Intentionally or not, you may have easily caused harm to your business, whether it was a misguided tweet or your finances come to light. There are so many things that can inadvertently cause your business harm, and not all of them are fixable. After spending so much time and money on creating and developing a business, it can be a fatal – or near enough – blow to your company’s reputation, finances, or foundations,
Let’s look at one of the most successful franchises in the Western world – Starbucks. In 2015 Fortune named Starbucks as the fifth most admired company in the world, beaten by Apple, Google, Berkshire Hathaway, and Amazon – in that order. It was proclaimed that Starbucks was number one for ‘innovation, people management, use of corporate assets, social responsibility, quality of management, financial soundness, long-term investment, and quality of products and services.’ They are frequently renovating, having opened over a hundred new, franchise, stores last year, in the UK alone. Their cups remain at the top of Instagram, with #starbucks used over twenty-nine million times in recent posts.
However, looking at the same company, Starbucks suffered greatly a few years before the above report, and again this year due to certain tax avoidances. Company tax is something every business has to pay, yet, alongside international top-cat Amazon, Starbucks avoided paying the lion share of theirs. This led to people boycotting the company, bad press, and a slandering bandwagon people always love to jump on. The roll on effect for Starbucks wasn’t minimal – yes, they were able to get back on top, and a lot of their customers didn’t care enough not to flood to grab the first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the year, but the money they had to spend on marketing, and the fact that they had to release their financial records to the public, shows how devastating it was.
Social media platforms are no safer from the public eye – in the UK, Facebook and Google were torn into by certain government officials saying that they were ‘profiting from hate.’ One of the arguments states that with the option for YouTubers to add ads to their videos – videos which the YouTuber is earning money from, Google makes more money. And seeing as there are countless terrorist accounts found, and still hidden and in use, on YouTube, Google is making money from this hate mongering.
There are many arguments for and against with this, how are Google supposed to police just accounts that might be run by ISIS, and regulate them against their own policy? And, also, how is it so easy for terrorists to create accounts – why isn’t there more policing on this? The answer is something only Google can say. But, it shows how something you, as a company, might not see, can be picked up on and blown up in the media.
Where larger companies, particularly international empires, can come back from these things due to the money they can afford to spend on marketing and appeasing the public, they also have to answer to more people. If they are mentioned in the press in a negative light – everyone hears about it. Where a smaller company, might only be effected in the immediate area. And where this is still devastating, it’s also not going to be anywhere near a costly, and can be contained and resolved quicker.
Starting out on the right foot is always how you should start; don’t even contemplate trying to cut corners with your finances, it won’t get you anywhere and will always turn around and bite you. Pay what you have to pay and keep detailed records of it. Learn from Starbucks’ and Amazon’s mistakes and stay on the level rather than having to pay millions later on. No one is expecting you to be a financial whiz, but you need to understand the basics. Hire a financial advisor or bookkeeper to look after everything and make sure that you’re on the right track.
Your business reputation is the most important thing. Through all your marketing you will have been building up a brand that is seen as professional, reliable, and the best at what you do. So why put that at risk with a stupid use of social media? Sending out a quick tweet, or replying to a nasty comment might be spur of the moment and seemingly harmless. But everything on the internet can, and will, be misconstrued. You might have meant well, but someone can take offense. You might just be expressing your opinion – but you need to remember that your opinions are not the opinion of your company. You might be an extremely left wing or right, but your company is better off staying neutral so as not to offend or lose customers.
You can comment on political movements but refrain from taking sides. The same goes for extreme views. You might have strong views about people’s lives due to religion. You might have harsh views on the way people express themselves, the sexuality they have, the gender they identify as, their age, gender and even race. Any number of things can cause strong feelings in different people for different reasons, and where you have a right to your opinion, whether they are right or wrong, you can’t impose them on your company without alienating the majority of the population.
Your online reputation can be ruined in seconds thanks to social media, but you can fix it. You can repair online reputation through a management service, where any conflicts, negative comments, and responses are dealt with in a calm and controlled manner. When it’s your company being slate, your baby that you grew and worked every hour under the sun for, it’s easy for tempers to rise and the wrong response made, so in these instances, handing that power to an external moderator can do nothing but help.
Something a lot of companies don’t consider that can harm their business more than anything is the reputation they have within their community. Now, that community can be the local town, the industry you work in, the other companies you work with or are affiliated with. Basically, any circle you company revolves in can be considered a community. And if you ruin your reputation within any of these groups, it can be a death sentence for your business.
Within professional circles, you are most likely to ruin your reputation through late payments, late deliveries, or even rudeness. They might forgive you once or twice if the product or service you provide is good, but after that you’re toast. Not only will you have ruined your chances with that company, but they talk to each other – so chances are that you’ll find it hard to get another contract or deal with another company. You can rectify the situation by not doing it in the first place, and by issuing an act of goodwill combined with time, patience and hard work to earn their trust again.
Losing your good reputation in the town you’re based can be even more detrimental, particularly if you are relying on them as customers. Retail or retail providers might feel this more than others. In towns, normally, there is a vast percentage that are linked and take each other’s word as gospel. There are probably tens of businesses like yours in the area that have been around far longer and have proved themselves to the community. You need to nestle in with them and get yourself established with the locals. Tap into the local feel, the revenue that is waiting for you. But do not alienate a part of the population. You might be a coffee shop thriving on the students at the local college, but don’t let that make you reject the custom of mothers, the elderly, or morning office-goers. No one demographic should feel like they can’t come into your store.
Yes, your coffee shop or barbers might have a younger feel to it, with a modern-vintage look, fancy drinks with weird names, and charger ports at every table, but if a 60-year-old lady comes in for a cup of tea, make her feel welcome and at home, as much as you would any other customer. This sort of welcoming atmosphere will do wonders for your reputation.
At the end of the day, there are a million ways for you to accidentally harm your company, and many of them are due to outside forces working against you. But as long as you avoid the dark side and try to establish yourself as trustworthy and reliable, and live by those morals, you’ll be well on your way to an unharmed business career.