Vendor Management: Do You Really Know Your Vendors?

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I would like to continue my post from last week on the topic of Vendor Management and how vital vendors are to the success of every organization. If you missed last week’s article, you can find it in my LinkedIn Posts: “Vendor Management is Key to Staying in Business—Any Business!” Through the years I have worked with many vendors of all kinds and I’ve had the opportunity to form long-lasting relationships with many of them. As a best practice and one of the strategies I used when starting the DeNovo bank back in 2005 was to obtain bids from at least two to three vendors who offered the same services so we could choose the right one for the bank. This strategy served us well and we were able to choose, almost 100% of the time, the right vendor for the product or service the bank needed.

In addition to doing due diligence with each vendor to ensure they are the right fit for the bank, to know they will exist long-term, and that they will keep the bank’s data safe, it is also important to form a good relationship with your vendors. As the CFO and COO of the bank, I dealt with all the vendors, which included reading and signing every contract, learning about their services, and protecting the bank at every level. I took that responsibility seriously and considered getting to know the vendors at the personal level of great importance. I dealt with the sales person initially but I also got to know other key people in the company. This proved to be a great strategy when sales reps left the company or my lead relationship manager was promoted to other positions. For example, with the financial auditors, I formed a long-term relationship with the relationship manager/partner, the lead auditor, and some of the staff auditors who came to the bank each year to do the work. I did the same with the compliance auditors at a different firm, the IT auditors, and even with the regulators for the State chartered bank.

It is also very important and a great vendor management strategy to diversify your vendor base. For example, even though I made relationships with various local accounting firms who provide similar services to banks, I chose separate firms to conduct the compliance audits, IT external audits, financial audits, loan reviews, and tax return preparation. This strategy works great when it’s time to rotate firms so they don’t get too familiar with your bank. It is also a best practice for checks and balances within the bank.

As a business owner it is extremely important that you establish professional relationships but also getting to know your vendors at the personal level. Remember they are people too. By having these relationships, you gain favor with them and grace during the hard times. You can also form partnerships when a vendor wants to roll out a new product, for example. You can be a beta test site and get their product for free or at a reduced cost for a while. They may also give you free PR when marketing their new product.

Now as a consultant myself I have reaped the rewards of having all those relationships and, in some cases, friendships. My goal is to provide my bank clients with several options of vendors who provide bank services (with no commissions or hidden agenda from my part). I simply want to be a resource to my clients so they can then choose (like I did when I started the bank) the right vendor to meet their needs. In order for me to recommend vendors to my clients, however, I need to know them and trust them that they will take good care of my clients.

So if you are a banker or business owner, get to know your vendors at the personal level and form long-term relationships because it will pay off. You will benefit from referrals from your own vendors and your clients will benefit as well when you refer vendors to them by having the opportunity to choose the right vendor to meet their specific needs.

At Malzahn Strategic (http://www.malzahnstrategic.com) we work with banks that want to increase their profitability by improving their operational efficiencies. We focus on Strategic Planning, Enterprise Risk Management and Talent Management. Vendor Management is part of Enterprise Risk Management and we can help you establish a solid, yet simple, program. We strive to be a resource to our clients and, therefore, have relationships with many local and national vendors that provide complementary services to ours. Also, visit Marci’s personal website for speaking topics at http://www.marciamalzahn.com.

New Year’s Resolutions for Leaders

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It’s that time of year again, when we resolve with best intentions to do things differently in the new year. As I look forward and think about our growing organization, I thought I’d share some of my leadership resolutions with you. Read, adopt, adapt or recycle—it’s up to you.

  1. Manage by wandering around. As an introvert, I will hole up in my office if left to my own devices. In the coming year, I will try to get out of my office and wander down the hall (a short walk) and check in with folks.
  2. Seek input from others. It’s easy to get caught up in my own thoughts as I consider new strategies for growth. I resolve to ask others for input and ideas, engaging in the healthy dissension and debate necessary to ensure the best possible outcomes.
  3. Listen more and talk less. Enough said.
  4. Encourage others. As a leader, it is easy to fall into the trap of being critical or giving advice (solicited or otherwise) when sometimes all someone needs is a little encouragement. I will be more mindful of those opportunities to simply reinforce the direction someone is headed (I’ll do this with my kids, too!).
  5. Build my external network. In a service-based business, it is easy to focus attention on those you know, but the reality is that the next engagement might come from someone you haven’t yet met. By reaching out to new people, I will keep things fresh and be exposed to new ideas and new ways of thinking.
  6. Communicate proactively about changes in the business. Keeping others informed is critical to the success of transformation and growth.
  7. Take more risks. Get out of my comfort zone and try new things while being open to opportunities that present themselves along the way.
  8. Ask others for help. Recognize that requesting help is not a sign of weakness or ignorance; it is a hallmark of strength and confidence.

