Business Culture Inside Equals Brand Outside (Why It’s Essential to Build from Within)

(Listen to a 48 sec audio from Doug: “Why I wrote this article.”)

You may ask: “Why is this important to MY company?” Let’s consider some of the recent high profile ‘brand failures’ we’ve been hearing about lately.

Tim Horton’s brand backlash from a few franchises’ response to the increased minimum wage in Ontario;
Samsung’s exploding Galaxy Note 7 cell phone fires;
Bell Canada’s (alleged) misleading door-to-door sales tactics for internet and phone services;
Apple’s (alleged) slowing of system speed on older phones to encourage the purchase of new phones;
Equifax’s security breach of customer data by hackers, further compounded by delayed disclosure of the breach; and
Volkswagen’s systematic cheating on vehicle emissions testing.

And what is your immediate reaction? You question their values and your trust in them. You wonder how “they” could allow this to happen? What were they thinking? Were they acting out of self-interest? What else are they hiding or don’t I know? Why did they deliberately mislead or take advantage of me? Did they put me at risk? Can I trust them again?

Whether your company’s brand is or is not as high profile as the examples given above, make no mistake – your customers AND your employees are watching.

Both brand and culture are ultimately created by how we collectively act (our behaviour) as an organization, and our earned reputation (our consistent behaviour over time). Reputation cannot be dictated, decreed, or instantly created; it must be nurtured and earned over time through demonstrated behaviour. As shown in the above examples, both brand and culture can be extremely fragile.

What is good culture, good brand?

Most of us want to be associated with a good culture or brand – one that we can feel part of and/or participate in; that aligns with our values and priorities, and frankly, that contributes or augments our own personal brand. Welcome to Marketing 101!

In our work with clients, many business owners and employees describe the culture they want to create or be a part of as:
“innovative, purposeful, authentic, transparent, decisive leadership, passionate and collaborative team environment, and client-centric, with open communication and shared values that attracts/retains great people…”
Note how culture mostly refers to behaviour, attitude, and how people interact with each other – very little about the product or service offered. Employees effectively ‘rate’ your culture by joining your organization, staying and contributing, or by moving on.

If asked consumers would typically describe the brands they wish to be associated with as:
“having a clear purpose, superior design, high quality, trustworthy, dependable, aligned with their own values and personality, unique and memorable, relevant, current and passionate….”
Note how brand refers to both product AND behaviour, attitude, and how customers are treated. Consumers effectively ‘rate’ your brand by trying you out, continuing to buy from you, or finding alternatives.

Both culture and brand require conscious effort to build, and consistent effort to maintain. Both take time to build, yet both can be lost in an instant.

Nurturing Good Culture

“Culture is less about what you encourage,
and more about what you permit”
– Beartown, A novel by Fredrik Backman

Positive Culture creates employee loyalty (retention), personal commitment, organizational esteem, strength, momentum and stability.

Nurturing Good Culture means: (how does your organization measure up?)

• Setting clear, consistent direction with a common purpose;
• Being authenticity – be it, expect it;
• Keeping your promises;
• Having decisive leadership that sets the pace, values and standards;
• Right-sizing the organizational structure, resources, and priorities;
• Having open, candid communication and collaboration;
• Attracting/hiring for cultural fit;
• Setting clear expectations, responsibilities and accountability – with recognition;
• Mentoring and supporting others for their success; and
• Getting better by helping your people get better – fostering continuous improvement.

Culture is about everyone ‘walking the talk’ consistently – and about being authentic over time.

With today’s informed workforce, viral communication and employment mobility, a positive culture can be your biggest competitive advantage and ‘retention strategy’ for talent. It’s good culture that attracts and keeps valuable employees, particularly in a competitive marketplace.

Nurturing Good Brand

“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is –
it is what consumers tell each other it is.”

– Scott Cook, Founder of Intuit (online financial software)

Positive Brand creates consumer loyalty, emotional connection, market growth and momentum and a competitive advantage.

Nurturing Good Brand means: (how does your organization measure up?)

• Consistent quality, design or performance;
• Authenticity;
• Keeping your promises;
• Engaging your customers, soliciting their opinion and what’s important;
• Giving them strong reason to stay/come back;
• Having aligned values or purpose;
• Being precise; staying relevant/current; and
• Showing appreciation.

With today’s informed consumer, viral communication and unprecedented choice, a positive brand can be your biggest competitive advantage and ‘retention strategy’ for customers. It’s good brand that attracts and keeps loyal customers, particularly in a competitive marketplace.

Responsibility for Culture and Brand

So who sets the tone, and the standard, for culture and brand in your organization?

As Owner, you do.
As CEO or President, you do.
As Board of Directors, you do.
As Manager or Supervisor, you do.
As Employee, you do.

Your business’ culture and brand are like a revered family name and reputation. Whether you’ve built the reputation or inherited it, both your culture and brand should be coveted. They need to be maintained and nurtured; kept legitimate and current; shared and regularly cultivated by all.

Be Bold, Think Big, Be Curious, Keep Focused


About Doug Osborne

Doug Osborne is creator of The Success Dashboard Execution Platform© - a simple, practical and visual subscription-based online execution platform that is proven to accelerate business execution and performance for business owners and leaders, literally within hours. With over 35 years business success, Doug is an experienced business coach, speaker, writer, and strategy facilitator working primarily with small and medium-sized family businesses on improved & sustained business execution for accelerated growth, improved performance, successful transition or higher-value sale.