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Business Speaker Tom Hinton Talks About Reputation Leadership

NewsReleaseWire.com (press release) - USA - "Reputation Leadership: A Conversation with Business Author & Speaker Tom Hinton"

Note: The following interview was conducted on May 11, 2007 by Gary Plantz, of the Plantz Group, a media relations firm, with business author and speaker Tom Hinton, who is president of CRI Global, LLC, an international training and consulting firm, based in San Diego, CA. For more information, please contact CRI Global at 1-800-544-0414 or tom@criglobal.com

Plantz:
Yesterday, you gave a speech in Seattle on Global Leadership and you used the term, Reputation Leadership. What is Reputation Leadership and how does an organization create it or leverage it?

Tom Hinton:
The term Reputation Leadership originated in the advertising arena a few years ago. It referred primarily to a company’s brand positioning strength as determined by sales and consumer familiarity. But, two years ago, we re-defined Reputation Leadership to mean ‘the pre-eminent recognition of a company as the leader of its industry or a niche market as measured by the Five Ps.’ During the past two years, we’ve been helping our clients use Reputation Leadership as an holistic approach to improving their performance and results.

Plantz:
I want to ask you about the Five Ps, but first, tell me why Reputation Leadership is important for a company or organization in today’s global marketplace?

Tom Hinton:
Frankly, in today’s consumer-savvy, global marketplace, I think Reputation Leadership is very important. It is now the basis by which an entire generation of consumers between the ages of 18-32 years old are making their buying decisions. When you think about it, companies are spending billions of dollars annually to advertise, promote their brands, enhance their corporate identity, and create a favorable image in the minds of consumers. So, it makes sense for companies to invest in a proven process that improves results and fosters a culture of excellence. In a nutshell, that’s what Reputation Leadership is all about. It’s validation from the marketplace that your company is respected as the recognized leader in its industry or a particular niche. Once that happens, a company can strengthen its position and expand its customer base.

Plantz:
Can you give me an example of a company that is perceived as the recognized leader in its industry and niche?

Tom Hinton:
Sure. A company like Boeing enjoys Reputation Leadership in the aerospace industry, but it also enjoys Reputation Leadership in another interesting niche that attracts prospective employees -- and that niche is Work Teams and Employee Involvement initiatives. The more ways a company can achieve Reputation Leadership, the stronger its position will be with consumers, prospective employees, the media, and public opinion. In the case of Boeing, they now enjoy multiple labels for their Reputation Leadership.

Plantz:
Let’s go back to the Five Ps. What are they and how do they relate to Reputation Leadership?

Tom Hinton:
Our Reputation Leadership initiative applies to five key aspects of an organization. We refer to these five key aspects as the “Five Ps.” They are: Purpose, Principles, People, Processes, and Performance. When you examine organizational effectiveness, we have found that these are the five touch points that significantly impact organizational results at the end of the business day. So, when we introduced Reputation Leadership as a measurable business initiative, we found that leaders identified with it because senior leaders can touch and improve the Five Ps.

Plantz:
How does senior leadership improve their organization using your Five Ps.

Tom Hinton:
Well, any Reputation Leadership initiative must begin at the top. Certainly, any meaningful change or transformation in an organization must flow from the top down if it is meant to last. The first step is for senior leadership to come together in a no-holds-bar environment and decide that it wants to achieve Reputation Leadership in their industry or a market niche. Commitment is essential before moving forward.

Plantz:
Don’t you think most leaders want their organization to be recognized as the undisputed industry leader?

Tom Hinton:
You would think so, but life just doesn’t work that way. In fact, my experience has been that only about 25% of today’s business leaders are prepared to make the commitment to lead their organization to the top. This doesn’t mean that the other 75% are weak leaders. Often times, there are economic factors, industry challenges, workforce issues, no succession plan in place, or global competition concerns that cause leaders to settle for mediocrity and not wage battle with the marketplace or competitors. But, for those who aspire to Reputation Leadership, certainly it begins at the top.

