Image has been my personal and professional platform for 15 years -- and I don't anticipate that changing anytime soon. During the 1980s, I became part of a group of creative retail types in Baton Rouge, La., and helped form an organization called The Image Group. Our mission was to seek out obviously image-needy retailers and redefine, or refine, them with identity makeovers. Almost 10 years later, I joined another group of creators in Atlanta and helped launch a magazine called Retail Store Image -- glossy, colorful and filled with relevant image information that we packaged for 22,000 image-hungry retail readers nationwide.

As image reporters, we were groundbreakers, providing fresh, new information to retailers who otherwise weren't sure exactly what retail image was. As image analysts, we were pressing an industry hot button and underscoring a buzz word no doubt originated by some disappointed shopper to motivate retailers to closely inspect the messages they sent to customers through store design, advertising materials, and operational philosophies.

Then, this past March, with image still buzzing but now sharing trade journal text space with "identity packaging" and "brand management," I made the difficult decision to leave Retail Store Image after eight years. I received an offer from a 15-store, Kansas City-based donut shop chain to expand the locally successful company into a national force. As president of LaMar's Franchising Inc., I am responsible for developing a national image for LaMar's Donuts from the inside and communicating that image to customers.

Clearly, this is an opportunity to put into practice all that I have studied and taught over the past 15 years. I'm thrilled to be a part of INStore, providing a perspective in Field Report that reflects my new role as an image insider.

In future columns, I'll tell you first hand about the challenges and rewards of building a chain (almost) from the ground up.

Katherine Field, president & CEO of LaMar's Franchising Inc., offers an insider's perspective each month on building a retail image step by step, store by store.