In April of 2016, I made the decision to leave my little horse farm in the hands of a great friend. She needed a farm and some horses to expand her non-profit, Dare to Dream Ranch, and I wanted out of the woods for a more dynamic and exciting lifestyle. As you can imagine, after living in the woods for many years, I was accustomed to birds chirping, soft winds, and the chomp and stomp of my horses eating and playing in their fields.
Enter the hustle and bustle of my new somewhat urban town life. I spent most of April tossing and turning, wide awake until after midnight. The high-pitched whine of the blower that facilitates a nightly 11:00 pm restaurant clean-up. College kids boozed up and heading home from one of the many local bars. Couples arguing, or giggling madly, as they moved past my window. I lived through each moment of these new, somewhat exotic, noises.
Every morning like clockwork, at 9:30 am, the wrinkled little pug next door went for his walk, towing his 90+-year-old owner by the leash. Have you ever heard a pug breathing? It sounds like a small child with the flu; part stuffy nose, part throat clearing. I have to admit, for the first 2-weeks, I had no idea where that noise was coming from, and it drove me crazy.
Today I realized that I had not heard the pug in a long time. It's not because the little guy has missed even one morning walk. It’s just that I've been busy living in my new place. I've gotten used to all the noise. I've been sleeping through the night. I've gotten comfortable. This realization started me thinking about business, branding, employees, and customer service.
When you first start your business, you live every moment of the noise! Every time you turn around there is a decision that needs to be made or a situation that requires attention. You watch every sale, stick your first dollar on the wall, and check to make sure customers are happy and engaged. You can't afford to have your product, service, or customers experience, be anything less than perfect. As time goes on, you hire people to support the work so that you can focus on things like strategy, and five-year growth plans. The more your business grows, the further you get from the "noise." You start to get comfortable and stop listening for chatter that seems unimportant. The only problem is, the further you allow yourself to get from the "noise," the less you can spot issues that may be damaging your brand.
What am I suggesting? I think it's probably time for you to listen to the noise of your business purposefully. Check in with employees a few times a year with anonymous surveys. Taking these steps will help you understand if there are issues blocking business growth. They may also have valuable solutions to problems you don't even know exist. Check in with your customers. Find out if they feel connected to your brand in the ways you intended. Of course, you have to count on your directors and managers to lead this work on a daily basis. At the same time, I suggest you make sure they understand your brand, mission, and values. Are they promoting the right messages to front-line staff? The employees that touch your customers every day are your most valuable brand ambassadors. Make sure you have a good handle on the noise.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!