Kossoff on ... projecting the right image

You have a choice and you have to make it now. You have to decide what message you want everyone in your organisation to convey to everyone with whom they have contact. In fact, you've been making that choice since the economic news began moving from confusing to bad.

And, if you've not been open with your employees about the state of the company and the actions you are taking, you're making the downturn worse. You are, in fact, allowing your employees to determine your company's message.

Every day, in every conversation you have with your employees - whether you're a producer, wholesaler, retailer or supplier - you have been having an impact on the image they're conveying of your organisation. Are you healthy? Thriving? Looking to the future? Or are you worried, hesitant, wondering if you're going to make it?

Employees pick up the nuances. They see and hear things that owners and executives don't realise they convey. And if they think you're scared, they're going to be even more scared. On the other hand, if you look and sound realistic and in control, they'll take that and run with it.

You don't have to pretend that there isn't a downturn. They know it and you know it.

What you don't want is for them to convey a downturn mentality to your customers - because scared customers equal lower sales.

For retailers this is particularly important. You don't want your employees unintentionally to scare off your customers in the run-up to Christmas.

You offer a value proposition that beats the high street hands down. That's what they need to convey.

This is for everyone - be honest with your employees. Tell them where the business stands and what you're planning to do.

Ask for their help; ask them to be part of the solution. Then let them create your success. They will.

- Leslie Kossoff is an executive adviser specialising in strategy and corporate turnaround.

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