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Posts Tagged ‘Purpose’

 

Earlier on, we had touched upon the importance of brand equity. One can undervalue the criticality of this attribute only at one’s own risk and peril.

Corporate Brands

Companies benefit immensely from making conscious efforts to keep their brand images shimmering. If asked to quantify the resultant financial uplift though, their CFOs would be found twiddling their thumbs. But it is not difficult to see the kind of benefits which accrue from having a shimmering image, whether in matters of human resources, sourcing or marketing, besides in such grey areas as liaison and government dealings.

Several instances can be quoted from my own stints with the Tata group.

When a INR 5 crore modern leather processing factory was established at Dewas in 1975, the plant was commissioned without any delay, with all necessary government approvals in place. No government officials had to be appeased, whether in cash or in kind. In fact, the then government of Madhya Pradesh went all out to support the complex being set up.

In another case, a senior manager deputed to the headquarters of the Electricity Board to secure power connection for a small manufacturing unit ended up assuring a demanding government officer that a measly amount would be paid upon the issue of the necessary permission. A 50% advance paid to the officer concerned was shown in the manager’s travel expenses claim. A furious general manager called in the manager and gave him a severe dressing down. Yours truly was called in and asked to resolve the issue. My visit to the place cost the company five times the amount demanded. Somehow, I could secure the permission without any further underhand payment and got back to my desk with a feeling of triumph and pride at what had been accomplished. The senior manager soon left the company and moved on to a greener pasture.

Tatas are well known for their sound values and systems. They have a unique way of handling under-the-table demands by all and sundry. When it comes to compliance, the emphasis is on avoidance and not on evasion. As to corporate governance, their 150 year old record is blemish free.

Tatas repersent a fine example of what Alan Wallner is apt to call a Conscious Brand. As one of the thought leaders who happen to be a part of the Conscious Enterprises Network, he believes that branding is not just about physical attributes; rather, it is about the inner presence of a person and of the team that creates the brand of a business – it’s the way we treat other people and work together to create something remarkable.

A Mighty Responsibility

To keep a brand duly buffed up and shining is no mean task. Besides management back-up, a positive culture and clear policies which facilitate an ethical approach to business dealings, it needs extensive training at the front level of any organization.

Experiences of Customer Delight

Sometime during the late 1980s, I once had a problem with a Kodak camera I had bought just about a few months back. Somehow, I had not been careful enough to save a copy of the purchase proof with me. I contacted the shop from where I had bought it and he refused to entertain me in the absence of either a bill or a receipt. But when I contacted the Kodak office in person, they made no fuss. A technician checked my camera and within twenty minutes, I walked out with a brand new fresh camera in my hands.

As a lay customer, I once had a problem with my TataSky direct-to-home service account. When nothing satisfactory happened for a week, I gave a piece of mind to the next person I could manage to speak to. Within a day, not only was the problem addressed but even a senior person called me up to apologize for the inconvenience caused.

Such first-hand experiences restore one’s faith in a brand, thereby giving it a unique advantage – that of free word to mouth publicity!

Converting Ex-employees into Brand Amassadors

At HCL Infosystems, another large company, a separation with a disgruntled star performer was handled very delicately. The outcome was that he ended up being an ambassador for the company, referring candidates for several other key positions in the following years.

Even a massive plant closure involving over 1,000 persons was handled so very decently that there were no protests and red flags of any kind, nor any interference from the local politicians or communities. Key personnel who could not be accommodated were assisted in securing alternative career opportunities, with the Human Resources Department playing a key role.

Caring for the Delicately Nurtured

Unilever recently stated having introduced a policy with zero tolerance towards domestic violence.

 

A ten-year stint of mine with Tatas matched well with my own upbringing. However, by the time the episode touched upon by me earlier occurred, I was in a bubble at the other end of the spectrum of values. I had perhaps permitted my honest visage and sincere disposition to be put to nefarious uses. Sure enough, the fault of accepting a situation of this kind lay somewhere within me.

Personal Brand Equity

It stands to reason that one’s brand equity is built over a long period of time. Once built, it becomes like the fragrance of an exotic flower. It travels much ahead of one, often opening up new vistas, offering a wider canvas for one to perform and excel at whatever one undertakes to do. The observant ones amongst those around us are surely able to size us up much quicker than we can manage to do ourselves.

