And as I popped my camera out to take a photo of this mini-van while on vacation, driving from St. Charles, Illinois to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, my husband and kids rolled their eyes when I told them it was going on my marketing blog. Undeterred, while winding through the mostly rural countryside, from small township to small township, I pulled out my notebook and penned this blog article on loose bumpers, branding, business efficiency and forward momentum.
While stopped at the occasional “stop and go light” (as they call them in Wisconsin), the loose bumper wasn’t all that noticeable. But every time we picked up speed on the open highway, exceeding 30 and then 40 miles an hour, this bumper began to look like a spoiler gone wrong, reminiscent of Sally Field’s nun habit on the 1960′s TV series “The Flying Nun” — like a pair of undersized wings which were actually deterring the cars forward progress, reducing its efficiency, revealing of either damage left unrepaired or deficiency and — worst of all — presented the potential for greater damage to the vehicle itself or those of others.
So what does a loose bumper have to do with the brand of your business and its forward progress?
I’m so glad you asked.
The point is, this loose bumper isn’t enough to actually stop the car from going, but it is enough to make it look bad and it is enough to produce resistance and reduce efficiency. And so it is with your business.
When you allow known problems to go unaddressed within your business, you reduce the ability of your business to be as effective and efficient as it can.
The brand of your business is damaged when customers (or employees) see problems, deficiencies or damage within your business allowed to remain in a state of disrepair—whether these are problems with your products and services themselves, or problems within your employee culture, facility, online internet properties, etc.
And you give customers and staff the impression that you don’t really care about your business, thereby also giving them tacit permission not to care about your business and its mission and vision. After all, if you don’t care enough to address obvious problems, why should they?
Your “loose bumper” could be anything that effects your operations or (as in the case of this bumper) something that not only affects efficiency of operation but also looks bad to outsiders and therefore affects the brand of your business, which is made up of all of the perceptions people have about your business based on each time they come into contact with you or any representative of your business.
While as the leader of your business you might think that a loose bumper isn’t really a big deal, because it’s not actually stopping the forward progress of your ‘vehicle,’ that simply isn’t true.
Your loose bumper – whether it’s an unfriendly employee, a customer-unfriendly procedure, uncleaned bathrooms or a dirty lobby, discourteous customer service mentality, poorly performing products or services, an untrained or even simply an indifferent employee – your loose bumper is negatively affecting your forward progress. It is reducing the efficiency of your business and increasing your cost of doing business. It is allowing a spirit of indifference or neglect to take root. And it is negatively affecting the brand of your business simply because it looks bad to people on the outside (and that might include not only external customers but internal customers) who watch as you allow that loose bumper to flap on and on, representing not only lost efficiency but even potential danger.
Because sooner or later, that loose bumper is going to snag on something that gets too close or work its way loose and come off altogether. And when that happens, the damage could be catastrophic, could hurt others, and will make the cost of repairing that damaged vehicle exponentially higher.
Deal with your loose bumpers. Repair, re-affix, or replace them – whatever is necessary in order to put your ride back into its most efficient operating condition and an appearance which doesn’t look bad to those on the outside. Don’t wait until problems (whether they are operational or “people” problems) grow to the point that it causes real damage or requires significant investment to correct. Make the easy and inexpensive fixes, and you’ll avoid the more costly ones!