Passion for change Featured

7:00pm EDT February 23, 2009
Jeff Battin, founder and chairman, Communifx Jeff Battin, founder and chairman, Communifx

Twenty years after Jeff Battin founded his company, people have finally stopped asking if he sells fax machines for a living.

Communifax, the marketing company Battin founded, confused clients because the message wasn’t strong and clear. So last summer, Battin guided 82 employees through a rebranding process that restructured the company’s mission, down to the name.

Communifax became Communifx, with a nod toward the company’s “effects” on customers.

“Everybody is charged with part of the process,” says Battin, the chairman of the company. “That project is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Smart Business spoke with Battin about how to drive a change as big as rebranding through your company.

Q. How can a leader involve employees in rebranding the company?

I have to be out there listening. We’ve grown so fast that it’s hard for me to keep up with the new faces. I’m constantly out there, putting my hand out, introducing myself. I don’t introduce myself by title; I introduce myself by my name: ‘Hi, I’m Jeff. What’s your name? What do you do?’

I think it says a lot for the chairman and owner to reach out and learn a little bit about these people that are actually driving your business. I get a sense of whether or not that vision’s shared by keeping my ear to the ground as much as possible.

Every single employee was interviewed as a part of this [rebranding] process. We involved the associates so that they felt they were part of it. Every employee was interviewed for at least 15 minutes to half an hour through an independent company and so we learned our weaknesses our strengths. Based on that, we developed the brand personality, the brand pillars, the essence.

Q. What’s your advice for a leader during the change?

Commit yourself in a very passionate way. If you’re not almost to the point of overzealous about your position and your new strategy, then you’ve not sold yourself on it. And if you haven’t sold yourself on the new vision or the new strategy, then it’s going to be impossible to sell your associates. And if you can’t sell your associates, then you’re dead in water.

A lot of it starts with your passion. You can’t walk in the office in a bad mood.

You have to leave your frustrations — whether they’re personal or even if they’re business-related — at the door. Passion starts from the top, and it works its way down. If I show up to work with an attitude or I carry issues or problems around the office, it zaps their vision, it zaps their attitude.

They view me as the leader, not only for my strategic vision but as the one who started the company, who drives the passion. I have to articulate that vision not in what I say all the time but in my actions.

Q. How do you communicate the changes to employees?

It’s important for something as important as a rebranding effort to get your associates outside of the office. We opted for a nice hotel, the Marriott. We had cocktail hour and hors d’oeuvres, and then they spent about two hours with the presentation I put together.

We did this really cool [video] and everyone got our new brand standards. They got copies of all our literature. I went through the whole process of why we did the branding, what our new pillars were, what’s the essence of who we are, what’s our brand personality.

Then I started showing them some of the graphic elements of the brand and what they could expect to see. We handed out some really nice Under Armour sportswear with the new logo. You might not think that that’s important, but we want to be associated with quality so our sportswear company that we

picked is Under Armour ... as opposed to having an off-brand.

Q. How do you continue to drive the brand internally?

We’re adding to the brand. We’re not staying, and I think that’s important. Even though it’s only been a few months, I’m being asked a lot of questions like: ‘Jeff, can we do this, or can we do that?’ I’ve

assigned someone the main responsibility for brand continuity. She’s coming to me with questions on new ideas. Because when you develop it, you can’t think of everything upfront. You’re going to miss

some things.

Inevitably, associates are going to come up with ideas on how to present the company, which is the brand. I’m saying, ‘Wow, I didn’t think about it that way.’ So try and remain flexible.

If you think about brand, the brand is impacted by customer service, so as we add more and more associates in the account management area. There’s certain ways that we handle conflict management because that has an impact on the brand. When I originally started the rebrand, you don’t think of conflict management as a part of the brand, but it certainly is. The image of the company is impacted by the way your associates treat [customers], right down to Jane who answers the phone.

How to reach: Communifx, (866) 372-7272 or www.communifx.com