Does what you’re doing inside your business reflect what your customers and prospects are seeing on the outside? If it doesn’t, then chances are your growth will become stunted at a key point in your development. That’s why creating a powerful brand that aligns with your company culture is such a crucial step on your business journey!
You see, many entrepreneurs and business owners are often so engrossed in launching their businesses that they tend to neglect company culture. It’s not that they don’t believe culture is important, but rather that there are other more pressing areas that need their focus at the start of the business.
It’s no good waiting until you have dozens of employees to start thinking about company culture. It needs to start from the beginning and drive all your decision making from the outset.Powerful Brands have powerful Brand Values and Brand Values build your Company Culture from the inside out. Click To Tweet
Clarify your brand values!
By expressing and articulating the brand values you want to live by and want to do business by, your decision making becomes easier. Instead of thinking, will I do this or will I do that? You’ll instead think in terms of your brand values and the direction to take will be clear. This alone will help you grow your business in a more intuitive way and help you get to where you want to go; much faster.
So start with establishing your purpose, mission and vision, then underline and ground them with appropriate values that you truly believe in.
What brand values will you do business by?
When you start thinking about the brand inside, ask yourself, “what do I stand for?” What are the values that match your purpose and that you’ll take with you for the rest of your business journey?
When we talk about “business purpose” we usually talk about helping another person or making the world better in some way. It’s a lofty goal and one that can only be fulfilled from the inside out. In order to make this positive impact on the world and on your community, you must also make this positive impact inside your business. In fact, in order to be capable of achieving purpose outside in the world, you need to be able to achieve it inside your own business first.
When you look at values, you think about things associated with how you will do business which is, in effect, your company culture. So, are you going to use authenticity as a core value in your business? Are you going to use truth? Will you use action? Or will you use passion?
What language are you using?
Consider the language you might use i.e. what are the keywords that anchor your business and your values? Some language is softer and some is harder. There are nuances to language that can influence how people behave which is ultimately your company culture in action. In order to build this powerful brand internally, you must make sure that there is no misunderstanding in how the language you choose is interpreted.
Focus on the primary language first and come up with three to five brand values that are the most important to you. These are the ones that are going to anchor your growth.
With your list compiled, it’s time to explain why you chose them and how they are to be lived by. And we’re not talking about just lip service here, we’re talking about how you’ll embed these brand values in your business and make them real.
Consider How You Will Test Yourself Against Them
What will you do if your back is against the wall and you’re at risk of ignoring these brand values so that you can meet some short term goals? Did you ever really mean them in the first place? Did you ever really mean to build your company culture around them? Or is your brand a fair-weather brand that will only stick by its values when it suits?
Powerful Brands Stick By Their Brand Values Even When The Chips Are Down
Out of those three to five brand values, choose one to be your anchor word for your year ahead.
This is a very powerful exercise because, in every year of business, we stretch a little bit differently. And when we stretch, it’s really powerful to anchor that against something tangible. That’s why I advocate doing this exercise every year and anchoring your direction against a core brand value that really fits the stage you are at in the business.
Brand Values and the three stages of business growth
At the beginning of your business journey, it can be tempting to overlook your brand values. After all, you’re excited and raring to go and have a product/service that is going to really help people. My advice is don’t overlook the importance of values early on. They help you become a powerful brand force that will help you achieve your purpose.
Powerful Brands Are Grown Not Built - Finola Howard Click To Tweet
Stage 1 – The Solopreneur
Let’s consider an entrepreneur who is just starting out on their own, often referred to as a “solopreneur”. Solopreneurs need to establish their brand values right from the outset to keep them on the right path to achieving their purpose. Otherwise, a meandering occurs and growth is very often stunted if not stopped altogether.
Stage 2 – Hiring The First Team
As time moves on, It’s inevitable that the solopreneur will want to expand and doing so will require them to bring more hands in to help. Whether it’s a full-time employee or an outsourced contractor; by having established brand values, finding and attracting the right person will be that much easier.
When your first team is aligned with your brand values, the resulting collaboration will be far more productive and far more mutually beneficial. It’s not only a powerful setup that will lead to great results but also acts as a practice run for the entrepreneur, allowing them to discover exactly which types of people they want to work with and which types help them drive real results.
Stage 3 – Expansion
The third and final stage is when you want to expand and grow the business. Having framed your company culture and values as you’ve grown, you’ll know exactly who you want to attract, how to attract them and, then, ultimately trust them in the fulfilment of your business purpose.
