My business (Sonic, but not the burger joint) is significantly smaller than most of its competitors, so being authentic is one of our strongest competitive edges. And this authenticity comes in many forms -- it's the people you hire, how well you stimulate engagement, and how you motivate your team. Being authentic in these aspects is not always easy, but as an entrepreneur, you learn that the best things never are.
But, how do you build an authentic business?
1. Hire nice people
Never underestimate the power of being nice. Hiring genuinely nice people has been an invaluable cornerstone of my entire business philosophy. If you hire nice people, they are kind to your customers, who reward you with their loyalty, and that cycle sustains itself. It seems simple, but I'm surprised by how often this idea falls by the wayside.
I know what you're thinking: Well, duh! Because you always hire the best and the brightest, right? Right?!
Probably not. You're strapped for time, you're growing at a rate you had never imagined and you settle for Joe, the guy who came in for his interview with his shirt inside out. You can do better. Really take your time, hire an awesome HR team and empower your managers to help hire nice people-- this will set the tone for your entire enterprise.
2. Motivate them
So, you've hired your nice people. You sent Joe packing and went with Amelia, who took a little longer to find but is a much better fit for your organization-- good for you. Now, how do you get all those nice people motivated to do their best work for your company? Their motivation will come directly from you, from your passion for the industry and the authentic way in which that needs to be communicated. Remind yourself why you're pursuing something in the first place at times when that thing is most challenging or your business's deeper purpose seems murky.
For me, I'm motivated by the fact that Sonic really is fixing the internet in America by giving our customers a fair choice for their internet provider. I communicate this motive with employees at quarterly company meetings, I sit down with groups of new hires every few months to share Sonic's story, I have lunch in the breakroom, and I never stop reminding everyone 'why' our work matters. I authentically care about what we are doing, and I share that over and over.
3. Engage them
Your vision for your organization is meaningless unless you share it with the people you need to help you achieve it. They need to know what they are working toward other than just a paycheck.
What is the end goal? What is the real purpose behind your mission, your business's core values? And how are they contributing?
Sharing your vision will allow employees to be a part of something bigger, something more than 'just another job', which is much more powerful than a cool, new cappuccino machine. That vision will be the long-term drive of your organization, and it will push your employees to do their best work. This can be a conversation in the hallway, the beginning of a presentation or a cake delivered to each employee. Whatever form it takes, be relentless.
4. Pay attention to the little things
You've hired the right people. They're motivated and engaged. Now how do we keep them happy? First, focus on what key factors make your business special. For us, it's a multitude of things, but one example is our 'All Hands' meetings. This is something we've done since the beginning and the impact remains huge.
It's my opportunity to engage, motivate and reward the people of Sonic. We pass out awards for the month's standout employees, we talk about the past and the future and we don't take ourselves too seriously. It's real. It's authentic. There is emotion, because I am so very proud of every one of the team.
And, it's so important. Along with free pizza on Fridays and successful launch celebrations, these meetings bring us back together and remind everyone that they're part of a team-- an especially awesome team.
Keeping these activities happening even with a company's exponential growth is huge. They are the defining aspects of your entire enterprise and the core of the organization's authenticity. Keep what separates you from the competition; compete with them not by emulating them, but by doing the opposite: doing what makes your business genuine and unique. Your customers will recognize it and so will the people who work for you. I assure you it will make all the difference.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors