Former Disney CEO Bob Iger once stated: “Working hard to fulfill a dream or instinct and learning over time it doesn’t work doesn’t mean a career is over and a reputation killed. When a reputation is killed, it’s when failure comes as a result of [the] loss of integrity or judgment… breaking of laws.”
Instinctually, we base our relationships with friends, family, and colleagues on the experiences we have with them, how well they treat us, and whether we can trust what they represent themselves to be..
It’s no different in business—the importance of reputation should not be taken lightly. Companies viewed as having a poor reputation often find themselves devoid of customers, troubled by everything from high staff turnover to legal issues, and ultimately headed towards bankruptcy. Here we’ll take a look at what you can do to keep your company’s reputation in stellar form.
The Building Blocks of Integrity
An organization’s reputation begins with integrity. Integrity is one of those words that everyone knows is a good thing, but how do you define a company’s integrity? How do you achieve it?
Integrity, and ultimately the reputation that follows it, can be divided into the following key areas, serving to either build up or tear down your business:
- Trust—Staff, clients, and vendors must be able to trust you to take care of them. Does your company show you have their best interests at heart?
- Quality—The products and services you offer must be a good value for the investment made, as seen by clients.
- Reliability—Your products, services and all customer interactions must be consistent and available when clients expect them.
- Safety—All products, services, and interactions must be safe for all concerned, whether that means product usage or a safe work environment.
An Action Guide to Build a Strong Reputation
It takes time to build a good reputation, yet bad ones can happen fast. Here are specific steps you can take to make sure your reputation stays on the upswing:
- Get a Temperature Reading—Survey staff and clients to see how they rank your company in each of the above areas. What can you do to improve in each? What competitors do they think have a strong reputation and why? Make sure they understand you truly value their input, and that all answers will remain anonymous. Depending on the size of your company and budget, you may want to conduct a statistically valid survey of your target market (not just clients) to get a true reading of your company’s perception in the market place.
- Take Action—Based on the input you collected, what actions need to be taken immediately? Establish action steps, responsible parties, and timetables to work on each area slated for improvement.
Plan Proactive Crisis Control— Emotions run high during a crisis, whether client-based or company-wide. Judgement can become clouded and reaction time slowed. Having a plan laid out in advance will provide faster resolution before damage can be done to the company’s reputation. Meet with key staff to outline potential threats and create a step-by-step plan on how to handle each situation. A few examples are the handling of a dissatisfied client, bad press, a competitive game-changing threat, systems failure, a safety concern, or a potential legal action.
- Communicate with Stakeholders—No matter how great your business is, communication is something we can always improve. How are you communicating with important stakeholders and what information are you sharing? Are you communicating on a regular basis? How can you improve with the resources available?
- Train and Support Staff—Now that you have set a path forward, make sure all staff are aware of priorities, changes to procedures, and planned stakeholder communications. This will empower them to be prepared and speak with confidence to clients and others they interact with, both in and outside the workplace. Make sure your staff knows you are ready to stand behind them and help them grow and succeed.
- Get Your Story Out--Share important news with the press about awards, recognition, new product launches, and client impact stories. Likewise, create case studies (client success stories) for your website, to share with prospects at conventions, and to email or mail to clients and other stakeholders.
- Reassess Regularly: Follow up weekly with internal team leads on critical issues, monthly on less critical issues where action steps have been assigned, and annually for an overall assessment.
Collectively, all of the above steps will move the needle on market perception of your company’s reputation, whether you are trying to improve a less than perfect image or simply trying to get on the market’s radar.
The bottom line? Your business and personal reputation can make or break your company. Always be mindful of it. Treat your customers with respect and honesty. Be loyal to them even if there is a short-term cost attached. It will pay off in trust, cement the client relationship, and work to build your reputation as a company who cares.