Unless You are a Sex Offender or the Repo Man, Don’t Hide Behind Your Company Brand
So, you’re the CEO, but your customers don’t know it. You manage from the ivory tower, while lesser beings handle the minions. “I have people to handle the public” are some of the excuses you attempt to float out to the world, but you know it’s bullshit. Worse yet, the community at large has no idea who you are. 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.
You are your brand, like it or not. It’s important for the relationship of your prospects and clients/customers for you to be the face of the business. 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. 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. 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 beyond reproach and focused on value and loyalty. If you constantly espouse a customer-first value system, that too filters throughout the organization.
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 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, the 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.
Your Brand and You
As CEO, employees, vendors, competitors and even your clients/customers 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, like it or not.
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. Effective leadership keeps all the dialogue open and unfiltered internally, but they have systems and processes in place to control the message. Being up front 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 resigning. 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, for them. 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.
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? 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 have to have created 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. 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.