By: John Mehrmann
John Mehrmann is author of The Trusted Advocate: Accelerate Success with Authenticity and Integrity, the fundamental guide to achieving extraordinary sales and sustaining loyal customers. This revolutionary book applies peak management techniques and leadership skills, with common sense and practical applications to grow business, sustain loyal customers, and use personal talents for personal success. The book that is changing everything by reawakening personal values in business as a competitive edge.
A business can be defined by the same character traits that are typically associated with an individual personality. A business can be bold, aggressive, compassionate, inconsiderate, caring, trustworthy, deceptive, cautious, or friendly. A business is often the reflection of the conglomeration of members, leadership, and an accumulation of character traits. If a company is large, the character traits may be influenced by years of pride of internal culture. If the company is small to medium, the character is often a direct reflection of the leadership or ownership of the company. Regardless of the size, a business is a collection of individuals and talents, and it is a collection of personalities that define the character of the company.
One of the most important character traits of a reliable company is consistency.
As with an individual, one measure of corporate consistency is to "practice what you preach", which means simply that actions are consistent with words. If a person says one thing, and does another, then it becomes rather difficult to believe anything that the person has to say. Failing to deliver on promises can undermine credibility and confidence. In extreme circumstances for business, intentionally misleading communications can be repudiated as false advertising. A somewhat less flagrant embodiment of the same practice is known as "bait and switch", to promise one thing and than change the offer after interest and commitment are established. Less obvious but equally devious manipulation of communication can occur during the negotiation process, or appear in "fine print" with the wave of a dismissive hand. Regardless of the circumstances, individual or corporate culture, words and promises that are not consistent with actions during the promissory stage are very likely to deteriorate after a commitment, contract, or sale. If the words are not consistent with actions before the sale, it is reasonable to suspect consistent inconsistency after the sale. Let the buyer beware.
Corporate consistency often exists between the dignity and respect afforded to internal employees and to clients. Organizations that foster a culture of respect and appreciation for the employees typically enjoy the same treatment of customers. Employees absorb the culture and environment of the organization and pass it on to customers through their own actions and communications. Employees that enjoy an environment of teamwork, appreciation, enthusiasm, and support, are likely to share this feeling and experience in their own interactions with customers. On the contrary, working in an environment of relentless pressure, fear, or individual insignificance, is also likely to be personified in customer interactions. It is important to share recognition and cooperation internally, as the attitude will be consistent with the external portrayal of the organization. If an employee is treated as an insignificant and easily replaced cog in the corporate machine, then the interactions with internal and external customers will be perceived as insignificant. However, if the employee if a perceived as a valuable asset, and individual accomplishments are recognized, then the employee is more likely to understand a sense of pride and ownership when interacting with internal and external customers.
Another significant measure of corporate consistency occurs in measuring the organization response to the inevitable peaks and valleys of business conditions. Businesses experience periods of growth, plateau, decline, and renewed growth, that may be the result of internal or external factors. During a period of decline, organizations may find it necessary to reorganize, restructure, or redefine the strategy to survive. A business that learns from the experience and incorporates this knowledge into the culture and planning for future growth is much more likely to succeed and experience continued growth when conditions improve. On the contrary, some organizations adopt a temporary strategy that is effective at controlling the decline and rebuilding business, only to jettison the changes when revenue begins to rejuvenate.
Some organizations become self-absorbed during periods of economic growth, and suddenly change the culture to customer-centric dedication only when panic arises from declining business conditions. The focus on customer requirements may stall the decline and create opportunities for acquiring new customers, and new revenue. If the organization does not absorb the learning from this experience, it may revert back to "bad behavior" of ignoring customer requirements when the business starts to grow again. Flip-flopping between embracing and ignoring customers based on economic conditions is a catalyst to spawn repeated decline, trapping the organization in a continuous loop of inconsistent behavior. When organizations get caught in this vicious loop, it is also likely that valuable human capital will be lost in the process. Some individuals will escape the cycle to find more suitable environments of consistent culture. Some individuals will remain, waiting for the cycle to come full circle for another temporarily palatable period, or simply bearing it because the individual is trapped by other obligations. It is far better to nurture a consistent culture, adopting learned behavior, and an environment that embraces continuous customer care. While external conditions may throw temporary challenges in the path of progress, maintaining a consistent dedication to the dignity and respect of employees and customers will solidify a strong foundation, and keep a direct course for unrestricted growth when external challenges pass.
Imagine a ship on the ocean. Each individual on the crew has a particular responsibility for the progress and performance of the ship. Although the members work on tasks independently, they must all work in unison for a common direction. If some members are raising sails, while others drop anchor as a result of inconsistent instructions, it is likely that problems will occur. It may be necessary to adjust the sails, or slightly adjust the direction, based on winds and external conditions. However, going in circles can severely limit the progress of the ship. Sometimes it is better to adjust slightly, or move slowly in a consistent direction, rather than completely change course and revert to going backwards. Keep a straight course, communicate accurately and effectively, and avoid the maelstrom of inconsistent actions.
Signs of a consistent organization:
- Low employee turnover, high motivation and morale
- High customer satisfaction, loyal customers
- Customers can accurately state the culture of your company, and embrace it
- Rapid growth after a "down" period of slow growth or decline from external factors
- Growth after a period of decline exceeds previous successes, indicates indoctrination of learning and consistency
Signs of an inconsistent organization:
- Employee turn-over occurs periodically in large numbers, indicates severe swings of internal culture
- Constantly seeking new customers to replace the ones lost during the last cyclical change
- Customers do business with you "in spite of the frustration of dealing with you"
- Bait and switch tactics, promises change in mid-stream
- Periods of growth seem to have predictably limitations, there is difficulty doing any better previous period of success
Which characteristics most exemplify your organization? If you are consistent in your words, promises, actions, dignity for internal employees, and respect for customers, then you be proud of your culture. You have something special, and sharing it with your customers is the same as giving them a gift. Even though the organization may experience some challenges during tough economic periods, or suffer through challenging competitive waters, you have limitless potential.
On the other hand, if your organization is personified by inconsistent behavior, then you must ask yourself if you can change it, of if you are most comfortable with this type of behavior for yourself. If the organization changes the level of commitment to customers and employees based economic conditions, how does this reflect in your level of commitment? What type of behavior best exemplifies your commitment?
Which characteristics best describe your vendors, suppliers, partners, and customers? Sometimes it is easier to observe and measure the characteristics of the other organization, affiliates, and customers. Sometimes it is easier to analyze those around us, and then reflect on the company that we choose to keep. Surround yourself with consistent and reliable people, vendors, partners, organizations, and customers. Business moves faster on straight rails than it does on winding roads. Surround yourself with those that you can rely upon, and see how quickly you can gain momentum with motivation.
Words of Wisdom
"The quality of an organization can never exceed the quality of the minds that make it up."
- Harold R. McAlindon
"An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success."
- Stephen Covey
"Quality is the result of a carefully constructed cultural environment. It has to be the fabric of the organization, not part of the fabric."
- Philip Crosby
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