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In the age of social distancing, how do we build and nurture a community around our brand? In this video, I discuss the value of a brand community and how to build one while everyone is encouraged to socially distance from one another. 

A brand community is a community of not just your loyal customers but also of your fans who function like brand ambassadors. Members of a brand community actively promote your brand’s products and services to their peers. Herein lies the value of a brand community: having customers ensure steady sales, brand ambassadors foster sales growth.  

What are examples of brand communities? Think of fans of Disney, Lego, or Apple. Fans of these brands converge in online forums and groups to talk about their love for the brand—whether about new products that will be launching soon, or the hunt for old collectibles or merchandise, or even about their experiences, both negative and positive. You’ll find fans posting about their love for the brand on their personal networks, too—maybe a photo from a visit to a Disney park, a new build from Lego, or even their new iPhone. 

While big brands and big companies have been at the forefront, many smaller businesses are applying these in a smaller scale. And these communities have been the secret of how many small businesses have been able to stay afloat during this pandemic. Complemented by a business pivot, which I discussed in the video called the #CovidPivot (link forthcoming), having a highly engaged community has been crucial to the survival and even success of small businesses during this health crisis. 

So what can small businesses do today to build and nurture their own brand community? Here are 3 practical ways that you can apply today: 

(1) Offer compassion, empathy, and solutions to customers 

Now, more than ever, there is a need for empathy and compassion towards our customers. Many are affected by the pandemic, and it would be tone-deaf to market products and services as if things have not changed drastically. We cannot just focus on just selling. It sounds tone-deaf, insensitive, and selfish. That said, a business still needs to be run, and we still need to earn our keep.  

So how do we balance our need to market our products and services with being compassionate and empathic to the needs of our customers? The simple answer is by offering real, practical, and reasonable solutions. After all, aren’t we in business to offer solutions to our customers’ pain points?  

More than that, there is also a need to acknowledge these pain points—we let our customers know that we see these problems, we understand these problems, and we are in the business of solving their problems. 

Think of how Single O (link to CovidPivot video), a café located in Sydney, responded when the Australian government imposed social distancing measures. They created a new product, a coffee brew called Stimulus, which customers can brew at home. It did not stop there—they continued to develop new products and offerings based on what their customers needed. They put up a corner store to sell pantry items, predicting that some of their customers will experience some supply issues for some essentials.  

Another company, Whole Kids Australia, offered kids snack bundles through their online store which may be delivered for free to their customers. It’s a great solution for a busy mom who needs to balance working from home while taking care of kids who are forced to stay indoors because of the pandemic.  

They offer empathy and compassion in their marketing messaging by recognising the difficulty that parents face juggling work, chores, and kids. And because the founders themselves are parents to school-aged kids, the message comes off as authentic and empathic. It reinforces the message that Whole Kids understands their customers’ pain points. 

(2) Be more transparent 

Building a community requires building trust. Trust comes from being honest and transparent.  

If you can’t offer the same level of service for reasons brought by the global pandemic or due to the government restrictions put in place to address the spread of the coronavirus—it’s time to come clean and say it. If you have to limit the number of people in your store, let your customers know. If you need to change certain things around your store or need to add safety measures to protect your customers and your staff, let them know. Acknowledge that these changes might affect wait times or the level of convenience that your customers are used to. 

In the United States, there is a Texas-based Korean BBQ restaurant that offers a notable example of how transparency in marketing works. As events around Austin were cancelled and the government forced restaurants to close their dining rooms, the owner of Chilantro took to social media to explain how this affects their business. He offered solutions to customers on how they can enjoy Chilantro dishes in their own homes. He also came clean as to how government measures are impacting his business.  

He was upfront about the fact that given how they serve Chilantro meals, where customers come in to assemble their own customised bowls, things changed drastically for them. As a result, sales weren’t doing well, but that he is pivoting so that he can keep paying his staff. He frequently addressed his customers through social media, letting them know which of his several locations were open for pick up or take out, and what meals were available.  

Today, Texas is slowly lifting restrictions and are now allowing dining rooms to open, provided certain measures are put in place. Chilantro remains open and in business, thanks to a brand community that it was able to build and nurture prior to the pandemic and even through the health crisis. 

(3) Talk about your employees—the faces behind your brand. 

