Even though so much has been written about brand building and the connection between a brand and business success, there’s one important aspect of branding that is often overlooked: Your culture is a major part of your brand.
Fifty years ago this was virtually unheard of. Back then a few Madison Avenue types would create a brand, and then use advertising to tell their audience what it was. I’m convinced some of today’s most iconic brands came about simply because decades ago those companies had the means to buy their way into building the brand they wanted.
Today it’s very different. The Internet and technology continue to make the world a smaller and more transparent place, and your brand isn’t so much an expensive logo or catchy tagline as it is a driving force. When you go to create a brand for your business you must first decide who you are and who you want to become. What set of behaviors will define your company? Are you going to let your culture develop arbitrarily or are you going to thoughtfully plan and craft it?
The answers to these questions will determine what kind of experiences your clients will have when dealing with you. The upside these days is that a positive experience can quickly spread like wildfire to potential clients. Of course the reverse is true as well, which is why it is so important that we view culture and brand as equal sides of the same equation.
The values that will become synonymous with your brand are reflected by the behaviors of your team. What information would we uncover if we discussed this concept with your employees? What are the behaviors we would consistently see among your team? Here are seven questions to ask yourself — each reflecting behaviors that support positive values we should all want instilled in our team and associated with our brand:
1. Can we make it better?
We should always be working to improve experiences for clients, candidates, employees, vendors, and ourselves. Does each member of your team have the ability and the motivation to positively impact the firm? What steps are you taking to improve your organization?
2. Do we take it personally?
Is it just a job, or are your employees personally bought in and making an investment in the organization? Does that show outside of the workplace and in the community? How is each team member engaged in your firm? What visions do all of you share? (Hopefully there are some.)
3. Do we collaborate?
Do your people feel comfortable asking for and providing help? Everyone has their own desk/cubicle, but do they interact and collaborate with others on ideas, progress and avoiding pitfalls? Are managers/owners willing to leverage the talents and skills of other team members, and are they also accessible and in the habit of extending themselves to others?
4. How do we handle replacements?
It’s rather ironic that in a business built on replacing others, we often come up short in that department in our own firms. How do you handle replacements? Are you changing your culture by bringing in new “leaders” from outside, or are you reinforcing your culture by growing and promoting leaders from within? Are you producing and keeping key leaders who are loyal and committed, or are you training for your competitors? Who are the up-and-comers you are mentoring towards greatness in your firm?
5. How do we monitor our reputations?
We show up for work and do our jobs, but how are we taking care of ourselves spiritually, physically, emotionally, financially, and relationally? Whether we realize it or not, our attitude at work – and everywhere — is the result of each of those elements. How we handle them and present ourselves forms our reputation. How does that impact our work and our journey to our goals? Like it or not, each of us impacts the others around us. We must take responsibility for our actions and attitudes.
6. How do we handle change?
There are actually three things you can always count on: death, taxes and change! Is yours a culture that embraces change or fears it? Do your people regularly take on new responsibilities while relinquishing others? Do major changes cause tension, or are they met with a sense of opportunity and adventure? It is crucial that every team member own up to their responsibilities and is accountable. Maintain an open, palms-raised outlook that empowers you to move toward the future embracing the new challenges and change the marketplace can toss your way.
7. How do we handle trouble?
Everyone makes mistakes. Do we shame our people or see failure as an opportunity for learning and growth? How do we capitalize on an ROI from our missteps? When we screw up, let’s lift each other up. After all, no one is immune.
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Your culture really is your brand. Once you have it right, the rest will take care of itself. Building the right culture starts with getting the right managers and team members in place. Make sure they are well trained, accountable and eager to participate in a free exchange of information and ideas. Petty jealousies and office drama will destroy a culture (and your brand) in no time. Define core values and goals that are genuine and embraced — not just a meaningless set of words that look good on the company website.
Some of the winning companies who have developed outstanding cultures that in turn built great brands are Google, Bain and Co., Facebook, Costco, Hyatt, and Twitter. According to Forbes, each of these companies, and others like them, had four important things in common: Employees felt their work had a meaningful purpose; there was genuine opportunity for professional growth; employees work with people they like and respect; and the work required employees to stretch their brains and skills.
These companies got the culture right from the beginning. It’s no surprise great branding soon followed.
Your culture is a major part of your brand
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