What Makes You Different?

July 24, 2013

What Makes You Different?

Culture eats strategy for breakfast! It is trusted leadership and data driven strategies that wins the day and builds great brands in the long run. To succeed in today’s highly competitive and ever changing landscape you must have the best people on board all pulling in the same direction with passion, energy and focus. You must coach them to success while allowing them to lead and grow your business by executing tactics based on strategies founded on real time actionable data.

The next question becomes who really owns your brand in this 24/7 world? Is it your customers, your employees, your critics, and/or yours fans? How do you go about taking control while remaining relevant and transparent in a completely networked world, where anyone can say anything to everyone else at any time? In every case it comes down to building trust through open and honest communication. You must know and live your core values each and every day in order to build a lasting reputation people can count on and trust in. Building that trust with all of your constituencies can take years to build, yet can be lost in minutes. Just one wrong decision not to remove that dangerous product from your shelves, taking shortcuts in quality and service because you think no one will notice, not caring for your customers or the world in which we all live and work can spell disaster overnight. The good news is that the opposite is just as true. When people see us consistently doing the right thing time and time again, investing in the lives of the people and the world around us in positive and meaningful ways, they inherently trust us and dismiss and discount those few negatives that inevitably pop up from time to time.

Our reputation starts anew every day! It takes great courage to lead and to be willing to learn and grow, and to stretch beyond our comfort zone each day. Never before in world history have we had instant access to real time “big data” on which to base our decisions. By the time we read about it in the Wall Street Journal it is old news in the real world. Across the globe new ideas are forming and coalescing every day, being funded and guided by powerhouse global equity firms, with business models proven out and scaled to reach massive markets in record time. New industries, deep natural resources and dynamic business communities are creating unheard of levels of global competition. Many second and third world countries are leap frogging the infrastructure restrictions and regulatory barriers we face by leveraging new technologies and massive emerging resources and talent pools. The old paradigms and assumptions of who controls what industries, where talent and new big ideas come from, and who the financial powerhouse of tomorrow will be can change almost overnight. I recently returned from living in Nairobi, Kenya and working with a dynamic company that seeks to turn the education paradigm on its head by crossing a for profit business model with the goal of creating massive social change. Companies like these look for a double bottom line, find that when you are able to combine a great business model with massive social change, the opportunities for both are boundless.

We must constantly and consistently share our story and our purpose in life. We must be transparent in everything that we do as our actions will always speak louder than our words. If people know you are looking to help them, they will trust and do business with you regardless of the ever shifting currents. If we honor that trust first and foremost in all of our dealings, we can and will build truly great brands and businesses. If we sacrifice our values for short term gains, we may lose that trust for good. The old command and control military style of communication and management just doesn’t work in today’s networked marketplace. We can no longer control the conversation that is going on all around us every day in a thousand different places. It is not what we sell but what we stand for that determines our global reputation and ultimate level of success. We must be purpose driven first and foremost, with a firm foundation based on real data and a powerful yet sustainable business model. Once we realize that today’s successful tactics may be obsolete tomorrow, but that trust and purpose never go out of style, we can and will build enduring businesses and brands.

Many of the notes and ideas and quotes contained in this article were shared at a recent Hurricane Grill & Wings annual franchise conference. I would like to credit Wally Doolin, our guest speaker for the event as my main source, and thank him for sharing his insights and observations with us. Wally is widely recognized and respected throughout the industry as the current Chairman of the Board for the People Report and Black Box Intelligence. He also serves on numerous boards, and previously served as CEO at Carlson Restaurants worldwide and TGI Friday’s, as President of Applebee’s and many other well-known brands within the worlds of both restaurants and technology. He lives his life today with passion and energy, strives to give back through several non-profits, and is an inspiration to those who know him.