The Best Way To Client Retention: The Answer May Surprise You

By Kevin Huhn

“So, what is our brand?”

That was the question that I asked on Day 3, during my time as the business development consultant to a pro hockey league. The answer that I got was the same answer that 80% of business owners answer with, when I ask them: What is your brand?

“I don’t know.”

If you believe what you have is worthy of being in the marketplace, then it is up to you to make sure it gets out there with integrity, efficiency and morally.

Want to know the No.1 thing that is killing your business? It is the same thing that will ensure long term success. It is called – branding.

How is that? How is it that the same ‘thing’ can produce two outcomes?

When you are branding you are branding. But when you are not branding you are still branding.

The first thing you need to understand is people are nothing more than a skin bag of emotions. Think about what drives us to do what we do. It is our feelings. And when are you ever not feeling?

Branding is the process of determining how you want people to feel when they think about your company.

Try this exercise:

Think about a company – any company.

How do you feel when you think about that company? If you are like most business owners I ask in my workshops – the response is “Good.” Now thinking about the same company – how might their employees feel? How might their suppliers feel? How might their customers feel? As you think about the other groups of people – you may get different feelings.

Now let’s turn the question to your business – how do people feel when they think about your company? This is where it gets interesting. Most of my students raise an eyebrow or give me a facial smirk.

You see the critical component to ensuring success in your business for the long term, is understanding that your biggest job as a business owner is to ask: how do I want people to feel when they think about my business?
The work to ensure you deliver on that desire is called, branding. Branding is a process that you will go through over and over and over. It is not a point of arrival.

Remember how I said we are a bag of emotions? The one common element to every business around the world is people. And since we are all about feelings, then as a business owner your job is to look at each relationship group and determine how you want them to feel about your business.

What is a relationship group?

Every business has a common element and that is people. These people I have identified into groups such as customer, employee and suppliers. How do you want each of those groups of people to feel? Branding is that ongoing process. Now if you say, “Kevin this is nice, but I don’t have time for this” …then I say, you are still branding.

WAIT WHAT? You are probably thinking.

Well, let me ask you something. Have you ever not had a feeling? Seriously! When have you ever not had a feeling, while you were awake consciously?

You always do – and so do all those business relationship groups around your business. Now the feeling could be neutral. In other words they may not know you exist. Case in point – What does the media feel about you? They probably have never heard of you and thus you have never been interviewed by a media outlet.

The fact is they do not know about you. So the feeling they have is neutral.

But I digress.

Your job as a business owner is to determine how you want people to feel when thinking about your business. Then it builds out to your employees. And it starts today… in fact, right now!

I learned from one of Canada’s leaders, Colin Sprake, Founder & CEO at Make Your Mark Training and Consulting Inc. (, that Core Values are the guiding principle to the success for any business.

First he explained what Core Values are. “Core Values are not something you strive for in the future. You live by them everyday. Whether you think you have them or not, you follow Core Values. And people are judging you on them.”

Put another way, when you are branding – you are living by your Core Values. “Core Values are for everyone who is involved with the business, all relationships. If people do not align with the Core Values of the company then the relationship does not last,” he said. “Core Values in a business are the guiding principles to your products, services and systems. You should never launch something new in your business unless it is inline with the Core Values you have in place.”

Over 30 years in business, Colin’s experience resulted in this finding, “I have never seen a company fail that lived by their Core Values. As long as they are written down and defined clearly for all people involved to see, it is highly unlikely the company will fail because they have Core Values.”

In Make Your Mark, Colin has the Core Values front and centre for all employees, clients, suppliers and other key relationships to see. He shared how, “every employee who starts here (at MYM), gets a framed photo of the Core Values to hang right beside the pictures of their spouses, children and pets. These are most important.”

The best part is, the process of creating Core Values is not a big undertaking. “There should be no more than seven maximum,” Colin said. “They can be single words or statements. Ours at Make Your Mark are:

– Community of Trust
– Respect the Individual
– Unconditional Gratitude
– Commitment to Excellence
– Open to Possibilities
– Integrity”

I learned that as a part of their interview process, Colin’s team spend 90 minutes with each candidate going over Core Values. He says, “There must be a fit between our Core Values otherwise there is no hire.”

And if you are thinking, ‘when my business reaches a certain success level, then I will implement Core Values,’ you need to understand that, “Core Values drive culture,” he says.

Most business owners I know are looking to increase staff retention, as the cost of hiring can be quite expensive. And with that in mind, then the message that I got loud and clear from Colin was – it is time you make defining Core Values an immediate priority. Stop the frustration that exists amongst your people. Since they take care of your clients, you need to take care of your employees. And that stems from living by clearly defined Core Values.

Kevin Huhn is the Founder and CEO of HOPES, WISHES and DREAMS and through its mission wants to change the statistics of: 99% of businesses failing in their first 5 years and 87% of employees actively disengaged or not engaged at work, to: 99% of Canadian businesses succeeding in their first 5 years AND 87% of employees actively engaged at work; by helping business owners reinvent their brand with proven systems, programs and products that engage, empower and enlighten in order to impact their rate of success. To learn more visit