Build Your Brand From Within by Creating an Energized Work Environment

Build your brand. When was the last time you made an honest assessment of who you have in the most important “chairs” of your operation?

Your front-line staff single-handedly sets the tone of your customer service and “packages” your brand everyday. Is your packaging attracting or distracting? Does it create customers, or chase them away?

It starts with franchisees mis-defining the job description. All too often we deemphasize the position of those on the front line. We assign titles such as counter help, cashiers, or register people, and I’m not even sure the word “front-liner” captures the value of this position, but until we can give it the title it deserves, we’ll use it. Second, the criteria and standards we use for selecting our front-liners should be set higher. Let’s be honest: when applicants are few and far between, we desperately settle for “warm bodies.” And when coupled with low-energy leadership, the result is flat-line performances.

During my 34 years as a multi-unit DQ brand franchisee, I have acquired by experience some time-tested tools that can turn your front-liners into star performers – without reaching deep into your pockets. Please keep in mind that these energizing techniques are applicable to your entire staff, not just those on your front-line.

Sensory Check

For starters, we must believe that our bottom line is critically tied to our front-line. Customers who spend their hard-earned money in your store are not just expecting the visible exchange of money and product. They want an experience worth writing home about. It takes a well-synchronized and energized team to provide this sort of experience. Have you invested the time and energy in your people so they are equipped not only to make a transaction, but also to transform that transaction into an encounter your customers will share? Consider the following ways to revive, motivate, and create a pulse so strong that it could possibly create media coverage!

Factor in your operations what I refer to as a “sensory check” of your business. At any given moment, what do your employees and customers see, hear, touch, smell, taste, and feel in your store? If you expect your staff to do their best, you must give them the best environment to work in, and the best tools to do their jobs. Ponder these points:

  • Do you schedule in your operations lineof- sight checks?
  • Evaluate the age and condition of your point-of-sale materials.
  • Do you have adequate lighting and ventilation?
  • Food and music go together. Does your sound system allow for conversation?
  • Do your uniforms have that tattered “civil war” look or are they updated regularly to reflect pride for your brand and energize those who wear them?
  • Do you include in your equipment purchases items specifically for making work easier for your staff?

Beyond “duct tape”

Unfortunately, within the food service industry today we don’t have to travel far to detect “duct tape” operators. This is management that invests minimal dollars to quick fix a problem simply to get through another day of operation. This penny-smart and dollar-dumb mindset only precipitates a slow operational suicide.

I’ve yet to detect duct tape at a Disney Theme Park. The “Happiest Place on Earth” spares little expense in making their Cast Members (employees) and Guests (customers) comfortable. They clean every street in the entire park every day. Ever notice that the flowers are always in bloom? They replant every blooming flower three to five times a year. Best yet is their cool “open door policy.” All you need do is walk by a storefront and cool pixie dust (air-conditioning) will pull you in. Disney figured out that these unique operational choices have more to do with advertising than expense. Do you really think Disney gives a flying Tinker Bell that the door is open and the A/C is rolling out? They believe a comfortable customer is a spending customer, and that a happy cast member is the best form of advertisement. Okay, you and I don’t have Disney’s deep pockets, but nevertheless we should strive for the same results.

Uncontrolled temperatures, as well as other environmental irritations can produce stagnant and lifeless performances by your staff. Have you provided your employees with up-to-date, well-maintained equipment? They may not voice it, but employees care about properly functioning and clean equipment. I challenge you to replace a piece of old stainless steel, or a broom with little or no whiskers, and watch the excitement generated among your staff. Regular equipment replacement from old to new demonstrates that you want to make their job and life easier. It’s these types of operational changes that make for lower turnover and the happiest people in your company.

Lead them or lose them

Remember when you were a kid and played, Follow the Leader? If you or your manager come to work today with your hat on backwards, or wearing a uniform that was resurrected from the dirty clothes pile, I guarantee your staff will follow suit. If you come through the door with a invisible sign hanging around your neck that reads, “I’m tired,” you have inadvertently given permission for others to act likewise, thus creating an entire culture of sluggish performance.

A leader sets the tone for the entire organization. Many times, managers are clueless as to why their staff shows little or no respect for them. If this shoe fits, ask yourself if the words or actions you use in your business display integrity and professionalism? Have you earned the important advantage of respect? Do your words build up or tear down? Good leadership will enable and empower its people so that individual growth and development take place. Ask and you just might receive. Start today by taking an honest real life assessment of your leadership. Better yet, have your staff evaluate your performance! Design a “no name required” questionnaire. Some examples might be:

  • What would make your job more purposeful?
  • Do I invite your feedback to solve complex company problems?
  • Am I using your talents wisely?
  • As a leader, what could I improve on?

