Are You the Face of Your Business? You Shouldn't Be — These 3 Practices Can Help You Change Your Branding

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When most of us think about a small business, we think about a local retailer, a restaurant owner, a service provider or a small manufacturing company. In a smaller organization, the owner is often the “face” of the business. After all, the individual started, purchased or took over the family enterprise. In the early phases of business, the owner or manager plays many critical roles.

They have a vision that sustains and moves the business forward. They build and maintain those all-important relationships. They may have even developed the product or process. People do business with people, and one of the reasons that many choose to do business with a small business is the owner.

When customers work with a large entity, they have a salesperson or an account manager as the initial contact. They make the sale but often hand it off to others who do the work. With a smaller business, the owner is more hands-on. They work on every aspect of the company. After all, their name is often literally “on the door,” and they must protect their reputation. They are visible. They are accessible. Customers like that they can work directly with the decision maker, the person who is the business’s brand.

Related: 5 Levels of Brand Visibility and How to Make it to the Top in 2024

Time for a “facelift”

I often hear experts talk about the importance of the owner being the brand. In fact, some go so far as to say that without the owner, there is no business and no brand. In theory, I agree. I love receiving calls from customers who want me to work on projects. But while it is flattering to be in demand, being the face of the business is also dangerous. It can impact the owner’s ability to grow the business and make it sustainable for the long term.

Small business owners are notorious for wanting to do it all. The reality is you just can’t be everywhere. You need backup. What would happen if you suddenly became ill? Had a huge surge of business? Or simply wanted to sell and retire? Move on and be a serial entrepreneur?

If you are the only face of your business and past the start-up phase, it is time to think differently and consider a facelift to your public persona. Here are three things to get you started.

1. Educate employees to be customer-facing

Owners have a great deal of historical knowledge and experience with the business. That’s why customers want to work with the owner. When you educate and train your employees, they have the tools to step in and assume tasks that can be offloaded. You must do this before you are overwhelmed with business and can’t be there when customers expect to see you.

Transferring knowledge builds credibility in your organization — not just your credibility. Larger customers also want to know that you have a depth of experience. They have invested in you and your organization; if you have not trained others, you put your customers at risk.

Education should include more than just what you provide or do for customers. Help employees understand the unique preferences of clients, how they like to communicate, and what they value. You want them to be prepared and comfortable to provide the best customer experience.

2. Set employees up to shine

Helping employees become another face of the business does not just happen. And not everyone is suited to the task. This effort takes a thoughtful approach. You have to choose employees who can lead an effort and inspire confidence. Some will have that ability but not the desire to play that role. It may take a few tries to find the right individual or individuals.

Set them up slowly and deliberately. Start introducing them to customers by including them in communications and have them attend meetings and observe. When they are ready, give them a portion of the agenda. You must also consider which customers will accept an employee’s expanded role. Some will resist. Others will make the transition easily.

Ensure that you point out the skills and accomplishments of employees to customers. Describe some of their recent wins. Did they manage a great event, go out of their way to do something for a client, or develop a new process or product? Brag about them and their good work. It may take some time, but soon, customers will call them — not you. And that’s a good thing.

Related: How to Turn Every Employee into a Sales Superstar

3. Do an about-face

I often talk about the importance of showing up and being present. Customers appreciate this. However, there are times to step back and maybe do a little about-face. This is hard for owners who are used to being out front. This can also be difficult because customers view the owner as a security blanket. When you have educated and set your employees up to shine, find an opportunity for them to take on tasks without you. Start small and be sure to prepare them. That means running scenarios, role plays or whatever it takes for them to be successful.

One word of caution. You cannot disappear. As the owner, you need to still be involved. Sit in on critical meetings or initiatives. Don’t swoop in to try and take over. That undercuts all your efforts. Instead, be there to reassure customers and support staff.

More faces, more opportunity

An owner has the unique ability to be the face of the company and make the brand come alive. But when there are more faces, it creates more business opportunities. And one last note. As you approach the time to exit or retire, you want to show that employees have relationships and knowledge that will keep customers engaged and doing business with the company. Otherwise, the total value of your business is diminished. So be the face, but also bring others alongside you.

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