Start on the Inside and Work Your Way Out | NAWBO

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Start on the Inside and Work Your Way Out

If you want to build a seriously great brand, start on the inside of your business and work your way out. Cultivate a positive, vibrant culture around your brand—because if you can’t convince employees and contractors to be your greatest brand ambassadors, who can you convince?

Think about it like this: You invest time, money and creativity into building your external brand, whether it’s your logo, website, brochure or social media presence. But these things won’t mean anything if you aren’t walking the talk inside your business. Just as marketing can be “off brand,” so can your team members. If you’re not all on the same page, working toward a shared purpose, mission and vision, or if you have issues with internal conflict or turnover, you’ll be challenged as you grow.

The good news for early stage small business owners is you are just starting out. The slate is clean because you are the brand, and you have nowhere to go but onward and upward as you add new team members to take your business to the next level. It’s a great time to think about both your internal and external branding to make sure they are aligned and continue to be as you grow.

There are big lessons to be learned from today’s biggest brands, like Starbucks or Zappos. These companies have current and even former employees who follow the brands loyally and passionately. They buy their coffee, shoes and clothes, invest in their stock and tell friends and family to do the same.

Do you think Starbucks’ employees who are attending college, thanks to the Starbucks College Achievement plan, will be brand ambassadors for life? Starbucks also demonstrates its values of dignity and respect by giving part-time employees health benefits, stock options and free coffee.

Meanwhile, Zappos delivers happiness to its employees through a fun work environment and employee empowerment, not control. When the company was named by Monster as a “Great Place to Work,” the CEO said they treat everyone like family, hire for cultural fit, trust the team and share information daily so that everyone embraces and represents the brand. I personally had the privilege of touring the Zappos corporate office and was amazed by the organization and brand—their team definitely “drinks the KoolAid” for life!

So ask yourself this: Do my employees or contractors believe in my company’s products and/or services? Are they standing 100 percent behind me in my brand purpose, mission and vision? Are they “living” my brand externally? If you answered no to any of these, it may be time to start on the inside and work your way out.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Create the type of work environment brands thrive in—inspiring, learning, caring, appreciative, respectful, fun, etc.
  • Recruit team members who are a great fit with your internal and external brand.
  • Inform and involve your team in initiatives and strategies taking place within your company.
  • Over-communicate values and behaviors that reflect your brand promise.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of freebies—make your team members believers by giving them a “taste” of your products or services.

Lastly, remember, your team is one of your greatest assets, so tap into them when building your brand from inside and out. I am proud that’s a philosophy we embrace at NAWBO National. Our Board of Directors knows our growth and success is a total team effort so we’re always looking to our staff, PASC members, committee members and chapter leaders to make sure the depth, diversity and excellence our members experience on the outside starts inside our great organization with all of us.

—Jeanette Armbrust, 2019-2020 NAWBO National Board Chair