I really don't drink vodka, but man, a recent ad for Tito's Vodka got my attention like a bartender's shout for last call. Not because I had a craving for another martini, but because of the voice (and values) that popped in Tito's story as told in the ad:
- Tito's grandfather made hooch during Prohibition, and his uncle is known for his firey pepper vodka; it was only a matter of time before Tito started making alcohol himself (moonshine pedigree)
- the guy maxed out 19 credit cards to go $88K in debt to get his first potstill brewing (determination and a steel gut)
- 11 years ago when he first started, he used to sleep by the still at night to keep it going (dedication and passion)
- his labels still don't always go on straight (humility with a wink)
Sure it's a well-crafted marketing story – but I think it's even better bedrock for building a strong culture as the company grows – to create a brand that shines from the inside out, as we franksters like to say.
Just about every company has some kind of colorful founding story. But honestly, it seems as if so many of the folks I'm working with now have lost touch with their organization's start-up story. And if they know it in their heads, they're not living it in their hearts.
With no authentic narrative to guide the way, I've noticed that behaviors are misaligned, attitudes are adrift, engagement is lackluster, collaboration is choppy, technology is suboptimized and actions are tentative – all of which makes for tough sledding in these days of intensified short-term performance, mergers & acquisitions, creative product, service and marketing development and all the other competitive forces pressuring brands to re-discover their soul and soar from their core.
I heard that Best Buy kept founder Robert Stephens around mainly to nurture and deepen the culture of The Geek Squad. I don't know if his official title is "Chief Cultural Officer," but I do know most companies ought to have a CCO who owns the healthy heartbeat of a passionate, integrated, thriving culture.
Built to Last and Good to Great outline how companies need a set of core values in order to achieve the kind of long-term, sustainable success that may lead to greatness. A wise friend put it this way: "Perfection in the team is more important that perfection in the product." With enough of the right people cranking in the right direction, anything is possible. I believe that now more than ever, tangible, creative touchstones and rituals to inspire folks about their purpose, passion and pursuit is the glue that bonds and the fuel that fires people up.
Could be a story about the founder sleeping next to a potstill. Could be a bunch of computer-repair people dressed as geeks. Could be the details of your own founding story buried in a file somewhere.
I say dig it up. Make it relevant, consistent and tangible. Make it your reason for prospering.