Culture club: how having a strong sense of identity can shape your brand

Culture matters and that's why it needs to permeate your franchise, from the founder to the people doing the hiring and service staff interacting with customers

Culture club: how having a strong sense of identity can shape your brand

As a business, you’re bound to face change and come across tough dilemmas that make it seem near impossible to make the right choice. My advice is to be true to yourself. The culture that you’ve embedded into your franchise brand is critical in helping you stay on course. This also makes it important for your franchise network to be aligned with your company culture and brand.

At Little Voices, we have what we call a “circle of trust”. Everyone in that circle adopts 360-degree thinking, which naturally helps to guide our decisions. Decisions are simple when you go back to the circle. This 360-degree approach runs through our training courses, recruitment processes, interviews, relationships and even our email and telephone conversations.

Creating a happy culture
One brand that’s renowned for its culture is Disney, which has built an empire centred around the concept of happiness. During the induction process, each new employee has to use happiness to guide procedures, policies, values, ethics, beliefs and, most of all, their actions.

For example, if a Disney theme park employee sees that a child has dropped their ice cream, they would ask themselves what they could do in that moment to make the child and parent happier. The first thing they’d do is hand the child a replacement ice-cream on the house. They’ll then get the parents a complimentary coffee, clean up the mess and perhaps get fast-track tickets for anyone affected by the ice-cream spillage incident. This makes it more likely that the happy guests will talk about their fabulous experience. In this case, the culture of happiness was the one overriding influence that guided the actions of the employee and shaped the customer experience.

Culture and your brand
No business survives without its customers, so the customer experience is crucial. And having happy employees means you’re more likely to have happy customers. A business that has a strong sense of culture embedded throughout is more likely to succeed and grow.

It’s just as important to remember that it’s not all about what you want. It’s about everyone in your business and everyone that experiences it.

Some of our biggest changes have been driven by suggestions from parents, tutors and pupils because we wanted to make them happy. They help us make decisions and constantly change things, which means we’re always improving. If you aren’t changing and evolving, you aren’t developing.

Culture helps shape your brand. A brand is much more than a logo or a product – it communicates your identity to your franchisees, suppliers, customers and investors and reflects your unique culture. And each employee is part of that brand, so the actions they take reflect on the entire franchise network. I sometimes speak to franchisees from different industries and not all of them are able to see the bigger picture – that their actions have an impact on the brand. Employees need be collectively working towards a single goal and a strong sense of company culture goes a long way to helping this to happen.

Both people and products make up a brand but the former are far more important than any logo. The overriding culture affects how your staff treat your customers, which in turn influences how customers perceive your staff and your business as a whole. As a franchisor, if you recruit or attract the wrong people, you will live to regret it. It’s equally important for a franchisee to choose the right franchise network for them. In either case, finding the right match in terms of values and beliefs is crucial for your company’s success.

Learning and growing
As with any business, mistakes are bound to happen. But again, your culture will determine how you handle them. If your culture is embedded deeply within your franchise, it can help guide decisions for you and your employees. When you have a strong sense of culture, the right path will be easier to find.

Your mistakes and the mistakes made by others are in actual fact a big learning opportunity that can help guide future decisions. If a mistake happens, reflect on it and change something in the process so it never happens again. A complaint, niggle or even a massive error will ultimately drive development and success – as long as you learn from it. This is an example of what 360-degree thinking means. You should always ask what you could have done differently and what you’ll do to prevent something similar from happening in the future.

During this period of reflection, ensure you put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. In fact, put yourself in the shoes of as many of the people involved in the situation as possible. This will help you gain clarity and transparency.

At the end of the day, it’s important to consider the culture of your franchise business – or the franchise business you’re looking to purchase. Owning a franchise is about learning from experiences and letting your culture guide you to make the right decisions.

Jane Maudsley
Jane Maudsley