Having a mission statement is important in starting a business, but if the statement is too long, the message can get lost. That was my problem; I learned that no one working in my restaurants knew what our mission statement was.
That frustrated me. I had created an awesome mission statement that was a few sentences long, but some people who had worked for me for years still couldn’t recite it. So, I came up with a simplified concept, a system that streamlined my vision and every process in my brand. And best of all, it’s easy for my team members to remember, and it gives them a clear vision, too. The system is called the three pillars.
The three pillars are three words that you believe represent your brand. They comprise the foundation of every aspect of it. And one of the most important ways they work is by helping you define your training programs. Your employees have to feel the three pillars, know them, and embody them in order to do their jobs well, reflect the company’s image, and connect with the customer in a way that gives the customer a great, memorable experience.
The three pillars start with you, the entrepreneur and owner, but the real magic happens when you get your employees to buy into them as well. That happens with great, comprehensive training. The biggest thing people misunderstand about training is that real training is investing in your people. When your staff fully understands what they’re doing and why, that’s when you can create a special experience for your customers that will make them loyal to your company.
Training must stay in step with marketing
Another big benefit of top-notch training: it makes your marketing work smoother and faster.
Your marketing program is a promise you made to the public about your product and/or services, but what if some of your sales associates can’t execute that promise? Imagine if Apple came out with a new iPhone, and some of your salespeople had no idea what the new features were. Nobody told them, and nobody trained them. Customers are coming into the store in droves, asking about the new product and all of its capabilities. They clearly saw that fancy marketing plan the higher-ups made, but some of your salespeople haven’t. They can’t help the customers. Your sales associates get frustrated and leave, and it’s expensive for you to hire and train someone else. If there is a huge disconnect between your marketing and your training, your employees won’t succeed, which means you won’t succeed.
Creating the employee avatar
The three pillars define who your customers and brand are, and training is about getting your employees aligned with the customer avatar to create an experience through your employees. One definition of avatar, from Merriam-Webster, is an embodiment (as of a concept or philosophy, often in a person.) When hiring, delegating, and especially training, it’s important to create your employee avatar. After you define your ideal customer, you need to decide who is the best kind of person to sell to that type of customer and how to train them to get the customer experience and desired outcome that you’re looking for. The employee avatar must align with your three pillars.
Though customer avatars are a much-talked-about part of business, employee avatars are often overlooked. Once you understand what your customers’ expectations are, you can train your people to meet them. For example, if your customer wants a fancy sports car with leather seats and all top-of-the-line features, they have different expectations than if they were buying a low-end car. Who is the ideal employee avatar to match that customer avatar?
If I bring a group of disheveled, mismatched painters who aren’t in uniform to a $3 million house, they will be judged differently. That customer avatar expects a clean-cut group with a custom logo shirt tucked in. But for a company building track homes where the customer just wants the house up quickly and at a lower price, they probably don’t care as much. Your customer avatar dictates your employee avatar, and the way you get those to align is through training.
Training never ends and continually builds culture
Here’s where most businesses stumble: They train their employees for six to 12 weeks and release them into the business. They’re all trained now, right? Maybe they can do that one job well, but what are you doing to invest in them? Most of the time, if you ask someone who’s been at a job for four or five years, “Tell me about the ongoing training process,” they won’t understand what you mean. “I was trained at the beginning,” they’ll say. That means there’s no focus on upward mobility, and that’s a huge problem. If an employee stops learning, how can you, as the company leader, expect excellence?
Training should never end. Growth for employees is essential to the growth of the business. Granted, most companies cannot possibly train every employee for the multitude of scenarios they’re going to face on any given day. A 10-year employee has seen a lot of them, though, and when I’m building manuals and training systems, I go right to that employee and begin writing down all of the friction points they’ve experienced in their career. Every problem is an opportunity. Ask your experienced and successful employees to tell you about the friction points they encounter, and then build your training around those.
It’s worth repeating: Dedicated training of your employees is largely about creating a great experience for your customers. But it’s also about creating a great experience for your employees, who are the personality of your brand. Their buy-in through your continual training investment in them can only help your company connect with customers and grow.
Your three pillars are your mission and vision, but the internal piece of that is the company culture created by your three pillars. And your training program creates this culture.