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Brand Killers: how employees destroy your brand

Phil Roberts - Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Each morning while walking to the office I pass a ladies hair salon. A salon that seems to be completely dead. A salon that has more staff than customers, or so it seems.

Regardless of the time of day its always lacking the bustle of business and for a time I wondered why this was. It's got plenty of parking nearby, is visible for a lot of foot traffic and I assume they are reasonable value for money. So why the scarcity of folk?

The brand-crushing behaviour of the staff.

No, these staff are not being abusive to passers-by. Nor are they scruffily turned out. They are passive and well-dressed. But when they sit directly outside their place of business sitting with their feet on chairs smoking a cigarettes, brand alarm bells ring at a deafening volume.

Everything that salon owner has worked for in building a loyal clientele, being good value and giving stylish cuts goes up in smoke when its staff believe that being a brand ambassador is only a part-time job.

If your staff are visible they are liable. If they are liable you need to limit that liability. To limit that liability business owners need to recruit the right kind of people – even if it hurts.

The best brands are those who's employees are the brand. Not corporate value regurgitating simpletons but bright, intelligent, invested people who’s personal and moral values overlap that of the brand. Without this correlation of values between brand and employees, your brand will not endure.

How many vegetarians do you think work at McDonalds? I'd say none.  If there are any, I don't think they're Loving It™. Because it is a conflict of values and therefore only a matter of time before they quit. And quitting costs money.

For big brands, staff turnover is a manageable reality of business. For the small business owner it is alway a blow and a significant cost: advertising, shortlisting, interviewing, training – it all costs in time, money and resources. So recruit the right people – those who share your beliefs and passions. Because it hurts even more if you recruit the wrong kind, directly in your wallet.

Richard Branson talks about the "Virgin" type of person.

Duke Stump stated that "it begins inside". To nurture and grow your brand on the inside so it may flourish on the outside.

Tony Hsieh of Zappos fame said "Your culture is your brand" and made a point of recruiting the right type of people by having all prospective staff follow the same 4 week induction (regardless of level) and offering them $2000 USD to quit after week 1 (to weed out those who just wanted a job).

These salon employees however were clearly recruited solely on their ability to turn up on time and cut hair. While that is a good start putting people off entering the salon in the first place rather negates that. They slouch about, grumbling to each other while raising their heads to blow smoke. The message I read when I pass is simply "I don't care".

The behaviour of your staff while in and around your place of business is always a brand statement. One that you need to manage carefully with clear boundaries because, if you let them, they can kill your brand stone dead.

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