This article leans more toward business philosophy than branding or marketing, but it is related. In my experiences with Fortune 500 companies and small businesses, there’s one quality that I notice that seems to be missing in a number of them.
That’s quality of being great. Ultimately, people want to be a part of something great. Great causes, great services, great brands. Now, there are many companies who are building something great. Apple to simplify technology and deliver a wow experience. Southwest Airlines to democratize the skies giving people freedom to fly by providing low-cost travel that almost anyone can afford. Bello Romance Photography a small entrepreneur whose mission is to capture the romance that every woman wants to see when she looks at photos of her special events. These are just a few examples from large to small of companies who are striving to achieve greatness.
Now, what I mean by great is not a mushy, sentimental idea. Greatness takes a huge amount of effort, commitment, and focus, all grounded in reality of the marketplace and an honest view of yourself and competitors. To be great takes courage over the long haul and that’s why so many companies fail to achieve it. This courage takes place when, at times, you will be standing alone, going against the trends, and staying true to the core mission of why your company is in business in the first place. Greatness also requires you to lead, not follow. That’s why when I conduct a brand session, I require companies to think why they do what they do beyond making money. If it’s just making money, I don’t think you can achieve greatness in its truest form.
By striving to be great, here are a few concepts that seem to be consistent in that pursuit. One is you attract the right employees. You get people who believe in your company’s mission and cause. By getting the right people, management is made easier. You don’t have to motivate. No silly corporate, motivational games. People work and contribute as if they owned the company. In a sense, they own the cause your company sets out to achieve. Whole Foods have largely been able to attract passionate people to work there all because of their mission to nourish the body, the community and the planet. As I’ve heard before, “If you have to manage someone, you made a wrong hire.”
Another benefit is you no longer become a commodity, but a cause. Customers become emotionally loyal to your brand, not primarily because your product is better. It may or may not. The real move from commodity to uniqueness is what your brand stands for something beyond making money. Apple has been able to harness this quality because consumers see them unleash the power of creativity into their hands. Because of Apple, they too can create and show the world what they can do.
One other thing about being great, it takes just about the same amount of effort to be great than to be just good. This may seem counter-intuitive, but to be good takes a large amount of effort and commitment. To be great doesn’t take much more. The difference is in the mindset of being willing to lead and not follow, to not get lazy and settle on the small details while pursuing the big picture, and to always remember why you’re in business in the first place.
Being great isn’t really about being altruistic. A cup of coffee can be great. An online music service can be great. An airline can be great. It just takes a mission that is beyond making money and making a difference in your customer’s lives. Greatness leads, it never follows. To me, that is one standard you can hold your company up to while striving to be great.