The best companies aren’t measured by their dollar worth. They’re measured by their emotional value. Whether you strike up a list of the top five strongly branded companies, or the top five best companies to work for, you’ll come up with a list of ten companies that are highly esteemed for emotional value. You’ll arrive at list of five companies that have created value for the clients, and another five companies that have created value for their employees. We could argue here that this is the proverbial chicken and egg dilemma where we ask ourselves, which came first – value or dollar worth? I would argue value always precedes worth. If you build something of value, you’ll have something of worth.
If you have to choose between building a strong brand or building a great value-driven company for your employees, then I’d say opt for creating value to your employees. The latter will naturally segue into a strong brand over time, leaving you with a solid foundation of dedicated employees. This isn’t the job of HR people so much as it’s the job of founding entrepreneurs, particularly among start-ups and small businesses where there’s still a great deal of wielding power over the formation of your company culture.
In April of this year, Jeff Hadden of Inc Magazine interviewed Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of the $1.1 billion open-source software who talked about creating value for both clients and within employees by providing a high-class experience. He gave the example of Delta, which he felt emphasized air travel as a commodity more so than as an experience – an assessment that indirectly tells mechanics and flight attendants that they don’t matter quite as much. Alternatively, he gave the example of Starbucks as a “low-cost operation [since they use] paper cups, customers bus their own tables, etc – but a high-class experience, because its employees make it high class by being intensely customer services focused.” Anyone that knows the Starbucks brand also knows the company treats their employees well in terms of compensation, benefits, and in recognition of their value toward the company.
Really, it comes down to leadership. Consider what kind of leader you want to emulate and recognize what kind of leader you aren’t. Let’s be honest: not everyone is a powerful orator or is oozing with charisma. Being a strong leader doesn’t mean you need to fit a mould; it means you need to tap into your strengths and recognize your short comings. If you’re charismatic – great. However, charisma will only get you so far. In leadership, charisma gets people to like you but not always follow you through the long haul. More powerful than charisma alone, can you relate to your employees? Do they see you as illusive upper management or are you in the trenches with them?
Whitehurts feels showing employees you’re held accountable to them encourages them to be a lot more motivated about their work. He feels this is particularly true among knowledge workers versus production workers. Noting the difference between the two teams of employees, Whitehurst adds that “an energized and jazzed line employee can be, at most, maybe 20 percent more productive than an average worker. An inspired creative/knowledge employee can be 10 more productive.” The value is created, one again, in being able to mirror your employees. Relate to them, be like them, and create a company structure that recognizes their value.
Value is also often dissipated through the small cracks, here namely branding and mission statements. Businesses think a brand is a marketing “look” while a mission statement is simply a business objective. To infuse value, move beyond such limited scope and infuse branding with your mission statement – and then live it. For example, there’s a company I won’t name that brands itself on old-fashioned values. However, they’re mission statement doesn’t reflect any of these values and their internal structure isn’t family-friendly (which would honor old-time values). Overall, they’re message is disjointed and company loses value to both client and employees. Clients can’t really grasp what makes the company stand out, and employees don’t identify with the brand. If you’re unable to get your employees to be your brand ambassadors, then you might have a small problem. After all, who knows your business better than your employees? If they are getting lost in the gaps between mission, brand, and practice, then you’re certainly losing value.
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