As a small business owner many things are out of our control. As daunting as this seems, I attended an event here in D.C. a few weeks ago that challenged small business to think about their brand in relation to the perception of their CEO. Big companies manage this perception, but as big business the CEO’s are somewhat removed from the process. Small business don’t have that luxury because for many of us, we are the company. So what can we do to manage our brand?
Realize that we are the brand
Many of us believe that our companies are our babies, but we fail to realize that as creators we are the brand. What we do, say and think matters. It matters to our customers and to our staff, so we have to make sure that our actions and our words are in step with what we want our businesses to stand for.
Ask the hard questions
As CEO’s many of us have reached a position where few people will tell us if we are coming across in a negative light, but that kind of observation is exactly what we need. As business owners we have a duty to surround ourselves by people who will challenge us in every way possible. Sometimes that means reaching out to people who don’t know your business very well and asking their first impressions. The key to this is to gather the feedback and not respond. Hard? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely.
Take complaints seriously
No business can satisfy 100% of the clients, but it is worth a try to have the goal. The thing about customers is that will provide the most helpful information you can get your hands on, if you listen. Try to take complaints from the customer’s perspective, think ‘what went wrong and how can I solve it?’ Then think ‘is this solution meaningful to my customers?’
Own your mistakes
This is something that I learned when I became a parent, but it is still some of the best business advice that I have ever gotten. When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong and I apologize. I don’t blame the customer for not giving me enough information, I do not look for ways to invalidate a refund policy. If something has gone wrong, I put on my big girl pants and make it right.
No one said that being a business owner was easy, but once we accept that we are always creating the perception of our business we can accomplish big things. So tell me, what will you accomplish today?