I could add many more to the list but will stop here.

What do you resolve to do as a leader in 2016?

This is Why Your Team is Struggling

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You think you’ve done all the right things.

Set up the right systems to make the work easy.  Hired the skilled people to do the work and meet the standard.  You’re the right kind of leader; encouraging, motivational, supportive.

But your team is struggling. Why?

The inability to resolve conflict.

Don’t poo-poo this. Conflict comes in all shapes and sizes and impacts individual success more than you think.

It’s not likely that you have your own version of the Ultimate Fighting Championship going on in the office.  We’re talking more about the teeth-grinding, pulling-my-own-hair-out kind of conflict.

Conflict is almost always about communication.

Imagine this scenario: Bob is not a details guy.  He just wants to reach the goal. Fred is a details guy.  He manages those details so that the goal can be reached.  But if they can’t understand how the other needs to hear and/or receive information, it will cause conflict.  That conflict might be frustration and misunderstandings, which might lead to lost time and efficiency.  It’s even possible you might not reach the end goal.

Here’s another picture: Bob and Fred can’t swim in the open water by themselves and be part of the team.  They need to be in the same ship, crewing together using their unique advantages to be successful.

Resolving conflict means learning to understand the languages within your team.

Optimizing your team’s success is syncing up the ship’s crew for smooth sailing. Even in choppy waters, this kind of crew works together as one for an easy ride.

 

My Biggest Accomplishment as a Manager – It’s Not What You Think!

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As the end of the year approaches and the New Year is about to begin, we find ourselves going through our accomplishments and making new goals for the next year. I usually ponder on my previous year’s accomplishments and their significance. I ask myself, did I make a difference in the lives of others last year?

When people ask me to share about “my accomplishments in life,” I surprise them with my response because it’s not what they expect to hear. When accomplishments are usually measured by successful companies that a person starts, how many degrees you have attained, or the titles you hold at work, I don’t consider my biggest accomplishment to be any of that—even though I helped start bank successfully, published two books, and have held several C level titles during my career.

As a manager and mentor, the first word of advice I give to first time supervisors is: “Get to know your employees.” Employees are people with feelings, not machines that need to produce to increase the bottom line. When you take care of your employees and get to know them at the personal level, the rest comes by itself. They will perform consistently beyond your expectations. I have a high expectations for myself and for those who work for me. I strive for excellence at every level and try to be an example to my employees in everything I do so I can expect the same of them. And they follow. Because my employees know that I care for them and their families, they don’t want to let me down—I even learn their pets’ names!

In the past twenty years of management, I have laid off employees, fired a few for non-performance, and also promoted all my employees at some point, without exception. I remember, one time I had to lay off an employee who was very nice but we had to eliminate the position. Because the rest of the staff knew how much I cared for the employee, they felt sadder about me having to do the job than the poor employee who was being laid off! But they knew I was hurting for that person. The separation went extremely well and there were no hard feelings. The same situation happened again when I had to fire an employee because of not performing the job well. I was so sad to have to do it but had to because it was the best for the organization. Sometimes we forget that the Human Resources professionals have feelings too and that they (most of them at least) do care about people. That is probably one main reason why they chose the HR profession to begin with.

So, one of my biggest accomplishments in life—and my biggest one as a manager—is that I have never lost an employee because of a bad relationship with me. My secret? Again, get to know your employees as individuals. Invest time in them, nurture the relationship, and have high expectations of them. Believe in them and trust that they can do the job they were hired to do. At the same time, I firmly believe in providing employees with the tools and training necessary to do the job. That is the company’s responsibility to ensure success. If in the end, you do have to fire an employee because of incompetence, at least they will leave knowing that you cared about them. Those employees will leave with no hard feelings which can protect the organization from potential lawsuits. Another thing to remember is, of course, to take all the steps according to the law and ensure proper documentation is completed prior to letting an employee go.