Plantz:
What’s the next step?

Tom Hinton:
Let me add that the decision to strive for Reputation Leadership, to be the undisputed leader in an industry or market niche, is not a decision that should be taken lightly. It requires extensive research, a commitment of time and resources, the alignment of your work processes with the right people, and products or services that will either delight or ‘wow’ consumers! And, helping our clients through this initiative is a role that we have played at CRI Global. The next step is for the senior leadership team to revisit its Purpose and Principles.

Plantz:
Explain what’s involved in this phase?

Tom Hinton:
When an organization decides it wants to elevate its standing in the minds of its customers and general public, revisiting your organization’s Purpose and Principles is critical. What I’m talking about here are your organization’s Mission and Vision. Let me give you an example. There’s growing acceptance now among companies that ‘going Green’ makes good business sense. It’s not only prudent for the planet, but it aligns nicely with what most consumers desire. So, if you want to leverage your commitment to ‘Green,’ you need to examine what companies like GE, Patagonia, Virgin Atlantic, and BP are doing since these are some of the companies that currently enjoy Reputation Leadership in the ‘Green’ industry.

If your company wants to compete in the outdoor clothing and equipment business, you had better examine the Mission and Vision statements of companies like Patagonia, Nike, Timberland, Adidas, Sierra Trading Post, REI, Woolrich, L.L. Bean, and the Great Outdoor Provision Company -- just to name a few. You need to find out what these companies stand for, and what’s driving their business decisions, since consumers are responsive to their message and buying their products. Assuming they are living their Mission and Vision, and have spirited leaders who want their companies to be acknowledged for Reputation Leadership, you can bet these companies will be tough to beat in this industry.

Secondly, you need to research what social issues and causes consumers are supporting. There is a growing importance now for companies to subscribe to certain universal values that are shaping and guiding consumer buying decisions. For example, most consumers will not support a business that subcontracts its manufacturing to an off-shore sweat shop. So, your Values must align with the values of consumers if you expect to capture a growing market share and earn their loyalty. This is both smart marketing as well as good consumer politics.

Plantz
I think that brings us to ‘People?’ Let’s talk about the role people play in achieving Reputation Leadership?

Tom Hinton:
Sure. The third ‘P' is People. I think Good to Great author Jim Collins defined it best when he wrote about getting the right people on the bus and then getting the right people in the right seats. I think most companies do a good job of hiring the right people. But, placing the right people in the right jobs, and then training them to perform to the company’s goals and objectives, well, that’s a major challenge for most companies. And frankly, I think too many companies under-invest in their employees in terms of skills training and human relations training. Most organizations also fall short in the areas of teaching their employees strong communication skills. On a positive note, I am seeing a trend where companies are creating and empowering more self-directed work teams to achieve results. I like what Boeing is doing in this area.

Plantz:
Is company size an advantage or disadvantage in terms of Reputation Leadership?

Tom Hinton:
That’s a good question, but the answer is ‘it depends' because there are pros and cons. For example, large companies like Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart, General Motors, Citigroup, Microsoft, or Bank of America, which have tremendous resources, can initiate change and compete head-to-head with multiple competitors at the same time. But, size also has its drawbacks. It takes a big company longer to react to the marketplace and implement change because of their bureaucratic structure and chain-of-command. Our Reputation Leadership initiative can help companies reduce this sluggishness and be more responsive to consumers and marketplace opportunities.

Also, there’s more resistance to innovation and change in large companies. Most labor unions, for example, are adverse to major changes. This is unfortunate because change can bolster unions and other employee bargaining groups. But, I think this is one more reason why larger companies under-perform in terms of Reputation Leadership. There are some exceptions such as Southwest Airlines and Whole Foods Stores. But, typically, I find that smaller companies are more nimble and better able to earn the Reputation Leadership designation. Small companies don’t have to jump through as many hoops. As a result, they get a faster start and build customer loyalty more quickly. But, the difficult question for small companies is this: “can they sustain their momentum and drive?” It certainly helps if their processes are tested and proven.

