A couple of months ago, I had a great conversation about “Brand Building” with the extremely well-dressed (that’s irrelevant, but I noticed) and humble Steven Fitzgerald. 17 years ago, Steven and his partner founded Habanero Consulting Group, a provider of enterprise-level employee, customer, and member portals. It is now a multi-million dollar business with an award-winning work culture. The conversation had originally inspired me to write a post, but as I continued to talk to others about the subject, I knew I had to wait and gather all the information I had before putting something together. From these conversations, I’ve taken three tips that have stuck with me the most; I hope they’re as inspiring to you as they were to me.
1. “RAISE YOUR COMPANY LIKE YOU WOULD A CHILD” – Steven Fitzgerald, President, Habanero Consulting Group
The one thing that truly stuck with me when I talked to Steven was when he emphasized that “a company is like a child”. Imagine parenting a young child; you would lay out rules that restricted that child for their own good – whether it be a curfew, specific diet, or to not eat crayons. Comparatively, in the early stages of Habanero, they had strict governing principles. Decisions were made based on black and white guidelines, and when new opportunities were presented, there wasn’t ever much wiggle room – regardless of the quality of the opportunity. However, as the company grew older and began to understand itself better, the black and white rules weren’t needed as much. Sure, the rules still existed, but they weren’t as heavily enforced because the company was forming its own identity with the decisions it made. His company, he says, is in its teens now. It’s old enough to make some decisions on its own, and is more open to new business ideas and opportunities. And, as it continues to evolve experiencing growing pains – just as a child grows into an adult – it acts according to the foundational identity engrained in it from the very beginning.
2. “BUILD BRAND CULTURE BY DESIGN, NOT DEFAULT” – David Reeve, Founder, Unleash Culture
David runs a consultancy focused on building brand culture. I had a coffee with him about a month ago where he spoke about the need for company cultures to be dictated by design, rather than default. In other words, companies tend to let their culture be dictated by the work personalities of people who happen to work there, rather than a specific system with tangible checkpoints. It’s so easy for something as intangible as “company culture” to fall by the wayside; it’s not something that seems like it would need structure or rules, but after building award-winning brands and assisting over 100 other companies, David is convinced otherwise. Being a linear thinker myself, his meticulous approach and process really drew me in. Why don’t companies goal-set and reward people for building brand culture the same way they do for the sales department? Doesn’t a better culture mean happier employees? And, don’t happier employees translate into better work and a healthier bottom line? Focus and track company culture the same way you do for the sales department, and your bottom line will improve.
3. “RE-ASSESS AND REINFORCE” – Linda Young, Director, Research and Products at Coast Capital Savings
Our ever-thoughtful friend and mentor, Linda Young, hosted an in-depth and dynamic Team Planning Session for us. In search of answers with the goal of re-solidifying our brand and identity, we were given the opportunity to re-explore our company’s Vision, Mission, and Core Values. After the session, it was quite apparent that we were relying on our Core Values to guide a lot of our decisions and directions – which wasn’t the case before. We really just needed a tune-up. Linda reminded us that as a company grows and evolves, it needs to continue to re-asses its original Vision and Mission and find ways to reinforce it as often as possible. Ensure that your company’s Vision and Mission is clear to everyone that works with, and for, you, and continue to remind them of its existence in all the business decisions that are made.
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