Enjoy being a manager. You have huge potential to influence your employees’ lives in a positive way. Take advantage of that opportunity and develop your employees. Train them and give them career opportunities. Brainstorm with them as to what else they would like to do and promote them if you have the power to do so. They will follow you and will work with you to accomplish the vision of the company.

Improving management skills is part of Talent Management. At Malzahn Strategic (http://www.malzahnstrategic.com) we work with banks that want to increase their profitability by improving their operational efficiencies. Talent Management is a key area we focus on as well as executive coaching. By having happy employees, your become more efficient because they’re not wasting their time complaining or looking for other jobs. In the end, good management skills do improve the bottom line.

Happy New Year!

5 Ways to Ask Your Network for Help

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAXpAAAAJDk2YWViOGY4LThjOTUtNGIyOC1iMWIwLTZlNjcwMTQzZDIwZQOne of the most interesting aspects of my work with business owners is to see extremely talented, smart and accomplished leaders hesitate to ask for what they want from their network.

And I use the term “network” loosely, as it could be people they’ve worked with for years or people they just met yesterday.

Yes, it’s human nature to be cautious and to consider carefully what you are asking for. You do not want to overstep your bounds.

I know I personally used to hesitate from asking, but I now only pause, since I have figured out how to ask by sharing my expertise — which I know will help other people reach their goals.

Here are five ways to reach out:

1. Make a specific request

Many people I work with want to do more speaking. Ask people in your network if they are on the boards of associations or organizations and might need a speaker. Tell them what you are doing and that you have the experience to be able to give a great speech or that you’ve spoken to a Rotary already and you want to do more speaking in 2016. If one person in your network introduces you to one person, then you have expanded your network.

2. Ask for an introduction

This sounds so basic, but we don’t do it. And I don’t care for the LinkedIn introduction feature. I prefer to ask my network directly by phone or email if they will connect me to a person that I know they know. I tell them what I am looking for and I ask them to introduce me. I always give them the opportunity to say no, but almost every time they say, of course I will connect you. This is using your voice to reach more people.

3. Ask for exposure to their networks

Many people work in organizations or associations where they post weekly or monthly blogs. Ask to be a guest author and post your content in a newsletter that goes out to your target audience. People read emails from their associations, but may not read an email from an unknown person. By posting a blog you are stepping out and saying what you stand for and can share your expertise. Again, a great way to increase your visibility.

4. Ask for a new client

You’ve probably been asked about your ideal client. Can you answer the question? Can you answer it quickly? Can you be specific? This is a great question to ask your network. So for example, if you’re meeting with your accountant, you can say, “I’m looking to expand into the manufacturing space, do you know anyone who runs a business that I could call to learn more about the industry?” So, you didn’t ask for the account. You asked for more info and that makes it easier for your accountant to make the introduction. In fact, he or she might want to join you for a lunch or a quick meeting.

5. Ask what you can do for them

People talk about reciprocity in networking. To deepen the relationship, take the time after a meeting or a networking event to call the person who made the referral to find out more about what he or she does. Ask, “How can I help you, and what do you need?” Often, people are so startled that you genuinely want to help that they will ask you what they can do for you. And then you ask for an introduction or for them to keep you mind if they hear of anyone who needs your services.

Starting a conversation is one of the easiest ways to expand your network. Add value, add your expertise by sharing one or two items of interest that will make you memorable. Ask for what you want, and please be polite when you ask.

Managing the Holidays When You Are In A Long Distance Relationship

By Megan Bearce, LMFT

Are you or someone you know in a long distance relationship or commute so far that your only quality time together is on the weekends?  For these couples, the holiday season can bring added stress and overwhelm. You might wonder why that is. Wouldn’t they be excited to spend more time together? The answer is both yes and no, so having strategies for managing the holidays can make it a more enjoyable time for everyone. Here are 5 ways to make your mood this holiday season “Ho Ho Ho!” instead of “Oh no!”

1. Manage expectations by planning a realistic holiday schedule

Late December through New Year’s Eve finds many people taking vacation days to spend with family and friends. If you have been separated for long periods of time or typically only see each other on the weekends, you both may have a long list of what you’d like to do during that time off. For people who super commute or travel often for business, their ideal vacation might be lounging around the house watching movies or getting together with friends they rarely have time to see. For the spouse who is home managing kids and household responsibilities, they may want to escape to a spa or need help with projects that have been put off most of the year. And here in lies the problem. Each has their own ideas about how that vacation time should be spent and so tip number one is to manage expectations. Making assumptions is an easy way to get into conflict so I recommend taking 30 minutes in early December to plan out the family calendar until the end of the year. Each person, and the kids too, can make a list of how they would like to spend that time. Then, see how it fits together. Does one week have you out every night and no time to relax? Did you plan a date night or two? How many obligations are ones you feel like you “should” do vs. really wanting to? Can you say no to a few of those this year?

