As a company grows you hit a threshold where the small business model begins to evolve into a more corporate affair.
The objective for many is to update and improve on departmental process to provide a business model that is repeatable, proven and transferable. This is for internal purposes like training staff as well as external purposes like supporting dealers or retail opportunities.
Growth places more pressure on resources and the need for automation occurs to improve efficiencies, free up these resources, and develop consistencies in methods used.
Growth also places demands on the image and perception of the company. It is important to maintain a consistent use of logos, marks, sales material and online brand.
The reasons for the above may seem obvious to ownership but not always obvious to those in the fields. What is underpinning this effort is the importance of building Brand equity. This ensures that the Brand is presented properly in PR and Marketing for recognition and in the delivery of services to all user groups.
What is often misunderstood is the importance of corporate identity. Top companies globally have a corporate culture that forges this “what it means to be a part of…………” experience. This can be a hard thing to do in western society as there is a trend for employee turnover. As a result methods used are often presented at the very beginning of a person’s carrier with guidelines, expectations, procedures, code of conduct, rulebooks, that are set out for employees to follow.
A key example of this is in scripts for support people or accessibility to customer service, or clear privacy or return policies where the interface with the end-user is managed carefully. What is happening on the supply side may be another matter completely but should also be managed with respect and fairness.
As you make this transition with growth there is a need to formalize your governance and brand.
Governance is the rules, process and practices that are used to control the business in the best interests of the stakeholders. This direction and control is often approved by a board and considers all aspects of the enterprise and strives to maintain a balance of objectives for the owners, employees, customers, suppliers, government and community.
Great governance coupled with a purposeful Brand helps to create the true value for the organization. Value is realized when a company sells for more than it is worth on paper. This is your goodwill and is only earned through hard work, dedication and ethics. Companies with a great corporate culture and brand are sought after not sold off.
Tools for Building Online Brand
- There are many things that contribute collectively to build a brand. Some examples are
- ISO Standards
- Brand Guidelines
- Management Training
- Quality Assurance
- Corporate Rules & Regulations
- Clear Mission and Vision
- A commitment to the Experience
- Consistency across all mediums
- Reseller guidelines
- Ownership of Intellectual Property
- Core Competency
- Strategic Growth
- Monitoring and Analysing
Building the Experience
Some regional and global brands that have created Brand Loyalty are easy to spot. Porsche has a tremendous following as they have never wavered from developing vehicles from the race track. The origin of everything Porsche is racing. Ikeas is considered one of the best global retail brands of all time. Virgin has developed a conglomerate on what it means to be a part of Virgin for Air, Travel, Communication… They are selling an experience.
Apple sells the same culture, when you buy a product you become a part of the Apple experience. When you work for Apple you go to their campus not head office. In Tech the world’s biggest brands include Google, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Samsung but not all of them have strong brand loyalty like Apple.
How to Create a strong Corporate Identity
Many Years ago I was at University in Japan and had a professor who talked about the strength of Sony. Sony at one point was better than Apple at forging a brand culture. We went through a great exercise that looked at the main characteristics of the brand and what we liked about them.
We came up with the usual student stuff. Innovative, well engineered, quality, cool, well priced, easy to buy, great support, durable. It was all product focused because that was what we knew.
He, on the other hand, had worked with Sony at the highest level and had another set of benchmarks that focused on all of the stakeholders.
The lesson included an exercise where we wrote down the characteristics and traits of great men in our century. What where their characteristics. Sir Winston Churchill’s determination, Martin Luther King’s civil rights vision, Ghandi’s peaceful social uprising for independence, Mohammed Ali’s skill and abilities…
He then asked us to create a new company taking the traits that we admired in these leaders as our corporate guide.
What resulted was a very different model then the one we were use to in Canada, Europe and the US. The primary focus was not earnings per share but practices and ethics that set the path straight for a higher level of value. One that included goodwill and the premium that people would be willing to pay for such a company. The intangible assets that created market leaders. And while we did not talk specifically about culture and what it meant to work with and for a company like that we understood that strong leadership on the human side of the equation is as important as terrific products and services with strong margin.
In the high tech sector we see this time and time again and market leaders have made this a key component of their governance. It is, however, not an easy task as it requires a certain mindset to manage and as a result you don’t always see these top companies score well as their focus is still on the all mighty earnings per share mindset of wall street and the top shareholders.(think hedge funds).
One Comment from my Professor that still rings true was that until the accounting practices in North America change and moves employee wages out of the liability column and over to the asset column this shift will not occur easily. If you do not see your employee and team as true corporate asset then the dollar will be the driving force.
Some To Do’s for building Online Authority for your company
If we take a look at the Brand ideas above and apply these to the online environment we have a unique situation. What is missing in many cases is the personal one on one interaction that happens. Like when you go into a Starbucks to buy a coffee and they remember your name.
Let’s look at a fun To Do with your team that can help to set the standards for your company.
Your Company as a Person
What traits does your company have if it was a human being?
- Favourite car
- Favourite place
- Favourite movie
- Main characteristics
- Main emotions
- What do you like in this person
- What are they good at
- What do they like to do outside of work
- What do they volunteer in
- What personal traits do they possess that you like (are they a good listener)
- How do other people see them
- 1What values do they have
You get the idea. It is fun to build an ideal person in the minds of your companies needs.
Now look at your customers and end users and consider how you can translate these characteristics down the line. Talk to your team and discuss this new identity. Then begin the process of ingraining the idea that what they do for the company should come from this frame of mind.
This is the “What Would Steve Do” mindset. If you can get your team to thing on your company’s behalf first it helps to remove any personal emotions they might have towards customers, suppliers, partners, team members etc. It also helps to build a level playing field amongst your staff. We all appreciate that everyone has their own skills and capabilities and adds value to the company. If we can work from the same point of reference then we begin to forge a unified purpose.
This can also remove stress and pressure from individuals who take everything personally. By giving them a transfer point and allowing them to approach problems and situations from a different perspective. Much like getting one level up from the “ego state” that can get them in trouble.
A great example of this is when you have to deal with a difficult dealer or customer. If you can allow yourself as a customer service specialist to take on the role of facilitator and work with the customer towards a solution you will end up with a happy result. If you take the complaints personally the end result will not only be worse for the customer it will also take a toll on the rep and the company’s reputation.
It is important to remember that online it is very easy to get scored publically for this experience so it helps to create a culture that manages the process well.
By creating a corporate identity internally you start to project that outward in everything you do. You disenfranchise your own emotions from the situation and act in a new framework. This, when done right, can help build your corporate culture which translates over time to goodwill and real value.
Consider a workshop to introduce this idea to your team and see how you can create a corporate personality that everyone wants to hang out with and work for.