All startups have a brand, and it’s always representative of the personal brand of the founder.
If the product or service offering is a success, the company begins to grow, sometimes at an uncomfortable pace – a pace perhaps too difficult to keep up with. The solution? Hire more employees, and fast.
However, in the heat of these moments when life is good, the founder of the company may not pay as much attention to the brand and the building of a sound culture as s/he should. There may not be enough time to properly screen, test, onboard and train. After all, bodies are needed because sales and production are spiking and the company is profitable. It’s easier to worry about the brand and culture later, if at all, or at the time when problems begin to surface. Right?
The brand is the answer to two questions: “Why should I be your customer?” and “Why should I work here?” Therefore, failing to pay attention to the brand could lead to dire consequences.
Below are the perils of not paying attention to a brand as a company scales:
- Employees start to notice, and consequently question the sustainability of a company neglecting its brand.
- In the absence of strong leadership, direction and formal structure, employees and sales reps start doing their own “stuff” (such as marketing) as they see fit.
- Employees, (especially top-performers, top-producers and key leaders) become frustrated and begin to lose respect for the company’s leadership.
- If the situation continues to deteriorate, the company’s top-producers and key leaders explore new opportunities elsewhere, perhaps with competitors.
- Sales decline.
- As the company’s reputation begins to erode, the CEO struggles to replace the good people who left for a better life.
- The company is forced to settle and hire “the best of the worst” (people simply looking for an employer willing to give them a paycheck for a somewhat honest, almost 40-hour work week).
- A culture of mediocrity takes over.
- Product quality and service delivery decline.
- At this point, the inmates have full control of the asylum. Terminating under-performers is difficult to do due to the known difficulty and expense of attracting new employees.
- The brand suffers from being known as “the company not to work for.”
- People who have left the company are likely recruiting their former colleagues to join them elsewhere for the promise of a better place to work.
- Turnover spikes.
- Customers/end-users complain about the decline in quality and/or service delivery and begin to question their relationship with the brand. “Final straw” moments force them to consider purchasing similar or identical products and/or services from competitors.
- Sales continue to decline – some customers are gone for good and tell others why (some of them may be prospects). Attempts to win other customers back will be like a dog chasing a parked car. It will be costly, and only possible if/when significant changes have been made.
- The brand’s formidable competitors pick up on the scent of the wounded brand and twist to full throttle on their offensive marketing tactics to inflict even more pain so they may woo unhappy customers away.
- Sales continue to spiral downward, despite desperate price-reduction strategies to try to stop the hemorrhaging.
- Leadership is forced to make some very large, and very costly decisions (close the doors, sell to a competitor, or invest into a significant restructuring to revive the brand).
I’m working with a company right now going through lucky number 13 above. The days of wine and roses have long passed and the goal is to make a strong comeback.
Wish us luck. The leader is a great guy who is fully committed to right his ship.
Wisconsin’s only Certified Brand Strategist
Principal of Seroka
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