How a Skiing Accident Can Help Your Business Through the Next Recession

In skiing as in business, it’s usually best to respond to situational changes and not react. As I write this, I’m recovering from a complicated surgery to replace my ACL and repair my meniscus. Skiing accident, not business. But it got me thinking about brand equity. Sue me.

How did I get hurt? By thoughtlessly reacting to the conditions I found myself in. By not giving myself even a split second to judge my circumstances. Had I paused even for a moment to consider my strategy, I never would have gone ass over teakettle. I wouldn’t have needed surgery and wouldn’t be facing nearly a year of rehab.

Nope. Instead I found myself bouncing down a mountain strapped into a rescue toboggan, in excruciating pain, thinking: recessions are a lot like skiing.

Our copywriter wanted this blog post to be a lesson on recession-proofing your business. He’s never skied before. So I’m here instead, telling you to watch out: knee-jerk reactions cause damage that can take a long time to heal.

Hey, remember that time we had a Great Recession?

From 2007 through 2009 I personally aged about ten years. I probably earned an honorary master’s degree in negotiation, risk, and stress management. I minored in chainsaw juggling while whistling carefree tunes. You were there: you know what I’m talking about. Whether that was your first recession, or whether you can remember the Panic of 1873, the chainsaws as you know are very real.

Still: amid the many unknowns, some businesses weather economic downturns with little impact. Others thrive.

What gives? What can be done to minimize decline, remain stable, and even to expand and grow? What does it take to avoid the bouncing toboggan of fate?

Two words: brand equity.

Your business is an investment. Treat it as such. That means maintaining a big picture view even when the short term is uncertain. Income is important, yet equity is the foundation. Build it and the black diamonds will soon be yours. But not before then.

So how do you build and nurture your brand equity? Glad you asked. Through investment in brand awareness.

Small businesses are most vulnerable during times of recession. They need to stay top-of-mind. Far more than even mid-sized enterprises. Several reasons for that: limited credit and capital resources, higher dependence on monthly cash flow, and staffing issues are more sharply felt.

By investing in brand awareness, you create a reservoir of positive public sentiment that you can activate on your own timeframe. It’s a reservoir of brand equity. You control the flow.

With a brand awareness strategy your business can come out ahead in a recession. Challenge creates opportunity, after all. Big enterprises may have reservoirs of capital, but you’ll have this reservoir of brand equity that you can capitalize on.

All you’ll need is a little mental space. The first rule of Ski Club: resist knee-jerk reactions. Respond, don’t react.

The issue comes down to timing your move. The best time to invest in brand awareness is when there’s less competition.

Most businesses—not you, of course—react to recessions. They reduce expenses. They freeze spending on marketing, travel, and hiring. They reduce payroll burden. Some businesses restructure their workforce from full- to part-time roles, request wage concessions or, as we are currently seeing, conduct mass layoffs.

Now, when you’re in midair with your skis over your head and your internal gyroscope resting a hundred yards upslope, these appear to be correctly conservative and responsible decisions.

But the reality—apparent to that kindly ski patroller watching you, shaking their head and clucking their tongue—is that these are intuitive reactions based on fear. Which leads to toboggans, surgery, and learning to walk again.

Successful businesses respond to adversity by committing to their core brand and sticking to the plan. It takes fortitude, sure. And the evidence shows that these businesses come out stronger and more advantaged than their competition.

As other companies react by reducing expenditures, yours can respond by allocating them wisely. Sure, you’ll stand out. That’s not a bad thing. We like greater share of mind. Higher visibility creates greater brand recognition, and that is a strategy that pays off in any economy.

Recessions are the smart time to double down on brand awareness. In a recession, you can stand out. Yes, you. The scrappy little guy—the business that can’t afford another recession. Investment in marketing is an investment in your future business. Brand awareness creates long-term resilience and growth. That’s a fact.

Think of recessions as short-term obstacles in a long-term race. Tight maneuvers may be necessary to navigate surprises, but be careful to not veer too far from your core strategy. When the sun comes out you’ll find yourself at the bottom of the run miles ahead of those who second-guessed themselves. And that’s when your gains are realized and counted.

And yes, Sands Costner can help you realize an effective brand awareness strategy. We specialize in building solid brand foundations. We prepare and guide businesses through each stage of growth. We help you respond to challenges, not react. When we’re not skiing.

Quality Leasing Co., Inc. Rebrands as Quality Equipment Finance

Quality Leasing Co. is now Quality Equipment Finance, thanks to a sustained period of record growth and a campaign to realign and reaffirm the company’s brand and positioning.

2022 saw growth in staff; restructured operations and management in its Carmel, Indiana headquarters and several satellite offices; and a number of new technologies. Alongside a significant 63% growth in year-over-year funding volume reported through 3Q22, the company added seasoned executive leadership from the industry and additional sales consultants who embody the company’s commitment to personal customer service and excellence—a value customers and partners have grown to expect and trust.

