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6 Business Lessons Learned from Working with World-Leading Brands

October 2017

Merilee Kern is Executive Editor of “The Luxe List” International News Syndicate, accomplished entrepreneur, award-winning author and APP developer and influential media voice.

It’s rather shocking to know that fully 96 percent of businesses fail within 10 years of existence, but what’s even more distressing is that many of these failures are entirely avoidable. Even once-mighty Corporate America behemoths are not immune to preventable peril, as exemplified by a glut of high-profile implosions with untold others currently struggling to adapt and stay agile within the digital age – an era where business dynamics on multiple fronts are a fluid, ever-elusive target.

While many business and franchise owners embrace information technology such as cloud computing, ecommerce, cybersecurity and emerging robotics, many also make the erroneous assumption that innovations capable of boosting safety and digital defenses, operational efficiency and bottom line-impacts related thereto are financially out of reach. Indeed, often discounted or overlooked is the opportunity to significantly reduce, or even entirely eliminate, omnipresent and recurring expenses in both the short and long term.

Yet others either underestimate or entirely disregard how powerful, whether enriching or debilitating, a company culture can be and even how issues like workplace safety play a key role. Multiple millions of non-fatal workplace injuries needlessly occur each year, resulting in absenteeism and workers’ compensation claims that chip away at a company’s profit margins. And then there are brand identity, perception, reputation and service issues wreaking marketplace havoc, as both small and large companies, alike, fail to “speak human” and meaningfully connect with their constituents.

With this in mind, I sought insight from C-suite strategist Jeff Kiesel – a former GE executive and current corporate CEO of Restaurant Technologies, Inc. who’s earned a reputation as a business innovation voice of authority. Given that his firm boasts a roster of multi-billion dollar customers that includes titans of industry like McDonald’s, KFC and Marriott Hotels, I asked if he could share some of the key business lessons he’s learned from working with world-leading brands. This is what he had to say:

1. Customer Insights

World-class companies make many of their business decisions based on laser sharp, analytics-driven insights that veritably impact the activities of all departments in the organization to one extent or another. They’re keenly aware that offering, and ultimately selling, a product or service is the net result of having first built a strategically-crafted, risk-mitigated relationship – one that continues to be honed based on key data points well after a deal is closed. Their own internal sales activities aside, the best companies in the world also demand tangible evidence demonstrating how their offerings, as well as their vendor’s offerings, are impacting their customers. Things like if their offering is saving customers money; how it’s impacting employee, customer and vendor retention and referrals; if it’s increasing operational efficiencies, productivity or creating a safer work space. Such profiling of both prospects and existing customers – or perhaps even lost accounts to the extent possible – can be a determining factor that sets your operation apart from its closest competitors.

2. Embracing Adaptability

Changing paradigms in any industry is often viewed as a huge risk factor. However, global corporations know that the business practices, equipment and other assets they have been relying upon, perhaps for years and maybe even decades, can and probably should change. They understand today’s environment of adapt or die. They embrace emerging technology and breaking proverbial new ground with fresh thinking from everyone and anyone that may very well “build a better mousetrap” and increase efficiencies that boost bottom lines. They curate a culture of ingenuity, seeking input at every touchpoint – from the inside, out and the bottom, up – revising best practices with customers and employees seemingly in real-time.

3. Technology Innovation

Much of the technology found in the food service industry centers around reducing costs, improving efficiency and service quality and helping managers better handle their teams. However, this technology is viewed with eye toward what will provide the best return on investment and improve an operation’s bottom line. To achieve this, the highest caliber operations focus on technology that’s easy to implement, scalable and also provides metrics that are of primary interest to executives – things like customer visits and staff costs as well as employee retention through job satisfaction. The analytics must be easily discernible, providing exact numbers and trend patterns on what it costs to continue operating the old way versus what it would cost to implement new technology.

4. Operational Excellence

Companies successful at a global level also ensure that their management teams at every level, from the C-suite to the front-line, understand their role in ensuring their teams and departments are trained, enthused and working cross-functionally while adhering to standard operating procedures. High caliber companies utilize proven technologies and protocols, and implement methodologies allowing managers to establish a simpler operating environment where they can focus more on cultivating people, both employees and customers, and less time on administrative tasks.

5. Strengthening the Workforce

World-leading brands understand that thoroughly onboarding team members into a company’s culture, with an understanding of its history, purpose, vision and strategy as well as job-specific training, is mission critical. A one-to-one relationship based on trust and candor establishes a path to on-the-job achievement and even growth as staffers evolve in the organization, taking on bigger and more complex roles. For the employee’s part, ongoing training and education, as well as an investment in active listening, understanding, and ideation, is key for proffering loyalty and attaining career advancement. Large successful corporations purposefully and deliberately focus on strengthening employees relative to both relationships and skill level. Cultivating an employee base that’s enthusiastic, well trained and well equipped to do their jobs, also understanding why they are doing any given task, creates an environment of respect that will foster higher accountability and ownership by employees.

6. Corporate Citizenship

Successful corporations worldwide understand the extent to which their company impacts its community – whether that community is the municipality where it resides or the industry it serves. The news cycles are faster than ever before, with social media driving demand for information at a rapid pace. This creates a heightened need for a focused work culture that, while talent-driven, carries with it a ton of heart. These companies take corporate social responsibility quite seriously. They consistently participate in philanthropic projects. Whether that be establishing and continually contributing to an educational foundation offering merit-based college scholarships to employee family members as my own company does, donating goods or providing services pro-bono, or literally picking up litter in the neighborhood park, successful global companies wholeheartedly embrace corporate citizenship and make it a foundational pillar of their organizations.

Kiesel’s takeaways from working with top global brands make clear that a holistic approach to business – one that keeps talent cultivation, character and efficiency top-of-mind – creates team loyalty and support and fosters increased market share. As well, Kiesel is eager to underscore that a company’s culture is nothing short of imperative for building a successful, growth-oriented operation, noting, “The investment is in the long-term success of our clients, for sure, but in gaining the loyalty of our people within the company, as well.” Indeed. I95

Branding, business and entrepreneurship success pundit, Merilee Kern, MBA, is an influential media voice and lauded communications strategist. As the executive editor and producer of “The Luxe List International News Syndicate,” she’s a revered brand and consumer product trends voice of authority who spotlights noteworthy marketplace change makers, movers, and shakers.