I have a favorite booth at the Christmas Market at Bryant Park in Manhattan; it’s rented by an artist who sells prints of her very colorful and happy artwork. The first time I came upon it three years ago was sheer magic. The artist, a young woman, was standing there, explaining how she crafted her drawings. She bubbled over about what inspired her and how much she loved what she did. People couldn’t buy enough of her work.
Over the years she has become more successful and I don’t see her at the booth much anymore. The cash register is typically guarded by a young woman slouched down in the corner, eating soup or reading her phone. Although business is still clearly very good, the magic of visiting the booth has gone; it’s not the same happening vibe as when the artist herself is there.
This made me realize how major the young woman’s personality was to her branding. It wasn’t just about the stuff she was selling, which was high-quality and interesting. It was the story behind it.
You may be a luxury travel advisor who launched your business with vibrancy and excitement, projecting such a positive energy that people were simply drawn to you. Things may have calmed down since then, however. Perhaps you’ve opened new locations, added on independent contractors or hired a new assistant because your success has led to expansion.
Are the people in these new positions representing that distinct image you set for your business when you started it, or are they punching the clock, representing your brand in a lackluster manner? Another scary prospect, and brace yourself for this one: Have they gotten creative and begun doing things their own way, dealing with clients and suppliers in a manner that would send shivers down your spine if you only knew about it?
These questions might exhaust you; you only have so many hours in a day to do what you have to do, and you can’t control every element of your business. Realize, however, that it’s your positive light and your personal level of sophistication and knowledge that define your business. They are the keys to your success.
“To fix a business, you’ve got to be a protector of the brand and articulate all of the attributes and make sure nobody messes with that.” That’s Mark Cohen, the director of retail studies and an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School. He was quoted in a Women’s Wear Daily article about the decline of the Lands’ End brand, which at one point had been acclaimed for its quality and customer service. That same report advised that the salespeople you hire have to understand the brand and be ambassadors to the customer.
This all means that you have to take that original bright light you used to launch your very successful business and shine it on your new colleagues, whether they are virtual or sitting right next to you. Then determine if someone on your team could also serve as your brand manager. You know who they are. They’re the ones who were smiling and nodding when you interviewed them and before the conversation ended you were finishing each other’s sentences.
Find someone who thinks like you, talks like you and walks like you to work within your enterprise to emanate your energy and image. Don’t let the magic dwindle as success leads you down new paths.