A potentially great brand will fail unless it has an internal company culture that can execute it. Cultures are the muscle tissue that hold an organization together. When they are honed everyone knows instinctively what to do and how to do it.
Picture two auto dealerships in two different cities, both selling the same brand of car. The one in the northeast employs sales and service people who always treat the customers with respect. This dealership is extremely low pressure. In the 20 years I have been doing business with them that culture has never changed. The other dealership in south Florida is the antithesis. High pressure sales people are everywhere and it pays to check your service bill. It is often wrong. Both dealerships are successful, but operate totally differently. They each have their own culture.
On the other hand, there are many organizations that perform poorly because they suffer from an ill-defined or corrupted culture. Often this is a result of employees not knowing what leadership wants and, more importantly, why. The result of that challenges a key component needed to deliver a brand…consistency. If you want to change a culture and guarantee brand compliance consider this process:
- Start with what employees know.
- Armed with knowledge they will begin to think differently.
- Once they think differently their actions will change and they will react automatically.
Far too often employees are told what to do and they never buy into the reasons to “believe.” Give your staff as much information as possible, from research to best practices. If you take time in the beginning, you will have less trouble managing through the process.
Don’t expect your staff to execute your vision on the first try. Achieving a reliable outcome requires a lot of feedback. But there is a point of diminishing returns. Those who cannot or do not want to meet your expectations probably need to work for another organization. You must weed them out, as they tend to corrupt others. Let’s go back to the car dealerships. None of the employees in the northeast would work well in south Florida. The inverse is true, too.
Some companies solidify their brands and culture by rejecting highly creative people who want to break new ground. At certain levels this may work. The downside is no organization can afford to stand still. Apple is an innovative company. They have teams that are dedicated to new product and service development. But walk into an Apple store and the culture never changes. You must encourage “supervised innovation.” Here are several guidelines that may help you find the right people:
- Look for people who believe in your brand and how it is executed, who can also refine it.
- Encourage but control innovation. Any change in the way you do business must be reviewed, discussed and accepted or rejected by managers who are immersed in your culture. This should happen for two reasons. First, a suggested change may not be in line with the company’s vision. Second, if it is a great idea, you need time to develop a plan on how the change should be implemented and communicated to other staff members.
- Creative people who work toward the company’s goals should be rewarded.
Cohesive cultures function without a lot of thought. If you only try to change your brand without managing the culture you are in for a rough ride. Change the culture and you can deal with important big issues.