In the midst of this growth, Quality has been developing new technology, refining its underwriting process and making its financing programs ever more competitive. It celebrated its 65th anniversary earlier this year by rolling out EZ-Q, a new application-only program for transactions up to $150,000. All these investments fuel Quality’s momentum going into 2023.

“We are constantly fine-tuning our newest tech platforms to make deal submissions easier, credit decisions faster and funding processes smoother for everyone involved,” said G. Paul Fogle, CLFP and managing director at Quality. “We wanted our brand to better reflect our position in the market.”

The company itself uses equipment finance agreements, or EFAs, as its primary financing method, a major factor in the renaming. Quality partnered with the growth-focused marketing agency Sands Costner to work on the rebranding. Quality now boasts a new website, new logo, and a focused mission: to invest in the success of small businesses with fast and fair commercial equipment financing.

“Sands Costner helped us clarify our position and reaffirm our commitment to our customers,” says Fogle. “We’ve experienced significant growth for some time, and our programs and offerings have expanded and evolved to be more robust than ever. We haven’t forgotten that this is all about the people we empower to do big things all over the country. Our dependability and human touch are still our hallmarks.”


About Quality Equipment Finance
Quality Equipment Finance is a broker’s most dependable funding partner, since 1957. Our people-centered approach, streamlined tech, and straightforward underwriting create easy wins for brokers and their borrowers. We understand the challenges that small businesses face every day. It’s our goal to provide commercial financing that supports their success.

About Sands Costner
Sands Costner is a marketing and advertising agency that specializes in preparing small businesses for—and guiding them through—stages of major growth. For more than forty years it has helped companies meet growth objectives through strategic planning and effective branding and advertising.

Rebranding: 4 Common Pitfalls, Plus Insider Tips for an Effective Rebrand

So you’ve determined that you need to rebrand your organization, or at least to refresh your visual identity. You may have already decided on a scope of work, or chosen a branding agency to work with. Here then is some advice about the rebranding process: both best practices and mistakes to avoid in pursuit of a successful rebranding.

Since you’re reading this, you likely already know what rebranding is (if not, we love the definition provided by the good folks at Hubspot). So here then are the most common pitfalls when rebranding—and how to avoid them—from your favorite Tacoma marketing agency.

Mistake #1 - Tackling your rebrand in-house

Let’s get a big concession out of the way: yes, it’s inarguably self-serving of us to claim that you need to work with an agency when rebranding. Still … we do make that claim, and we’re not wrong.

There are two reasons we’ve seen business owners choose to undertake their rebrand entirely in-house: the most prevalent is to save money. The other (less common) reason is to give work to a friend or relative who is a designer.

Now, IF your friend or relative is a professional graphic designer with experience in corporate brands, then great! You’ve got one piece of your rebranding campaign taken care of. But are they also skilled at copywriting for brand voice? At consumer research? At web design? Or brand awareness and advertising? Social media and content marketing? At tying your rebrand to your growth strategy? If so, then look no further!

Most of the time, rebranding involves more than a new logo and color palette. Yet many business owners seeking out help with their rebrand equate it with just that.

Rebranding certainly can save money in the long run. It’s a mistake to cut costs, however, by deciding that all you need for your rebrand is a fresh logo. Those who understand the complexity of rebranding tend to seek out agency help from the get-go. Think of rebranding as a recalibration of your entire business. Like a car, it needs periodic realignment. A paint job alone doesn’t do the trick.

THE FIX: Hire an agency that’s experienced in rebranding and staffed by people you want to work with. Use your in-house marketing team to help communicate your corporate identity to the agency, and to help execute strategies you and your agency devise.

Mistake #2 - Lifeless values, inert purpose, and mindless mission

We’ll be blunt: more often than not, corporate values suck. If a company lists their values at all, they tend to be vague and overreaching. More often than not, employees aren’t aware of them, or if they are, then they’re not sure how to manifest them in their work.

Similarly, a company’s statement of purpose is often bland and uninspiring. This is true even when a founder is charismatic and/or embodies excellent leadership qualities. Why? Because crafting an inspiring statement of purpose is a different skill from leading a company. It’s the skill of aligning the specific motivations shared by all your stakeholders into a single catalyzing statement, without making it feel overstuffed and flabby.

Then there are mission statements, the institutional fiber of the business world: they’re healthy, natural, and keep things moving in one direction. Many mission statements are crafted as window dressing, or as placeholders, a necessary checklist item for business owners. Most can’t pass the replacement test, however; statements so generic that one could swap item x for item y and not change anything. They completely miss the opportunity to create structure or the obligation implied by “mission.” Often lost in discussion of mission statements is their link to the notion of assignment. Missions are operations dictated by a higher power and evoke a sense of calling and duty. They are an authentic vocation born of specific people’s values and personality.

