This article was first published on the Marketing Partners blog on February 16, 2018, and has been updated on this blog – September 15, 2019
Unless You are a Sex Offender or the Repo Man, Don’t Hide Behind Your Company Brand
You’re the CEO, but your customers don’t know it. You manage from your tower of ivory, while lesser beings handle the minions. “It’s my business and I’ll run it the way I deem fit. I have people to handle the public.” These are just some of the excuses you attempt to float out to the world, but you know it’s bullshit. Worse yet, the community at large no longer cares for faceless corporations and companies. They wish to know with whom they are spending their money, and what they do with it. They’re interested in the social and environmental records on these mysterious beings at the helms of enterprise.
These “people” are consumers. As such, they demand more from a firm than just fair and honest treatment and value for their money. They expect to see socially responsible companies caring more about their brand identity and profits than their impact on humanity and the planet. Prove them otherwise.
It makes no sense to be shielded from all speculation, suspicion, and aloofness because YOU are the perpetrator of that which you hide. Stop hiding. Your company brand is you, and vice versa. It’s all well and good if you are the Repo Man or a sex offender, but other than that, I can’t think of any other reasons why shielding your identity is a good idea.
Like it or don’t, you are your brand. It’s important for the relationship with your prospects and clients/customers for you to be the face of the business. Your stakeholders internally and externally fully expect to keep the curtains of “doing business” wide open for all to see. It’s imperative that you and your company brand are in synchronous harmony.
Today’s consumers want to know from whom they are buying goods and services, especially services. There is no mysterious entity pulling the strings of a professional services firm owner. Physicians, Dentists, Attorneys, Financial Advisors must be the face of their business, lest they perish. Whether a huge practice or a solopreneur’s business, get out front and stay out front – It’s relationships that build practices.
The only way to discern whether or not a company’s core values are genuine is to know those of the CEO and top management. Do they walk their talk, or merely pay lip service to the public at large?
If you are an ass, that attitude will ripple through your staff, your customer service, even your vendors will take on the attitudes of leadership.
That is why it is so important to make sure the core values of today’s businesses are customer-centric, are above reproach and focused on value and loyalty. If you constantly espouse a customer-first value system, that too filters throughout the organization. Become heart-centered and leadership will become easier.
In my first book, C.O.M.P.A.S.S. Points, The Cultivation of Moral Principles and Success Strategies, written in 1998, I spoke at length about the character of leadership. I stated then and it is just as relevant today, that it is the responsibility of leadership when anything fails to produce the expected results. When customer experiences falter, it is leadership’s fault, not the hourly employee that wasn’t trained and monitored properly. When sales are down, expenses are up – is it the rank and file where the chaos originates? I think not. Leadership holds the keys to the locks that bind. It’s leadership that is steering the ship toward friendly ports. Every phase of management succeeds or fails due to leadership or the lack thereof.
I believe that an organization can desire customer service at its highest level, but if leadership does not possess the right core values and belief systems, those desires are for naught. The core values and beliefs are True North, at least to you. What you hold most dear points everyone and everything in that direction. Less than utmost respect and care for your clients will yield a revolving door of both clients and staff. You set the tone by which your orchestra plays. Don’t make it a half-note flat.
Your Brand and You
As CEO, employees, vendors, competitors and even your clients/customers or patients believe you are the company. What you stand for or against is a direct reflection of your brand. Your value system is often mirrored across the entire ecosphere of the company regardless of your wishes.
Just as in the political arena, whenever the media becomes involved in some internal matter, “anonymous sources” share the dirt. Some would believe the left-wing media make up half the stuff they print based on “keeping their sources secret.” You and I know better, at least I do.
It is no different in business. If there’s trouble or unrest, word will spread regardless of rules or regulations. Reprisals are never fun, so if there is fear in the workplace, it reflects on the brand. If there is fear in the workplace, leadership has some explaining to do.
Effective leadership keeps all the dialogue open and unfiltered internally, but they have systems and processes in place to control the message. Being upfront will make for a more united team, with the vast majority championing the cause, or bolstering the group when the stories aren’t so pretty.
When the leader takes responsibility, employees typically back her/him up. Remember when your parents drummed “honesty is the best policy” into your young brain? It’s true today as it was way back when.
When Your Competition Falters
We’re all going to make a mistake now and then, but how it is handled makes all the difference.
In Japan, honesty, integrity and a sense of responsibility are paramount to business. Almost every Japanese CEO that has experienced some sort of business mistake has gone in front of the cameras and apologized profusely, and then resign. The cultural belief systems ingrained in every citizen there show integrity, empathy, and responsibility.
You’ve seen that many times unless you’re under 18 years old, or you live in a cave.
When your competition falters, the absolute best thing you can do is to feel sadness, not glee. It’s called professional empathy. Why would you wish harm upon a fellow human being – there are always human beings behind the corporate brand. They’re suffering exactly like you will when it’s your turn. Everything comes full circle in this Universe of ours; you reap what you sow. Furthermore, what goes around comes around. Like a boomerang to the back of the neck if you’re not careful.
If all goes well, your career will ultimately come to an end, and when it does, what will be your legacy? How will others remember you? Were you the one that managed like an oligarch, or a tyrant, or someone that garnered respect and admiration from the internal and external stakeholders of your company? Will you be remembered for your negative qualities, or for positive actions and beliefs?
The way you are seen in public representing your company is a direct reflection of your beliefs, your company culture, and brand, like it or not. The brand is you, and vice versa.
To have a transparent view of the workings of your organization, you must create a culture of open relations, of trust, and of candor. “Calling it like it is” can be painful, but if it is done with the best interests of all concerned, everyone can handle any criticism or praise.
Burying errors as “secrets” will undermine the entire company and eventually come to light. The Universe has a way of righting all wrongs; keeping things in balance when the time is due.
Otherwise, you will never get a clear picture of what is really going on in the field, or throughout the company at large. There will be secrets, and secrets kill companies, and ruin CEO’s too.
So, unless you are the repo man or a sex offender, you have no justifiable reason to shield your identity from your customer base. If you indeed are a sex offender, shame, shame on you. May you rot with all the others.