A solid reputation is as good as gold
Provided by Business Partners Ltd, South Africa's leading investor in SMEs
One of the most important ways you can stay a step ahead of your competitors is by establishing a strong reputation in your industry. Everything your business does will either build or damage its reputation.
Your business's reputation is basically how it is regarded by your customers, suppliers and other stakeholders linked to the company. A good reputation benefits your business by attracting/retaining good employees, creating a loyal customer base and ensuring that suppliers want you as their client.
A name that is held in high esteem is not something you can claim from the outset, since no one is simply going to take your word for it. The qualities that will earn you good standing are common to any business and include:
- Honesty - underhandedness will always catch up with you. Customers and service providers want to do business with someone they can trust
- Reliability - the people you do business with want to know they can count on you to fulfill your promises
- Integrity - strong principles and ethical behaviour should be a non-negotiable
- Good quality products and services that provide good value
- Exceeding expectations - being known for excellent customer service goes a long way in establishing loyal customers
Upholding these principles in yourself and expecting it from your employees should be your company's hallmark and regarded as priceless.
A good reputation begins with...
Various factors can contribute to building a strong reputation and it's important that you pay attention to all of these.
The customer: They can make or break your reputation, so you can't afford to have even one customer say something negative to fellow customers, colleagues, friends or family. Make sure all employees are trained and willing to be professional at all times, provide excellent service, deal with complaints in a way that satisfies the client and makes each one feel important.
Marketing: The way you market your business will determine how it's seen by the outside world. Your branding is often the first impression, so it should be professional and consistent throughout (from advertising through to staff uniforms). Always look out for opportunities to receive positive publicity in the media and network with key players in your industry.
Your employees: Your reputation can not become or stay strong without the support of the people working for you. These are usually the people who deal directly with your customers, so make sure they buy into and embody the principles you value in your business. Their attitudes have a lot to do with how you treat them, so reflect on that.
Avoid bad publicity
Just as long as it takes you to establish your credibility in your industry and with your customers, bad publicity can cause major damage in an instant. That's why it's important to firstly avoid it, and secondly, deal it with it in a professional manner if something does happen.
How you deal with a difficult situation will depend on what exactly has happened, but it is generally most productive to be open and honest about the situation. Take responsibility for your role, such as apologising to and compensating a customer with a valid complaint. Sticking to the facts and playing open cards can go a long way in rebuilding a burnt bridge.
Don't under-estimate the value of your company's reputation. Decide whether you want to be well-known or notorious.
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