The Corporate Visit
The checklist for the store was constantly growing. Every item added was another thing to pile onto my stress.
Every associate in the store had some task or some project, there were no idle hands. The store needed to look perfect, and there were only a few days to get it done. Oh, did the customers get attended to properly? Well, this wasn’t the time to worry about that kind of thing.
It was the same way each and every time the district manager came to visit. No matter what company I worked for, whether it was retail, the food industry, or name whatever corporation you like, it was the same every time there was a visit from some higher up.
Suddenly, all of the focus was on the tiny details. Were the shelves organized? Was the drink cooler looking the exact way this particular district manager liked? Were the registers free of any clutter, or at least anything that was deemed clutter by this guy? It was all about the appearance of a smooth operating machine of a store. There wasn’t time to make sure that we helped every customer. The store just needed to look good superficially.
And that is where corporations lose track of their real goals. The business is there to make a profit off of the items sold. This is accomplished by providing excellent help on the sales floor. It can be the thing that puts a retail company ahead of the competition, which includes the ease of online shopping from the comfort of home. In a physical store, the customer service is the reason to come in.
None of that matters when the district manager visits.
That’s what happens when a business gets corporatized. It becomes about impressing the person above you. How do you do that? By looking the part. If the store looks clean and organized, then we must be providing great service, even though those things aren’t a direct indicator.
The Personal Corporation
I laugh at myself every time we get visited. It’s the only way to respond when you sit back and realize how much we are hustling around to please the particulars of one person. Here our store stands with products to sell, and that just isn’t the priority. How did we get here?
Being a supervisor at a store is just so I can pay rent and eat. It’s not what I want to do. God, absolutely not. Yet, my writing is also focused on getting “customers.” One day, hopefully, that will be paying individuals purchasing my book or, dare I dream, multiple books. For now, those customers are you. You spend time as your currency, reading my ramblings. (And thank you for being here!)
Even at the beginning stages, my writing is a brand. Unfortunately, brands need to focus on appearance.
I may not need to worry about clean shelves, stocked products, organized registers, and open aisles, but there are things just as important to my “business.” Am I posting consistently? Am I creating engaging articles? Are my social media outlets providing posts worth interacting with? Am I commenting on other writer’s work? How’s my newsletter look? The list goes on and on.
And it completely overwhelms me.
I’ve gone through highs and lows keeping up with this process. Posting to Medium, updating my website, creating engaging social media posts across every outlet available, interacting with other writers, writing for myself and the podcast I co-host, recording said podcast, and realizing I have to do all of those things all over again because it’s a new week. It’s enough to shut me down, and that’s exactly what happens from time to time. (I’m currently in one of those lulls).
Even now, I have to keep the anxiety down, knowing I’ve been slacking. It’s like my DM is getting ready to visit and nobody has stocked the shelves in weeks. Why do I get like this? Sometimes I need to sit back and look at what my brand is all about. Just like in retail, what is this all for? I’m selling something, whether it’s bought with money or time or both, it’s a product.
What is my product? My writing, right? Well, it’s more specific than that. What kind of writing? My fiction, my books. Did I mention my creative writing once in my long list of todos and branding? Nope. What kind of brand misses the point like that?
A corporation that only cares about the DM visits.
The Balancing Act
Your writing brand is extremely important. If you want to write for an audience, your brand is what you put out in front of people. Even if you don’t focus on it, your brand is still there. It’s the tools, the voice, the image you create for your readers, whether you like it or not. You should cultivate it, nurture it, define what it is, but never corporatize it. When you do that, you can easily lose focus on what all that todo list is really for.
I sit here forgetting that my book waits for one last edit for an agent. This platform I am creating is for something that I continually don’t work into my brand. The figurative customers walk into a store where all the workers are focused on what they think is important, but really all those customers want is a question answered so they can decide on a new piece of furniture. They walk out frustrated and take their time and money someplace else. But damn, those shelves look good.
Don’t get me wrong, the todo list of your brand is important. Those shelves should be clean, but you can’t fixate on it entirely.
The same goes for the metrics your brand produces. The corporation at my retail job wants to see sign ups for new members, surveys completed by the customer, and a high rate of customers who enter the store and actually get something. Sometimes those numbers are all that matters to them, but they aren’t the only factors of success.
Our store may be low on sign ups because everyone is already a member, or they make purchases but don’t want that flood of emails. Two people fill out those surveys a week, but would it really make a difference if ten did, like our corporate office wants? Ten out of a few thousand every week isn’t a great sample size. But we sure as hell better get ten!
Metrics are important, you need to see them to track your progress, but you shouldn’t be a slave to them either. It’s all about balance.
Finding the (Real) Goal of Your Brand
You need to push away from the todo list of your personal brand and remember the entire point of it. Only you know what all of this branding is for. Do you want to write books? Do you want to build a portfolio for jobs in content creation? Do you want to focus on building a following to showcase your marketing technique for employers? Do you simply want to write more to get better and grow your skills?
Whatever your focus is, your brand should support it, not smother it. Do you write and edit parts of your book every day? Do you create new articles for your portfolio each week? If those are your focus, they better be a part of your everyday.
The beautiful thing about your personal brand is you are the associate, the GM, the DM, the CEO, and the Founder. You are the one inspecting your company, making sure each aspect of it is running the way you want it to.
All you have to decide is the main focus of your personal company. Your brand is about what you want, no one else. So many times the todo list becomes important because we think those things are what is expected of our own brands. Remember the point of it all. Direct your brand with your core goals, not your anxiety.