The man credited as being one of the wisest (and wealthiest) men to have ever walked this earth, King Solomon, is credited with saying, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth.” Given his credentials and time-tested wisdom, it seems as though we – as individuals as well as stewards of our companies and their respective brands – would be well-served to probe a bit deeper into this insight and seek applications for our own situations.
Just as nothing in the universe remains static, I believe that the same holds true for our names (and brands). We are actively reinforcing, improving upon, or tarnishing our name (or brand) through every word spoken (or lack thereof) and in every interaction (or inaction). With the proliferation of social media and instantaneous access to a myriad of information and opinions online, our words and actions can get more quickly noticed and they can have a more expeditious result than ever before.
We’ve seen recently in the news how quickly a brand’s reputation – either as an individual, company, or brand in the classic sense – can be tarnished or even destroyed by one misstep (or a series of them). Aside from the news that is frequently riddled with politicians, newscasters, sports celebrities, Hollywood stars, etc. who have seen their once good name lose substantial equity, lists such as “The 10 Most Hated Companies in America” (http://247wallst.com/special-report/2014/01/10/the-10-most-hated-companies-in-america-3/2/) also demonstrate that brands are also subject to the same swift judgment.
So, what are some of the contributors to ensuring that your (or your company’s) good name continues to grow in value? Though this short list is not exhaustive by any means, here are a few that I think are worth emphasizing as we evaluate how we can nurture a “good name” in our spheres of influence:
Integrity & Trust. I think they go hand in hand. Does your name stand for doing the right thing even if it costs you something to do so? Are you known for treating others like you want to be treated or does the Golden Rule get twisted to mean, “He who has the gold rules?” Is your company’s brand known for fulfilling its promises and claims? Can your vendors count on you to pay your bills on time? Is your company known for telling the truth or do you routinely live in shades of gray?
Conviction. Have you defined your “True North” – the mission, values, tenants, and behaviors that are uncompromisingly immovable? Or, do you change directions every time you dissect a new opinion poll or each time a new CEO or CMO takes the helm? You can’t please all the people all the time and it’s easy to accept that truth if you are solid in your convictions. I think Shakespeare was onto something profound when he said, “To thine own self be true.” To do so, it is important to know WHO you are and for WHAT you stand.
Consistency. This is a big contributor to trust (or lack thereof). It also is a barometer for the strength of your conviction. Is your company’s behavior consistent with your stated mission, core values, desired customer experience, etc. across all customer touch points, media outlets, venues, and scenarios over a span of time? Or, would those who know you best (employees, vendors, loyal customers) say that you SAY one thing and DO another?
Humility. Can you take input or even correction from those who know you best? How about taking suggestions from someone who just interacted with your brand, had a bad experience, and “flamed” you online? Are you willing to admit a mistake and address it? Can you forgive others when they’ve wronged you? Humility doesn’t mean weakness. In fact, I think it demonstrates tremendous power. It is the opposite of unapproachable arrogance. I think humility is one of the most beautiful attributes a person, company, or brand can exhibit. It is approachable, welcoming, vulnerable, and endearing.
Others-focused. Go beyond brands and think about famous leaders, heroes, beloved coaches, and selfless humanitarians that you admire. One of the common traits that resonate in each one of them on my list is being “others-focused.” They seem to be driven more by “How can I help?” than the “What’s in it for me?” mentality that seems to run rampant. They consistently transcend the self-absorbed, unholy trinity of “Me, Myself, and I.”
As part of my rather unusual career, I was privileged to serve a unique community of approximately 300 ultra high net worth individuals and their families via a private equity firm that acquired my consultancy. These are some of the most notable and accomplished people I’ve ever known. I continue to be struck by how “others-focused” these successful people are in the midst of such rarified success. Knowing most of their stories, they didn’t simply wake up one day after they “made it” and suddenly, they became altruistic. They nurtured and became increasingly proficient at these “good name” attributes throughout their oftentimes difficult journey.
I think Solomon was right. A good name is to be more desired than great riches. Wealth may come from fostering a good name but wealth isn’t necessarily the litmus test. There are plenty of wealthy individuals and companies who are a mess.
A good name doesn’t just happen on its own. It takes a heart-felt commitment, diligence, and dedication from all who represent that name to nurture it into something that can be called “good.” A good name takes a lifetime to build and yet it can be tarnished or destroyed in an instant. May we (and the companies we represent) be so rich to have those who know us best call us by a name that is synonymous with “good.”