Whether your business is product or service-oriented, the loyalty and dedication of your customers is greatly dependent on your reputation. Your most effective sales force is your existing customer base. Word-of-mouth or the personal recommendation, serves to create an expectation that you must only live up to – rather than one that you must create from scratch.
Your Business Reputation is a Valuable Asset
The assets of your business have traditionally included property, plant, equipment, and your customer base. Progressive organizations understand that the concept of business assets should be expanded to include their good reputation. By being responsive to change, having the ability to conduct a constructive dialogue with stakeholders, and taking advantage of networked resources, the organization further extends their tangible and in-tangible non-traditional assets.
Companies are increasingly adopting socially responsible business practices based on sustainable development to ensure efficiency, stimulate innovation, and create top-line growth. This new approach to business requires leadership to re-think priorities with a focus on a longer-term agenda. This is where an online reputation management strategy is crucial for ethical businesses. The socially responsible leader understands that decisions made by management must focus not only on profit-making but also on reputation- building. Fortunately the latter feeds the former.
Top 10 Priorities
These are the Top 10 priorities that will ensure a sustainable future for your business or organization. After thoughtful consideration, priorities must be established (re-established) and communicated to stakeholders. With every area of the organization working in alignment with the vision, mission and values, goals and objectives are more easily reached. To begin the discovery process, use this list to honestly evaluate your organization’s priorities.
1. Define and demonstrate your values.
- What products or services do you provide and how do they serve to demonstrate your values? You must first define your values and create your mission with a clear understanding of the values you wish to demonstrate. If your products and services can’t be reconciled with your values, customer trust is eroded.
- How will your products or services impact stakeholders? Your stakeholders include stockholders, but the group also extends to staff, associates, vendors and the community that is directly or indirectly impacted by what you produce. Stakeholders become a far-extending community of concerned parties.
- What filter is in place for decision-making? Your filter is created from having a clear understanding of your values and mission. Decisions are run through this filter before being communicated or implemented.
2. Create a recognizable image.
- What is your desired image? Once you have defined your values and mission, you have an easier job of creating your image. You know how you want to be perceived and recognized and, consequently, you can take action that will create the desired result.
- Are your logo and promotional materials consistent and memorable? Your logo is a powerful trigger that creates recognition for your organization. Careful thought and consideration should be given to your logo and how it communicates the message desired.
- Does your marketing support and extend the desired image? Your marketing plan and program should serve to create and extend your brand recognition. All activities, whether they are marketing related or otherwise, should serve to create and support your brand environment.
3. Know your market and customer.
- Who is your perfectly-aligned customer? You should be able to readily communicate the profile of your perfect customer. By creating this profile, you set the universal law of attraction into motion so that you can focus your energy on customers whose values and beliefs are in alignment with the organization’s.
- What does your perfectly-aligned customer expect from your services? If you are focused on serving a customer that is perfectly-aligned with your values, by understanding how they expect to benefit from your services you create a powerful business model. You walk a mile in the customer’s shoes.
- How might you extend your services to exceed expectations? Once you understand customer expectations, you can begin to discover ways to exceed them. It is important to maintain focus and know what you can realistically do without diluting your energy.
4. Strive for perfection.
- Is perfection expected? Perfection isn’t conditional. It must be the primary goal regardless of circumstances. Every level of the organization should understand what it means to perfect its product or service.
- How are mistakes or errors turned into learning opportunities? Mistakes and errors can be transformed into tremendous opportunities if they are given appropriate consideration. The root cause can be mined for its eye-opening insight into breakdowns in an organization’s systems and infrastructure.
- Who decides if it’s perfect enough? There must be one clear standard that is demonstrated at every level of an organization. This standard applies regardless of time pressures or circumstances.
5. Treat your stakeholders like family.
- Do you understand who your stakeholders are? Stakeholders is a fairly new term that extends far beyond an organization’s stockholders or owners. Even the organization’s customers are stakeholders – they have a vested interest in the organization’s continued existence and success.
- Is community encouraged? For example, staff spends more of their waking hours with fellow workers than they do with their own family. By encouraging community through fostering relationships between stakeholders, the organization creates loyalty, dedication, and commitment.