Your brand community includes the people who work behind the brand—that means your staff. Why? Because your employees are also your brand ambassadors. In times of crisis, it matters how we take care of our own. It also matters how we recognise them. 

Chilantro has been featuring their in-store employees on their social media pages, to recognise their hard work and because they are the faces that customers see whenever they walk into any Chilantro restaurant or food truck. These are the people who lovingly prepare their rice bowls and burritos.  

If you haven’t already, it’s time to introduce these faces—the faces of your employees to the customers and acknowledge their contribution in your marketing message. Let customers know that these are the faces helping behind the scenes.  

Doing so humanises your brand. It lets your customers know that people who care are behind every product, every service, every interaction, every experience. And that’s really all there is to it in any community—people who care about each other, people who help each other, and people who support one another. In the most difficult of times, we all need care, help, and support. 

How are you doing? I hope that, through my videos, I have been helpful to you, especially during these challenging times. If you think you need further assistance or just want to chat, I would encourage you to send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you. 

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Growth starts with having the right attitude and the right mindset. In this video, I will share with you how you can nurture a growth mindset in your business 

What is a growth mindset?  

A growth mindset is a belief that we can develop our talents, abilities, and skills through dedication and hard work. 

How do we develop a growth mindset? 

As its name suggests, a growth mindset is a mindset of growth. It involves believing that we can grow, that we have control over our growth and development, and that if we work towards it, we can improve ourselves and be better.  

Remember the key words: belief, control, and development 

Where do we start? 

Experts believe that nurturing a growth mindset involves different sets of strategies. Here are three strategies you can start employing today to help you develop a growth mindset. 

  • Learn vicariously. 

Learning vicariously or learning via proxy means learning from the mistakes of others. Mistakes are teachable moments—use this as an opportunity to learn something new or to improve current processes. It would be a waste of resources if the lessons do not get shared to others.  

For example, if someone in your team makes a mistake, take this as an opportunity for everyone in the team to learn. Replace blame with curiosity and try to find out what caused the mistake and how this can be avoided in the future.  

What’s another way to learn vicariously? Read! In one of my previous video, I discuss how reading is a daily habit of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. They do this to stay relevant and even become better business leaders in this ever changing world.  

  • Consider struggle as part of the process. 

Every expert started from the bottom. Struggling to master things is part of the process. Expect to struggle if you wish to grow. 

Take Michael Jordan for example. His career as a basketball superstar is best known for what did NOT happen in the beginning—he did not make it to his high school basketball varsity team. Instead, the coaches thought he was too small that they put him in junior varsity. 

This stung him so badly that he used this struggle as an opportunity to keep practising every day in school until he made varsity. He went his way to basketball stardom from there. 

Many times the fear of struggle is what causes us from trying new things. If we start accepting that we are all made to struggle and that this is part of the growth process, this will help calm our fear of trying new things, a key aspect of building a growth mindset. 

Don’t avoid struggle. Learn to embrace it. Try to control struggle by placing it in a context that you can control. If you want to learn how to do this, please reach out to me so that we can chat. 

  • Regard failure in a different light. 

Failure is necessary for success. Failure is an effective teacher.  

Failure is the time to apply extra effort to significantly improve your results. It’s OK to fail—and the best thing that you can do after failing is to understand what you can learn from it. And for a very successful entrepreneur like Jeff Bezos, founder, CEO and President of Amazon, failure is key to his billion dollar success. He famously said, “I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com.” 

The ability to learn from failures and past mistakes is a critical skill set that business owners need to master, as I discuss in a previous video

It is often said that growth happens outside of your comfort zone. And in this discomfort zone, there is a struggle. There is a failure. And that’s OK. It’s easy to aspire to become the world’s most successful entrepreneur, like Jeff Bezos—or even to aspire to succeed like Michael Jordan did as an athlete. But they didn’t start from the top. They worked from the bottom. Jeff Bezos started Amazon inside his garage, and Michael Jordan started in junior varsity. They both struggled, made a lot of mistakes along the way—but the most important thing that they did was to learn from their struggles and their mistakes, and used those lessons they learned to grow and become better. And that’s exactly what having a growth mindset means—embracing struggle and failure as part of the growth process.  

Do you struggle to come to terms with certain struggles or even failures in your business? Do you avoid growth and development opportunities because you are too busy or that you have too much to handle? If you can identify with those questions, please send me an email and let’s have a chat. 

