By Susan Hamilton
I had the pleasure of speaking with Catherine Monson, CEO of FASTSIGNS International, Inc., for The OffBeat Business Show that aired January 3rd, 2017, and the whole time she shared with us, all I could think about was how desperately American businesses needed to revisit branding. We need an overhaul, people! But it’s not as daunting as you might think. OffBeat Business Media is undergoing a re-branding of sorts, and I think our journey – along with the valuable branding insights discussed throughout our January lineup – will give you some good touch points to consider.
As you know by now, your brand is not simply your logo or color choices or tagline – though all of those things work together to create the customer experience from the very first exposure people have with your brand. That customer experience is far more than those things, however, and while I believe wholeheartedly in playing a BIG game, I have learned that the art of the customer experience is in the follow-through. The follow-through, for the majority of American micro to small businesses, is carried out through the team you employ and is likely a family member. This changes the conversation somewhat from what you might hear at a conference or on a coaching call. Our front line is probably not accountable to a sales manager or a team leader so much as they perceive they are working with Uncle Joe or Aunt Mary. Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary tend to look at the staff and technicians differently, too. Someone had a baby up all night, someone got a DWI, someone said something off the hip and the rest of the team is all abuzz because they must be getting on their ‘high horse’ and who do they think they are, really?
This stuff goes on in larger corporations, too. We want to have a compassionate workplace and we want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but without some separation of work and home life, the company suffers in areas of productivity, process management and communication. Those areas all directly contribute to the customer experience.
One advantage (and I’m sure we can all agree on this) to having your own company, is to enjoy the flexibility it should offer. At the same time, without expectations regarding procedures, attitudes, and time management – follow through suffers, the customer experience suffers, and while word of mouth still makes the phone ring once and awhile … it won’t generate sufficient revenue.
The Brand Experience Begins With YOU
Your team can be as effective, efficient, and productive as you lead them to be. Leadership is not about pushing people through hoops, but it is about creating an environment where your expectations are clear, incentives are clear, and your team is on fire to let others know how awesome your company is. Give your team opportunity to thrive – not merely with raises – but with their personal growth and willingness to let their great ideas masterfully re-shape your company’s future.
The opposite of this is to allow space for grumbling and discontent, backbiting and poor communication, and many, many, many lost dollars you couldn’t possibly count.
Catherine Monson suggests some very doable ways to instill and improve your company culture, all of which, I’ve begun to practice more thoroughly at OffBeat Business Media – and you WILL recognize the difference immediately!
Use Signage – Of course! As CEO of FASTSIGNS International you might expect this suggestion from Catherine, but I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at Success North Dallas and enjoyed conversation with her after that and can tell you she’s nailed it here no matter whose company she represents. Ms. Monson incorporates an ‘Inspiration Hall of Quotes’ that frame famous – and not-so-famous – wisdom for everyday business and personal life. Over one hundred of these line the hall. Her staff enjoys them, shares them, repeats them – and even notice if one is missing or if a new one is added, they’re that good. What a great way to use WORDS without speaking to encourage and grow the vision of your team! Here is a list of some of her favorites, very tweetable, I might add.
“Everyone who has ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it that makes a difference.” ~ Nolan Bushnell
“Successful people do the things unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.” ~ Unknown
“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” ~ John F. Kennedy
“A diamond is a piece of coal that took stress very well.” ~ Unknown
“Failure is not fatal; but failure to change might be.” ~ John Wooden
Communicate What’s Going on in The Company Regularly – Equip your team. What are all the things going on in marketing, sales? What are our goals, where are we on achieving them? FASTSIGNS shares that information with the team in monthly meetings, and even get a call from Catherine that every franchise can get on to learn the most recent factoids about the company. On top of that, these calls are archived in podcast and available for reference to every single employee. In this way, FASTSIGNS is constantly and continually communicating the company news.
“Tell them, and then tell them, and then tell them what you told them. Everything works together.”
Positive Mental Attitude – Keep your head in the game. Enthusiasm is contagious, and so is a bad attitude. You become what you think about.
Goal Directed Behavior – Says Catherine, “Goal directed behavior is the single biggest differentiator between people who achieve a lot and people who achieve a little, and if you want your company to achieve it’s goals, you gotta have a business plan. It doesn’t have to be long, it can be one sheet of paper. Two or three goals or objectives for the year, a handful of action plans and how you’re gonna implement them, and look at it every day.
At the end of every week you ask, “Did I make any progress on these?” and at the end of every month you look at your financial statements pulled together and you compare your results to what you wanted to achieve in your business plan and your budget. And if you can have that discipline, it’s not just working in your business, it’s working ON your business – maybe only 3 hours a week – you will make amazing achievements in what you will become as a company.”
About That Business Plan – Make sure everyone in your business, even if there’s only a handful of people, know what your goals and objectives are, and understand what they need to do every day to achieve those goals and objectives, and then instill that sense of urgency that drives them to do a little bit more every single day than any of your competitors do.
Take Care of The Customer – Let them know how much you appreciate them. Doing this consistently is what sets companies apart and ahead of the rest.
“If you, as the leader of the organization do not put great thought into what you want the company culture to be, and then create that culture, someone else is going to do that for you, and chances are that it will be a disgruntled employee or an underachieving employee.
The key to having that great company culture is for the leader to decide what that’s going to be, and to describe it – to write down – those positive attributes about the culture and then inculcate the group with that and talk about it all the time.”
For Maximum Brand Value – Revisit These Questions
What do we stand for as a business?
What do we believe in as a company about how we take care of customers?
What are our values as an organization? Communicate this and repeat it again and again.
Everybody wants to be the best, and as a matter of fact, there is no marketing for “I’m almost as good as that guy.” I’ve actually been asked if it was legal to say you were the best! Of course you’re the best at something, or you wouldn’t have stepped out to do this thing BETTER than you had seen anyone else do it before you went into business. Best has a price, and that price is diligence. Diligence is a prerequisite for excellence, something that takes continual refinement. And you CAN be excellent in every single part of your operation every single day when your focus is on effective leadership and goal directed behavior. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it!
For reliable, consistent revenue and increased profits, build your brand from the inside out.
Susan Hamilton is the Chief Executive Officer at OffBeat Business Media, a business for business digital media resource for strong brand development. To learn how audio, video, digital magazine articles and ads can help you build a strong, influential brand, contact Susan@OffBeatBusiness.com or call 214-714-0495.