“Though blood is thicker than water, a brand needs the involvement and contribution of many to be successful”

The Grid: Talking about creating a brand out of a family business and creating a family out of branding a business, could you share with us, what’s different about building a brand for a family? What are the pitfalls to avoid?

Edward Leaman: What is different about building a brand for a family business is the level of emotional investment the brand has. In a family business one is dealing with family dynamics, and this brings up the relationships between the family members, which have already been created over the years. And so a brand is being built already on the foundations of legacy and heritage, and there is often a great deal of unsaid or unspoken language and behavior in play which can play out well or not so well in the business.

But overall a family business brand can and should have an overt passionate point-of-view because it can speak so readily to family values and love, two huge aspects that already have evidence and living proof represented by the people in the room.

The Grid: What about the people not in the room?

Edward Leaman: So, on the other hand, one of the difficulties in family brands is the role, voice, and potential for people who are not members of the family but who are, and who believe they are, completely committed to the idea and practice of the business. Though blood is thicker than water, a brand needs the involvement and contribution of many to be successful. The family has to be equitable outside of the family themselves to help make the brand successful.

The Grid: With clients from all over the world, it is safe to say you have an acute ability to sieve through and address global distinctiveness or particularity in each assignment. Would you agree? What has nevertheless taken you by surprise when working on branding for start-ups led by entrepreneurs from the GCC?

Edward Leaman: I aspire to, yes, but only my clients can answer that one. Working with entrepreneurs from the GCC, however, I am often struck by the story of how they became entrepreneurs. Specifically I hear of the deep and abiding respect that children have for their parents, often tied to their faith.

The venture of entrepreneurship is often deeply entrenched in both saying thank you to parents for having provided a platform for success and also as proof that they can achieve success independently and have created self esteem at the same level as they hold their parents.

I have also been struck at how goal driven, decisive and clear minded the entrepreneurs are.

The Grid: How does this impact the creative process, if at all?

Edward Leaman: I thought I would experience more of an unfolding of brand idea into brand reality but actually once an idea has some clarity there is sense of driving purpose behind the effort. Financial outcome, blended with legacy values and morality, has been really evident.

The Grid: I know Japan is close to your heart as well. If there is one Japanese tradition that Middle Eastern entrepreneurs should take notice of when managing branding on a global scale, what would it be and why?

Edward Leaman: I think language is a key indicator of culture. I have always been humbled that in Japanese, the word for customer is the same word as guest (okyakusan), so one treats a customer as a guest in one’s home, and in Japanese culture to be invited to someone’s home is a great honor.

Twinned with this is that a Japanese employee refers to his or her company and colleagues using the same word as to describe his or her family and home (uchi). To consider ones workplace and work community as family and home sets the foundation of behavior inside and for the enterprise.

This is an extract from an interview with Edward Leaman, Founder and CEO, Growers and Nomads.

Growers and Nomads is a brand development studio for entrepreneur-led B2C, B2B and non-profit companies that speak to the contemporary client.

Interview by Tasneem Mayet, Research Director, The Grid Media Ltd

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