Feb 18, 2021

How CEOs & Founders Can Safeguard The Future Of Their Company

By: Josh Dougherty


Most CEOs and Founders have a certain magnetism. They can tell their organization's story like no one else. They inspire people to pay attention to their work. They attract top talent. They close deals.

This magnetism is powerful and memorable. It’s often the catalyst for exponential growth in a business, a division, or across an entire enterprise.


Individual Magnetism Is The Enemy Of Scale

If you’re one of these executives and founders, I have a warning. Your magnetism could also be an achilles heel that cripples your organization as it scales. Let me explain.

Because your unique skills, talents, and approach come naturally, you may not recognize what makes you different. Your team likely doesn’t know how to replicate your approach. As a result, the things that made your organization special when you're small enough to influence every aspect of your business will fade away as you scale. In the worst cases people will begin to ask what changed, shrug their shoulders, and look for another partner.

You can avoid this unfortunate end by developing a brand that your entire team can embrace, rally around, and live out. When done well, it will reflect your unique approach as a leader, the strengths of your organization, and your aspirations for the future. 

At the end of the day, a company is only as important as the memory it leaves in its customer’s minds. Doing this important brand work will allow you to identify the memory you want to leave behind, and ensure it’s curated whenever anyone interacts with your company (you can read more about brand as memory here).


How Founders And CEOs Can Kickstart The Branding Process

Ok, hopefully I’ve convinced you that you need to start investing in your brand and defining the memory your organization will curate. I’d recommend starting by asking three questions.

Question 1: What memory do you want your company to leave in people’s minds?

Question 2: What do you want your legacy to be?

And question 3:How will you ensure your company can continue to succeed when you’re gone?

Let’s dive into question 1 first.

numbers_-01Question 1: What memory do you want your company to leave in people’s minds?

The answer to this question will determine whether you stand out from your competition. Let me give you a hint...if all someone can say about is that you provide great customer service, that isn’t unique or helpful.

Great, category busting companies like Airbnb transform the way that we think about an experience. And then they build upon that distinctiveness in every single interaction. 

That type of consistency matters. In Airbnb’s case, it means that I have a memorable story to tell  when I explain to someone my love for their business model. I’ll freely explain: “Oh yeah, they’re the company that makes it possible for me to vacation like a local. Seriously, there was this little apartment in Honfleur, France. It was right above…..” you get the idea. 

This is the type of memory we want to create for our companies.

Asking what memory you want your company to leave with your customers is especially important if  you’re a founder. Because typically that memory will have something to do with what you bring to the table each and every day. 

That unique memory is the reason your customers trust you. It’s also probably hiding in plain sight. It comes naturally to you, so you don’t even think about it.

Answering this question will  help you bottle it up. It will allow you to turn that memory into something powerful that can be reinforced every time someone interacts with your brand.

You’ll have to be intentional about helping your team capture and live out this magic. Each of them needs to learn how to plant and grow the memory. With their own unique take, of course. That’s really the only option if you want your brand to be embraced by each and every one of your team.

numbers_-02Question 2: What do you want your legacy to be?

Some people start, build, and lead companies just for the money. That’s fine. But I think those people are in the minority. There's a powerful fire burning inside of most entrepreneurs. We yearn for something a bit deeper. We’re trying to create something meaningful, a legacy. Otherwise, what reward would we get from endless hours of toil. We may as well spend our time doing something else.

Are you thinking about what’s driving you? 


Now think about your team. How many of them have that same deep drive, that yearning. Maybe you can count a few people. But the hard truth is that the majority of your team are working because they want to do a job. Sure, they want to work hard. And they’re incredibly talented. But not everyone has a legacy in mind, let alone their company’s legacy.

This is where things get difficult. 

There's a big difference between doing great work and working in service of a legacy. 

You must make your legacy as a leader both accessible and motivating to everyone at your company. Everyone must operate in service of that legacy, otherwise your business will just become a profit-driven machine. A profit-driven machine that will ultimately cave in on its principles in order to get that extra percentage or two of margin.

numbers_-03Question 3: How will you ensure your company can continue to succeed when you’re gone?

This is the biggest challenge of all. Most of us entrepreneurs and leaders are charismatic. Even if we’re quiet we have a way of charming a room. Most of us are good at keeping things running well and on mission when we are around in the building. 

But the biggest question of all is, what will happen when you aren’t in the room? Or when you have a bunch of buildings?

Will the company continue to represent what makes you special, who you are, and what you believe in when you’re no longer there to obsess over every minute detail?

Maybe this point will come when you are no longer actively involved in the business because you’ve moved on to the next project. Maybe it will happen when you’ve retired. Maybe it will just happen when the company has gotten so large that you can no longer control every aspect of it.

Regardless, the time will come, and unless you’ve spent time building your DNA into the DNA of the organization, what makes you special will slowly disappear.


I’ve Answered The Questions, Now What?

These are big questions. Once you’ve answered them, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Your ideas need to be crafted into a defined brand that can guide your organization. 

To do this work, you need a framework. I believe the best framework is an accelerated branding process. You can learn about it here. I’d love to talk if you have any questions.

Regardless of the framework you choose, it's important to do the hard work of developing your brand. Why? Because at the end of the day, a company is only as important as the memory it leaves in its customer’s minds. 

Discovering what makes that memory unique, and curating it with every interaction, is the best way to safeguard the future of your company.

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