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Authenticity

The book by Simon Sinek “Start with Why – How Great leaders Inspire Everyone to take Action” is a good read.  For me it is all about authenticity.  This has recently come to life for me.  I was asked to help articulate the value and strategy for two VC backed businesses.  They were in quite unglamorous sectors (manufacturing and transportation) and their perceived value was impacted as a result.  But they were very very successful.  We found the answers when we asked why …

WHY did their customers do business with them?  

The answers went beyond product and services differentiation – price, product, service content were all a given and readily available from the competition.  The value was in the way these were delivered …  pre-sales support, reliability, professionalism, responsiveness, commitment, attitude, transparency, relationships, service issue response … were what really set these businesses apart and underpinned their value – i.e. enabled them to win and retain new customers and maintain high quality earnings.   They were also what set them apart from the competition.  

Culture is a differentiator   

This is not something everyone is comfortable with.  It sounds too wishy washy and intangible.  In fact there were very tangible components in the WHAT and the HOW of product and service delivery …

  • e.g. service add-ons – taking worries or onerous tasks away from the customer
  • e.g. attention to detail – evidenced by a spotless factory floor
  • e.g. being a challenging partner – right first time commitment from service design to delivery
  • e.g. agile – flat structure, good communication, quick decisions, flexible and tight knit workforce
  • e.g. ‘going the extra mile’ for customers – when needed

Authenticity is a Prerequisite

You can list these items, put things in place to help them happen, and manage them.  But unless the leadership team is aligned and totally committed it is but a facade which customers see through.  The story fails at the weakest link in the chain.  All must play.  Authentic businesses – care about what they do and the people they do it for.  Sure – you have to be competent and have the right business model – but these don’t win the game.  It is the emotional investment that customers buy into and creates success.  It is no coincidence that these businesses are run by authentic leaders.

I have been lucky enough to meet a fair number and work with them.  I have also been lucky enough NOT to work for a number of businesses that were not authentic.  They don’t like my approach and I certainly have no time for them.

 

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