A successful rebrand depends on a healthy core brand foundation. If you undertake a rebrand without examining these elements, you’re likely just putting lipstick on a pig.

THE FIX: When hiring an agency, ask how they define values, purpose, and mission. Ask what role they feel this foundation plays in your overall growth strategy, and ask about the process they use to develop and tighten this core brand foundation. And make sure they have a sense of how they’ll get stakeholder buy-in.

Mistake #3 - Rebranding without growth planning

Your rebranding strategy can be rock-solid, but if it isn’t aligned with an equally solid growth strategy, then it’s hard to see it actually helping your business in the long term.

Rebranding isn’t just a single marketing campaign; it’s about realigning the corporate identity you project in order to optimize and sustain your market share year after year. If your company doesn’t have a plan in place addressing how it will grow, then the extra market share will prove temporary, and could actually damage an unprepared business (for example, by not fulfilling promises; providing a lackluster customer service experience; or developing an inhospitable work environment, among other dangers.)

You should already be thinking about growth strategies along with any rebrand, and have a clear idea about the most likely strategy for long-term growth.

We can’t emphasize enough the fact that rebranding isn’t just about a single visual design element or new tagline; it’s a structural realignment of your entire corporate identity. Your rebrand won’t just spur growth; it will shape and contain it.

THE FIX: Even before you’ve signed a contract, share with your agency any growth plans you have, whether formalized or not. Not sure what to include or what to ask? Download our checklist of relevant growth planning questions here!

Mistake #4 - Miscommunication

Seems like a no-brainer, but communication is key to any successful rebrand. That means communication not just with your agency, but also within your own team. Here are some problems that can manifest from poor communication:

  • Unvoiced assumptions and expectations
    • Don’t assume the agency will be handling a particular task, or expect your rebrand to yield a particular result, without letting your own team and your agency know
    • You may feel attached to a color, look, name, or typeface. Let everyone involved know your feelings. Take time to thoughtfully explain or justify any strong feelings you may have … or else be willing to be flexible.
  • Operating on old information, or going by gut
    • Rebranding involves knowing your customer, and that involves homework. If you haven’t done yours in a while (say, since your founding?) be prepared to roll up your sleeves.
    • When you’re too close to a brand, it can be easy to miss the bigger picture because of your investment in it, or to make brand decisions based on personal pain points.
  • Bottlenecks and cost overruns
    • Bottlenecks happen frequently as a result of new processes or new people. Bringing in an agency to help with your rebrand involves both. Communicate roles and responsibilities, and establish reasonable workflows and timetables.
    • Cost overruns often happen when the scope of a campaign changes mid-project, which can mean adding on sub-projects. Or it happens when you and your agency aren’t dialed in together. This means additional iterations and rounds of approvals.

THE FIX: For all of these issues, clear and consistent communication is the key to a fruitful partnership and successful rebrand. It’s been said before: the worst mistake you can make with regards to communication is to assume it’s happened.

It helps to think of your rebrand as a relay race and not a tennis match: for every heat, you have to get up to speed in order to pass the baton to your counterpart and maintain an overall cadence. You are on the same team, and not just lobbing a ball back and forth.

Rebranding with a Tacoma marketing agency

Some good news at the end of this list of potential pitfalls: we’ve taken pains to include only items that are well within your control.

If you’re interested in what a marketing agency can do for your rebrand—whether you’re just looking for a logo refresh or a full and proper realignment of your brand foundation, take a glance at our work and, if it resonates, give us a call. Or email us at

About us

Sands Costner is a marketing and advertising agency that specializes in preparing small businesses for—and guiding them through—stages of major growth. We exist to help companies meet their objectives year after year through strategic planning and effective branding.

Get in Touch

How to use your marketing agency to create a winning growth strategy

Marketing planning is often conflated with growth planning, though they are two different processes aimed at solving different problems. The former focuses entirely on traditional marketing activities: that is, how you intend to reach audiences and promote your product or service. The latter focuses on expansion—of audiences, products, or both—and assumes a more whole-business approach. Yet there are virtually no aspects of a business in the 21st century that marketing doesn’t touch. Your brand is a function of your core identity; your products and services are a response to an understanding of your audience’s needs and values. Soup to nuts, business growth planning IS marketing, and the best marketing agencies understand this and can help you develop and execute a winning growth strategy.

Why plan for growth?

We’ve written elsewhere about the stages of organizational growth, and how a business can remain in survival mode indefinitely. Small business owners who are able to develop a sustainable cash flow find it comfortable or even advantageous to remain in that stage. And more power to them, especially if they can remain in that sweet balance of size profitability.