Professionals need to step back every once in a while and check if their brand image is bright and shining. Keeping one’s brand value burnished helps in career progression. It is also an immensely satisfying slice of life which promotes self-worth and boosts self-confidence.

My experience tells me that these are the kind of inputs which go into keeping a professional’s brand value burnished.

Under-promise, over-deliver

Being aware of our core strengths as well as limitations helps us to assess our chances of success in delivering on a project. By ensuring that we commit conservatively but deliver zealously, we build up a reputation of reliability. There are indeed times when a polite ‘no’ could save us from denting our reputation.

Honesty and openness in relationships

Our colleagues and team members are equally smart. They are quick to sense a touch of opacity on our part. They detest a lack of transparency in us. Dealing with those around us with honesty ensures that they repose their faith and trust in us. As a result, our capability of getting things done improves.

Being a friend, philosopher and guide

All of us have some expertise which may not be directly relevant to our Key Result Area. It could be an insight into the realm of alternative therapies which a colleague can use for one of her family members. It could be about handling rebellious teenagers at home. If we put such expertise to use by helping others around us, word goes around and others rush in to seek our counsel. We might have the image of a tough task master, but this softer aspect of our personality helps us to build a unique brand for ourselves.

Networking

Whether within the organization or outside, networking goes a long way in building up our reputation. The trick, however, is in avoiding those with a negative outlook, while promoting ties with those who have positive vibes.

Keep learning

Keeping the saw sharpened always helps. By refreshing our knowledge pool continuously, we remain a leader in more ways than one. Often, a dash of humility is all it needs to remain ahead of the curve.

Being genuine

By being ourselves, we enhance our dependability. Others feel reassured and refreshed after each encounter with us. They do not mind confiding in us. In turn, this helps us to understand and address their anxiety and concerns better. Our ability to deliver improves.

A brand is all about reliability and dependability. It offers good value for money. So do professionals who work on the basis of deliverables. Smart ones realize that an image cannot be built up purely based on optics and communication. It needs to be backed by real inputs so one’s brand value remains intact and is kept shimmering at all times.

One of the key factors in building a brand and sustaining its image is the kind of value system it represents; moreover, the purpose which guides it.

 

(Illustration: Keller’s Brand Equity Model)

 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/bidding-an-adieu-to-mr-ratan-tata

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/building-up-the-employee-brand-value-3

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/12/29/a-not-so-plummy-encounter-with-an-arm-of-the-law)

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Vision and Mission Statements of corporates adorn their walls and can be readily copied. However, the value system of an organization is not something which can be copied very easily. It permeates the entire organization – its hierarchy, its various divisions or departments. It rubs off on most of its employees. Even service providers and supporting manufacturers get tuned to the same frequency. It would perhaps not be wrong to surmise that values are to an organization what the soul is to a physical body. Organizations which thrive over a long period of time and achieve sustainable commercial success would invariably be found to have sound values at the core of their operations.

Manifestation of values

Small things reflect the values being followed – whether nephews and nieces of the top person are getting freely hired to do jobs they are not competent at, whether spaces in the car parking lot are allotted hierarchy wise or are based on a first-come-first-served basis, whether the corner office has high sound-proof walls all around or is open to all to signify transparency, whether the boss is entitled to charge the company for her spouse accompanying her on a business trip, whether office stationery items get whisked off to executives’ households for use by their kids, or whether use of cell phones or social media platforms is viewed with a sense of benign resignation by a hapless human resources honcho.

One striking feature of values is that even if these remain spoken of in hushed tones and get communicated more effectively through grapevines which are embedded deep in any organization, it is leadership which sets the tone. Those down the ladder fall in line. Those who shape up, and have a reasonably good performance on the job, survive and do well. Those who do not, get eventually shipped out. The latter then try to look for other organizations where the values – theirs and those of the organization – happen to be in harmony.

