Dear CEO: Your corporate brand must match your personal brand

You’ve probably been beaten over the head with how important it is to build a brand that is altruistic, socially conscious and one that makes the world a better place. We’re told it’s the only way to attract millennial employees and customers.

However, there are legitimate arguments against this doctrine – the primary one being that running a successful and profitable business built on integrity and respect doesn’t require the CEO to yearn for making the world a better place. I have worked with a lot of great CEOs throughout the brand building process, and only one of them voiced “making the world a better place” and social responsibility as the very reason he started his company. Others were inspired to start their business for many other perfectly respectable and noble reasons centered on competing and winning which, yes, results in taking business and profits away from competitors. And as long as this is accomplished in the most ethical of ways, there is nothing wrong with running a company with the sole purpose of achieving growth and profitability.

Two Extremes
I know two business owners who are both very successful, and each runs their company in opposite extremes. One has created a culture of people who share a mutual desire to provide the financial resources and sweat equity to build homes for families in need. Four times each year, the office closes on a Friday and everyone spends a long weekend (spouses welcome) donating their time swinging hammers at a local Habitat for Humanity. In the spirit of maintaining a strong culture, this CEO also regularly schedules team-building days where employees participate in scavenger hunts and other activities in an effort to strengthen bonds between people who would otherwise not have a reason to interact with one another. These interactions are meant to build camaraderie, trust, friendship and respect.

The other CEO makes it clear to everyone in the interview process and on day one of employment (in a friendly way) that his company is not a playground, he does not waste time throwing parties, and that he does not hire people to become friends with them. He explains that he will, however, be a very strong advocate of people who provide value to the company and they will be compensated very well for their work. I hear from his people that he is a great person to work for, he has great leadership traits and is well respected by everyone because he is fair, honest, upfront and plays no games. His culture is one where employees share his mindset and mediocrity is quickly shuffled out the door.

Each CEO hires to the culture they have built, and both have Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials on the payroll because not all people think the same way, believe in the same things and fit within the generational stereotypes they are burdened with. My message here is to be true to who you are and build a strong brand around your purpose and beliefs, despite what anyone tells you. Remember, there are plenty of unethical people who claim to want to make the world a better place and plenty of really good people who go to work every day to win new business at the expense of a competitor.

Let’s be honest. People start companies to win and make a profit, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just like the world of sports – for one team to win, another must lose. Whatever your purpose or focus is, you’ll find very good people who will want to be a part of what you want to build.