Creating A Recognizable Business Culture

With the great number of brands these days, it is getting harder and harder to differentiate your brand from those of your competitors. A lot of that has to do with the fact that many who start businesses do so because they are passionate about the product, not because they are passionate about marketing, branding or creating the culture of the company. This is very evident in the wine business. Most winery owners are passionate about growing grapes and making wine, they are not, necessarily passionate about the culture of the company.

As you are developing your business, the grapes you shall grow, the wines you shall make, also ask yourself, “What culture do I want to create for my business?” Creating the culture will give you a template for many of your other decisions. For example, what are the traits and qualifications you want in your employees, how will you create your customer service guide and your plans for advertising, marketing, and public relations?

When developing some of your cultural items, consider the things that make your business recognizable, such as your logo, the colors you use and your tagline. Think long and hard before you choose those, as they are the things that define your company in the mind of many consumers and you don’t want to change them too often. It’s fine to tweak things to keep them current but wholesale changes make it difficult for consumers to remember you. For example, look up online the portraits of Betty Crocker, a brand that has been in existence since 1921. While Betty has changed over the years, she has always been a brunette, she is always wearing a red jacket or sweater with something white underneath, mostly a blouse, one time pearls and now a tee shirt and the drawing is always just head and shoulders. If you look at all the Bettys together you can see how much they have changed, but you would recognize every one of them as Betty Crocker. That’s the point.

Try and create a culture through everything that you do from in-person communication, visuals, and written communications, to how you deal with customers on the phone. You want to stand out from your competitors. This is a way to do it.

Finally, be patient. Creating the culture is not a sprint it’s a long distance race where you keep reinforcing the same lessons and methods.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Creating an Employee Handbook

An employee handbook is an important part of your training schedule. The handbook provides employees with a written guide to follow and refer to when they may have forgotten.

Creating an employee handbook can be a lot of work, which is why many businesses do not have a comprehensive handbook. My suggestion is that you write the handbook in small pieces. For example, a winery would write a one or two page summary of the vineyards and how the grapes are grown; another one or two pages can be dedicated to the information on how the wines are made, focusing on the information that will give customers facts they can take home with them. I start with these two things as most owners find these pages easy to write and you might as well start off with things that can be done quickly.

Next on the list, write a one-page mission, vision, and an overview of the company if you don’t already have that.

After that, a one-two page basic job description detailing the duties of each the position in the company. For example, sales and hospitality staff should be given information on the ins and outs of opening and closing, how to run the cash register, etc. You should also cover compensation, commissions, and how sales discounts work for customers.

General employee policies differ from state to state but information should be readily available on government websites. Consider employee policies such as attendance, benefits, vacation time, confidentiality, dress code, expectations, expense reporting (if applicable) work performance, discipline and termination factors.

One of the most important parts of an employee handbook is the information about the Customer Experience you expect each of your employees to provide to your guests and customers. This information should be available to everyone in the company whether they regularly come into contact with the public or not.

When you ensure that your employees understand what your expectations are, you are more likely to have your expectation met. For an outline of a suggested table of contents for an employee handbook, drop me an email at and I will send one over to you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Do You Know Your Employees?

With the workloads that many managers and owners have these days, it is easy to lose touch with what your employees are doing, how they are treating customers and how they feel about the treatment they receive from management.

Even with all the work that has to be done, one of the most important parts of a manager’s job is keeping in touch with employees both as a group and individually, especially those who interface directly with customers. I am surprised when I see employees treat customers with indifference, and wonder whether it’s because they are treated the same way. That’s not always the case but it can add to the lack of customer service in a company.

One thing to remember is that positive interaction with employees usually takes some thought and attention. Think about the words you use when speaking with employees, your tone of voice and your body language. Make eye contact with employees. Work on your soft skills (see my blog from 12.12.17 for more information on soft skills) and your ability to connect with employees.

When you are looking for information from your employees, be aware of how you ask the questions and be specific about what you want to know. It is easy to misinterpret what people want of you, whether it is manger to employee or employee to manager.

When talking about policy changes, present your case in a positive and persuasive manner. Ask for feedback, listen carefully and receive it openly. Take your time when considering suggestions before you make any decisions on whether the ideas should be implemented or not. If you can test an employee’s suggestions, do so. Keep in mind, too, the tone of your online and distributed information and the effect it may have on employees.

Work on ways to relate to your employees, take the time to make small talk with them.

Show an interest in their lives and family and look for common ground. You may find that you have more in common with your staff that your thought.

The way you treat your employees is the same way your employees will treat your customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Reviewing Your Customer Service

The beginning of the year is a good time to review your customer service and your customer retention. How did you do at holding on to customers in the past year? Who has dropped off the radar and why? Most managers know how many customers they gained over the past year, though less of them know how many customers they lost or why they lost these customers.

If your business has a slow time, those involved in customer service can spend this slower season going through customer records, finding out who has gone AWOL and picking up the phone to find out why. There are lots of reasons for customers to stop buying and not all of them have anything to do with your business or products. If customers have dropped away for personal reasons (illness, a lost job or a move for example) a phone call to tell them that you haven’t seen them for a while and hope everything is okay will make them feel appreciated and missed. That way, when their lives are back to normal, they will be back.

If the reason they have left you is because of a bad experience, the sooner you find out about it the better. Especially as 95% of consumers talk about poor customer service experiences with other people, though they probably won’t tell you.