- Are wealth creation and benefits shared fairly? Careful consideration should be given to the distribution of wealth amongst those that are most instrumental in creating it – intrinsically and consequentially. All members of an organization’s family can expect to benefit from the success created by sharing and progressing the agenda.
6. Contribute to your local community.
- Is your local community defined and understood? For some, local may be limited to a 10-mile radius. For others, local will encompass the globe. In order to contribute effectively to your local community, you must understand its make-up.
- Is community participation encouraged and rewarded? The organization should create a win/win relationship with its community. The community provides it with its means for creating success and it gives back to the community appropriately by allocating and sharing its resources.
- Do you understand how your local community extends globally? While many organizations may limit their focus to a community that is in their neighborhood, all organizations impact the global community in some way, shape, or form. It is instrumental in progressing the social responsibility agenda to initiate the dialog and take global considerations into account.
7. Make decisions considering intrinsic and consequential costs/benefits.
- How are costs determined in decision-making? In the evaluation of any project or initiative, there are clearly identifiable associated costs. There are also consequential costs that can easily be overlooked if the decision-making process isn’t designed to incorporate a full-spectrum of cost considerations.
- Are decisions made with a long-term focused perspective? Short-term motivations are generally limited to a strictly profit-oriented agenda. In order to effectively incorporate progressive and socially responsible initiatives, longer-term results must be considered and prioritized.
- Does the organization tell the truth? There are lies and..there are lies. The truth should provide the recipient with the information needed to make an informed decision. If a decision is made based on inaccurate or incomplete information, it is based on lack of the truth.
8. Manage the organization with integrity.
- Are financial records maintained to ensure accurate and meaningful reporting? Accurate financial reporting is critical to effective decision-making. Financial policies should be employed to create records that provide the most genuine and meaningful results of operations.
- Does management emphasize being socially progressive? Most organizations delay the implementation of a socially responsible agenda until the pain associated with the delay is intolerable. By taking a pro-active approach, social responsibility becomes the competitive edge.
- Do the company’s products and services promote quality of life? If the organization’s success is dependent on the degradation of society’s health and welfare, integrity will be beyond the organization’s reach. Products and services should be designed to contribute to human welfare.
9. Encourage innovation and continuous improvement.
- How does the company capitalize on technological advancement? Technology is a powerful tool that can bring an organization’s stakeholders into closer proximity. In order to foster community, technology can be a great ally.
- Are employees encouraged to increase competencies? Continuous improvement requires a commitment to education and personal/professional development. The organization’s compensation program should reward those that increase their skills that can be developed and applied to meet customer’s needs.
- Are resources allocated to research and development? It is tempting to focus on today. In the competitive environment we operate in, a today-oriented focus is critically shortsighted. Innovation and improvement must be supported with a commitment of resources.
10. Tread lightly on the planet.
- Is the workplace environmentally friendly? As was pointed out above, we spend more time in the workplace than we do in our home-place. The environment should be thoughtfully created to promote creativity, health, and productivity – with an emphasis on the environmental implications.
- Have products and packaging been developed considering life cycle? The organization should have a clear understanding of where their products or services will end up 10 (or 100) years from now. When life cycle is taken into consideration, a product’s cost incorporates an entirely new perspective.
- Does the organization understand its environmental impact? There is a trickle-down effect associated with just about anything we say or do. This trickle-down effect could also be referred to as a trickle-out effect. The environment is effected in seen and un-seen ways.
Your Reputation is Extremely Valuable
Your reputation is one of the most valuable assets of your business. By incorporating a new set of values and priorities into what has proven to be a successful formula on many levels, I believe that business will be the platform for a new agenda – the Social Responsibility Agenda. That agenda will solidify your reputation as an organization that is worthy of its stakeholders’ dedication and loyalty.
Regardless of the size of your business, you make a contribution to the global marketplace that impacts humanity with a rippling effect. As an organization’s leader, you choose whether that ripple will be felt positively or negatively. Even a small movement or change in a socially responsible direction can have a dramatic effect. Every day produces a new opportunity to mold the way your organization is perceived and to enhance your reputation!