I recently had the time to read a book by Howard Behar called “It’s Not About the Coffee” – Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks. I noted how Behar makes a point about the dangers of simply being a seller of a commodity, and how you have to do more than sell expensive coffee to win brand loyalty. He goes on to state that Starbucks does exactly this, it delivers more – “we’re in the people business serving coffee, not the coffee business serving people”.

A debate that regularly rears its head is the amount of investment made in staff members in terms of training and courses. An interesting meme that was posted on LinkedIn anecdotes a discussion between the CFO and the CEO of a company. CF0: “What happens if we invest in and train the staff, and then they leave?” to which the CEO replies: “A better question to ask is what happens if we don’t invest in and train the staff, and they stay?”

People are the one element within your business who have the direct power to make a difference to your business and brand often without your control as a manager or business owner. People (within your business) influence whether you make it or not as a business.

While a huge focus is placed on branding correctly, it is vital that employees are not forgotten as part of this process. Yes, focusing on the logo, the corporate identity, advertisements, communication elements, the website, the social media frenzy, the stores’ look and feel, brochures, posters and ensuring a high standard and level of consistency is of the utmost importance. But if, internally, the employees are not engaged at the same level, a disconnect occurs. A brand needs to, at all times, look, feel, and act the same way both internally and externally.

A lack of internal brand engagement and feeling of belonging by employees erodes the brand’s values, which are then projected externally. When customers begin to feel undervalued and unloved, they re-evaluate their options. With the proliferation of choices available, it is easy for the customers to not stand for this and to simply take their business elsewhere. When this happens, the profitability and the brand value often take a dive soon after.

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group, was asked his viewpoint on employees within his business, and his approach to staff management. He had a simple, yet highly effective answer to this – “train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”. In business and branding it is vital that everything matches (both internally and externally). Invest in the right talent to grow the business, for if you don’t, the talented will leave and you may just be left with those no one else wants.