Plantz:
Speaking of ‘Process,’ what’s the role of Process in Reputation Leadership?

Tom Hinton:
Process boils down to two components. First, ‘how do you do what you do?’ And, secondly, 'can you do it faster, better, cheaper while consistently retaining the high quality and performance levels that consumers expect?' When we teach Processes to clients,I like to use the case study of the Yugo automobile fiasco that occurred in 1985 when Yugos went on sale as the cheapest car sold in America. Its base price was under $4,000. Prospective customers stormed Yugo dealerships and put down deposits without having seen the cars or test-driven them. A few months later, Yugo shipped only 1500 cars to the U.S. This became a distribution and sales nightmare because Yugo dealers had received five times that many orders. Then, auto critics branded the Yugo as more of a “toy than a car.” This became an image problem and Yugo’s marketing staff and ad agency mishandled their response. Then, auto industry critics pointed out multiple flaws with the car. Suddenly, Yugo had quality issues to deal with. Many Yugo owners complained of mechanical problems including premature engine failure, bad brakes, poor shifting, faulty transmissions, electrical system failures, and poor dealer service. To compound problems, Yugo’s warranty program was weak and the insurance industry faulted the car’s crash worthiness through various crash tests. These twin issues hurt sales. In 1989, Yugo America went bankrupt. I think the Yugo story is a classic case study of what happens to a company that does not think through its processes -- from manufacturing to sales to service. You cannot afford to promote a flawed product. Ultimately, you will lose consumer trust; and, when you lose consumer trust, you will lose your customers. So, that’s why Process is essential to Reputation Leadership.

Plantz:
The last of the Five Ps is Performance. How does Performance impact Reputation Leadership.

Tom Hinton:
I think Performance is the icing on the cake. Here’s how I describe it to our clients. If your organization has clarity of purpose and adheres to principles and values that align with the values of your customers and employee; and, if your organization hires people who are committed to serving the customer and doing their jobs right the first time; and, if you eliminate policies, rules, and procedures that hinder quality processes and satified customers, then achieving a strong performance in terms of financial results, customer satisfaction, and a growing marketshare is very doable.

It’s the difference between the performance of Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines. It’s the difference between Ford Motor Company and Toyota. It’s the difference between Boeing and Airbus. Why? Because Southwest, Toyota, and Boeing have embraced the Five Ps and worked very hard to ensure everything they do is aligned towards customer satisfaction and sustaining a long-term, profitable results. While their Mission and Values are different, they are all striving for Reputation Leadership.

Achieving Reputation Leadership isn’t rocket science. But, it does require visionary leadership, courage, and the stamina to stay the course during hard times, especially when your critics are vocal and the competition gets tough.

Plantz:
Some people might equate the list of 'Most Admired Companies' with Reputation Leadership. Is that a fair comparison?

Tom Hinton:
I've been asked that question before and here's my repsonse. Reputation Leadership cannot be reduced to a popularity contest with magazine readers or CEOs. I say that respectfully because being a 'Most Admired Company' is significant, but it doesn't translate to dollars in the bank at the end of the day. I think Reputation Leadership is much more than that. Ultimately, Reputation Leadership is a reflection of a company’s reputation, reliability, and relationship with the consumers and the global marketplace. It also encompasses such key metrics as profitability, shareholder equity, and return to investors. And, it requires a company to chart a course for change and growth in order to make the transition from an “operations-driven” approach to a “customer-focused” way of doing business. So, sustainability is a major factor and I don’t think that’s gauged on the 'Most Admired Companies' list.
Source : Originally Published NewsReleaseWire.com (press release) - USA, May 13, 2007
Celebrities : Tom Hinton
Categories : Speakers News
Posted 5/13/2007 12:05:43 AM | Permalink
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