A few years back I was traveling through southern Ohio with my wife Heidi when she said, “We need to stop by my Uncle Tom’s ice cream store in Jackson, Ohio.” Well, I am not really into ice cream, but I thought it would be nice to meet Uncle Tom. When we arrived I was amazed at this old ice cream store that has been in business since 1909.

Standing across the counter from me, Uncle Tom says, “You have got to try a Bubble. We are known for our Bubble!” The part of me that was on a diet was saying no, but how could I refuse a signature dish from a proud proprietor? So I agreed to try this concoction served in a tall ice cream glass made with vanilla ice cream, marsh mellow cream, chocolate syrup and fresh ground peanuts. It was absolutely heaven on earth!

‘No wonder this shop had been in business since 1909,’ I thought, as they are known for something special!

Just as I was finishing my Bubble, a man came in from New York and sat down beside us. He declared that he was on a week-long vacation and was driving from town to town to taste the best of the best when it came to dessert dishes. He said that Michael’s Ice Cream shop was on his list as they were “known for the Bubble!” Tom Michael proudly served the man a Bubble. Before even lifting his spoon, however, the man first pulled out his SLR camera and began taking picture after picture of the Bubble.

‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘this man is really celebrating this ice cream dish!’ Finally, the man put his camera down and devoured the bubble in sheer delight. At this moment I thought how special it is for a business to be known for something to the extent that people would drive hundreds of miles to be a customer. Indeed being known for something special is also a key to surviving harsh downturns that the economy may deliver as well as ongoing competitive pressure from larger companies that may otherwise be able to easily put you out of business. ‘No wonder this small ice cream shop is still thriving after all these years,’ I thought.

So, when it comes to your own business, ask yourself, “What are we known for?” If you are a more recently established business, you might ask, “What do we want to be known for?” I might add that being known for something might be good or it might also be bad, so hopefully you are known for something good, as this becomes weaved into the memory of the public and becomes part of your brand image. Being known for something special is a very powerful thing and this makes your business much more powerful and more resistant to competitive pressures and economic downturns. It can also make your business much more profitable!
I have seen this happen over and over again in the window industry as well. It is the reason that small and medium sized window companies have survived the great economic downturn that they’ve experienced and have come out of it even stronger than ever – because they are known for something special.

Here in Columbus, we have Rosati Windows, a locally owned and operated window company known for a strong commitment to customer service and giving back to the community. In January 2003, Rosati Windows announced large-scale support of Prescription for Good Health: a non-profit organization that provides medication for people in need. Frequent advertising on both TV and radio has propelled Rosati Windows to that of a household name in the capital and most populous city of Ohio.

In Detroit, Mich., Martin Blanck started a home improvement company in 1944 called Wallside Windows. Ahead of his time, he became a household name turning to daytime television advertising as his company’s spokesman. He was known for his unassuming light-colored suits, his humble pitch, and his bottom line: “We will not be undersold.”

These are just two examples of companies that are “known for something special” and have built a strong brand image that has helped them survive and even flourish despite tough and unpredictable economic conditions.

So, you may look at your company and ask, “What are we known for?” Be prepared to capitalize upon that which makes you special and build upon that brand image. It can make a huge difference and not only ensure your company’s survival but also make it flourish for years to come!

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