Building a S.I.N.C.E.R.E business (2)

This is the last edition of this column for 2020, one of the most universally challenging years in contemporary history. Thank God for the gift of life and thanks to all of you who have kept faith with this column. Let’s roll together again in 2021! I wish you a prosperous New Year.

Building a sincere business goes beyond having a ‘tight’ business architecture. A sincere business must be able to weave into its value and service delivery processes an operating ethos that guarantees sustainability and customer satisfaction. For any business to be sincere, it must demonstrate a high level of integrity. This happens when there is a Synergy between the value proclaimed or projected to the market and value actually delivered. There are several products (read value code) in the market that overpromise and under-deliver. Very often, in an attempt to get a product to the market, several inaccurate attributes are given to the product in terms of what customers are to expect when they buy it. This is usually followed with an exaggerated promotion drive that heightens consumer curiosity and anticipated experience. However, a dissonance is created when consumer experience is totally at variance with the hyped value, leaving consumers feeling cheated and terribly short-changed. When this happens long enough, the product might jolly well start singing its swan song.

The second quality of a sincere business is Intentionality. Intentionality in any business is known by the clarity of its purposology. A clearly defined WHY is a stabilizing factor in any business or endeavor. As a consultant, I have seen far too many businesses that were started more out of a frenzied desire for survival or the pursuit of an inordinate ambition to become rich than a quest to contribute any significant value to anyone. The consequence of this is a lack of a defining moral compass to guide conduct. On several occasions, I have had cause to ask corporate executives what the Mission Statement of their organization is and they have not been able to supply any. In many instances when a Mission Statement exists, a significant number of the people who work in the organization at all levels find it difficult to articulate it, not minding the fact that it is clearly displayed in their offices and other areas in the organization. My experience has been that too often, Mission Statements are crafted more as a corporate fad by consultants external to the organization without a buy-in from within. Such Mission Statements are usually wordy and windy and convey no concise and easily discernible message that resonates with people in the organization. On more than one occasion, I have had to sit with clients to junk their existing Mission Statement and help them come up with one which they can own, articulate and communicate to everyone in the organization with clarity and simplicity.

A sincere business deliberately builds a Network of value-oriented relationships at the various levels and categories of its operations. Sincere businesses recognize the fact that people are the number one asset of any organization. For effectiveness, corporate executives must recognize that the organization’s first customers are not those found in the market but those who work within the organization and have bought into its vision by trading their time for remuneration. The strength of an organization’s network is reflected in the quality of the leadership that underpins it. Where leadership does not see and treat all categories of staff as stakeholders, intrapersonal relationships are endangered and teams cannot function well within the collective. When there is no cohesion within, relational dynamics with external customers will also be negatively affected. Accountability must be the watchword at all levels of interaction within the organization. Leadership should be accountable to subordinates as it expects subordinates to be accountable to it. Everyone in the organization must be made aware of corporate accountability to the customer, the government, as well as shareholders or investors.

Where business is sincere, there must be a high level of Communication. The vision should be clearly communicated regularly to all stakeholders so that no one should be left in doubt as to why the organization exists. Secondly, the underpinning core values that drive conduct should also be regularly communicated across board so that everyone will know that there are minimum acceptable standards of conduct. What is not communicated cannot be delegated and what is not delegated cannot be inspected. Expectations must be clearly communicated from the leadership to the followership and vice versa to ensure that, in the course of daily operations, everyone is on the same page.

This leads to the next thing which is Evaluation. Strong and stable businesses feed on an entrenched feedback system that is rooted in a learning culture that makes the organization evaluate performance and identify key improvement areas. This of course must be backed by a willingness not just to have feedback statistics but to actually use the information to improve on performance. The feedback system must be 360 degrees in nature. It should focus on the entire process of operations from ideation to the market. Without a feedback from the market, it is difficult to gauge customer experience viz-a-vis the projected value. Inadequate feedback also makes it difficult to determine or significantly shore up market equity.

Where feedback is negative, sincere businesses give no excuses for any lapses. They simply take Responsibility for the errors or lapses in the process. Where there is sincerity, transparency rules. Transparency implies the willingness to be vulnerable. More often than not, organizations care more about keeping up a good image than in admitting and rectifying an infraction. When an infraction is highlighted, the concern for corporate image laundering usually overshadows the concern for the customer’s welfare. What many fail to understand is that when an organization takes responsibility for an error, apologizes and rectifies the situation, it is the loudest way of communicating to the customer that it cares and will not want to deliberately hurt the customer. Most customers eventually come round to trusting such organizations and want to compensate them by transacting more business with them!

Finally, for any organization to be sincere, it must be Empowering internally and externally. At the internal level, it does this first through education. A learning culture must permeate the organization with its employees exposed to training and retraining. Furthermore, a culture of execution must be a part of the corporate DNA. Where assignments are delegated and the power to execute does not back it up, delegates feel frustrated and incompetent, a development that is injurious to their self-esteem and is a hindrance to effective performance and service delivery. People should also be empowered through a just compensation system that rewards contribution above longevity or tenure. Externally, the sincere organization empowers its customer by ensuring that it bends over backwards to help the customer get value for his money through the production and supply of relevant products. Shareholders and investors are empowered when there are good returns on investment. Government is empowered when it collects taxes that enable it to provide good governance.

Nobody is looking for a perfect organization. So, instead of seeking to be perfect, seek sincerity.

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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