This piece of the puzzle is often resolved when your internal marketing team liaises with your HR team to clearly define your internal messaging. It helps set the scene to portray how you do business. Think of your brand values as your rules of engagement internally with each member of your team and externally with the outside world. It’s a very powerful piece, but one that can only happen with the right brand values ascertained and articulated.
Learn How To Build Your Brand Inside
To help you choose the right brand values for your business, we’ve actually got a free brand values minicourse you can complete whether you’re a fledgling business or an established one. We call it the Brand Inside (link at the end of this blog). We’ve carried out this “brand values” exercise with businesses; big and small. The benefits are tangible regardless of size. As a result, these businesses have been able to internalise who they were from the very beginning and have used that as a real tool to build their company culture and in turn their own exponential growth.
Hopefully, you can now see how all three stages of your business growth are underpinned by these values and it all starts with you.
The 3 steps to building a powerful brand that aligns with your company culture
This all leads us to the crux of today’s blog: the three steps to building a powerful brand that aligns with your company culture.
Here they are in a nutshell:
Step 1. Involve everyone in choosing your core values
While you will already have a fair idea of what values you want to be known for and do business by, involving all of your stakeholders during the process will significantly increase the chances of them buying into the final set of values.
When I’ve done this exercise in organisations where employees, directors and shareholders were involved in the process from the outset the impact is incredible. In fact, I’ve often received thank you’s from employees in particular where they expressed that for the first time in their careers they felt part of something much greater than themselves and something they aspired to live by. More than that they felt connected to the brand and the company culture in a truly meaningful way.
Step 2. Make your values actionable & measurable so that they can be seen inside and out
How can you determine whether your values are being lived by everyone in your business and being seen externally by the people who matter to you if you have no way of measuring them? That’s why it’s so important to consider this aspect when choosing your core values.
Brand values need to be action-oriented otherwise they will sit in filing cabinets or fill picture frames and never be “lived” by anyone in your organisation. When you choose language to express your brand values, make sure there’s a verb in those phrases so they become behaviour based and as such foster a company culture that lives its powerful brand.
When your brand values are action led then it’s easy to measure who’s acting in alignment with your company culture and make that part of performance measurement. In this way, you can reward positive brand alignment and correct negative brand alignment.
Step 3. Check for gaps in these three spaces every six months
In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Mary Jo Hatch and Majken Schultz conducted a piece of research into 100 companies around the world, over a 10 year period that identified three essential, interdependent elements that create a powerful brand – we’ve included the article in our free Brand Inside mini-course. When there are gaps in these elements your brand loses power. My advice is to check for these gaps every six months to make sure you are on track:
- The Vision – Culture Gap
- Does your business practice the values it promotes?
- Does your business vision inspire all your team?
- Are your vision and company culture differentiated from those of your competitors?
- The Image – Culture Gap
- What images do stakeholders associate with your business?
- In what ways do your employees and stakeholders interact?
- Do your employees care what stakeholders think of the business?
- The Image – Vision Gap
Who are your stakeholders?
- What do your stakeholders want from your business?
- Are you effectively communicating your vision to your stakeholders?
As you grow your business, keep asking these questions. It will make sure you are always on track. We suggest that you do it every 6 months.
What Powerful Brand Starbucks Learned About Company Culture The Hard Way
And if you’re still not sold on the importance of brand values and company culture, Starbucks’ culture crash should be of interest to you. Did you know that the coffee giant closed 900 stores, laid off hundreds of employees and saw their share price drop by 40% back in 2007? The biggest reason given by then CEO and Chairman Howard Schultz was that Starbucks had neglected and failed to invest in their company culture.
Schultz knew that to get things back on track, the first step he needed to take was to reignite the company culture. You can find out more HERE.
So here’s our closing question for you: What are your brand values? What do you stand for? And how do you bring these to life in your business?
Let me know if you’ve any questions or insights you’d like to share on this topic in the comments below.
And if you’d like to know more about how to build a marketing strategy that matches your business reality with your business dream then check out Get Strategic Get Results™ our signature program.
If you’d like to discover more about The Brand Inside concept, including how to articulate your values, understand why you need them and how they impact your growth as a business, please do take advantage of our free brand values mini-course.
I love to work with businesses, both large and small to help them create sustainable business dreams... Brand and Strategy are at the heart of everything I do and that gets rolled out digitally and across any channel where your customer lives.