a clear image of who and what they are—and how they want to deliver that image to customers. Branding and image are topics that come up often in our publication, and they’re two very crucial aspects of building a successful business.

So, how do you define who you are as a business? What do you represent? What separates you from the competition and directly ties you to the customers you want to attract? The label “branding expert” doesn’t fit my self-image any more than “carpenter” does, but I can tell you this: None of us can succeed pretending to be something we’re not, and understanding who we are—strengths, talents, weaknesses and growth opportunities alike—is the first step in achieving our goals. Take that step.

Now, I have three more chairs to put together.

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