About 30 years ago, I was a volunteer for a local group of marketing professionals that was launching its Marketer of the Year awards. Publicity was needed. Working in marketing at the local paper, the task fell to me to pitch the event to the newsroom.
In those days, the news business was fairly balkanized; this was one of my first trips to meet an editor. My errand was completely unsuccessful, being curtly told that the newspaper wouldn’t cover the event because they didn’t write that kind of chicken-dinner news.
In those days, owning a newspaper press was almost like printing cash. My, how that’s changed.
A few years later, moving up to a corporate role at the newspaper’s publicly traded parent company, I organized data on its largest customers across all markets. It was revealing to me that the company’s corporate executives had no information on their biggest revenue relationships, nor did they really seem to care. Not surprisingly, that company no longer exists.
Customers matter. Values matter. Organizations generally invest in — and therefore get more of — the things they value. One of the best ways to know what a company values is simple: Instead of just listening to what executives say, look at their financial statements to see where they spend money. If they claim to believe in people but don’t back that up with market-leading compensation, do they really believe in people? If they say they believe in brands but don’t invest in advertising, do they believe in brands? If they claim to believe in customers but don’t know them, just what are their values?
Take a moment to think about values — not just profit, but higher values. Profit is definitely a matter of staying in the game. It may excite shareholders, but it rarely excites employees or customers. Their own bottom lines are more important to them than yours.
Just what are higher values? What about public health? What about democracy? What about truth and facts? What about transparency, diversity and inclusion? Higher values are more than just personal pocketbook issues.
When it comes to building enterprise net worth, higher values can make more difference than anything else. Profit is the price to stay in the game, but it is not a goal that drives growth or sustainability. Profit and higher values aren’t either/or propositions. You can have both. You can have it all. Arguably, you can’t have one without the other. Higher values will attract more customers and will help keep better customers.
Much like perfection, complexity is an enemy of progress. At Virginia Business, we try to keep things simple. Three things are important: First, regardless of your job, you must be interested in business as a topic. Secondly, the magazine keeps its focus on where we have an opportunity to be world class: business journalism. Third, we have one simple measure of success: revenue growth.
With the right people on board, we can do all three of these things, manage our expenses and put money back into things we care about. That’s a simple formula for success. We like keeping things simple.
Our higher values? Leadership, integrity, balance, respect and success. Those things are pretty much what Virginia Business strives to do every day. When that works, profit takes care of itself.
Every company is different. If certain values don’t resonate with your organization, which ones do? It‘s far better to be known by what you are for than it is to be defined by what you are against.
That’s what leadership is all about.