Emotive Brand hinges itself on the power of business transformation through brand strategy, and brand strategist, Jo Schull adds a honed strategic mind to our team. By working directly with clients to help understand the true essence of their business, she uncovers the necessary internal and external strategies needed to transform the potential of their brand into a reality. In this interview, Jo offers her thoughts and expertise on how to make a brand and business transformation successful.
People are always talking about business transformation – what does that mean?
Business transformation can mean different things to different people. Some leaders see business transformations as bold, quick moves meant to shake things up. Others look at business transformation as the start of a change – a process that starts with purpose, strategy, and vision, and then takes shape through a series of changes to the business.
When or why should businesses attempt a transformation?
Many businesses wait too late to ‘transform’ themselves. They wait until they’re in trouble. They wait until competitors have encroached on their territory, until employee morale is low, until recruiting is difficult, until share prices are down. They wait for when the business is stuck in a downturn. These are all certainly good and necessary reasons to attempt a business transformation, but smart businesses are always looking ahead. These leaders know that the best transformations anticipate and head off crises.
What’s an example of that?
Smart businesses are constantly thinking about what’s next. They ask themselves: what’s the next phase of their evolution? For some, it might be about a product expansion or moving into other markets. For others, it might be about refining their customer experience: how can their offering become the best and most beloved brand for their core customers? In the end, it all comes down to honing in on the business’s purpose — understanding and communicating clearly why you exist as a business. From this, the business can be intentional about its future, who you serve, and why you want to serve them.
What are the essential components of a successful transformation?
- The business must have executive-level participation and ownership. The leaders of the company have to be an essential part of the process. They set strategy, make business and brand decisions, and are responsible for the company’s overall performance. They lead the change.
- The process must be inclusive. All cultures are different. Some are top-down, and others are more inclusive and democratic. The most successful transformations are those that feel authentic. And the best way to achieve authenticity is by including many voices in the process. As much as it’s important that leaders lead the process, it is equally important that the process involves perspectives and participation from across the organization. This includes different divisions, different geographies, different functions, and different levels within the organization. Many top-down transformations have failed because leaders did not understand the day-to-day realities of the business.
- The transformation must be true to your brand and business. There’s nothing worse than attempting a brand and business transformation that is misaligned with your brand or business position. Your employees will be the first to see the disconnect and your customers won’t be far behind.
How do you work with leadership teams to create alignment during a business transformation?
We start by getting the leadership team clear on three things:
1) Why does your company exist in the first place?
2) What’s the next big problem you can solve for your customers?
3) Where are the biggest threats and opportunities?
Ideally, leadership teams are aligned on these questions. But occasionally, they are not. Either way, it’s important that when going into any sort of transformation that leadership teams are aligned about these questions. A transformation will get them on the same page about why they exist, what they are trying to do, and where the next opportunities lie.
How do you rally employees?
When we talk about rallying employees, there’s no one right way to do it.
You may ask: Is this a course correction, or a 180° shift? What’s the state of employee morale? Will this come as a shock or has the leadership of your company been transparent and brought employees along the journey? How large is the company? There are always many factors at play, but here are some guiding principles.
- Inspire: To many people, ‘rally’ implies large events where leadership teams unveil big visions and strategies to employees. Those events have their purpose – especially in large companies where leaders need to reach hundreds or thousands of employees at once – but a one-time event isn’t enough to create sustainable change.
- Demonstrate: What’s equally important, if not more crucial, are the actions of the leadership team every day following those large inspirational events. Employees need to see evidence of change – both progress toward goals and examples of new ways of working.
- Involve: If employees have been involved in the process, they’ll already have a stake in the transformation. They’ll understand the reasons for change and will believe in the vision for the future.
- Reinforce: Examine internal systems such as messaging, reviews, rewards, and recognition to make sure they’re supporting and reinforcing the change you want to make, especially when dealing with culture change. Nothing erodes employee trust more quickly than policies and procedures that are at odds with a company’s stated values and beliefs.
- Communicate: Keep the new strategic direction top of mind. Build it into employee communications and presentations. Bring it into areas where employees will see it. Highlight a section of the strategy and focus on it for a month or a quarter. But whatever you do, don’t let your new strategy languish in a drawer.
Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy firm.