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great. 

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Great leaders motivate people. What do great leaders do repeatedly and consistently to motivate their team?

As leaders, we want motivated people to work in our teams because they’re productive and perform at their best.

Everyone is motivated by their ‘WHY’. Our ‘WHY’ explains why we do what we do. In a previous video (Understanding our WHY—and why that matters), I explored why entrepreneurs and business owners need to know and understand their ‘why’. The answer is because our purpose as business owners guides us on what we should do and how we should do it by providing a very good reason on why we should do it.

Employees are also motivated by their WHYs. The common advice is to lead employees in a way that aligns with their WHYs. This is important—because if we miss out in understanding what that WHY is, we run the risk of rolling out policies that, although well-intentioned, will run contrary to motivating people.

Let’s take a very well-intentioned attendance reward program that recognised and rewarded employees who came to work on time every single day for oneentire month, which I discussed in a previous video. On the flipside of this program was that if anyone came in tardy at any time during the month, they will not be eligible for this reward. At the end of the program, the company found that the policy became counterproductive. In fact, the company discovered that they lost 1.4% of daily productivity!

The problem with this program is that it tried to motivate people through an external motivating factor, like money, which they found out does not effectively motivate people. What gets people motivated instead are internal factors—which is essentially our WHYs or our PURPOSE.

So what should you do instead?

In another video, I discussed examples of policies designed to align with employees’ internal motivating factors. One company focused on providing employees with a reasonable amount of autonomy through reducing working hours. This, in turn, gave employees a greater sense of responsibility. Another policy focused on continually providing opportunities for professional development. It aligned with the employees’ desire to develop their skills.

These policies were designed through a significant course in time and suited the kind of business that the companies were involved in. These certainly require long-term planning prior to execution.

Perhaps the more pressing question for you is: what can I do consistently and repeatedly starting today so that I can build and nurture a team of motivated individuals?

Here are some practical tips to motivating people in your team that you can do on a regular basis.

  1. Be more engaged with people.

People, in general, appreciate it when other people take an interest in their well-being. They particularly appreciate it when they know that their bosses care for them and are working to provide support. Schedule time with your employees to check in on them regularly, whether weekly, fortnigthly or quarterly. Check on them—how are they doing? Do they have any issues that you need to address? In some organisations, top bosses schedule 15-minute catch up meetings with their subordinates at the end of the week to check up on their progress and general well-being.

  • Make it a habit to ask when an employee is facing a problem or challenge at work: what do you need to help you do your job better?

Often, the people who cause problems have the knowledge and ability to solve them. Many times, too, these problems can be resolved more quickly when employees are provided with some level of support by the organisation--perhaps tweaks in the process, provisions of additional resources, or designing better policies. But we can’t find solutions if we don’t understand the problem, and so it is always a good idea to ask.

  • Help employees find meaning and purpose in their work.

Not everyone will have the privilege of knowing and understanding their WHY—or even find meaning in their work. This is more common with people who perform repetitive tasks. To me, one of the best ways of motivating them is to make them understand how important their tasks are in the whole scheme of things.

Let’s say you have an employee who is responsible for filing boring paperwork. The task itself can be tedious, and repetition can make it boring. For some, menial tasks can be disheartening, and this can cause people to make mistakes. One of the best ways to motivate people to do this task is to make them understand the repercussions of sloppy work. What happens if he or she files an important document in the incorrect folder? What if that document is important and required by, say an important regulatory agency or a key client? And what if the document was urgently needed but could not be found merely because it was filed incorrectly?

When people understand how important their job is, it will be easier for them to understand how important it is for them to do it well.

  • Train! Training comes in many forms: formal training, mentoring, shadowing, or even cross-training in different departments. Find opportunities where employees are allowed to train and be trained.
  • Praise publicly, criticise privately.

No one is perfect and we’re all prone to make mistakes. Feedback is crucial so that we know whether we’re doing a good job or a bad one. The key to motivating employees is knowing how to provide feedback. Recognising employees publicly results in two things: (1) it provides feedback to that employee that the bosses see the good work, which motivates the employee to continue doing good work, and (2) it provides other employees with behaviour that they can model so that they, too, can be recognised.

