leadership dot #2534: higher calling

Clif Bar believes so strongly in the value of going organic that they offered to share their expertise to help their largest competitor (Mars’ brand Kind Bars) transition to using more organic materials. In the New York Times, Clif challenged Kind to “make an investment in the future of the planet and our children’s children by going organic.” Clif offered to give away not just their knowledge about how to go organic but added in 10 tons of organic ingredients as an incentive. Talk about living your values!

Clif made this offer because they see their purpose as bigger than making energy bars. Their aim is higher than making any one product; their goal is to impact the food system and increase the use of organic throughout the country. As part of this effort, they are not only challenging Kind but also serve as the largest private funder of organic research in the country.

For Clif, the goal of organic is bigger than sales, and they have recognized that they need to inspire partners to work with them to achieve it. It reminded me of that old adage about the bricklayer not just laying bricks or even building a wall, but as someone who saw his job as helping to build a cathedral.

How high is your organization’s vision? Have you inspired people to work for a cause or are you mired down in making products? You may know the answer to that if you’re willing to share your knowledge with a competitor in order to achieve it.

leadership dot #2523: coming or going

I was amused when I drove by the Texas Roadhouse steakhouse to see the grocery store catering van parked outside. Was the store picking up steaks and ribs or were they delivering – you couldn’t tell.

Either way, the image indicates a partnership or business exchange with an enterprise that could be considered a competitor. Both serve food and do catering yet they have found a way to have a collaborative relationship that presumably benefits both.

When you look around for those who may help you, don’t discount those who share your market. Playing nice in the same sandbox may benefit everyone.

leadership dot #2522: giveaways

Milwaukee Tools makes a reciprocating saw that cuts through most anything – it “saws all”. Other companies have similar versions but the name of Milwaukee’s tools – the Sawzall and bigger Hackzall – have been adapted by handymen to apply to all brands of reciprocating saws.

I’m sure this was on Milwaukee’s mind when deciding on a giveaway item to use at hardware stores and contractor events. It would be too expensive to hand out blades or tools, so they decided on a marker…

but instead of a standard issue, Milwaukee brilliantly created a brand-reinforcing giveaway called the Inkzall pen. Just like the related Sharpie, this marker writes on almost all surfaces, making the Inkzall label accurate and brand-aligned.

Do you put as much thought into your giveaways or are you just handing out generic items with your name? With the Inkzall, Milwaukee is likely to get more than it gives in branding.


leadership dot #2514: color cycle

As the school year comes to a close, don’t toss those old markers! Crayola offers a free recycling program for schools to send in any and all markers – Crayola brand, other brands, highlighters or dry erase markers – and they will pay for the shipping! The program runs all year long, but at this time of year, it seems especially relevant.

All K-12 schools are eligible to sign up for the ColorCycle program at http://www.crayola.com/colorcycle.aspx. They even provide lesson plans if teachers want to incorporate curriculum around the recycling effort.

Sometimes we avoid recycling because it requires too much extra effort, but this is an easy sign-up process that comes right to the school for pickup. Parents: ask your school to participate today! Daycare centers: partner with a participating school! Teachers: click on the link above now!

leadership dot #2512: rotation

How much can you change things before it’s no longer the same thing? A hypothetical question circulates in organizational behavior circles: if you replace one plank of a ship, it’s still the same ship, but what if you replace them all? At what point is no longer the same ship?

This question came to mind recently when I saw the Canadian Brass, a group formed in 1970 but that now features only one of its original members, then I saw the FLY dance troupe, formed 22 years ago and now touring with 22-year olds, and when the Harlem Globetrotters came to town, obviously without any of the original 1926 players. How many members can you replace before it is no longer the same group?

Obviously, sports teams continue to play for decades with rotating rosters, Broadway shows replace their casts and bands rotate some of their musicians – all under the same name and brand. Think about your organization – what is the through line that provides consistency year after year? People come and go but for the enterprise to retain its essence, something needs to remain intact besides just the name.

Spending the time to clarify and celebrate what makes you be you is worth the time and effort to do.

leadership dot #2508: branding

When I first started my business, one of the first things I did was to work with a designer to create a logo, website and to order imprinted stationery and envelopes. The look and feel of all my design assets are very important to me and I have taken great care to develop branded invoices, handouts, correspondence cards, etc.

So I laughed out loud when my accountant sent me some information: it came in a handwritten brown envelope with an invoice printed in black ink off a computer and a plain white envelope inside for remittance. There was nothing branded, designed or fancy about the mailer or its contents – but maybe that is exactly the brand that an accountant is trying to convey: be frugal with expenses!

Whether you believe money spent on design is money well spent or not, the key point is to be consistent in how you portray yourself or your organization. You can’t send one thing in a Kraft envelope and the next on parchment.

leadership dot #2494: delivering

Austin, Texas brands itself as the “live music capital of the world.” It’s a bold claim, but they own it and do their best to live up to the title.

One small way that Austin makes good on its boast is by having live music in the Austin-Bergstrom Airport. There is a permanent stage where solo artists can perform for travelers, adding to both their brand and the passengers’ pleasure. If you arrive at the “live music capital”, it’s only fitting that you should be greeted by live music upon landing.

What claim does your organization make that could be strengthened with some intentionality? If you profess to be out of the ordinary, take steps to deliver on that promise as Austin does and help others see your brand as you do.