When a brand starts struggling, losing customers and its luster, company leaders often turn to consultants to help them turn things around. These consultants more often than not focus on operating areas. They tweak accounting systems, invest in new tracking software, they might even recommend expansion—counterintuitive for a failing company. They drop their ideas on the CEO’s desk and move on to their next job, leaving the company to figure out how to implement their recommendations at scale—with no guarantee the effort will pay off.
What many consultants fail to see, however, are the people who power every aspect of a successful brand: the employees who are the face of the brand; the suppliers who feed fuel to the product; and the customers, who will be loyal only up to a point. There is no brand so venerable that name and history can keep it going if these three stakeholders feel neglected or misused. The operative word is trust. Do your employees, suppliers, and customers trust you to take care of them, to have their best interests at heart, and to treat them fairly?
If you’ve gotten complacent, certain that the way things have always gone are the way they should always go, you might have a rude awakening in store once you sit down and start listening.
If your brand is faltering and you can’t pinpoint why, it’s time to start asking questions and, more importantly, listening to the answers.
If employees are underpaid, at the mercy of inconsistent scheduling, don’t have authority and autonomy to successfully implement their jobs, feel unappreciated or taken for granted, they will either leave the company—leaving you with the job of replacing and retraining—or emotionally check out, resentfully doing the minimum required.
Ask your employees:
- Are you earning a living wage?
- How comfortable are you with your work schedule?
- Do you feel like the company is invested in your health and wellbeing?
- Do you feel like you have the autonomy and authority to do your job as you see fit?
- What would make you feel valued?
The answers to these questions will help you to target changes that will engender buy-in from your employees and improve attitude and retention. Go above and beyond (can you help with college tuition? provide childcare? how comfortable is the employee break room) and you will have a loyal, dedicated workforce.
Of course you want to get the best price in order to maximize profit, but are your suppliers feeling taken advantage of? Are they being penalized for your company’s bad business decisions?
Ask your suppliers:
- Do you feel micromanaged in our interactions?
- Do you get the information necessary to fulfill your obligations?
- Do you feel like your company is being treated as an equal partner in ensuring the success of both our companies?
- Do you think our two companies are a good cultural fit?
Suppliers who feel micromanaged, nickeled and dimed, or otherwise taken advantage of might not walk away, but they are very likely to tack a “pain-in-the-ass” charge onto their pricing. Building trust with your suppliers will ensure buy-in to a mutually advantageous relationship.
Here is where the rubber hits the road. In most cases, customers have infinite choices in where to bring their business—exponentially more than in the past with the advent of the internet—and brand alone isn’t enough to keep them if they don’t feel served and valued.
Ask your customers:
- Do you find the products you need when you need them?
- Are employees engaged, polite, and helpful?
- (If you have a physical location) Are the stores pleasant and well organized?
- (If you have a web presence) Is the website easy to navigate?
- Why do you or don’t you patronize this business?
If customers don’t feel like your business values their patronage, if they are not treated with respect and care, and if they can’t find what they need when they need it, they will take their business elsewhere.
Once lost, trust can be difficult—not to mention expensive—for a business to regain. However, it is possible if you approach the problem with a human focus and an open mind and ears. Your stakeholders will tell you what they need to help your business succeed—if you only ask.short url: