By Pavlo Phitidis
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been shocked by the news, as McKinsey, SAP, KPMG, Bell Pottinger and so many others, have hit the headlines with significant reputation-related crises. It only seems fitting then, that we chatted this week on The Money Show with Bruce Whitfield about building, or breaking, your brand, through reputation. As Warren Buffet’s 2014 memo to Berkshire management said:
“We can afford to lose money, even a lot of it. But we can’t afford to lose reputation, even a shred of it.
Here are a few actions you can take to both build and avoid hurting your brand.
Why is a brand even relevant?
Your brand is the symbol of your business, and created by the impression people hold of your business. Correctly built and well-maintained, your brand helps your business grow and makes it easy to attract customers, close deals and, of course, become an asset of value that an investor finds attractive, or that a keen buyer wishes to acquire. Ultimately, your reputation is the most valuable, intangible, and vulnerable, asset to your business. Guarding and curating it is essential. Here’s what you should consider when it comes to your brand:
Changes in reputation drivers over time
Your business changes as it grows, and so too does your brand and reputation. As a startup, your reputation is created by the way you behave, as a business owner, from day one. At that stage, your business’ brand is closely tied to your personal reputation, and how you conduct yourself in every situation. But when your business grows up a little and you begin to build, the curation of your reputation will depend highly upon the efficiency and effectiveness of your company operations and systems. Consistently positive customer experiences will augment your company’s reputation, while inconsistencies will directly damage your brand.
Build fast and hold on to your reputation
As Warren Buffett reminds us: “it takes twenty years to build a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it.” Taking incremental steps in building your business and brand will later lead you to the point where your business matures. At that point, your ability to communicate effectively with multiple stakeholders becomes an important part of sustaining a positive reputation.
Set your goals and manage your environment with care
As a business leader, it’s up to you to create an environment for your growing company that safeguards against reputational damage. Don’t make the mistake of Wells Fargo’s CEO, who created a sales incentive programme for staff that left the company highly vulnerable to reputational damage. Avoiding practices and systems that could lead your business towards tarnishing its reputation is vital, as Warren Buffett said: “if you lose money for the firm, I will be understanding. If you lose reputation, I will be ruthless.” Once a reputation has been damaged, it’s extremely difficult to repair it.
Do what you do, and don’t do what you don’t do
True risk for your growing business, doesn’t come from doing what you’re good at. Instead, risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing. Rather than giving into the temptation of looking for greener pastures, or a new industry to enter, look towards improving your business, skills and products as they are right now. That not only gives you an exceptional edge against your competitors – it also strengthens your reputation.
Learn to hear, see, and interpret, truth from lies
Being able to filter information and work only with the facts can be difficult, especially in highly pressured times. Nazi propagandist, Joseph Goebbels said: “repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” but truth is only ever found in action. If you’re trying to figure out the facts, or fiction, relating to a business situation, look for inconsistencies in action, or unpredictable behaviour. Listen to the way people relate a story to you, because tone can be a giveaway too. Don’t be fooled by big talk, because action counts far more, for your business, your brand, and your future.
Curating and maintaining a robust reputation to build the brand of your growing business is imperative. At Aurik, we will work with you to build a business that delivers a consistent customer experience, one that will build your brand and your company valuation. Let’s work with you to build your business into that asset of value.