Your employees are the first impression
Provided by Business Partners Ltd, South Africa's leading investor in SMEs
A major aspect of doing good business is that all-important "competitive edge". But don't look too far afield for ways to do this. Your biggest selling point could be the face your business presents to the outside world, and most often, that would be your employees.
A company's image can be its greatest asset or its biggest downfall. Large corporate companies know this too well and spend huge amounts of money on their corporate branding and reputation-building. This includes making sure that their employees live up to the company's good name.
As a small business, image is equally as important and the first place to start building your brand is by taking a step back and looking at the way you and your employees come across to your clients, customers and/or service providers.
Start with your employees
Often, the first impression a customer gets of your business, are their interactions with your employees. They are your strongest brand-builder and need to look and behave the way you'd like your company to be seen.
- Have a dress code: Have a standard dress code, even it's a casual one. Employees must look neat and presentable at all times. If necessary, provide branded t-shirts or uniforms
- Establish good etiquette: Ensure that all employees - from the receptionist through to the company driver - have been trained in good etiquette. A polite, friendly greeting, courteousness and a willingness to help will make a client keen to come back
- Internal interaction: Take note of how you and your staff speak to each other and what you talk about. There's nothing worse for a client than having to listen to employees complain about the boss or gossip about other customers. And they could also do without overhearing you screaming at a staff member
- A pleasant atmosphere: Yes, times are tough and business may be slow, but that is neither your employees nor your customer's fault. Take time to deal with negative feelings amongst employees and be a good example to them by keeping a positive outlook and upbeat demeanour at the office
- Make your employees feel appreciated: It's alot harder to present a friendly face when you feel overworked and under-appreciated. Make sure your staff know how valued they are and that their good work doesn't go unnoticed
- Have fun at work: It's obvious when people are enjoying their work and feel motivated to help a customer. Being light-hearted and having fun does not necessarily mean that employees are slacking off, so encourage a good sense of humour and laughter in the workplace
Remember that many of these pointers apply to your service providers as well. You need their business as much as they need yours, and being unreasonable definitely won't make them want to go the extra mile for you.
None of these measures will cost you much money, but can go along way to creating a good image for your company. Start by setting standards for yourself and your employees, and then set about maintaining them.
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