David Ward – The importance of a robust corporate culture

David Ward

At a time when corporate values – or lack of them – dominate the headlines, David Ward of Ward Security looks at the strategies needed to ensure your brand is protected from dangers within.

“Volkswagen has set aside a breathtaking £4.7 billion to cover potential damages from the ‘dieselgate’ emissions scandal. That figure is looking increasingly optimistic as there is growing speculation that the company could face fines of up to £12 billion in the US alone. It’s a difficult story to summarise as the details continue to change, with US regulators recently finding cheat devices in more models than were originally thought. Suffice to say, this episode has been a spectacular disaster for a brand which has been historically trusted for quality and integrity. The final cost to the company will be significant at best, and catastrophic at worst.

“Brands being undermined by their actual business practices is not uncommon. Frequently, the marketing straplines and promises of great names are revealed to be little more than empty words designed only to attract custom. Lying is probably too strong a word to use, but there are certainly a lot of embarrassed brands such as TalkTalk and Thompson Holidays having to apologise for not holding up their end of the bargain with issues such as data security. All too often there is a painful gulf between what is promised and what is delivered, and ultimately it is the brands and businesses themselves that pay the price for poor performance that betrays their stated brand values.

“Of course, in the case of Volkswagen it would be unfair to point the finger at the entire company. The installation of cheat devices would undoubtedly be a ‘secret’ practice known only to a few within the company. But that serves only to show that, if you are going to claim a corporate culture and then use it as a spearhead for marketing the brand, it must be something which is held dear by all employees and all departments. There can be no halfway house. It must be all or nothing. The smallest betrayal of brand values is in reality a complete betrayal.

“The challenge therefore is; how do you back up your brand values in practice? How do you ensure that your stated promises of quality, service, ethics and morals are shared, and indeed championed, by all within your business so they run through your organisation like the word ‘Scarborough’ runs through a stick of rock.

“A key part of the solution can be found in how conscientiously you approach the recruitment and career development process. Brand loyalty is not always something you can trust to recruit in. All too often a candidate can interview well and have the right CV, only to later disappoint when they clearly don’t share or exhibit your brand values.

“Promotion from within is the preferable way to ensure brand values and standards are maintained. Those employees who understand and live the values will take them with them as they progress along their career path. Indeed, they will understand that the very reason they have a career path to climb will be as a result of the company sticking to its promises. The more you put in personally and as an organisation, the more you take out. This approach has been one which has certainly paid rewards at Ward Security. Both our Board of Directors and Board of Associate Directors comprise people who have been promoted from within, and who have developed rewarding careers from often very junior positions when they originally joined the company.

“These people become brand champions, helping to ensure the values of the company are instilled across the company and underpinning everything it does.

“Once you are confident that your brand values are shared across the organisation, and from the top to the bottom, you can be pretty sure that you will not find yourself surprised or blindsided by the kind of PR disasters that Volkswagen, Thompson Holidays and TalkTalk are desperately trying to overcome. If your brand can talk the talk AND walk the walk, you will stay standing on two feet. And above all else your business will benefit from that most valuable asset for security companies – trust within the marketplace.”

Ward Security Website

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