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Building a Branded Culture Part 1
by Jackie & Kevin Freiberg

Last month we asked How Famous is Your Culture? and suggested that a BRANDED CULTURE puts your company in a league of its own. Famous cultures have a magnetic pull. They attract turned-on, passionate employees who in turn, attract loyal customers who are evangelistic about your business.

At the end of the day, it’s always a “people” business. Your employees are the ambassadors of your culture. They are your most visible and powerful sales and public-relations tools, much more so than any new advertising campaign, logo or slogan. If you want to brand your culture, realize that doing so is a long-term process. Culture is not an excursion it's a journey. It's about doing thousands of little things each day because you know they're the right things to do.

Dan Edelman, CEO of Bon Marché had the courage to convert a stale culture and a failing business into an exhilarating brand. The Bon, as it came to be known, has produced a retail business with a moral purpose that excites managers, inspires employees, delights customers, and enriches the communities it serves. We agree with Edelman who said, “Culture is not about reaching a fixed goal. That's how companies grow stale; they reach a goal and then deflate. Culture is living, breathing, continually adapting.”

If you have successfully established a branded culture, don’t take it for granted, you have something very few organizations have. Protect it and promote it by constantly nurturing and renewing it. If your culture is not famous and you want it to be, here are some questions to ask yourself. They can become your road map to creating a world famous culture. CAUTION: Don't read these questions unless you are truly committed to the hard work that building a branded culture requires.
  • Mission, vision, and values
    Fundamentally, why do we, as a business, exist? How do we want our employees, customers, suppliers, and shareholders to perceive us? When the work day is over, what do we want our employees to think, feel, and say about us? How do we want our customers and suppliers to experience us? When people invest time, talent, and money in us, what do we want them to receive in return? What values are driving our business? What is not negotiable?
  • Driving force
    Is our culture sales-oriented, customer-centric, product-driven, or is it managed by the numbers? Do we have a short-term, quarterly focus, or do we take the long view?
  • Design and structure
    Is our organizational structure bureaucratic and hierarchical or lean and flat? How many “sign-offs” are required to get something significant done? Do we communicate via first names? Is our style of relating to each other rigid and formal or relaxed and informal? Do our people cater to titles or results?
  • Performance
    Are we laser-clear about how our strategies and goals support the company's mission and vision? Are we disciplined at operations? Are we adept at measuring performance and encouraging accountability? Are we straightforward when discussing people’s performance, or do we hint and hope instead of reporting the facts? How do we react when we miss targets, deadlines, and have to do redos? Is our culture perceived to be a high performing meritocracy or one where a sense of entitlement prevails?
  • Control
    How do we make decisions within our culture? What do our control systems say about our beliefs and assumptions? Do we trust people to act ethically or have we set up an inordinate number of controls? Do our systems and processes facilitate or impede performance? Do they enable us to move with speed and agility or do they make us sluggish? Are people in our company motivated by fear or do they feel free and secure?
  • Nature of the work
    Is the nature of our work exciting and compelling? Will it make a difference in people's lives? Who in our organization is working on a project that four years from now nobody will give a damn about? Do we offer each other the freedom to reframe or redefine pointless projects into work that is interesting, challenging, and provocative? Does everyone in our company have a direct line of sight to the customer—that is, does everyone understand how they directly or indirectly have an impact on the customer?
  • Relationships
    Does our culture encourage and support close friendships at work? Do we value and respect the concept of family? Do we demonstrably care about the “person” behind the worker or customer? Do we encourage social activities that cultivate unity and esprit des corps?
The answers to these questions take you right to the heart of culture. We didn’t want to inundate or overwhelm you with questions—as if we haven’t already—so next month we’ll provide you with another set of questions that are equally as important in making your culture world famous.

Copyright Jackie & Kevin Freiberg. All Rights Reserved.

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