When was the last time you stole something?
Or harmed someone?
Perhaps, from time to time, you’ve considered these things. But you refrain.
If you’re like me, the Ten Commandments were drilled into your psyche early and often. They gave us parameters to live our lives by. Few of us ever viewed these commandments as limits on our freedom. Instead, the tenets handed to Moses on Mount Sinai enhanced our lives and provided us with a path towards freedom.
This same effect can be had in business. The core values of a company â€“ the foundational “commandments” — are the ingredients from which its brand is formulated. Ideally. If those values are never enforced, acted upon or used to guide decisions, the company will not flourish.
Do you have core values? Many of you do. I see them published in the “About” section of your Websites. Integrity. Trust. Innovation. I read them but I don’t shudder from their impact as I do when I read Exodus. How can I when these words sit on a Website that is devoid of integrity and innovation? Or when I notice that half your agents adorn themselves with foolishness and offer links to their own personal shrines?
Your values are like ancient scrolls tucked away inside a clay vessel buried under centuries of sand. As a result, you and your people are wandering in your local desert. You are not The Chosen Brokerage in your community.
You have prayed to false idols. And you have lost your way.
It’s time to get it back.
Build your brand one core value at a time
Get a team of brand excavators. Gently unearth your values. Brush away the sand. As the words present themselves, hearken back to the moment in time when they were written. Conjure the passion that flowed from the authors. Evoke the emotion that went into the creation of those words.
These are your commandments.
If you are defined by integrity, write down precisely what integrity means, how it must be made manifest. Once you do this, you will no longer cave when certain agents hold their own personal want gun to your head.
If you are defined by innovation, write down what innovation means to you. Then examine every nook and cranny of your operation to see if it measures up.
If you are committed to success, how deep does that commitment go? Where does it stop? Is that commitment occasional â€“ trumpeted only during the high holy holidays â€“ or is your commitment relentless and pious?
If you are committed to quality at what point did you decide that reducing your standards on agent recruitment was okay? At what point did you feel you could look away when agents made of mockery of that commitment?
A brand sells itself
At the beginning of 2009, BMW reported that their sales were down 15%. Despite that staggering loss, BMW released new cars this year with massive upgrades. Do you know why? Because it had too. They answer to a higher authority: the core values of the brand, which stand as a promise they must fulfill faithfully year after year. My glass half-full mentality interprets this as the one reason why sales aren’t down 30%.
Folks, many of you look at the market and blame it for your woes. The truth is, the plague of a down market is welcome. It isolates your faults and concentrates the mind. Granted, grappling with this is hard. But it is no harder than squelching the desire to race after the guy that cuts you off on the highway and strangle him, which you resist.
Because your core values guide you.
As you sit in your office, with your desk piled high with issues that require hard decisions â€“ decision that hold you in a vice grip of confusion – do what every great brand does: reach for your values. Read them. Remind yourself of what is most important. Let those values decide for you. Don’t waiver.
Last year, while on vacation in Hawaii, my first in years, I got up to return a voice message from a client. I wasn’t thrilled about it and my wife asked me why I felt the need to do it. It was simple: one of our values is making sure our clients sleep soundly at night. Commitment. I have no choice but to do everything it takes to make that happen. When you do it often enough, with unrelenting consistency, I’ve learned, you create a brand.
What I know and swear by is that, properly cared for, brands sell themselves. And persevere.
Resurrect thy core values. Enforce them upon yourself. Enforce them upon every single individual that receives a check from you. Let them guide your every decision.
And you will be fruitful and multiply.