Doing business is all about getting your message right. Unfortunately, too many people think that their message is all about what they do, when actually it's far more about who they are.
Anyone who knows me will be aware that most of what I do is based on the strategies of the Disney Corporation. The story of Disney is essentially that of one man, Walt Elias Disney, who founded Disney Studios in 1923 with a simple vision, to “make people happy”. Disney has come a very long way since then and had its share of ups and downs, too numerous to discuss here.
However, in the last 90 years one thing has ended. Its message.
In the early 1960's, Walt Disney began buying small small parcels of swamp land to the south of Orlando, Florida, with the vision of creating a theme park destination to rival all others. By the time he was finished, this totaled 28,000 acres. Sadly, Walt Disney died in 1966, before building could begin, before his dream could have become a reality but fortunately, as well as being a visionary, Walt Disney was also an inspiring leader and extremely adept at sharing his vision with those who worked closest to him. The only reason we have the powerful brand that is Disney today is because the Walt Disney instilled his ethos into all who worked with him so even after his death, they all knew what his vision was. The fact that its founder was not at the helm anymore did not impede Disney's progress or dilute the original dream. Today the Disney message is as strong as ever – we all know what it stands for and what the business drives to achieve. We all know what the brand presents.
The message is clear; it's not about WHAT you do, it's about HOW and WHY you do it.
Now. It's safe to assume that as you are currently running your own business, you actually know what you're doing and, unless you work in a particular specialist or niche sector, it's also pretty safe to assume that your competitor in the firm down the road knows what he's doing too. It's not knowledge that will set you apart from your competitors, it's how you go about departing that knowledge.
Take a look at your own business and ask yourself why you do what you do and what you want to achieve by doing it. What does your business stand for and what standards do you set yourself and your employees? In other words “What is your ethos”?
The underlying message of your business is, if anything, more important that what you do. Some people call it a “Mission Statement”, but we prefer ethos, which means “characteristic spirit.” Whatever you decide to call it, it should be the driving force behind everything you do. It sends a clear message to your clients, employees and the wider business community. It defines your brand. It becomes your reason for being.
Your ethos is all about who you are and the standards you want to be known for. It's so important because if you do not know what it is, or have not defined it clearly enough, you'll struggle to do business. Why?
Because people only do business with people they trust. If your ethos is clear in everything you do, clients will fundamentally trust you as they will recognize, and subscribe to, the sentiments you operate by. This supposes your ethos is a positive one, of course. Let's face it, no-one will want to do business with someone whose ethos is “charge as much as we can for as little as we can get away with”!
Your ethos should clearly and concisely convey the direction you want your business to go in. Your ethos should reflect your true passions and values.
So step away from what you do and instead decide what your business is all about. Make your message clear, make it true. Then make sure everyone knows what it is.
Your ethos should be something you're proud of, after all!