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Keep Talking: Strengthen Two-Way Communication

Are you a business athlete? Are you someone who is so passionate about what you do, proficient and flawless in the level of your execution that you impose your will to drive your brand above and beyond others? When you convert that athleticism, that living of sport, and transfer it to the living of the business brand, you become the “elite of the elite.” Then, when you build a team of business athletes – a disciplined group working passionately 25/8 for the love of their brand – it’s virtually impossible to set any bounds to the possibilities of what that team can achieve.

Successful communication within a company is one of the building blocks of this level of teamwork. Whether you are reaching your audiences through newsletters, webinars, conferences or pigeon post, the true measure of success lies in the culmination of positive messages that permeate your organization, reinforcing your brand’s mission statement, purpose and emphasizing your cultural platform.

Think of your business as wet concrete. Every member of the team has the opportunity to make his mark, leaving a handprint in the foundation. To be a true legacy brand, everyone must have a contributing hand in the success. From the front line to the CEO’s office, everyone must live the brand. What does living the brand look like? For starters, consider these four steps.

If you are talking the talk but don’t walk the walk, you are just an “empty suit” or a “talking head.”

Don’t be an Office Lizard

If you are talking the talk but don’t walk the walk, you are just an “empty suit” or a “talking head.” The cure for this is to get out of the office and into the field to visit your teams. See how the product is being made. Know how the food is prepped and cooked. Learn all of the minute details that make up the whole of the customer experience.

When leaders get out of the office and attend an all-company meeting, a pre-shift gathering or a grand opening, they can use that opportunity to inform, encourage and reiterate key messages. Express your appreciation, remind them what you are all there to do and send them out fired up with the burning desire to go above and beyond in all areas.

Taking the time to talk to your folks on the line, your franchisees or managers, or to go visit your supplier partners, will give you much more perspective into your business than sitting behind a desk in your ivory tower. It’s also important to ask questions while you are there. Do they know the basics of what makes their restaurant, store or service work? Do they understand the company’s mission and purpose? Your teams, at all levels, need to learn the foundational precepts of your business. If they don’t know or care about the details, what else are they overlooking? If your franchisees or managers don’t know, chances are no one else knows either because they haven’t invested the time or made the effort to find out.

Wear Your Passion on Your Sleeve

Another part of being visible and in touch with your teams extends beyond your business and to your industry as a whole. Trade shows and other industry events are excellent venues for leaders to shake some hands and evangelize their message. Again, it’s that culmination of positive messages that is going to set words into action. What you say and what you do both speak volumes. Communicating what your company stands for with enthusiasm and passion to the outside world further solidifies the drive and resolve to make it happen (live it) on the inside.
Media interviews are another tool for communication. Whether you are addressing issues or announcements from your organization, your industry or the world, your audience includes both current and future stakeholders. Embrace the opportunity to speak for and to your constituents.

Use Your Collective Wisdom

A 37-year-old brand like Bennigan’s has the benefit of a refined system and franchisees who have weathered many highs and lows. Franchise advisory boards are a wonderful resource to tap into that collective wisdom. The validation of your brand by the very franchisees who have invested their money can be the key that unlocks the door for many new and excellent franchisees to join your team.
Encourage your managers and field teams to share best practices with each other. Some of the best neighborhood marketing ideas or national promotions are born from a success story at the local level, and celebrating and learning from these as a team strengthens the whole unit.

Continue to Invest in Your Team

The more training you give people, the more they are attached to the brand and the more productive they are. Then something great happens; you retain their service to the company. To those employees, you are sending a message of caring and support. By investing in them, you are communicating that you want to see them grow and advance. If you stop the training, you end up with a higher rate of turnover. High labor costs and poorly trained staff are hidden destroyers of profit and brands.

Training is an excellent communication tool, and it can come in many forms. Online tools are available for testing, certification, access to marketing manuals and training modules. With Bennigan’s University, an online training resource, managers can assign training modules, test employees and assess their results, seeing areas where further training or instruction needs to take place. On the other hand, the benefits of in-person training can never be replaced, and it is particularly essential when launching new company-wide initiatives or communicating game-changers. Going out into the markets and regions for face-to-face instruction is an opportunity to walk the walk discussed earlier.

Power comes from knowledge, information and experience. There is real power in real communication. If you are or have been a franchisee, you know what it feels like to invest your hard-earned money in a brand. You expect a high degree of service for the royalty you pay. Additionally, if you are on the operator side, you understand and appreciate the heart of operations including service, training, marketing and providing your team support, recognition and advancement. It boils down to people needing to know that there’s someone in charge who understands how to run the business.

Franchisees need to know that you understand their business and that you “get it. If people feel that you know what you’re doing, they will follow you anywhere. Your word is as important as having each other’s back. It’s about trust, it’s about caring, and it’s about depending on one another. Together, we are invincible.

Paul Mangiamele is the president and chief executive officer of Bennigan’s, the neighborhood restaurant and tavern that is redefining casual dining. He also serves as a member of the IFA Franchise Relations Committee. Find him at via the directory.


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