On the other hand, providing negative feedback privately is also important because it provides the employee with an opportunity and a game plan to rectify his or her mistake. It is also an opportunity for you, as leader and business owner, to understand certain issues and concerns that contributed to this mistake—and provides you with an opportunity to correct it. It’s also a learning opportunity for both you and the employee to learn from this.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

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While the global pandemic has disrupted economies and industries around the world, many small businesses are fighting back by pivoting and creating disruptions in their own market. What emerges are inspirational and admirable examples of how businesses can respond to challenges that are outside of their control.

In this video, I talk about three small businesses, how they pivoted and adjusted their businesses, and how they took advantage of the changing needs in their respective markets during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The global health crisis has brought about sweeping changes in how we work, where we eat, where we go, and how we go about our daily lives. While many have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, there are some businesses who have been able to turn things around and make the best out of this situation.

This is exactly what three businesses—Single O, Walks, and Education Perfect—did. In what is now known as a #covidpivot, these businesses have been able to create a new business model, a new product, and a new market for their business, respectively.

New business model: Single O

Founded in 2003, this café based in Sydney serves customers with ethically sourced coffee. Before the global pandemic, they operated three cafes, a stall at a local farmer’s market, an overseas branch in Tokyo, and also a thriving wholesale business.

When social distancing restrictions were imposed, they immediately switched to a takeaway model. More notably, within 48 hours, they created a special blend they called “Stimulus,” which was meant to give people a “caffeine hit and a boost in productivity” because they wanted to bring something uplifting to an otherwise difficult situation.

They didn’t stop there. They added a pantry that sells like butter, eggs, and flour because they knew that supply of these essentials would become an issue. They also started making restaurant-quality ready-made meals; vacuum packed for people to enjoy at home.

They also partnered with their wholesale customers in a program they called “Kickback,” where their customers earned 30% in coffee credit if they ordered directly from them, thereby creating an incentive for customers to come back and order from them again and again. They also launched “Parachutes,” ready-to-go, single use bag of coffee grounds. They’ve also partnered with new businesses and hosted brewing masterclasses on Instagram.

They are still innovating. They are redesigning the café customer experience for the post-covid new normal. This includes, among others in their pipeline, the world’s first self-service batch brew tap system.

New product: Walk’s Tours from Home

Founded in 2009, Walks is a tour company that offers walking tours of cities in Europe and the USA.

The travel and tourism industry is one of the worst-hit industries in the world. To support Walk’s guides, to keep their customer base engaged, and to nurture brand awareness, the company launched Tours from Home, a virtual city walking tour where guides, chefs, and storytellers engage their customers in the comfort of their homes.

According to their website, these special “Tours from Home” feature limited time only content covering topical, provocative, and fascinating subjects not generally covered on existing Walks tours. While these tours provide an entirely different experience, these provide measures to help keep the company afloat, support their partners, and continue to engage their customers.

New market: Education Perfect

Based in New Zealand and with offices in Australia, United Kingdom, United States, and Singapore, Education Perfect is an education platform that claims to “enable transformative learning and learning experiences for lifelong learners.” They offer education platforms for home, school, and work.

As schools physically shut down across the world and learning moved to the home, Education Perfect grabbed the opportunity to push its platform to new markets. They offered free licenses for institutions in Asia at the beginning of the outbreak, which they allowed  schools to use until May. They expanded their offering worldwide as more countries were forced to lockdown and keep people home.

In the process, they were able to sign up more than half a million users in over 100 countries.

Single O Café, Walk’s Tours from Home, and Education Perfect are just some of the many businesses around the world that have adapted in response to measures introduced during the pandemic. This is by no means an exhaustive list of business models that have emerged. Do you know of other businesses who have successfully pivoted? I would love to hear these stories, send me an email, and let’s chat.

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Some teams work in-house. Some teams work from home. As more companies are creating policies and measures to respond to the current global pandemic and its residual effects, which experts predict to linger for at least two more years, workplaces will look very different from today.

In this video, we explore how you can boost employee morale when you have in-house and remote teams working with and for you in this ever-changing workplace.

The sweeping changes brought by the coronavirus pandemic will affect the workforce in various ways, and this includes employee morale. Many workers have been encouraged to work from home to lower the risk of coronavirus spread. Some companies, such as Facebook, Square and Google, have started putting infrastructure in play to enable some of its workforces to work from home in the long term, or even permanently.