2. Cook a meal together

A great way to connect, have fun, and learn is to cook together as a family. I suggest choosing at least one night during your holiday to plan, shop, and make a meal together. If one person tends to do the majority of the cooking on a regular basis, assign them something easy. If you have children, this is a great opportunity to teach them life skills such as healthy meal planning, how to grocery shop (what to look for in produce, price comparison), math skills (fractions via measuring cups, addition or multiplication for meal servings), chemistry (baking soda makes batter rise when mixed with certain ingredients like milk), team work, and the pride of making a delicious meal. You could pick a theme for the meal, Italian or Chinese dishes, or tie it to a movie you might watch after dinner. French food followed by Ratatouille, for example. While eating, you can take turns asking each other questions from Table Topic cards. These cards pose interesting questions and come in a variety of themes including Family, Couples, and What Would You Do. However you decide to come together, a night of reconnecting ideally will produce lots of fun memories and maybe even start a yearly tradition.

3. Give and get great gifts the low-stress way

Leisure time is at a premium for most people, but especially so for super commuters and their families. Giftster.com and its app allow you to create private groups accessible from computers or smart phones where each person can post their wish list and even include links to where to buy the items. You can also use the site to organize a Secret Santa group and avoid duplicate gift giving. How does this help? First off, you save time! No need to drive from store to store or browse website-to-website trying to guess what your loved ones would like. No standing in line, no battling for parking spaces, no standing in even longer return lines when you get the same sweater from 3 people! And since many planes, trains, and buses are now equipped with Wi-Fi, commuters can point, click, and gift in route.

Another challenge of gift giving when your time at home is limited is keeping it all a surprise. Once you’ve purchased the gifts, how do you make sure no one is peeking? Keep those presents a secret by shipping gifts to your neighbor’s house or use an Amazon locker. Available in some US cities, your package is sent to a secure location and will stay there for up to 3 days until you can pick it up. A nice feature, especially when news reports about “porch pirates” are becoming more frequent.

4. Plan vacation time for the New Year

Reconnecting with loved ones in meaningful ways is an extremely important part of maintaining all types of long distance relationships and can go a long way in helping cope with a super commute. I had the privilege of being interviewed for an article about couples who commute and contributed to 5 tips on coping with a marathon commute to work. Here are the main points and you can read the details of each at http://www.today.com/money/5-tips-coping-your-marathon-commute-work-t40851

  • Get regular exercise and rest
  • Eat healthy
  • Make time for mental downtime
  • Stay connected with friends and family
  • Reconnect with loved ones after extended commutes

5. Logistics and scheduling

Logistics and scheduling can be tricky when you are frequently apart.  It may sound silly, but I recommend that you set aside some time over the holidays to plan more time together. Using an online scheduling program that you all have access to, or if you like to do things the old fashioned way, print out all 12 months of the new year, and together look at each month, entering events you know are happening. Don’t forget school vacations, any weddings or reunions, tournaments, visits from relatives, and those holidays that some people have off and others don’t. Planning ahead in this way also gives you plenty of lead-time to try and get the best deal possible on airfare and hotels. Most importantly, making a conscious effort to designate time together at the start of the year helps insure you WILL have that quality time together. Life, especially with children, gets busy quickly and weekends fill up fast.

In the U.S., long-distance marriages increased by 23% between 2000 and 2005, according to census figures analyzed by the Center for the Study of Long Distance relationships. In 2005, roughly 3.6 million married people in the U.S. lived apart for reasons other than marital discord, the center estimates. – WebMD.com

No matter what holidays you and your loved ones celebrate, ideally those days are filled with laughter and memory making. Use the holiday season to strengthen your love and connection.  Managing expectations, incorporating strategies for lowering holiday stress, and planning time together are three ways to help make that happen.  Physical separation doesn’t have to mean emotional distance for super commuter couples or couples in long distance relationships.

Succession Planning – Is It Only for the CEO?

