By Paul Macbeth, MD at Macbeth

Your people have the potential to be your strongest brand ambassadors. The first step towards this is ensuring they feel engaged and understand the brand, fostering a real connection to the business.

How can you achieve this as a business owner? Here, I will talk you through the practical steps to make your brand aspirations happen.

Be clear about your values, your plans and your “why”

We’re a small team, but client-facing or not, everyone understands our core brand values and embraces these on a daily basis. Communicating these is vital — your team needs to understand what these are. Our values are really accessible — professionalism, enthusiasm, quality — and often we recruit on how candidates connect with these. We also invest significantly in ensuring the team has the right skills and training to deliver on our values, whether it’s industry qualifications or softer management and communication skills. Our team knows exactly why we’re in business and where we’re heading.

It starts from the top

Leadership has got a massive part to play when it comes to encouraging staff to represent your brand values. Engagement has got to come from the top or it simply won’t filter through. You have to constantly be able to show that you are living and breathing your values — in terms of how you communicate with clients, your people and stakeholders such as suppliers. That consistent representation of your values is what will ultimately feed into your culture too.

Sharing your vision is vital too. We share our plans for the business, be it new services, new products or partnerships. It’s not just about figures but strategy, new incentive schemes and what we expect from our team. We tend to have a mix of formal and informal in terms of communications. We have monthly 121s which provide a great opportunity for us to get feedback in a safe environment as well as more structured quarterly/annual updates. You need that from everybody in your business — from directors through to trainees. Our best ideas have come from our team. Keeping them informed of our goals ultimately enables them to participate in our brand and become our best advocates.

We tend to keep a horizontal, open structure too. This has been key to how our team engages with us and encourages honest feedback. We also run ‘MD for the day’ when we dress down, buy lunch in, and the team feeds back to me what they would do if they were me. I then follow up on this in terms of suggestions and what we’re implementing, as well as suggestions that we’re nor implementing and why. Again this is about authentic participation with our brand.

Encourage social media interaction

A great way to motivate your team to capture brand aspirations is through social media. This gives the team an outlet to find their own voice — and place- within the context of your business. In social media, people, not brands, are the channel and it helps your team create that genuine connection with customers, influencers and stakeholders, while reinforcing your company values. We can trust our employees to use social media for the good of the company so we actively encourage social media interaction.

Keep communicating

It’s so simple but even in small businesses, there’s a tendency to keep secrets. This goes against our core values here; we effectively tell the team everything they need to know to help us be successful. We regularly share information on financials so our team know how they can help keep the business profitable. They know they have the ability to impact the bottom line, which of course impacts their earning potential. This sense of accountability really shapes how people connect with a business.

Put a premium on relationships

In our business, relationships are the heart of everything we do. We know that our clients will see through anything less than 100% commitment to the brand so we ensure employees are recognised for truly building and maintaining customer relationships. It’s an incredibly powerful vehicle —giving your team that ownership of key relationships through networking and hospitality budgets. This in turn, encourages them to harness an “inner” brand ambassador.

Invest in your people

There’s a tendency in small businesses to avoid training for fear people will take their skills elsewhere. We’ve found the opposite to be true. Ben, one of our directors, has been with us for 15 years since leaving school. He qualified here, shot through the ranks, and is now such an asset from an industry and commercial perspective. Clients see his passion for the business, his expertise and total focus on quality — how can you beat that in terms of a brand ambassador? We’ve got a couple of other brokers who have been here since leaving school and are heading in the same direction.

In small businesses you also have the benefit of being able to forge those stronger relationships with your team — treat your people well. Involve, reward and share success. It’s that simple.