There’s no line item on the business plan for turnover, but there should be! It’s the #1 hidden cost of brand building. Turnover is generally not considered a major factor affecting brand growth, even though, in retrospect, its damage is very quantifiable.
It’s not just losing people. It’s losing relationships, know-how, brand and product knowledge. It’s losing key vendors, contracts, and customers. It’s losing the cost of recruitment, interviews, and selection. It means starting over again with a new person. That results in lost time and production of both the rookie and the coach. So what steps can you take to help avoid this hidden cost?
Hiring. Turnover can start with a bad hire. Sometimes you can get so excited about a resume, you may forget to ask yourself how long this person is likely to stay, how will they affect the brand’s growth, reputation, or customers if they leave, and what is required to keep them. Ferreting out potential turnover bombs during the vetting and interview process should be job one. It’s not just how qualified they are. You can teach them a lot of what they don’t know. But their stability, integrity and goals, in the short and long run, are the keys to their tenure.
Compensating. There are many books written about how people are motivated by achievement, recognition, and work ethic. But most people quit to take a better paying job – period! This means that your compensation structure has to be set up so that producers can’t afford to quit and non-producers can’t afford to stay. Why would producers work for a company that pays them the same as coworkers who just skate by? They won’t. The metrics to guide a performance-based bonus system change from job to job and from year to year. Quantify the metrics that measure brand building and work backward.
Validating. Find good people; build great people. Good people have ethics and integrity. They are willing to work for reward. Great people are built with validation of their progress and achievement. Written and verbal acknowledgement of a job well done tells them you approve. It also gives your staff an appreciation for what their collogues do, builds teamwork, and demonstrates the type of behavior that gets noticed. Don’t lose a person because they felt underappreciated. Get the right people, don’t plan on them leaving, and use compensation and validation to keep them.
Insurance. Have a back up for every position. This is hard to do in the start-up phase, but it should be your top priority moving forward. As soon as you can, have a fully trained assistant ready to step into any crucial vacancy. Accidents, illnesses, and life changes can create a sudden vacuum that affects your brand reputation, and the products and services it represents. Especially in sales, remember, your buyer doesn’t buy your brand so much as the person who represents it. Sales people are generally territorial and are capable of quickly switching your buyers to your competitor’s brand. Production people have developed special relationships with vendors you rely on. When you lose someone they know and trust, don’t be surprised if your costs go up or your service goes down.
To avoid costly turnover, take a smaller slice of a larger pie, publically acknowledge jobs well done, and don’t just hire staff, build a team. It will cost you way less in the long run!
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders