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This chapter is from the book

Standing for Something and Delivering

Core values for Il Fornaio, Omaha Steaks, and Gateway became both the literal and figurative cornerstones of their retail experiences. Their values led to unique store presentations, unique materials, unique layouts, and these led to unique experiences. For every company, distilling the spirit of the company's retail operations into three key words serves as a useful discipline and provides a focus for business decisions and marketing and operational activities still to be undertaken (many of which are covered later in this book). Equally important, the three-word mantra enables everyone in the company to rally around the company's mission in a way nothing else can.

Where you see a lame mission statement, you see a lame company. Every company must stand for something, and the mission statement says what that is. No matter how mundane its concept might seem, the company must stand for something special and specific about its offerings. A local diner might not aspire to be the next national chain, but it can aspire to be something more than a greasy spoon: "We serve the finest breakfast in town." What it stands for can translate into something bigger that resonates with customers, something with touch. "As part of our breakfast," the diner mission statement might say, "we give you 15 very pleasant minutes before the start of your hectic workday." What it stands for can translate into specific systems put in place to benefit customers: "We use the latest, cutting-edge equipment and systems to guarantee the prompt delivery of hot, satisfying meals." And what it stands for can translate into specific behaviors of employees toward customers and of the company toward employees: "To ensure that you have a pleasant experience, we invest in ongoing employee training. We treat our employees well so that they treat you even better."

Your corporate values, which derive from your personal strengths and values, are the intangible but absolutely necessary qualities that ultimately affect the most important ongoing decisions and operations of your company. You have to look deep inside yourself to understand your core values and to develop your core purpose from them. After you do, you will have gone a long way toward creating an enduring brand. Core values and business or company purpose apply whether you launch a new venture or you embark on a new growth strategy for an existing venture. Core values lead to guiding principles, which determine the mission statement and ultimately every aspect of the brand. Strong core values make it unlikely that a retailer will overlook the many components that make up the retail brand and create the customer experience. Core values eventually express themselves in every detail in the implementation and operation of every store, whether the company has one store or thousands or some number in between. As adidas and Starbucks illustrate, a company grounded in strong values has a solid frame of reference from which to evaluate operational and branding decisions and a better likelihood of consistently implementing the brand values in each retail store. As the ice cream store illustrates, even a single failure to connect values to the brand position can have serious detrimental consequences. Thus quality control and consistency become major issues for every chain, and for every new retail concept that seeks to grow. The proof of the core values is the willingness of the retailer to put the considerable effort and time required to provide that quality control in every retail setting. Protecting and projecting the brand is much easier with strong core values. They are the very heart of your enterprise. If you believe, as I do, that growth is an organic and dynamic process, then core values represent the seeds of an organization. From a tiny seed—the right seed—a mighty oak will grow.

Core Values Create Core Purpose

  • adidas—To be the leading sports brand in the world.

  • Cargill—To improve the standard of living around the world.

  • Fannie Mae—To strengthen the social fabric by continually democratizing home ownership.

  • HP—To make technical contributions for the advancement and welfare of humanity.

  • Lost Arrow Corporation—To be a role model for social change.

  • Mary Kay—To enrich women's lives.

  • McKinsey—To help leading corporations and governments be more successful.

  • Sony—To experience the joy of advancing and applying technology for the benefit of the public.

  • Wal-Mart—To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same things as rich people.

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