When head-hunting for a CFO, Human Resources honchos know pretty well that even though the final three short-listed aspirants happen to have near-identical qualifications and experience, their personal value systems would set them apart. One would not mind being used to extensive window dressing to please diverse stakeholders, thereby raising the concern for a disaster lurking round the corner in not so distant a future. Another might admit to being open to transactions in hard cash, thereby consolidating his own power and pelf in the company, if appointed. Yet another one might take a dim view of any underhand dealings and project the image of someone who believes in transparency with the internal as well as the statutory auditors, thereby leaving the CEO and the board of directors breathing easier. If the management cares about maintaining high standards of corporate governance, the last one would land the assignment.

At the macro level, values of an organization manifest in the wisdom which underlies its actions. When it comes to achieving the heights of corporate excellence, organizations which have sound long-term values are invariably found to enjoy strong brand equity. Scratch beneath the surface and one is apt to discover the wiser ways in which it conducts its operations. Its initiatives lead to a sustainable growth of the business, giving back to society in ways which are imaginative as well as pragmatic.

Take the case of Tatas, a salt-to-software business conglomerate which has more than one hundred companies in its fold, spread over more than one hundred countries. Their businesses might be as diverse as chalk and cheese but much like beads strung together by a string, what holds all these outfits together is a common set of values which the group stands for. The name stands for dependability and better value for money. Around two-thirds of the profits of the group flow into Tata trusts which channelize these back to the society in myriad ways.

Speaking to the conglomerate’s leadership recently, Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus, said that the group has been under “fire” for the past few months due to allegations of mismanagement and “being in business for reasons other than good corporate governance”. “The spirit that we had that made us grow to $100-billion revenues has not been through mismanagement and unethical procedures,” he said, adding that it has grown by being a visionary, having a spirit of integrity, unity and doing philanthropy.

Products and organizations have life cycles of their own. Just like the human body is prone to many changes – birth, existence, growth, decay, disease and death. But values outlive these perils of life; somewhat akin to the Self which Gita holds to be eternal and deathless. Values pervade all arms of any organization.

अविनाशि तु तद्विद्धि येन सर्वमिदं ततम् |
विनाशमव्ययस्यास्य न कश्चित्कर्तुमर्हति || 2.17 ||

avināśhi tu tadviddhi yena sarvam ida tatam
vināśham avyayasyāsya na k
aśhchit kartum arhati

That which pervades the entire body, know it to be indestructible. No one can cause the destruction of the imperishable soul.

The Purpose of an organization

Why does an organization exist? What is its purpose? Can an organization be run in such a manner as to be long-lived? Can an organization strike a judicial balance between owner enrichment and societal good?

Nikos Mourkiaginnis, in his famous book ‘Purpose – the Starting Point of Great Companies’, demonstrates that the choice between values and success is no choice at all. He argues that companies must satisfy the need for purpose – a set of values that defines an organization and inspires and motivates its employees. Rather than organization and structure, ideas are what cause companies to go from good to great. Drawing on examples from across multiple industries, Mourkogiannis demonstrates how a strong purpose is the essential first step toward lasting success.

This is a great insight. An organization’s purpose is merely not to deliver goods and services to its customers. What really matter are the values which determine the choice of these products and services. Looked at from this perspective, one would not be wrong in concluding that values, which determine the purpose of an organization, indeed constitute its soul.

An inner connection to handle myriad challenges with aplomb

Hapless CEOs face myriad challenges. There are pinpricks from customers, employees, suppliers and many other stakeholders. The directors and the shareholders have to be kept in a positive frame of mind. Regulatory agencies and government departments have to be kept in good humour. Concerns for upholding norms of corporate governance keep snapping at their heels. Only nerves of chilled steel and deep reserves of inner resilience can help them to keep performing on all the twelve cylinders. An inner connection surely helps.

In an indirect manner, Gita touches upon the importance of an inner connection for business leaders. It holds that wise are those who enjoy a tranquility and calmness within themselves. Their inner being is in harmony with their outer being. Their decision-making is based on balanced, well-considered and a holistic view of the facts of the case. They do not manage crises in business with knee-jerk reactions. They deal with people according to their nature and with occurrences in the business environment according to their force and the truth or hard reality they represent. Impartial they are. Detached they are. Compassionate they happen to be, but never at the cost of their innate wisdom and truth. And never do they compromise on their core values.

(A version of this post would appear in a yet-to-be released book authored by yours truly which connects Bhagavad Gita to Management)

 

 

 

 

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