The first question businesses often face when creating their vision or strategic direction is that of what are we going to sell or business model? Perhaps more important questions according to Tom Peter’s latest book, The Little BIG Things are “who do we intend to be? Why are we here? What’s the point?”
Customers and employees have so much choice, there are so many “me too’s” and they are choosing to for work and buy from companies those companies that are remarkable and they really like. Thus, the questions around the companies values, vision and value proposition have never been more in the spotlight than right now.
When you look at these questions they are really at the core of your businesses identity and your brand. They go beyond dollar and cents or product and services and speak more to customer needs and employee satisfaction. Who do we intend to be? This forces you to think about your behaviour. Evaluate how you play, what role you fulfil? How you are thought of ? Why are we here? It is more about what are the reasons beyond financial. What sort of environment do you want to create in the workplace? What is the customer experience like? What is the point? is about the legacy you are likely to leave. Are you memorable?
When I am creating a vision with CEOs I am often surprise how meaningless they become because they have lost sight of the key reason that the company exists. What customer problems they are trying to solve? What gives their work meaning? Companies that have asked these key questions often have a brand and a culture that is remarkable, defendable and authentic. Customers and employees want companies to care. People identify with companies that stand for something valuable to them.
As a CEO a clear, deep, and profound understanding of who you are and what you stand for, and what you want to be known for is critical. So much of the personality of a company is dictated by the CEO values and behaviours. Look at Virgin and Richard Branson, Apple and Steve Jobs, or Microsoft and Bill Gates. So like it or not, you are a brand as a CEO, it is just whether that brand is well-known or not and whether it resonates with the product and service and culture you are trying to deliver.
It is not enough to be known for what you do — you must be known for what you do differently! What are your values? What do you love? What do you hate? What are you insanely great at doing? What are you most proud of? What do you want to be? What is important and valuable to you? What do you want to be known for?
I contend that as a CEO, these are questions that you need to answer first and these are the hardest to answer. Once you have the answers, it is all about keeping that promise and living out that story of who you intend to be consistently in your brand promise, in your vision statement, in your value proposition and in the way you do business.
Being consistent, authentic and clear provides employees and customers a level of confidence and trust that they can depend on. The disconnect between saying what you think you are and not behaving that way, is the fastest way to damage your reputation.
So key roles for the CEO are as follows:
1.A critical step is to define values that make the brand remarkable as define everything you do and don’t do under the name of your brand. Tom Peters suggests thoughtfulness as a key value today because it is so underplayed. Who do you intend to be in the marketplace?
2. Have a clearly defined brand mission, vision, and values. Authenticity plays a pivotal role, as does getting your staff involved in the process. After all, it is how you and they embody these ideals that will enable your brand to be authentic, consistent and remarkable. It is critical that staff understand the question: Why are we here? The answer should be something they can believe in and be proud of.
3.Brand building happens at every touch-point with the consumer and employee. That doesn’t only mean the product packaging or how our stores look. It goes far beyond that. It includes the support that we provide to our channel partners, how we met their needs, the personal service for our athletes, and the interaction of our service staff in every single moment with the customer.
4. Create the culture the mindset and motivation of every single employee and that they can make a difference and contribute. Happy employees equals happy customers. For employees it includes our staff newsletter, work function, lunchroom, bathrooms whether the CEO is approachable, how they make contributions and if they are heard!
6.Be ambitious. You have to want to create something really special. More than anything else you need to realise your leadership shapes the culture, environment, people, strategy and your offering in the marketplace. People want to work for and buy from people they really like and aspire to be.
5. Let the world know how you are different and what contribution you are going to make and you will be on the right track! Be proud, act proud and shout loudly.