Your reputation is everything!™ I’m such a firm believer in that statement that I made it my company’s tagline. We’ve all seen major corporations lose billions of dollars, or even go out of business, because of reputation crises. And while it might be tempting to think it can never happen to you as a small business owner, I’m afraid to say it certainly can.
So do the right thing for your business and start with a reputation audit. You can’t begin unless you know what to look for, what to invest in, and what to change. Here are some tips to help you get started:
1. The customer is always right.
Do you ask your customers if there’s anything you can do to improve your products or services? If the answer is “no,” you’re running the risk of having a reputation in crisis. Prepare yourself for hearing negative feedback and humbly accept it, fix it, and communicate the change back to your customers.
2. Online reviews can make or break a small business.
With an abundance of popular online review sites like Yelp and Citysearch, customer satisfaction has more accountability than ever. Trying to manipulate these sites won’t work. The best solution is to exceed customer expectations and treat them better than you treat your own family. Many small businesses say they are accountable to their customers and other stakeholders, but few are consistent.
3. Boundaries and rules are very important for all staff.
Don’t succumb to informal rules, guidelines, and processes—even if family and friends are running your business. Develop clear job descriptions and make employees understand their responsibilities. Hold them accountable with clear, weekly communication to ensure they’re carrying them out. Do so humbly and listen actively to their concerns. Employee feedback is important to a successful small business. Make sure the lines of communication are clear, open and a two-way street.
4. Buy a ticket for the truth train.
The truth is crucially important for a small business. Being truthful is your bond and the lifeblood of your business. Don’t ever lie to your customers, your staff, your vendors – and most importantly – yourself. Be mindful that your reputation resides in the minds of others. Your integrity and character are the backbone of your business.
5. Follow your reputation bricks.
Having counseled various clients worldwide, I developed the “6 Reputation Bricks” to help build, maintain, and repair a company’s business reputation. Truth, honesty, humility, transparency, accountability, and consistency comprise the list and will help you avoid the slippery slope of reputation crises.
Don’t forget your business is not the brick or mortar, the building, or the tools used to run your business. Your business is about people. When you don’t put them first, your business will suffer. Why? Because your reputation is everything.
Mike Paul is known globally as The Reputation Doctor®. He is considered one of the leading reputation experts in the world. You’ve seen him on TV as a top TV news commentator discussing reputations in crisis in the national and international news. He is also president and senior counselor of MGP & Associates PR based in New York.