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When we think of succession planning, we immediately think of the CEO and/or President of a company. And that is crucial to have in place or at least for the Board of Directors to have documented discussions about their succession plan. However, part of enterprise-wide risk management is to think of the entire company as a whole. Community banks face the challenge that because they are small, they don’t have the luxury of having depth of staff. Therefore, one person ends up wearing several hats—sometimes too many. From one perspective, that is a great opportunity for employees because they get to learn about the various areas of the bank and that makes them more marketable. From the risk perspective, however, this situation presents a challenge for banks if that key employee leaves, gets promoted to another position, or simply goes on vacation for a week!

The topic of succession planning falls under various areas of bank management. Succession planning is part of Talent Management, which entails assessing the talent of the organization to see if there are internal candidates to potentially fill key positions within the bank. Talent Management should be integrated into the bank’s Strategic Plan so the bank can clearly see the type of talent needed in the future. At the same time, succession planning is critical to enterprise risk management because if the bank’s leader is no longer there, the bank must have a plan to implement immediately. I call it “disaster recovery plan” for the CEO. But what about the other crucial positions in the organization such as the operations person who has been with the bank for 30 years? What about the employee who knows how everything is done and holds an immense amount of knowledge in his or her head? Who will do their jobs when they move on—whether that’s unexpectedly or planned?

When we work with bank clients on Talent Management, we first identify all the key positions throughout the organization—regardless of title. Then we implement a backup plan for all the critical positions of the bank, which includes cross training employees and establishing procedures that anyone can follow. Having backup and cross training are two strategies that avoid a crisis not only on unexpected situations but also for the planned vacations, so bank operations can continue to run smoothly while key employees are out. The next step is to writethe Succession Plan for all critical positions and make it part of your Strategic Plan. Regulators usually ask for the CEO and senior management team Succession Plan but it is wise to also have it ready for other vital positions in the organization.

Lean In, Lean Out—What’s a Woman to Do?

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I was born too late to have been inspired by the wave of the feminist movement led by Gloria Steinem and her contemporaries, and I wasn’t wearing a bra yet when women were burning them. The origin of the feminist movement can be traced back to the 14th century when Christine de Pizan, a French poet, became one of the first women to earn a living by writing. Interestingly, the word “feminism” was first coined in 1837 by a man—Charles Fourier, a utopian socialist and French philosopher. The modern feminist movement began near the close of the 19th century, with the push for women’s suffrage, and has traveled through the 20th century on the waves of equality, affirmative action, women’s health, the glass ceiling, and many other powerful and polarizing issues. There are two women who are serious contenders for the 2016 presidential election—we’ve come a long way, baby.

But have we? When I look at my personal bookshelf, I count more than 20 titles having to do with women in business, including:

These authors, all of them notably expert in their field, encourage women to embrace their femininity, be one of the boys, lean in, rethink the rules of the game, and so on. Has anyone besides me noticed that there aren’t many books out there on how to be a man in business? Or are all other leadership books dedicated to our male counterparts by default?

Having been a woman in business for more than 25 years, and a reasonably successful one at that, here’s what I know and believe:

  • Men and women are different from one another—biologically, physiologically, psychologically and neurologically
  • All humans are deserving of equality, regardless of their similarities or differences
  • Women and men are likely to be most successful when playing to their unique strengths and leveraging their own capabilities
  • If you are in a work environment or role that demands something of you other than who you are, move on.

Fifteen years ago, my executive coach shared a quote that I’ve never forgotten: “Leadership is authentic self-expression that adds value.” It doesn’t matter what your chromosomal structure is—define success on your own terms and lead from your heart.

Why REI Closing on Black Friday Rocked Our World

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It never fails to happen. November 1 hits and I’m bombarded with Black Friday sale announcements.  And it’s not even the typical big-box stores.  It’s the small businesses and solopreneurs who are buzz building, too.  One of the Facebook groups I belong to had a giant thread telling everyone to post their Black Friday offers.  It was all I could do to not sigh in frustration that this is still going on and that people and businesses haven’t realized that this isn’t always a viable business builder.

Marketing is dead.  Marketing tries to convince.  It’s a slippery slope that can result in your business being a victim of Commoditization.

Fascination snaps your customer’s focus on your message.

REI announced it would honor its employees family time and close on Black Friday.  In this announcement, it encouraged everyone to go outside and spend time with their families.

We were focused on their message.

They value their employees. They aren’t bowing to commercialism.