The winter is also a good time to make changes that might be necessary or improve the experience you provide to guests and customers. Get together with key staff and define the ideal experience that you would like to deliver to your customers and guests. Give your employees the opportunity to present their ideas of how things can be improved. When employees have a hand in shaping the experience they are much more likely to follow the template that is created for the experience.

Once you have a new template for the customer experience, put in place processes that will promote the change. Train some of your employees to be mentors so that when you hire new staff in the spring, there is someone they can turn to for help and guidance if you are not available.

This work during the winter will pay off in increased sales and greater customer satisfaction come the busy season.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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New Year’s Resolutions

Another year is almost upon us. By next week it will be 2018. Hard to believe but here it’s time again for your New Year’s resolutions. This year make it a little easier on yourself by putting in at least one resolution that you absolutely know that you can accomplish.

One way to accomplish your goals is to give yourself some wiggle room. For instance, instead of saying I am going to completely stop doing something that is an ingrained habit, I plan on doing it less.

Here are a few resolutions that are on my list that you might also want to consider:

Allow 10 Minutes Each Day to Organize

My desk seems to have a mind of its own and, before I know, it the desk is full of miscellaneous pieces of paper. My resolution is to take 10 minutes each day to clean up the papers that are all over my desk from the day before.

Allow yourself the choice of when you are going to clean up your desk. I find it easier to clean up my desk first thing in the morning rather than in the evening. Choosing the time when I will do it makes it easier for me.

Cut Down on Procrastination

There are things that we have to do that we put off for days and then end up doing at the last minute. If my deadline is two weeks away, what I find helpful is to split big tasks into smaller sections.

Allow yourself the time to do one section, shelve the project until the next day then finish section two. I make sure I have a day at the end to double-check my work before the project is considered finished.

Reward Yourself

Allow yourself some small rewards when you accomplish a goal. I love to read so when I have finished something I allow myself to read an article I am interested in. Or I take a five or ten-minute walk. Both these things give me the break I need to put one thing behind me before I move on to the next.

When we are creating our New Year’s resolutions it’s important to take into consideration how likely we are to be able to keep them. Choose resolutions and structure them so you have a good chance of succeeding. This way, by March you can feel proud of what you have accomplished.


A tip of the glass from me to you!

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The Importance of Soft Skills

I am hearing more talk these days about the importance of soft skills in the workplace, especially for those in supervisory capacities or those employees who deal with customers.

Hard skills are those that we are trained to perform. An example of a hard skill would be an accountant or a winemaker.

Soft sills tend to be harder to quantify. These are the skills that make individuals good at jobs in customer service, sales or in staff supervision. While it is important that owners and managers have soft skills it isn’t always the case.

Employees and managers with well-developed soft skills are adaptable and able to relate to different employees or customers with ease. These people will also be good communicators. They can vary their style of speech and tone of voice to suit the person to whom they are speaking. They are also intuitive, being able to understand people and being aware of facial expressions, tone of voice and stance that allows them to understand what the people they are speaking to may be thinking or feeling.

These types of personal qualities are a must for anyone who is dealing with the public or managing a staff. Being able to understand how the other person may be feeling or see a problem from the other side is a great help to those who work with customers, are part of a team or just want to get ahead in their chosen profession.

According to an article from Realityworks,

  • 77% of employers think personality skills are just as important as hard skills.
  • 44% think that Americans lack soft skills (500 executives surveyed)
  • 46% of manager said young workers would do well to home their communication skills
  • 35% reported lower-than-needed interpersonal and teamwork skills

In today’s world with the emphasis on customer service, the competition for sales and customer expectations honing our soft skills will make us more effective, efficient and more valuable in the workplace.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Keep Customers Coming Back

Yesterday, I gave a talk at the Wine Tourism Conference taking place in Sonoma County.

The subject of the talk was Keep Customers Coming Back, which should be the goal of most businesses. However, I have noticed that many businesses do not have the processes or procedures in place to ensure that when someone visits they have a desire to return.

Research shows that keeping customers coming back is important:

  • A 5% increase in customer retention can improve company profitability by 7.5%
  • Engaged customers buy more frequently and spend more per transaction
  • Your business benefits from more word-of-mouth promotion
  • Regular customers bring their friends to meet you
  • A loyal customer is less likely to be lured away to other companies by discounts
  • It gives you an edge over competitors.

How do you keep customers coming back?

By providing an individual experience for each person who visits. For that, you need to create a plan, which will be your blueprint to design, deliver, manage and measure the results.  To make your plan successful:

  • Understand that your customers need to be more than satisfied
  • Put processes in place
  • Hire people who value customer service (remember that they are your ambassadors on and off the job)
  • Create an employee handbook with an in-depth section on customer service standards and guidelines
  • Implement customer interactions that will meet and exceed expectations
  • Review the people, products, services interface and interactions with customers.

Create the kind of atmosphere that results in individual experiences for all your guests. This means that procedures need to be customer-centric:

  • Processes around sales and returns need to be set up to focus on the needs of the customer
  • Conduct regular and interactive customer service training sessions with staff
  • All employees should be genuinely interested in customers as individuals
  • Create memories for customers.

Finally, I am going to say something that you have heard many times, though I think it is worth saying again: Attracting new customers cost more than retaining the customers you have.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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