No one knows your business like you do.
That fact should be a source of pride and a testament to the tireless hours you have spent not just developing a product but cultivating a brand and earning a strong reputation among your clients, suppliers and competitors, as well as a respected place in your community. Having a singular insight into your company can present a set of challenges, but also opportunities to lead.
As your client base and revenue streams grow, as you break into new markets and set your sights on loftier goals, you’ll find it increasingly difficult to juggle a range of tasks that you might be accustomed to doing yourself. In other words, if you want to expand, you’re going to have to hire some people. In my case, I knew I had to hire people who were smarter and better than I was. I also knew I wanted people who were equal leaders and believed in the mission of Michigan Creative as much as I did.
Having more people under one roof, however, means there’s a greater chance that your business will start sending mixed messages, both internally and to customers, suppliers, and all of the people you’d like to do business with. When people outside of your company are hearing the wrong story, the branding standards you have carefully crafted can begin to lose their focus.
Can you explain your company in a 30-second pitch? How about 10-seconds? (Our Sandler trainer Greg Coyne pushes us to have this down) Most likely you can, but are you confident that your employees have the same comfort level with your story? More importantly, do their actions embody the company’s values, or is each operating in a vacuum, content to log eight hours and call it a day?
When your employees are fluent in the story you want to tell, it becomes a mantra you see reflected in everything they do. Still, it’s one thing to know the story, but how to motivate them to want to tell the story? That’s where opportunities for leadership begin to emerge.
“People make the product better.”
The old adage “if you want something done right, do it yourself” can be a serious roadblock to success. Trust yourself to hire a talented workforce, but don’t forget to trust the people you hire. Creating a culture of trust and communication will transform employees into ambassadors who will use their talents to champion the story you have entrusted to them.
The best example I can give of this from Michigan Creative was when our Creative Director had been asking me repeatedly to buy a few shelves and side tables for our new office. After waiting for me to never get around to it, she took matters into her own hands and built the units from reclaimed wood and bricks. “See a need, fill a need,” she said. I love her.
“Sales come from relationships.”
When you have a team of trusted ambassadors eager to build relationships with each other and with clients, that’s when you’ll start to see your story being reflected everywhere, from the factory floor to the company’s website, internal and external communications, social media, interactions with clients, and, best of all, among customers who have had a great experience they can’t wait to repeat and share with others.
“This is your company.”
As a leader, you want to develop a team of creative storytellers. That does not mean allowing your employees to operate outside the context of your brand. Rather, it means encouraging them to share ideas, offer constructive criticism and maximize their skills in a way that makes them understand that they have a stake in the company too. A team of employees who are invested in their company’s story will generate an energy that ripples beyond the walls of the workplace.
“Mistakes are part of the story.”
You made mistakes en route to where you are today. Mistakes are part of the story. Allow your employees to make them too. Leaders criticize without condescending, react without being reactionary. Employees who are afraid of making mistakes will be less tempted to think creatively will quickly lose interest in the story you are trying to tell.
When I speak to business owners, students and startups around the country, I don’t talk to them about all the good things we have done, but all the mistakes we have made along the way and how we learned from them. We have a podcast called The Business Machine that focuses on just that. One day, in my free time, I intend to collect those stories and put them in a book entitled, How Not to Run a Business. One day. Or maybe if I wait long enough, some enterprising Creative Director will take the initiative for me.
Jeff Bezos says that “your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” When you have a dedicated team united by a great product and common values, the “other people” will begin telling you company’s story for you in exactly the way you want it told.
Here at Michigan Creative we have two foundational brand messages:
- A company’s sole purpose is to improve the lives of the people that work there.
- We live to create.
So all you would-be warrior business owners out there, go find your story, get your team on the bus and share it with the world.
If you need some help finding and telling that story, that is what we do best at Michigan Creative. Contact us. We live to create and would love to help you create your story.
Brian Town – CEO