Reputation can be an impulsive beast. One bad email, one poorly pitched product or one awkward meeting is all it takes to go from hero to zero in your network’s eyes. And when so much of your budding business hinges on its reputation, maintaining a positive public image becomes a lot more important -- internally and externally.
Your internal reputation affects how employees feel about their work, creativity and loyalty. Externally, your reputation shapes how customers spend, how partners invest and how much market share you earn. The quality of your products, your integrity, your environmental ethics and your trajectory all influence these valuable perceptions.
By incorporating reputation management into your day-to-day workflow, you can turn that fickle creature into a well-trained pet. It’s all about taking the time to understand and nurture it.
Here are five reputation-management practices you need to incorporate into your startup’s routine:
1. Gauge partner perceptions.
You can get an idea of how your network perceives you by simply asking. Your business partners, including shareholders, employees, collaborators and even government and nongovernmental organizations, are all invested in your reputation. They count on you to act with integrity and create high-quality products and services.
You should conduct regular assessments to establish the values and achievements your partners respect most. Knowing how your network perceives you and your company is invaluable for effective reputation management. Plus, it establishes a benchmark for communication and transparency.
2. Get the numbers.
If you want to enhance your reputation, you need to measure it. Start by gauging customer satisfaction and employee engagement levels, and track them over the long term. Trust also plays an influential role in stakeholders’ perception of your brand, so survey stakeholders to understand how corporate decision-making is measuring up to their expectations. By monitoring these numbers over time and tying them to tangible reputation goals, you’ll begin to see how your actions influence perceptions and identify ways to improve them.
3. Nominate your champions.
A huge part of reputation management involves empowering your best brand ambassadors: your teammates. Designate a chief reputation officer (CRO) on your team, and make sure your CRO has a sufficient budget so the position carries weight and influence. This will motivate your team members to become external advocates. Your reputation can be instantly enhanced when you inspire your team to be champions for your brand.
4. Maintain an external perspective in every decision.
Once you have set up your workplace to start measuring reputation and mobilized your CRO, you need to integrate reputation management into your decision-making process. Think from an external perspective in every business decision you make --- whether you’re entering a new market or designing a new product -- and you’ll start fostering a positive reputation.
5. Breathe, and think long term.
Both your personal reputation and your company’s reputation are long-term investments. They’ll build strength every time you connect a business decision with your measures of external perception. But keep in mind that this isn’t an overnight change. You should prepare yourself (and your CRO) for a continuous, deliberate process.
Warren Buffett said it best: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” By setting up your business to evaluate and manage your reputation while you work, you can mend potential reputation snags before they happen. Your competitive advantage boils down to your reputational power. So tame that reputation beast, and you’ll unlock the profit-driving potential of a positive reputation.