Starting up a business is a time of heady excitement. Everything is fresh and new and so full of promise. With the mantra ‘time is money’ going over and over in your head, your first job as CEO is to get your company up and running in order to get the money rolling in. You’ve hired all the people you need, paid them the right amount according to market rates to put all the processes in place, and you are now busy with trying to get business in.

So three years down the road, you’ve got business coming in but something is not quite right.

The people that you hired are not working out; the processes that you hoped would be in place not quite hitting the mark, no one except the CEO and the top 2 decision makers remembers the vision nor the mission, your advertising looks great and has won awards but the rate of customer attrition is growing.
So what went wrong?
One of the main oversights that companies make when starting up is that they relegate the brand to the Marketing or Communications Dept. without understanding that the brand is one of the most important component in helping to define a performance culture that helps meet shareholders’ expectations.
Brand you say? Yes Brand; and I mean your Values, your core Promise and your Proposition, i.e. all the reasons for existing in the first place. It is the one thing that unites everyone, and is a rallying flag for all. A cohesive brand creates a cohesive culture and a cohesive culture helps push up profits.
Let’s take Disney, who claims to be the happiest place on earth. Many who have visited their parks and the legion of fans they have, can attest to that claim. But what you must understand is, the length they go through to fulfil their promise. They have dedicated employees called Cast Members, who are passionate about delivering on the experience. The whole customer journey from buying your ticket online to being in the park is strategically planned. They also have a great Crisis Management plan in place. In his book Creating Magic, Lee Cockerell states that the Cast Members are extremely passionate and dedicated to the brand. He cites the time when everyone voluntarily worked round the clock to get the park in shape to re-open the next day after being hit by a strong typhoon. This was to ensure they don’t disappoint the people who have come all the way to experience their brand of ‘happiness’.
So who is responsible for creating the brand? Many will say it is the marketing dept. but I say the duty belongs to all, with the CEO as the main driver of the project. It rarely works if your values are something that you display proudly on the wall but are not supported by HR and your brand promise is nothing but a tagline created out of marketing. Delivering the brand is a team effort involving every person in your company. As such all Heads of Dept. need to be fully engaged in developing the brand in terms of values, promise and core proposition.
Once you have your brand in place, only then does it make sense to align your systems, process, sales, human resource, marketing, etc. towards this promise.
Lee Jia Ping
The Listening Tree