How the right brand philosophy can help a business to soar
By WENDY LEA
Leading a high-growth, venture-backed startup in San Francisco’s SoMa (South of Market) district for the past two years is an experience that has rocked my world. It has reminded me of everything I knew to be true about business, yet that I had somehow lost during my tenure in the enterprise world.
This second act has taught me something I never expected: love, and its crucial role in building a business. And by love, for the context of this article, I mean an intense feeling of connection.
As entrepreneurs – whether boot-strapped or venture-backed – we juggle countless difficult choices and moving parts on the road to realising our dreams. But, at the core, love is what drives us all: a feeling of connection to a mission or idea that is so strong that it inspires us to take risks and put ourselves on the line, and gives us the courage to create something from the ground up.
Let me give you an example. I was first introduced to the founders of Get Satisfaction, Thor and Amy Muller and Lane Becker, in 2009. They launched their product – a community engagement platform for companies and customers – just two years earlier with a provocative splash at a time when social businesses were just starting to emerge as fundamental to marketing, selling and servicing businesses.
I was smitten! Not just with the founders or the platform, but also with the company’s underlying philosophy and the human, open and transparent culture it fostered. This natural alignment – along with a captivating emerging market – was a truly compelling combination and one that I was willing to throw my head and heart into. I fell in love.
To succeed as an entrepreneur though, love needs to course through all the veins of your company – not just its leaders. The same passion that drove you to start must manifest itself first and foremost in your philosophy, your company culture and, importantly, in your product.
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Put on your philosopher’s cap
The origin of the word philosophy means a love of wisdom. Applied to business, philosophy is the theory or attitude that guides behaviour for an entire organisation. More commonly, it’s your mission statement.
Get Satisfaction, for example, was founded on the Company-Customer Pact, a set of 10 guidelines that the founders put to paper in the early days.
It establishes a standard of mutual respect and aims to improve the relationships between companies and their customers, a mission all three co-founders strongly believed in.
They’re the same driving principle that guides the company till today. This driving philosophy keeps your employees coming to work every day.
At some point, we revisited the pact with the intention of updating it for today; it didn’t require a single significant edit. Four years later, the same philosophy holds true and guides the company every day.
Think about your business. How is your company philosophy expressed? How does it influence your company culture and your product? And how will it stand the test of time?
Culture is the collection of customs, art, practices, and other manifestations of a group or company. For a textbook example of the ways in which culture can drive business success, look no further than Zappos.
Zappos knew from the start that relationships are strongest when employees talk in a natural and human tone, like you’d have with a neighbour in a coffee shop. The company’s culture of “Delivering Happiness” bonds a unique customer experience with a loyal employee experience. As a result, their culture of happiness has been driving phenomenal business growth.
How does your company culture mirror or differ from your personal philosophy? What about your company’s mission? Is it a deliberate extension of your broader mission, or simply an afterthought? What impact is your culture having on the growth of your business?
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Walk the product talk
The capability of any business is a mash-up of the people, tools, and processes that deliver value to the customer. Because we offer a customer-engagement platform, it’s easy to see how the Company-Customer Pact’s philosophy was designed into an actual product.
How do your products or services align with your philosophy? How are they supported by your culture? And, more importantly, how does that impact your bottom line?
When you plan your new business venture, don’t sell your company short. Take the time to define a philosophy that you and your employees can believe in. A well-defined philosophy helps create a culture, energise your employees and create better products with ease. This culture will help foster the connections you need to grow a valuable business – an intense feeling of connection, and love has everything to do with it!
Wendy Lea is chief executive officer of Cintrifuse, a public-private partnership that builds a tech-based economy in the Greater Cincinnati Region. With a deep passion for entrepreneurship, Wendy is an angel investor and advisor to a number of start-ups in California, Colorado and Ohio. She was previously the CEO and Executive Chairman at Get Satisfaction. To get in touch with her, e-mail us at email@example.com or connect with her on Twitter @WendySLea
Reposted with permission on Leaderonomics.com