Business is so complex. If only they could boil it down to a few, simple rules for success.
They can. And they have. The authors of a recent HBR article looked at over 25,000 companies across 44 years and deduced … dadada, daaaaa … the three rules for success! (Caution: You may not want to get too excited yet.)
Rule number one: Better before cheaper. OK, hard to break into or upend a market with a so-so product regardless of the price. Got it.
Rule number two: Revenue before cost. No revelation here. You can’t efficiency your way to success if you don’t have revenue. Get the lifeblood flowing before you obsess over cost.
Rule number three: There are no other rules. Cute. I guess “The Two Rules of Success” seemed a touch light for a title, so they came up with this third rule.
So there you have it. Feel better now? No, me neither.
Think I’ll stick with my three rules for success: Develop and sustain the right focus. Continually create the right environment. And get the right people. Do those three things with ruthless consistency and your people will do what it takes to win.
Last week I provided three benchmarks to test the strength of your brand. This week: what is the value, the equity, in a strong brand? Consider the Brand Pyramid TM shown above.
If the people who you want to know about your brand don’t know about it, even when they see or hear your name, then congratulations, you have zero brand equity. But if they recognize your name or, even better, can recall it, then at least you have some brand equity.
Your brand has more value if people have positive associations with it. Meaning, what they think and feel about your organization and offerings, and more importantly what they think and feel about themselves when they engage you.
Your brand has even greater equity if it creates attraction during the buying process. Do they merely consider you? Or do they prefer you? Will they explicitly request you? Most powerfully, will they insist on using you?
If people are asked, will they recommend you? Even better, will they promote your brand even if they’re not asked? If so, you’ve reached the top of the pyramid.
Today, how much equity is there in your brand? To compete and win, how much equity does there need to be? Build the pyramid.
How strong is your brand? Here are three benchmarks against which to test it:
1) Focused and Memorable
It’s often said that you can’t be all things to all people. You can’t be both Courvoisier and Coca Cola. Every strong brand is known for something. That something has to be memorable. It can’t be convoluted and it can’t be too conceptual. What is BMW known for? Performance. That’s why their tagline is (can you complete it?) “the Ultimate _______ _______.”
2) Desirably Different
Everyone talks about differentiation but there are many ways to differentiate yourself that are irrelevant (or even offensive) to the market. You have to be different in a desirable way. Colgate Kitchen Entrees, BIC disposable underwear, and Harley-Davidson perfume were all different. Quick test: desirable or not?
3) Ruthlessly Consistent
If you crave a burger from time to time and you find yourself traveling, you want to know that the Big Mac in Austin will taste like the Big Mac in Boston. Your desire is based on an expectation and if your experience doesn’t match it then you’re disappointed with the brand. With strong brands, your brand experience consistently matches your expectations.
How does your brand measure up against these three attributes? And which attribute should you strengthen to be more competitive?
We want to believe. When someone accomplishes the extraordinary, through extreme struggle against crushing odds, we’re deeply moved by their spirit. We feel triumphant for their success.
We want to believe.
Which is why it’s devastating when someone who we have believed in turns out not to be who they seemed.
Like with Lance.
His story of course is tremendously inspiring. His battle with testicular, lung and brain cancer. Facing poor odds of survival. Overcoming his cancer through surgery, chemo and an intense will. His unparalleled, seven consecutive Tour de France triumphs. The half-a-billion dollars raised through his LiveStrong foundation. If ever there were an inspiring story, this was it.
And now we feel deceived. Disheartened. Yes, his foundation still does a tremendous amount of good. And, yes, he is not alone in the cycling world to have been judged guilty of cheating. But we held him to a higher standard. Because he so forcefully claimed to hold himself to a higher standard. Yet his character, it seems, is inconsistent with his claims.
You have been entrusted as a leader. Be very mindful of what you say and what you do. Your credibility, your effectiveness, your legacy is at stake.
Ever experienced a situation when a leader says one thing but does another? Kills their credibility, doesn’t it? Why? Because their actions are inconsistent with their words. It seems dishonest.
When a person’s words and actions are in conflict, which tell you more about that person? Of course, their actions.
If you want to change behavior, then lead by example – consistently role model the desired behavior. Good teachers know that showing is more powerful than telling. Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
As a leader you are continually being watched and evaluated. In the end, your people may listen to what you say, but they hear what you do.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog you know my core philosophy regarding organizational performance, execution and change: ruthless consistency. Organizations that develop the right focus, get the right people and create the right environment are organizations that win.
Now some might think that ruthless consistency means doing the same things the same way all of the time, taking a mindlessly repetitive approach to whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish.
Let me be clear: what ruthless consistency means is that your intentions and actions, however varied they may be, always are consistent with winning.
Different situations call for different approaches. Organizations should be flexible. They need to experiment and innovate. And they should cultivate freethinking. If a reasonable expectation is that a different approach will produce better results, that’s ruthless consistency.
Both ruthless consistency and intentional flexibility are desirable. And consistent.
Ruthless consistency is in the details. Very small things, done right many times, can have a massive effect.
They discovered this at a GE plant where the phosphorous coating is applied to fluorescent light bulbs. After the coating is applied the suspended light bulbs are moved through a drying system. And because phosphorous is expensive, a trough system catches the drops of phosphorous that fall throughout the drying process.
But it turned out that at this plant the trough system wasn't quite long enough to catch the very last drop of falling phosphorous. One drop. No big deal, right?
Think again. By extending the trough system to catch that last drop, the plant saved ... can you guess? ... over $150,000 per year. This is what I call the multiplier effect. Very small things, multiplied over a large number of instances, can have a huge impact.
Where does that multiplier effect come into play in your business? Where can you and your people find that one drop?
Here's a formula for you. It's the motto of D.O.A., a hardcore/punk band: Talk - Action = 0. If you talk about something but don't take action then it means nothing.
Like the strategic planning charade. All strategy but no execution equals zero results. (It's actually worse as you've squandered time, money and effort.)
This is the touchstone for evaluating every strategy, every project and every initiative: What did I do versus what I said I was going to do? Hold yourself to this exacting standard and you will find that, like all of us, you commit too much in too little time. Your ambitions overtake reality.
Commit to less but do more. Under-promise and over-deliver. It enhances your credibility. D.O.A. has figured this out. Will you?
They might listen to what you say but they hear what you do. Make no mistake, you are constantly on stage. Your people are watching and judging everything you do. Everything you don't do. Everything. So how consistent are you?
If you expect your people to change, then role-model that change. If conditions force your organization to sacrifice, then be seen as the first to sacrifice. If you want to bring attention to a cultural norm, then be an exemplar of that norm.
If you're not consistent, you can't be credible. But you have to be credible for your people to follow you. And as I once read, if you think you're a leader yet no one is following you, then you're just going for a walk.
Your organizational change effort has failed. Why? Did it have more to do with the technical side or the people side of the implementation? The people side, right? Yet, what did you spend most of your time planning for? Of course, the technical side. I've heard the same from hundreds of executives. We plan for the technical side but fail on the people side.
So what's the solution? Total Project Management. Plan for the people side as rigorously as you do the technical side. That means making sure your people understand and buy into the what, why and how of change. Ensuring they are equipped, coached and supported to make the change happen. And that they feel valued - respected and understood.
Technical and people. Both are necessary. Neither is sufficient. Total Project Management.