Early in 2009 Starbucks closed its doors nationwide for 2 hours. Some thought it was a publicity stunt…and it was actually far from that. The purpose of the closing? A “partner” (employee) training event. Starbucks’ iconic founder, Howard Schultz, said of the idea, “Our unprecedented level of commitment to and investment in our people will provide them with the tools and resources they need to exceed the expectations of our customers.” Well stated!
So, how does this apply to the mortgage industry? Whether you take the time or not to develop your internal culture, or brand, it is being developed for you with or without your blessing. Your internal brand is something that finds its way into every nook and cranny of your company and then finds its way outside, invading your target audience. This invasion can be good…or bad. What your people believe about you internally, their attitudes, perceptions, how you do things and how you then ultimately treat your customers…all of this defines your internal brand which controls your external brand perception.
Here’s a great example…the Ritz-Carlton’s mantra “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” If you’ve ever stayed at a Ritz-Carlton, it’s very clear they have the systems in place, the right hiring practices, training and internal adoption methodology so that everything is in alignment to deliver perfectly on their mantra.
Companies in the mortgage industry that take the time and put forth the effort to develop and promote their brands internally are in the upper echelon of the industry…and their success is reflective of their investment. The fact is that your audience is more likely to connect with your brand if what you say you’re all about is actually reinforced by the internal culture they experience when they come into contact with you. One more example…Disney! Disney has long referred to its employees as “cast members” so that they are sure to understand that when they come to work, they’re always on stage.
Internal brand development is well worth the effort. I’m sure you can think of many examples where the internal culture, good or bad, has direct influence on the external perception of a brand.
Here are 4 tips for driving internal adoption of your brand:
1) Cultivate your internal corporate culture. If you took the time to determine who you are, what you stand for (and don’t stand for) and where you’re headed as a company, then the task of cultivating your culture becomes much easier. The alternative is to make decisions “on the fly.” Your audience, both internally and externally, will see through this as a certain amount of inconsistency in your decisions and how you communicate will undoubtedly arise. Your employees will lose track of where you stand and if they don’t understand what’s going on, then how can you expect your audience to understand you?
2) Communicate your story internally. It’s important for all in your company to understand the underlying story which provides a foundation for how your people act and how business is done. If you consider the two examples I shared…both the Ritz-Carlton and Disney are an “experience” for the visitor because their people understand and live the story behind the respective brands. Sadly, this “story,” for most companies, is buried in an employee manual and in mission statements which people receive upon employment, review at a glance and then place in a desk drawer never to see the light of day again.
Your story needs to be evident and communicated well through your written communications, intranets, celebrations, internal newsletters…you get the idea. Don’t forget to be creative and fun!
3) Practice what you preach. If you are to be successful with establishing the culture you wish for, you must live, breathe and believe it yourself as a leader. This will be evident in your own actions, how you speak, interact with your people and the ideas you convey. Your brand is a promise to your customer…leading by example will keep everyone in sync.
4) Listen to your people and encourage their input. Establishing a culture that allows “openness” and encourages people of all ranks to contribute ideas builds their self-esteem, confidence and helps them in truly living your brand. This type of culture breeds optimal performance on the job. This builds a sense of “team” much better than top-down directives from management.
A great internal culture can withstand the toughest of times and it endures. People trust brands that withstand the test of time…brands that don’t chase fads which can compromise what they stand for.
When we think of great brands, we recall brands like Disney, BMW, Ritz-Carlton, Apple, McDonalds and many others. Sure, your goal may not be to become the largest mortgage banker, title company, LOS provider, appraiser…the “Apple,” if you will, of your particular sector of the mortgage industry. Your goals may be smaller in scale, but you still wish to thrive at that level. To do that and do it well requires having established a culture that your people believe in and live.