Small service businesses are almost always initially founded on a personality. At the core of the business plan is the personality of the owner – driven by whatever demons motivate them, they start a company, move it forward and upward by the sheer force of their determination. And it works, for a while. Before long, however, most business owners realize the real meaning of the word “company.” Seldom is a person truly in business by themselves. As the company grows, employees (or family) begin to take on as much of the labor overhead as the owner will delegate. In fact, successful growth is often directly dependent on exactly how willing the head of the organization is to turn over important decisions and operations to capable employees.
Companies that market themselves well almost always have discovered the secret to employee empowerment and teamwork. If your brand is really the total sum of people’s perceptions about your company, isn’t it logical that one of the chief conduits of your brand message is your employees? If you are an employee rather than the owner of a company, you are very much aware of the degree to which your representation of the company impacts the way the public feels about the enterprise as a whole. It is therefore fairly certain that a successful branding strategy is going to involve an emphasis on the people associated with your agency whether employees, ownership or family who assist in the business. However, many agencies place their branding emphasis on product rather than on their agency’s employees. Their websites and marketing collateral are filled with the logos of suppliers instead of pictures and stories of their employees. This is a valid tactic, but the strategy is less than clear. People certainly do respond to Carnival’s logo. However, why would the client buy a Carnival cruise from this particular agency? If the purchasing decision comes down to product, it too often becomes centered on price – a battle that is difficult to win against large discounters. Agencies are far better served by focusing on their employees. Who represents the agency? Why are they unique? What is their training? How much traveling have they done. What is their story? Given the people who work at your agency, what is the benefit to the client? What kind of experience can people who use your agency expect? Personal attention? Expert planning? Local accountability? Satisfaction? Advocacy? A life-long relationship? Long term consulting and advice?
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Employee involvement is a philosophy and a corporate culture, not a management trick. Empowering employees is all about how people are best enabled to contribute in a meaningful way to the improvement and success of the company for which they work. Great marketing has to begin with an authentic belief and love for a brand. Studying methods for developing team effectiveness, internal communication, problem solving and the development of rewards for truly superior performance is a worthwhile undertaking.
Fostering a work culture that values collaboration and teamwork takes time. In a strong team environment, employees feel that their input is respected and valued. As a result, their willingness to personally commit to the company’s brand is stronger and more natural. When the company truly becomes an extension of the commitment of its employees, great things begin to happen.