Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

I love trees. In fact, I was a tree hugger before there was such a thing.

I’m fortunate to have many trees on my property. Most are over 50 feet tall. They bring me peace, tranquility and shade. They also cause me stress.

I’ve known for some time that a few were damaged. I cross my fingers every time a big storm blows in. They should receive professional care, but it just hasn’t been a top priority. Then came the storm a few weeks ago. Once again large limbs fell to the ground as I watched, without being able to help. I kept thinking, “why didn’t you take care of this?”

The same thing happens in business. We know the weak spots, the areas that may one day cause big problems. We know there may be issues that should receive attention, but those weak spots and issues require attention, often more than we are willing to give. But what happens when a storm blows in?

Marketing, for some reason, is often left on the back burner – if it is even on the stove at all. Many people think they can do it on their own to save money. Others believe they don’t need it. Some do a bit here and there, but nothing that builds a solid foundation for the future. Most never give a thought to having a well crafted plan.

This is like staring up at beautiful trees and being thankful they exist, but not taking care of them. One day your beautiful business is going to get hit. Having a strong marketing base could save you from toppling over and getting chopped in to pieces.

Recently I witnessed two such examples. Company A is a well known business in the area. They have a great reputation, but their employees are miserable. Just ask them. Although this is well known, within the business and without, management has stated they don’t have time to work on this. It will all work out they say. Yes. It will work out. But what will it look like when it’s been worked out? Broken branches, limbs everywhere, damage that will take some time to overcome? Simply understanding the need for effective communication, and listening, would have provided the ingredients for a plan to address the issue so that the gathering storm could be averted.

Company B doesn’t understand why they aren’t getting the same exposure as their competitors. Although they’ve sought advice about this, they are sticking with their philosophy that they don’t need to hire others to help them with something so simple. While their competitors receive care, they are left swinging in the breeze.

The time to work on your communication and marketing needs is before you get into trouble. Those businesses that are succeeding and thriving are always looking forward. Not just to next week- but years ahead. They take the time to identify and understand their target audiences. They allocate time and resources to build their brand, reputation and loyalty. It’s no wonder that when storms arrive, these companies tend to weather them better than those who have weak spots, damage and unaddressed issues.

So where to begin? The key to any successful effort is to take an objective look at your business and how you are communicating with others, both internally and externally. Identify weak spots. Consider areas that may be open to damage. Ask others what they see. Ask yourself where you would like to be now, and in the future.

I plan to have safe trees before the next storm. It’s a priority. What’s yours?

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or Linked In.

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