But there are plenty of reasons that business owners seek to undertake growth planning. Note that growing and planning for growth are two different things. You can’t control all aspects of growth. And growth seldom just happens. You have to plan for it.

So why do some business owners want to grow?

  • Treading water can be tiring, boring, or both. It can also be unsustainable even with positive cash flow since business owners are human and their energy is a finite resource
  • The business has hit a growth plateau without achieving sustainable positive cash flow
    Growth is part of the mission statement
  • The company is bringing new products or services to market, per the initial business plan, or is creating or buying new organizational divisions
  • The founder wants or needs to disengage from day-to-day operations, and needs to establish a brand identity and/or sales strategy that is independent of their personality and relationships

There are other reasons, but these are a few of the biggies. Each situation requires careful planning.

Of course, growth happens with or without planning. Sometimes business owners have to hustle to control costs or manage growth after the fact. Better late than never: growth without adequate planning can quickly sink a business.

What does business growth planning consist of?

Growth planning can be a messy process since it involves thoughtful analysis of your operations, your brand identity, your vision and goals, and the ever-shifting needs and values of your customers. There are a lot of moving parts, and making sense of them requires experience, knowledge, and time.


The beginning stage of any business growth planning is essentially a description of your business. What is your value proposition? What are your mission, vision, purpose, and values? Who is on your team?

Research and analysis

Who are your customers? Who are your competitors? Got time for a SWOT analysis? What are your finances like? The better you understand your business—not how it was originally conceived, but how it functions now—the stronger your growth strategy will be.

Survey of products and services

What are your products and services? What problems do they solve? Whose problems do they solve? How well do they solve them? Are there other people whose problems would be solved by your product or service? Can people get your product or service easily enough?

What is a business growth strategy?

Your growth strategy will be the outcome of your planning. Good news: as messy as the planning stage can be, your ultimate strategy will likely take on just one or two of several possible flavors. There are essentially four main business growth strategies, and they are functions of markets and products (and from here on we’ll just say “product” to refer to products and/or services).

Business growth planning also includes taking a look at capital and staffing needs, but these are factored into your final growth plan and aren’t part of the basic growth strategy.

Market penetration: existing product, existing market

With market penetration, the strategy is to increase your market share within an existing market. You’re not offering new products. You can do this with tactics like direct marketing, social media marketing, or lowering prices.

Market development: existing product, new market

In market development, you’re bringing your product to a new, previous untapped (or even unidentified) audience. This can mean a demographic change (new regions or new customer types), or it can mean a new distribution channel, such as an online store or mobile van.

Product development: new product, existing market

Sometimes business growth planning reveals the need for new and/or improved products. Either your product isn’t meeting the needs of your customers as well as it could be, or your customers’ needs and values have evolved to necessitate the development of new products. Your market remains the same; you’ll just need a go-to-market strategy.

Diversification: new product, new market

This is the trickiest strategy of the bunch, and the most prone to failure. If your planning has uncovered both a need for new products and a need to reach new markets, then a lot of careful calibration is required. Even with planning, diversification efforts are risky. Potential rewards are high, however, if you manage to create a product that people didn’t know they needed until it was presented to them.

A good growth strategy is aligned with both your core identity—your values, purpose, and vision—and the needs and values of your customers. This strategic alignment will ensure the effectiveness of any campaigns or initiatives you undertake in the name of your growth strategy.

How to be sure: partnering with an agency

The problem is, business owners who are looking for a growth strategy are either too busy to do the planning that ensures that the strategy is sound, or they undertake the planning without the benefit of experience or hindsight.

This is where it helps to partner with an agency that does growth planning.

But what do you look for? What is that agency called? If you google “growth planning agency” you probably won’t find much. Especially not if you’re looking for someone in your area, whom you can meet face-to-face.

That’s where your local marketing agency can help.

As we’ve established, growth planning IS marketing. And the better marketing agencies understand this and can offer a range of services beyond the traditional graphic design, advertising, and branding.

Here are some questions you can ask your local marketing agency to suss out if they’ll be able to help you:

  • What is your experience with growth planning?
  • What are your core strengths as an agency?
  • Can you advise on different stages of business growth?
  • What is your approach to crafting a go-to-market strategy?
  • Do you look at finances and staffing when writing strategic marketing plans?

If you have used a marketing agency to write a business growth plan, we’d love to hear about your experience! Send us a note at

If you’re a business owner looking for a marketing agency to help you with business growth planning, we’d be happy to chat with you about your needs. And if you’re in Tacoma or the South Puget Sound region, we’d love to meet up with you in person!

About us

Sands Costner is a marketing and advertising agency that specializes in preparing small businesses for—and guiding them through—stages of major growth. We exist to help companies meet their objectives year after year through strategic planning and effective branding.

Get in Touch