It’s The New Year…Now What?

I think the perception is that the retail business comes to a screeching halt in retail post-New Year’s Day. The pace and momentum absolutely are altered, but it is certainly not “slow”. There are lots of things that need to be done and can be done. Some of the most common retail activities that organizations are prepping for in January are:

Performance Appraisals
Post Holiday Wrap Up Meetings
-Fiscal 2016 Accountability Communication

These are the company driven initiatives that just, cyclically, occur. What I want to talk about today [I will cover the performance appraisal process and how you can make it more effective in another article] is what you can do to have an impact on your workplace culture and how to manage and elevate your personal brand for the new year.

I want to start with information on personal branding. This is a time consuming process to set up/clean up…but so important to professional growth and establishing your value. Brand and reputation management are critical to retail organizations and equally important to individuals.

Image Source: Google
Image Source: Google

Establish/Update Your Personal Brand

Your personal brand can help communicate to the world if you are adding value or simply taking up space in your industry. It’s important to communicate through Social Media channels and personal interactions that you are committed to adding value and your original voice to your industry and role.

Original does not mean posting regurgitated memes and leadership quotes from other people on Social Media sites. You can certainly share one if it resonates with you but don’t make that your “go-to” share always. Share original thoughts and inspirations. These quotes are “white noise” on most SO/ME platforms. When I see someone consistently share these things I just think of countless, unproductive hours spent pouring over the image galleries.

Here are some of the key points to look at monthly to ensure your brand message is up-to-date and impactful:

Someone once taught me there are 3 C’s in branding: Clarity, consistency, and constancy. Communicate in a way that is organic to your nature, use real words [not industry jargon] and that is clear to those learning about you.

Define Who “YOU” Are
-What do your social media pages say about you?
-Are you communicating topics/ideas/thoughts that are relevant to adding value?
-What are you passionate about?
-What makes you different?
Would people who look at your profile on the various Social Media Platforms know what you stand for? Know what you were good at in your industry? Understand where your expertise lies?

Be Unforgettable
-Be original [see above]
-Be genuine
-Be supportive
-Be kind
-Be helpful
-Be solutions driven and available to assist
-Be fearless and fierce
These are all unique traits in the world today (especially the working world) that will make someone unforgettable. To be transparent, encouraging, and optimistic will help people see your value. This can absolutely be done via Social Media when you communicate positive messages and promote ideas that help to overcome obstacles.

Be A Polished Version of Yourself
I was listening to Howard Stern interview Joan Rivers a few years back and she mentioned that she had a live-in stylist so that she could get ready if she had to run to the market for something. Howard Stern asked why she needed a stylist to go to the market and her answer has stuck with me: “Most people only get to see me once in their life. I need to look my best as they will tell people about that experience”. I loved that answer…it’s true – we may not all be celebrities but we need to make an impression (hopefully a good one). According to AdWeek, “92% of companies use Social Media for recruitment”
-Is your profile picture appropriate? (Meaning no car selfies and no duck face selfies)
-Is your summary/description area clear to what your strengths are and what your interests are? Does your “headline” communicate your brand statement/title? If your headline is “Actively Seeking” or loaded with meaningless retail buzzwords, you may want to rethink that strategy so people can find you based on your role or desired role.
-Are your groups, likes, favorites, retweets, pins, etc. aligned with your brand the majority of the time?
-When you are at work do you present a slightly elevated personal aesthetic than what the “dress code” either dictates or requires?

Perfect Your Elevator Pitch/Sharpen Your Personal Narrative
-Be able to articulate your value, your strengths, your self-development initiatives at a moments notice
-Always have a thoughtful, meaningful answer when people ask you how you are, what you’ve been up to, how are things going? Enough of the pedestrian platitudes…this is your opportunity to communicate your personal brand statement. Don’t waste it!
-Network, attend professional networking events even if outside retail industry specific ones – meeting new people who can inspire you is always a good investment of your time and it will give you the opportunity to really elevate the clear and concise delivery of your brand

Even though LinkedIn is changing, not necessarily for the better [just sayin’], it is still the best, most used “professional [I am using that term loosely for the most recent incarnation of LinkedIn]” networking site. 89% of recruiters have hired someone through LinkedIn, so pay special attention to that platform in building your professional brand and then make sure the others you are active on are aligned with that message. 33% of employers have rejected a candidates based on something they discovered on social profiles.

Image Source:
Image Source:

New Year, New Ideas

The New Year is a great time to implement new programs. Everyone is open and amenable to improving their workplace culture and job satisfaction and I, recently, introduced two new programs into my business to elevate engagement and recognition:

Inside my retail organization we pride ourselves on being innovative and making sure we never fall into the trap of “this is how we’ve always done it” or “tried and true”. Earlier in this blog post I covered, briefly, at little bit about personal aesthetic and being polished and professional and this first initiative revolved around that.

At Cotton Candy and Spark*L, we are business casual but err on the side of professionally casual – but we decided that we wanted to have “Formal Friday’s” where everyone in the office dressed up, like really dressed up. This was, initially, supposed to be one-time program but it was so well received and our employees were asking when we could do it again so we made it a weekly program.

Here is the impact that it had:
-Working relationships improved…people started planning events after work because they were so dressed up and wanted to go out and have dinner or drinks.
-Stronger working relationships were forged and an improvement in support and partnership was palpable
-There has been an overall elevation, daily, of personal aesthetic and when we have visitors in the office you can see that everyone embraces that as an opportunity to dress up regardless of the day of the week

The other program we implemented was inspired by Ivanka Trump’s Brand because it is so brilliant. In her offices she started The Wall Of Kindness. Their team was challenged to perform an act of kindness each day throughout the holiday season, write it down, and post it on the wall. I loved this idea and we implemented it. We also added another Wall Of Kindness” for coworkers to recognize each other when they went above and beyond.

Photo Source:
Photo Source:

It was such an easy program to initiate, communicate, and build momentum around. It was a very inexpensive program as well. We ordered custom cut and colored Post-It-Notes and allocated wall space for both categories, had a vinyl dye cut wall stickers made to give it a polished headline look and a permanent feel and the employees did the rest.

Here what the impact was:
-People were inspired to recognize how natural it is, in their daily lives, to help people
-They were inspired to proactively assist
-Our HR issues have seen a decrease of 47% since we implemented this program
-The team found out how valuable it was to contribute and give back to the community

Both of these programs were very effective and the thing I like about them is that they can be introduced on a small scale, so if your company doesn’t bless it as a company program, you can easily bring it to your area of responsibility (Region, District, and/or Store).

With all the official retail business things that are happening, it behooves Retail Leaders to find programs that will engage, enchant, and energize (The 3 E’s) their teams.

If you have a program either company wide or for your team that creates moments of delight, teamwork, inspiration…please share it in the comments section. Let’s share the best practices that makes our business successful!


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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