Transmitting brand in a people-business - part 1 ~ Sounds + Food 'n' Retail

Last time, I wrote a little about how I feel that retail & food venues are very much people-businesses. You are essentially running a piece of real-estate, filled with people that represent you, and people that use your services. It adds a special dynamic to the whole thing, because you can achieve a lot with maintaining a good quality staff, but of course you have to understand how to get there. On Tech IT Easy, I wrote an article on "People First," in regards to organisations like Pixar. This a principle I firmly believe in, but is easier said than done. I think it really starts at the selection- and training-phases, but also requires regular attention to ensure that this continues.

The July-August issue of HBR (which I'm devouring like crazy) has some interesting advice towards branded leadership, which they explain as: "you want your leaders to embody the promises your company makes to its customers," and they present 5 principles to ensure that will happen. It is not my desire to summarise whole articles here each time, but I will focus on the message instead. 

Essentially, they are saying that your company is unique, has to be unique in the eyes of customers, to ensure a certain loyalty, i.e. have people come back over and over again. This is based on an identity, which can manifest itself in ways like low-cost, high-service, great quality, great ambience, etc. etc. Preferably the more selling-points the better, as that will ensure a richer experience for customers, appeal to a broader target-group, and hopefully beat the competition.

And you have to instil that identity in your workforce. One of the ways that HBR proposes to do so, is by training leaders to handle as many situations as possible. You can achieve this by putting them into settings which confront them with new challenges and makes them come out as better leaders and a better understanding your business. 

And this applies to employees also. If you can manage to bring out more from them than their core-funtion would suggest, not only do you create a work-place that motivates people to come in eager to learn, but will automatically transfer their enthusiasm to your customers, who they interact with.

One way that this can be achieved is with something called participation-management, as I found out from a new podcast I discovered, focussed on Specialty Shop Retailing. Essentially, participation-management is a method that is meant to motivate employees, by giving them more responsibility in the company. Some ways that the podcast (episode 1) mentioned, include: having staff participate in the hiring-process, having those assigned to certain divisions take part or make the buying decision for that part of the business, and involving employees in writing the employee handbook. There are some risks associated with this method as well, namely that you may have to release financial details about your business, that decision-making can be slower in a group, and that firing can be more difficult.

More on this later.

The picture is courtesy of Liz Strauss' great article-series on successful personal branding.


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