Celebrities, controversy and space aliens. Yes, Scientology is in the news again. This time, it’s thanks to a much buzzed about article in The New Yorker.
And though you might not subscribe to their religious beliefs, you have to admit, these people know how to run a business.
While your company might not be able to finance a Tom Cruise-caliber celebrity endorsement, there’s a lot you could learn from Scientology’s entrepreneurial approach to cultivating a following.
The Face of Success
When you think Scientology, you think Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley. According to the New Yorker article, that’s not a coincidence. The Church of Scientology apparently goes out of its way to recruit celebrity members who act as the public face of the church.
And, if their impressive Los Angeles-based Celebrity center is any indication, they’ve committed significant resources to the endeavor, too. And why not? What better way to get your message out than to engage respected leaders who can help sway potential customers to do business with you?
For small businesses, celebrity is much less important than influence. Identifying who in your community or customer base has the connections and the authority to drive business your way is key. In his book, “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell calls them “connectors” and “mavens.” They are the people who influence other people to try new things, visit new businesses and buy new products.
Finding those people and communicating with them, via social media, targeted e-mail or in person, is an inexpensive and effective way to spread the word about your business.
Members of the Church of Scientology are focused, in part, on self-improvement. Part of that process is identifying things about themselves they want to improve and then taking courses to learn how to grow and change.
After achieving success at each level, they move on to the next level. There is, therefore, always a goal to strive for and another level to which to aspire. The path to spiritual enlightenment and to higher levels of responsibility within the church is laid out clearly for members.
Do you provide the same opportunities for your employees? Can your best and your worst employees tell you what they need to do to improve and what awaits them at the next level?
If the answer is ‘no,’ then perhaps you’re not offering a clear enough path to growth and success. That can’t be good for your business.
While it’s true that not everyone in your organization will become a manager or a leader, everyone could surely take on a little more responsibility, do a little better, work a little smarter.
Providing a clearly defined path to those goals will help you grow your business while making your employees feel like a valuable part of your organization.
When L. Ron Hubbard, the author of “Dianetics” and founder of the Church of Scientology, died in 1986, his church could have easily died with him.
Instead, a young leader from within the church stepped forward, took the helm and steered Scientology toward exponential growth.
That leader, David Miscavige has been accused of mistreating and manipulating his employees and followers, which he denies. I have no idea what the truth of the matter is. What I do know, however, is that there is no doubt who is in charge of the organization.
Miscavige is the public face of the church, its spokesperson and its commander-in-chief. By all accounts, no decisions get made without the input of the church’s leader.
Is your organization’s structure as clearly defined? Do your employees and customers know who runs your organization and what the chain of command is for everyday decisions as well as in emergency situations?
If not, now is the time to put a plan into action. Creating a clear breakdown of who is responsible for what, who reports to whom and who will handle what in an emergency will go a long way toward easing confusion and eliminating misunderstandings in your business.
Jeanette Mulvey is the managing editor of BusinessNewsDaily. She has written about small business for more than 20 years and formerly owned her own e-commerce business. Her column, Mind Your Business, appears on Mondays only on BusinessNewsDaily. You can follow her on Twitter at @jeanettebnd or contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.