Based on the answers, make it a top priority to implement changes necessary to create a new and improved leader.

ROL (return on laughter)

Humor is a serious business strategy in that funny is money. Are you humor impaired? Either learn how to find your funny bone or delegate someone to pinch hit. Newsflash! At every shift change, you should be distributing a blueprint for fun. Plan ahead what you’re going to do for the incoming shift to set in motion an atmosphere of playfulness. Marc Plaisted, a fourthgeneration Dairy Queen franchisee, placed a high priority on a lighthearted workplace. Before every shift he would address his staff with a blueprint for laughter. Here is a sampling of one of his pre-shift pep talks:

“Today we – as a team – are going to make history! Yes! This team is about to set records, not only in sales, but also in exceptional customer service! This calls for a warm-up. Close and tighten your fists. Now open them really fast. Extend and stretch those sales fingers. Let’s give the thumbs some extra workout, as I have a feeling your performances today will generate a lot of thumbs-up. Next, we need to warm up our smiles. Take your left cheek. now lift and hold. Your lip should follow suit. Now lift your right cheek and complete your smile.” Plaisted adds, “This zany finger and cheek warm-up generates outbursts of extreme laughter.”

The criteria when implementing fun, should include:

  • Keep it in good taste and non-offensive.
  • Keep it pithy.
  • Keep it practical.

With the decline of worn out traditional incentives, a great idea book for your tool chest is, “The 1001 Rewards and Recognition Fieldbook,” by Bob Nelson. It’s chock-full of new and cool ideas for your humor tool chest.

Humor is a serious business strategy. Funny Research has shown that the workplaces with the best productivity have about ten minutes of laughter every hour. So lighten up. Place some clean humor cartoons in your break room. Mount an Etch-A-Sketch to the wall with Velcro. Customize Minute- To-Win It relays in your meetings. Heatsensitive Power Wall Drawing Panel are a favorite even for adults. Take snapshots of zany moments and collage them on board. Bring in delectable pastries or keep a candy jar filled. Consider an employeegenerated “once in awhile” newsletter. When job positions become monotonous, it’s these types of store initiative “side tracks” that renew and restore the pulse in your team. Mirthful laughter is an instant mood changer, and prevents burnout and hardening of the attitudes.

The power of recognition

I’ve heard it said that workers often take a job for more money, but leave for more recognition. If we believe people are our most valuable asset, then we must investigate and implement programs that will foster a culture of reward and recognition in our business – and do it on a daily basis. Chances are good that your staff is walking around with an invisible sign that reads, “I want to feel important.” Do you systematically make an effort to reward and recognize your employees? Few management initiatives are as successful as pure positive reinforcement. And it’s not enough today to just tell them, you must get creative and show them the fruits of their labor and the impact it makes to the team and company.

How many people do you know who don’t come alive from a dose of pure praise? Make it a point to catch your employees doing good deeds and saying good things. Stand still and just listen. Do you hear anything praiseworthy? Use your peripheral vision (and hearing) throughout the day. See anything praiseworthy? If the answer is yes, then act! Praise should never be procrastinated. Tell people what they did right, and be specific. Tell them how it made you feel, and how it contributes to the success of the company & brand. And don’t pooh-pooh praise on little things, it propels people to give you their best simply because you noticed.

Validation energizes. Create business-size cards that say, “I saw what you did, and I know who you are.” Create a diverse suite of benefits tailored for card redemption. Transportation stipends are a value by many quick-service employees. Find out where they like to eat, their hobbies, where they like to shop, etc. It’s the thought that counts when it comes to customizing your rewards. Monetary bonuses are appreciated but rather passé, so add customization, like involving the employee’s family in the reward.

Proven Secret Formula

Franchisees are forever asking, “How do I get my employees to have an owner’s mindset and love the brand like I love it?” Let not your heart be troubled, it can happen, but there’s time built into it. I’ve found no shortcuts. Here’s the answer:

Integrity + Influence + Trust + Respect = Loyalty

When loyalty is attained, it is at that juncture that your workers will be passionate about what you are passionate about. They will be loyal to you and to your brand.

Today, you have it within your power to influence and inspire a culture of invigoration in your franchised business. By investing the time and money necessary to energize your team, your productivity and profits will soar to new heights, all while building your brand from within.

Gloria Plaisted, CFE is President/CEO of Son Group, LLC. Gloria and her husband Rick have been multi-unit/multi-brand franchisees for over 35 years in the QSR industry. Together they have mentored and influenced over 25,000 employees over the years. Gloria is also an Executive Consultant with BrandChise LLC, a fullservice franchise and branding solution source for new and existing franchise companies.

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