“It’s Just Business” is a Fundamentally Flawed Statement

Take a moment before you judge. I believe in business, profits and making tough business decisions. I believe in rewarding entrepreneurial risk, shareholder investment, and taking good care of the leaders that do more than others are capable – or more likely, willing to do. These things drive our economy.

Here is what I am suggesting. “It’s just business” is flawed logic. It is flawed because in reality, business IS people. Business is the…

  • Entrepreneur that depends on the business to make a living
  • Employees that do the work to receive paychecks that support their families
  • Clients that have their own business demands and challenges
  • Customers that depend on your products and services
  • Shareholders that fund retirements with company profits

It all starts and ends with people. Each business adds to, or subtracts from, the life of many people.

Which people should be your highest priority? Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, in an Inc. titled Companies Should Put Employees First goes so far as to say that companies should put employees first, even before customers and investors, because this has benefits for both customers and investors.

With these things in mind, if you have the urge to make the statement “It’s just business,” I propose you look deeper. I invite you consider that people, relationships, loyalty, kindness and honesty matter. Character is what counts. In the longer term, business wins with this approach. There is plenty of research to back this pro-business = pro-people philosophy. Mashable’s article The Exponential Business Benefits of Putting People First offers insights on the benefits of this approach.

As a business leader, how do you set the tone? We all know the warm and fuzzy side — listen, acknowledge, appreciate, reward. What about the harder part?

In some cases, perhaps firing someone can be the most compassionate action. Many business experts suggest that 10 percent of your workforce is not trying or does not have the skills to ever be successful at your company. Every person loses in this case. The underperformers lose because they are in a position for which they can never be successful. Your top performers lose because they pick up the slack for the bottom 10 percent. Shareholders lose with a company that does not perform at its optimum potential. So in essence, everyone loses because you don’t have the guts, time or insight the make the decision that is in the best interest of all people – to fire the underperformers.

It is not just the senior leader or manager that has the opportunity to embody this value system.

  • If you work at a service firm, your clients are people with their own lives, stresses, goals, strengths and weaknesses. Do you maintain a human empathy for their challenges and support their personal goals?
  • If you work at any publicly held company, have you considered that many of the investors may be just like your parents or grandparents that may depend on that income to live?
  • If you report to someone, have you considered that your performance or bad attitude may impact your manager’s stress levels?
  • If you manage an underperformer, have you considered that they may be dealing with the death of a loved one, disease, divorce or serious personal problems?
  • When you quit a company, do you consider the colleagues that will be left carrying your weight? Do you leave with ample notice and do your best to leave your work in good condition?

So next time you are tempted to say, “It’s just business,” rethink your planned action.  When it is the right decision, you should be able to say with confidence, “I make this tough decision, or choice, because I value people.”


Brand Creation – 5 Mistakes That Weaken Your Brand

Working in tech PR for more than 20 years, I’ve come to realize one simple truth – great BtoB brands are built with incredibly deep brand attributes.

Solid high-tech brands are complex by design and simple to express. Not so simple that we only see the visual aspects, as Seth Godin reminds us in his blog post Logo vs. Brand, and not so complex that we can only speak from a technology perspective. Brands without the multidimensional elements touching on benefits and considering the industry impact are, by nature, weak.

In the quest for the ultimate brand platform, I found five common mistakes that take brands down a notch.

1) Separating brand creation and brand delivery

Separating the tasks of brand creation and brand delivery is usually a mistake. A key component to brand creation is challenging that brand to make sure it can be delivered. If you do not understand how delivery will be challenged, you cannot create a brand that has a chance at successful brand expression.

2) One dimensional branding

For ultimate impact, we must express the whole brand concept as a story. Too many brands focus on just one element, such as customer benefits or technical differentiation. Layer upon layer, the elements of brand should be created so that when you get to brand delivery, you have the whole story.

3) Drill down brand creation

Brands built by consultants without deep company or industry knowledge often result in a weak brand platform that lacks strength, substance, relevancy and significance. Brilliant simplicity is a result of deeply understanding the complex. Brands must be created from this depth of knowledge and drill up to the more simplistic tagline concepts and visual elements, not vice versa.

4) Me-too branding

I shouldn’t even have to say this, but unfortunately I do. If you can take your brand platform, lay it over your competitors and it could be mistaken for theirs, start over. A brand platform should have your unique stamp written all over it. It should be crystal clear as to why your brand should be preferred over the competitors.   It should craft a clear picture of how you fit into your industry. It should have a wow factor.

5) Backbone-less branding consultants (BLBCs)

Because I am in technology, I cannot resist creating an acronym for backbone-less branding consultants. Let’s call them BLBCs. If your branding consultant has never disagreed with you, they are a BLBC. Fire them now. Every senior marketing executive knows how difficult it can be to collaborate with a senior executive team and come to a final branding platform. Strong brand platforms have been challenged, refined and tested. This can be nearly impossible to do without the artful facilitation of a branding consultant. Don’t hire a “yes man” for this job. Hire someone with professional integrity that will challenge your thinking and bring new ideas.

How will you eliminate any weakness in your brand this year?