As the CEO of a five-generation family-owned company, I’m often asked about the secret ingredient behind the company’s success. While our goals and products have certainly changed since the 1940s, our mission of creating enduring value in every endeavor has never wavered. We’ve evolved over the years, but this mission remains the core of our DNA. And as CEO, it is my number-one responsibility to ensure that our DNA remains at the center of our brand.
A company’s brand is its most valuable asset and must be protected and enhanced at all costs. Here are 4 ways we’re doing this today.
1. Map Your Founder DNA. Tracing your roots is a critical exercise to creating a brand with staying power. Our company’s second generation of leaders recently shared their life story with shareholders to highlight the importance of brand reputation. They recounted wartime days of rations and a time when hurricanes would land on the beach and they wouldn’t know it until it was at their doorstep. They worked hard and had struggles, but never let circumstances get in the way of their principles. This message is far more powerful coming from those who lived it and is a necessary exercise for any brand at any stage.
2. Know When to Tweak the Recipe. To scale without losing sight of your brand’s essence requires nimble leaders who can realize and adapt to the needs of the market. Our company has seen depression, wars, housing crises and a recession, yet has never defaulted on a loan – all because our leaders had the foresight to change the strategy at the right time. In our early days, we concentrated on developing affordable housing for veterans returning home. Since then, we’ve diversified geographically, entered new and adjacent industries and calibrated our product over and over. When faced with a new challenge, leaders must allow the brand to guide business decisions.
“A company’s brand is its most valuable asset and must be protected and enhanced at all costs.”
3. Take an Integrated Approach. When I joined the company in 1990, our company had 18 employees. Today we have more than 300 and are on our fifth generation of the family business. Our brand today is more important than ever and requires an integrated approach to ensure a consistent voice is achieved at every internal and external touchpoint. Whether you like it or not, everything your company does is an extension of your brand, from your internal newsletter to social media. Even the way company leaders react to challenges impacts your brand. When it comes to reputation, you cannot cut corners, so you must take a thoughtful, strategic approach.
4. Promote Philanthropy. In our quest to create enduring value in every endeavor, our founder expertly wove strategic corporate philanthropy into our DNA, which has enriched our brand since its inception. In our case, the company seeks to enhance the environments and communities in which we live, work and invest, which demonstrates social responsibility while acting as an economic catalyst. Creating opportunities for employees to emulate your company’s brand through philanthropy is one way to ensure staying power for generations to come.