The Authentic Business

by Wayne Ottum

“The advent of Google+ and the emergence of the personalized web means this is more true than ever. Brands, and their advertising partners, must wake up to this challenge and define themselves with clarity, consistency and authenticity.
Otherwise they just might find themselves shouting in a ghost town.”
Simon Mainwaring

If Simon Mainwaring’s warning holds true, and I believe it to be so, then a business must be built on clarity, consistency and authenticity to stand the test of time. As we have discussed in previous newsletter articles, you create clarity in your business with a defined strategic foundation (vision, mission and values). We have also talked about how consistency of action can be obtained through a “strengths-based performance management system.” So then, what does it mean to define your business with authenticity? What is an “authentic business” and why is it important to be one?

To start, let’s look at the definition of the word authentic…  It means:

  • not false or copied; genuine; real:
  • having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified:
  • entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy:

An authentic business, therefore, is one that, quite simply, is genuine and real and where those working in the business (management and staff) are also genuine and real. It is where those who experience your business (clients, partners, suppliers, etc.) see an agreement between what you say and what you do, and what you claim and what you deliver. They see agreement between your brand elements (logo, tag lines, mottos, etc.) and what they ultimately get in value. This agreement is also backed by evidence, generally in the form of some kind of subjective or objective rating system.

Why is it important to be an authentic business? This too has a simple and direct answer. When you go online to shop for a product, how many times do you purchase products rated 3 stars or below? What then would it mean to your business if you were rated a 1, 2 or 3 star business? What about a 5 star business? These ratings are being made about your business (or will be) and broadcasted to the world through Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Yelp, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Thus, the only way to ensure your ratings are the highest possible is to be authentic and deliver what you promise! It is that simple.

Finally, how do you create an authentic business?  Once again, the answer is simple.  Not necessarily “easy,” but definitely simple.  Here is the process:

  • Clearly define your strategic foundation – The definition of who you are uniquely, as a business.
  • Clearly define your business’ unique value proposition.
  • Align your branding elements to your strategic foundation and value proposition.
  • Clearly define your value chain: The process of how you create value for your clients.
  • Define the measures of success of each step in the value chain.  These are your organization’s performance standards.
  • Align the position descriptions of staff to these standards.
  • Measure and manage all staff to these standards.
  • Reward the behavior.

Unless you have these things in place, you cannot know for certain that you are truly an authentic business. But when these things are defined and implemented, you dramatically increase the chance of success for your business, and even more dramatically increase the chance of fulfillment in that success for you and your staff.