Sunday, 23 March 2014

Make Principles and Values the Foundation of Your Brand. Two Examples Have Stood The Test of Time

William J. McDonald

Refining Principles and Values Into Simple Language

Written by Robyn T. Braley

Ideas to help you move your business to new levels of success.

Have you written a set of principles and values that can be shared with your team? It doesn't have to brain science. In fact, there are powerful examples that have stood the test of time.

So, what exactly are your values and principles? They are guidelines for how to act, to conduct business, to treat customers and live out your mission. They are what drives your business and defines who you are.

Sometimes we over think what should be an easy explanation of why we do what we do. We complicate describing what we want to be known for. There are excellent examples of principles that were written decades ago and have stood the test of time.

The Four Way Test
As a Rotarian, I live by Four Way Test. The test is adhered to by Rotarians around the world who are business people, educators, politicians, financial leaders, community leaders and other professionals. Many companies and organizations have adopted the principles as their own. It is as simple as it is profound and encompassing.

Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Herbert J. Taylor was asked to revive a near-bankrupt company called the Club Aluminum Company in 1932. The firm had been involved in a series of questionable business dealings.

Taylor searched for an ethics statement that would signal the new direction the company was taking. He believed if employees “would think right, they would do right.”

Refining the Gold
He began by writing a statement of about 100 words. Deciding that was too long, he reduced it to seven points. He narrowed those to the four searching questions that form the test today.

Mr. Taylor asked four department heads for input; a Roman Catholic, a Christian Scientist, an Orthodox Jew, and a Presbyterian. They all agreed the test not only coincided with their religious beliefs, but provided a superb guide for personal and business life.

When he became the 50th President of Rotary International, he championed the adoption of the test by the organization. The rest is history.

The Forgettable Mission Statement
In the 1990’s and early 2000’s business and communications consultants made a lot of money helping clients develop mission, vision and value statements. I know I did.

We would spend weeks, sometimes months interviewing clients, facilitating focus groups, and seeking input from key staff before writing a three sentence reason-to-be for them. That would be followed by 4-5 bullet points listing core values.

The statement would be mounted in brass lettering in the reception lobby. It was repeated on letterhead, company trucks, marketing material and wherever else was possible.

There was only one problem. All too often they failed to resonate at a basic level. Within months, few company employees and fewer customers could remember them. All of the work, analysis, and creative brilliance had little meaning.

Developing a short list of principles written in clear language that all employees, supplies, and customers could understand would have served the company's better.  

Eight Principles To Guide You
So, while doing research for a mechanical contracting client, I came across the website for construction giant Black & McDonald Limited. I discovered something in the history section that intrigued me. Before you ask, our company, UnimarkCreative did not design their website.

Black& McDonald is an integrated building contractor that provides mechanical, electrical, utility and maintenance services to various commercial, institutional and government clients. Headquartered in Toronto, the company operates in Canada and the USA.

In 1921, William J. McDonald and William R. Black formed the company to do residential wiring. The company is still a family-owned business that maintains an uncompromising commitment to the founder's principle of delivering on promises and providing fairness to all. Sound familiar?  

Driven ‘Till His Dying Day
In August, 1991, in his 104th year, WJ McDonald was interviewed about his career and asked to provide insight into his business success. He repeated the beliefs and values he and his partner had founded their company on.

I could edit them into the language of 2014, but I feel there is greater meaning reading them as they were originally written. They have stood the test of time.
1.     Do the job right - regardless
2.     Talk to the customer regularly, confirm his satisfaction
3.     Make the price fair and reasonable
4.     A deal is a good one only when it is good for both parties
5.     Live up to your promises
6.     Treat employees with respect
7.     Complete jobs promptly
8.     Invoice promptly, fairly, and in detail
Robyn T. Braley is a writer, speaker and music composer. He is the President of UniMark Creative which focuses on website design, video production, media services (editorial and advertising), and graphic design. Follow him on twitter at @robyntbraley

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