LEARNING CURVE: Make your brand impeccable

by Tracy Clayson
Tracy Clayson is director of client development at
In Transit / CPC Logistics Canada.

Whether company executives acknowledge it or not, people are no longer interested in working for them only because their sales are strong, or have been lately.

Sure, it’s nice for prospective employees to feel they have some job security, but as we have seen over the last decade, firms that are unable to adapt to new realities – such as Blockbuster, Sears and Toys “R” Us – don’t always last. Besides, people beginning their careers these days want to be part of something more meaningful.

They also want to work for employers that are inclusive, and hire based on merit, regardless of gender or race. They are often seeking more responsibility, better learning or mentorship opportunities, or clear pathways to career advancement.

More than that, young people want to be proud of where they work. The brand is important. Working at Apple or Samsung at a time when almost every one of your friends wants the latest iPhone or Galaxy is cool.

That’s because while you represent the company, the company also represents you. If you love the products, the brand and the culture, and you respect the way they treat customers and employees, you’re going to be all-in.

Creating a corporate culture that induces people to go all-in is not easy. It involves many tangible elements (benefits, pension, flexible working hours) and some intangibles. One of the intangibles is integrity. Another is walking the talk.

Let me explain what I mean.

A few years ago, I noticed a very low review of our company online. Someone wasn’t happy with us and had let the world know. I didn’t like it – who would? – and I didn’t want to just let it go. I called the gentleman and invited him to share what happened.

He said he’d been told he might get some work with us as a driver and to hang tight and wait for a call, and then we never called back. We’d wasted his time, and he didn’t want anyone else to have the same experience.

I’m glad I called him. This gentleman had been frustrated by another company before mine, and we were the straw that broke back the camel’s back.

I told him we could do a better job and asked him if he was open to letting us try. I explained this wasn’t typical and told him how much we valued what our customers and our employees think. I promised to help.

Instead of calling back, I could have said “who needs him?” and written off the review as an anomaly, or assumed it was written by someone who didn’t have a positive thing to say about anything. But I thought that was the wrong attitude. He represented a possible learning opportunity – a chance to find out how we could improve.

In the end he felt heard and he was at least open to working with us again. He also left our company another review. It was five stars.

Since that happened I have seen even more evidence that those who care about your brand will keep you honest, including both clients and employees. It is also clear that what people think of your company matters more today. But you must listen.

You don’t need to be a pushover. Don’t humour everyone who comments online or complains daily via the suggestion
box – you will never please full-time malcontents – but do remember there’s a new playbook to follow. If you fail to deliver on your promises it will be made public. And it will hurt.

We’re all walking billboards for our company. We need to be impeccable. We always need to be winning people over. If we’re not doing that, we’re losing them.

And we need to make amends. Wayne Gretzky said we miss 100 percent of the shots we don’t take. I’d add that we lose 100 percent of the employees – and customers – we give up on.

Not giving up on one taught me a great deal. And I’m still walking the talk on an ongoing basis today. My brand is worth it.