Even with the catchiest name, the most eye-grabbing logo and a great set of products and services, people sometimes look at small businesses with a certain degree of skepticism. It takes time -- and a considerable number of sales -- before the world at large learns to take newer companies seriously.
Internally, however, small business owners may face a different -- and equally challenging -- form of skepticism from the very people they employ. After all, without a long time in the market, staff may not be certain their company will survive in the long term. If they came from jobs at larger organizations, they may feel things run less efficiently. Worst of all, they may not trust their bosses to execute on whatever vision is captured in the company’s mission statement (assuming it has one).
Small business owners, meanwhile, may feel pulled in so many directions at once that they don’t have the time to spend building employee trust. Without it, though, it will be nearly impossible for the company to develop a culture that builds loyalty with customers and prospects.
While it does take some human effort, there are technologies which can assist in earning trust with employees. They all support the overall behaviours that are essential to the process. Look through the following and think about how you can live up to them:
“Don’t believe what the boss tells you” is one of the worst things employees can say behind your back. As small businesses grow, the team that surrounds the owner needs to operate with the same level of attention to detail and diligence as he or she would. They can’t do that, though, if the guidance or direction they get from the boss turns out to be at odds with reality in some way.
A good example is information about key customers. Chances are the small business owner was the person who initially closed the sale with some of these organizations, and they set up the relationship for ongoing success. As managing those relationships gets passed on to a growing team, however, some important details -- about how a customer likes to buy, what kind of discounts or promotions they’re entitled to, training and support considerations -- may get overlooked. Soon it’s not only the employee who looks bad with the customer, but the boss who presumably trained them.
CRM such as Sales Cloud avoids these kinds of risks by offering a living history of every customer and prospect interaction. SMB owners can still provide their own context and advice around that data, but there’s no worrying about whether the boss’ context is out of date -- or altogether wrong.
Even when they pull themselves out of the day-to-day weeds and start focusing on more higher-level kinds of business activities, small and medium-sized business leaders need to remember what it’s like to be in the trenches. Setting unrealistic demands or pressures on employees makes staff resentful and wary about whether a bad situation is going to get worse. In contrast, trustworthy leaders show they are going through the same kinds of emotions as those they’re managing, and they are sincere in how they treat each one.
Trustworthy employers approach their customers the same way. Those who use Marketing Cloud, for instance, are able to personalize each interaction with a customer or prospect, whether it’s an e-mail message, a social media post or some other kind of brand-building interaction. They also use data to try and get insights into the particular needs of the people behind a buying committee so that any content or other information that’s shared with them is authentically, even thoughtfully targeted. A business whose owner looks at customers as individuals will almost certainly inspire trust from staff, who then share honest concerns and feedback when they need help.
If you “say what you mean and mean what you say,” people are describing you as someone they can count on. Someone who does not let things fall through the cracks or force people to work through difficult times on their own. That’s what many employees want from their boss, but they might sometimes wonder if such diligence is even possible anymore.
Mobile apps have been a huge boon in this regard, giving small business owners the ability to oversee every aspect of their operations from their smartphone, no matter where they are. This includes making use of tools such as Service Cloud. It doesn’t mean they have to personally unravel or sort out every troubleshooting issue or complaint, but it allows them to get a big-picture perspective on where the gaps are and how to close them. Perhaps most importantly, it also demonstrates to employees that every customer is supported at all times, not just after they’ve parted with their money.
It may occasionally be tempting to act like you’re infallible, if only for fear of losing face with your team. What really matters, however, is how they see you reacting to misfortune and course-correcting as need be.
Some of the details from these learnings might have been difficult to share in the past, but analytics applications have brought increased accessibility to all kinds of things that help set companies on the right path. More recently, tools like Salesforce Einstein bring artificial intelligence into the mix, giving small businesses a way to not only deal with setbacks, but get a sense of obstacles before they encounter them.
When leaders admit failures, study what went wrong and resolve to take a different tack, their team members become equally ready to take strategic risks knowing they’ll be accountable but not penalized if things don’t go exactly according to plan.
Technology will only get you so far, of course. Earning trust is about making a commitment to your team. Once earned, however, it becomes one of the most value assets you bring to running a small business.