REI isn’t selling anything. But from a Fascination perspective, REI has my attention.  They not only cemented loyalty among their customers, they probably grew their raving fan base. We as a culture were fascinated.

One of Sally Hogshead’s tenets of Fascination is “Different is better than better.”

It’s not enough to have the best service or product if no one notices or cares. It has to be about providing distinct value.

REI provided distinct value to its employees by closing Black Friday.  It also provided distinct value to its ideal customer – the ones who are tired of the usual business practices that Black Friday brings – the drive to the bottom, that whoever has the best price wins.

REI defeated the Commoditization threat.

How does this apply to business owners and professionals:

You don’t have to be like everyone else.  Different is better than better.

When you are different, you are providing distinct value in a way that only you can.  Whether you are a business owner or professional, be that category of one – the one person who can do what you do in the way you do it.

Company Rebrand 101: How To Manage the Process [Step-by-Step Instructions]

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A good brand has power. It transcends its product or service. It symbolizes something greater to people. But what happens if a brand isn’t achieving your company’s vision? What if things change so much that your existing brand doesn’t make sense anymore?Rebranding is common – healthy, in fact! Managing a company rebrand, however, comes with its own set of challenges. To help navigate this exciting, and sometimes difficult-to-maneuver process, see below for a step-by-step guide.

Why Rebrand?

There are many reasons a company chooses to rebrand. Leading this process starts with a clear understanding of “the why.” Here are the most common reasons for a rebrand:

  • Ownership Change or Restructure: This can include mergers, splits, or leadership changes. A brand is commonly up for review when executives or board members make these types of decisions.
  • Reposition: Think Old Spice, the deodorant brand. The company has been around since 1937. It recently launched the Old Spice Man campaign (also known as “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”) to make an appeal to those wanting to be sexy and desirable. If the company brand stayed the way it was in 1937, it likely wouldn’t see the attention and revenue success it now experiences. Most businesses that rebrand because of repositioning do so to appeal to a different audience or to further promote a particular product or service. That said, it’s very challenging (and expensive!) for a large established company to rebrand which is why Old Spice is such a great example. It’s much easier to reposition at an earlier product stage, and with a more nimble company.
  • Expand Internationally: When introducing a brand to another country that speaks another language, research is vital. Check out some of these brands-gone-international failures. Rough. And quite entertaining!
  • Improve Reputation: Sometimes companies or products need a makeover after taking a hit to their reputation. While suffering from a negative perception is never ideal, taking charge of it with a rebrand may be the best way to recover.
  • Stay Relevant or Simplify: Apple has been around since 1976. People initially knew the tech icon as Apple Computer Company. Not only did it drop “Computer Company” from its name, but it has also undergone a number of logo redesigns over the years – each simpler than the previous.

The Process of Rebranding

After you understand the purpose, you can define the process. Here is a five-step approach.

1. Know Your Vision, Plan for Results

As famous productivity guru, Stephen Covey, says – begin with the end in mind.

  • Vision: Though you may not have the complete picture, having a clear vision of the rebrand will help you make all the little decisions along the way. Whenever you’re stuck, it’s a good idea to take a step back. Refocus on your vision, and ask yourself if the next step will bring you closer to, or further away from that vision.
  • Results: The other element of perception is knowing the results you expect once you achieve the vision. Do you anticipate being more relevant to women in their 20s? How will you measure that? Make sure there is agreement on what the outcome will be and how to judge the success of it.

2. Define Key Stakeholders

It’s important to know your key stakeholders at the outset. These are the people who will be affected by the rebrand. They can be both internal and external. Here’s a list of examples:

Internal:

  • Leadership Team
  • Board Members
  • Investors
  • Employees

External:

  • Key Clients
  • Clients
  • Potential Clients
  • The Market/General Public (publications, organizations you’re a part of, audiences you can reach through PR efforts, etc.)