Telecommuting or working remotely is not an entirely new concept as it has existed to some degree for a few decades now. However, the events in recent years, such as globalisation and the emergence of certain risks, such as the coronavirus pandemic, combined with shifts in modern technology and demands for greater workplace flexibility has made remote work more familiar and accessible to more workers.

While remote work has its advantages, particularly in providing workers greater autonomy and flexibility in how and where they work, it also has its downside. Health experts monitoring the effects of increased remote work during the global pandemic reports that mental health issues are surging.

And then there is also the issue of how remote work is viewed by in-house workers who have not experienced working remotely. There is a certain stigma with remote work—some people may think those who work from home, work less to watch Netflix more or take excursions to the mall or the beach more often.

Well, if you’ve ever tried working from home, you know that this is far from the case. In fact, more studies show that people who work from home suffer from anxiety and stress precisely because they work longer hours.

If you’re a business which keeps a mix of remote and in-house workers, this becomes a pressing issue because this affects overall employee morale, and consequently, employee productivity. So how do you motivate your team and boost team morale when your team is a mix of remote and in-house workers?

Here are three key factors:

(1) Keep deliverables and policies clear.

First things first, determine how employees will be evaluated.

Employees are appraised based on whether they show up at work or not. In the traditional workplace, this is measured by their physical presence at work and the number of hours they spend working. Did they show up today? Did they work the full 8 hours?

In remote teams, measures are not as straightforward. While there is software that may allow you to measure whether a remote worker is working on their desktop at particular times of the day, this seems rather counterintuitive to why we allow remote work to begin with, which is to provide greater autonomy and flexibility. In my previous video, How to motivate employees the right way, I explored how cutting the number of work hours to provide employees with a greater (but reasonable) amount of autonomy motivates employees and results in greater productivity.

As work shifts in-house to remote locations, measures of productivity should shift, too. And these measures should apply to both in-house and remote teams. The focus, then, should be on output,  creating and enforcing policies that enable and encourages workers to focus on delivery. Did they do the work that they were supposed? Where they able to accomplish the work?

But what if workers are required to “show up” to work at specific hours of the day? What if the type of work requires teams to chat with or deal with customers at particular hours of the day? How do we, as a business, handle that?

Here’s an example of a business whose employees all work remotely but “show up” for work at pre-determined times of the day: Mountain Bikes Direct. In a previous video, I discuss how they keep their team motivated despite all of them working remotely from different parts of the world. The key to this productivity is being clear about what is expected from each team member. Being fair to everyone is an important factor that determines employee morale.

(2) Stay in contact.

Promote a positive, inclusive culture by setting up regular catch up meetings, where both in-house and remote team members are present.

The catch-up meetings can be a venue to update the team about the state of current projects or a venue to elicit help from each other to fix issues. Alternatively, these can be informal virtual coffee or cocktail meetings (depending on the profile of your team) for people to just catch up and share stories to nurture team bonding.

Aside from these catch-up meetings, businesses should also define how employees can report challenges or issues with work specific to them. Determine a communication plan with clear channels for escalation.

What if a remote worker experiences connectivity issues in the middle of critical work? Where should he or she report this issue, and how should he or she proceed? Or, what if an in-house worker needs to reach a remote team at hours outside of operations for a critical issue? Or, what if an employee, whether in-house or remote, suddenly needs to take a day off for personal reason?

(3) Keep health checks and policies in place.

Experts say that the global pandemic will change the way we work. Remember your team member who would report to work even if they are sick just because work needs to be done? We used to measure worker diligence and commitment based on what an employee is willing to sacrifice just to get to work done. It was normal to see a sick person report to work because things needed to get done.

Not anymore.

These “norms” should soon change—and as leaders and business owners, it’s our responsibility to keep everyone safe and healthy. There is a need to revise health policies, particularly policies on when employees should not report to work due to particular illnesses. The new policies and norms should also include measures that address employee mental health, particularly to remote employees who are more susceptible to loneliness isolation, anxiety, and even depression.

People are driven by their purpose. They are motivated to work when they see that their work contributes towards this purpose. They are also motivated when there is fairness when policies are equally enforced so that good work is recognised and offences are corrected.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

Read more >