3. Establish a Communication Plan

Once you’ve defined the key stakeholders, put together a communication plan. Create a spreadsheet with the suggested column titles below to keep track of how you plan to promote the change and various aspects of the process:

  • Key Stakeholder (Column A)  –  E.g., Employees
  • Message or Information Needed (Column B)  –  E.g., Key message about the rebrand – why it’s happening, what it will accomplish, the timeline, and the necessary information to share with clients
  • Delivery Method (Column C)  –  E.g., All-company meeting led by CEO; division meetings for further Q&A led by Marketing Manager; email from Marketing Manager providing marketing collateral and talking points for their client conversations
  • Frequency (Column D)  –  E.g., Once in company meeting; once in division meetings; once in email
  • Date (Column E)  –  E.g., ____ months/weeks before rebrand launch
  • Responsible for Communication (Column F)  –  E.g., Company CEO to host all-company meeting; Marketing Manager to create marketing collateral and host division meetings

4. Create a Project Timeline

Create a timeline, and stick to it. A simple spreadsheet will do if you don’t have project management software. Not only will a timeline keep you on track, but it will also help you remember to share information with the right people at the appropriate phases. Here are some suggested column titles and examples for this spreadsheet:

  • Phases  –  E.g., Develop Key Message, Develop Communications Plan, Communicate to All Audiences, Communicate to Market, Back Office Tasks
  • Internal Team  –  E.g., List the names of the individuals or teams participating in each phase
  • Stakeholders  –  E.g., List the key stakeholder affected by each phase
  • Calendar  –  E.g., Add one column for each week in the project. Highlight the corresponding row(s) to visually define the length each phase will take. Note that some phases may only be one square (one week) while others may span the length of the rebrand

5. Design the Ultimate Project Plan

This final element of this process is the ability to stay the course. In other words, stick to the Project Plan. Use this spreadsheet as the ultimate keep-you-on-schedule, don’t-forget-anything tool. Different from the communications plan and project timeline, this spreadsheet includes all of the little details and has color-coding for easy-to-read status checks. Use these recommended column titles and examples to get started:

  • Type of Activity  –  E.g., Communication; Branding; Website; Legal/Internal Process
  • Description  –  E.g., Develop Key Message; Create email template for communication to clients; Employee voicemail updates
  • Point Person  –  E.g., List the individual who will handle making sure this gets accomplished
  • Participants  –  E.g., List any other individuals needed to accomplish the task, such as if you need a leadership team approval or a web developer to make changes to the website
  • Status  –  E.g., (This is the color-coded part!) Red for “Not yet started” – Yellow for “In process” – Green for “Completed”
  • Due Date  –  E.g., Date
  • Dependencies  –  E.g., List any tasks that need to happen before this task. For example, you will need to create the Key Messaging prior to sending communication out to the clients. Another example would be that you need to have the rebranding launch (via a press release or other means) before your employees can announce it on social media
  • Notes  –  E.g., Anything else you think would be helpful to remember

Plan for the Unexpected

There will be things that come up along the way that you never anticipated. Here are a couple areas to keep an eye on.

1. Inventory your current brand presence

This includes all of the places your existing brand, logo, and identifiable assets live. Your brand is likely in more places than you even realize. To get started, consider the following: email signatures, voicemails, company on-hold music, building signage, marketing collateral, online presence (website, social media, Google/SEO), employee’s language (answering the phone, sales pitches), and more.

2. Anticipate Budget Spend

Rebranding costs money, therefore, getting a handle on the project cost is critical. Create budget estimates as you go through your Project Plan. Consider the following:

  • Design fees for logo, website, email signatures, marketing collateral, advertising, etc.
  • Printing fees for marketing collateral, building signage, etc.
  • Promotional items (in-house) such as mugs, pens, etc.
  • Promotional items (client-facing) such as trade show tablecloth, banners, stress balls, other giveaways, etc.
  • PR services (anything from hiring a PR agency to submitting a press release on the wire)
  • Website design and development
  • SEO services to promote your new brand

Post-Rebrand

You’ve launched the new brand! Now what? For one, pat yourself on the back – this is a major accomplishment! Following your happy dance, it’s important to give yourself space to recap what went well, what could have gone better, and what lessons you learned along the way.

If you have a hard time stopping to evaluate how the project went, reserve a conference room for 30 minutes and lock yourself in it with a notebook. Ask yourself – Did I accomplish my goal? Did I communicate with all my audiences in a way that worked? What went well? What could have gone better?

Once you’ve answered these questions, get a few key stakeholders in the room to ask them the same. Business owners and leaders quickly move from one focus to the next without pausing, so get feedback from them while you still have their attention. You’ll also want their reflection on how well the rebrand achieved the agreed upon outcomes. If the project didn’t turn out the way everyone envisioned, determine why, how to fix it, and what you can do moving forward to make sure you have successful initiatives in the future.

© 2016 -TeamWomenMN