Why would a business want to repel a potential client or customer? There are many legitimate reasons. One great example comes from the early years of McDonald’s. The McDonald brothers, Maurice and Richard, actually were doing quite well with a traditional drive-in restaurant model. As a carhop drive-in, a store could handle 125 cars at a time, and the menu was relatively broad, including ribs, barbecued pork and beef sandwiches in addition to traditional hamburgers.
Yet the brothers weren’t happy with what their business was. It didn’t resonate with their personal truths about who they were and what they wanted to be. They saw an opportunity to be more streamlined and efficient, and they envisioned their brand as a simple, clean restaurant that provided good value for families. However, this meant saying no to some easy money. They eliminated various revenue generators—jukeboxes, cigarette machines, pay phones, newsstands, and carhops. In fact, they even determined that the carhops were unreliable employees and tended to attract leather-jacketed teenagers—not the family crowd they were looking for.
This line of thinking—later built upon when the business was taken over by Ray Kroc—may have seemed counter intuitive to penny wise restaurant owners of the 1950s. However, it’s foundational to the fact that McDonald’s is the fourth most recognized global brand as of May 2011.
When founders define, clarify, and act in lockstep with their own personal truths, the energy inside them is enhanced, and the potential for this powerful energy to create enormous economic value is present.
It is the same with the organization’s truths. When the people in and around your organization are clear on these truths, and these truths are defined in a way that touches their hearts and minds, enormous energy transfer can occur.
As the leader of your business, you want to create predictability and capacity. Predictability means that whenever the opportunity for energy transfer is present, it is almost guaranteed to occur. But if your organization’s atmosphere has a missing ingredient or the wrong recipe, the energy is dampened or even destructive. It’s like an orchestra—where one instrument out of tune or out of sync can diminish or destroy the pleasing effect of the whole. Clarity of the organization’s truths, understood by all, allows energy to spread and employees to flourish.
Capacity means you have an atmosphere that is capable of handling any amount of energy you create through your words, actions, and behaviors. Even more, the atmosphere is capable of transferring the energy created by anyone else in and around your organization to all others. The system is fully capable of leveraging this power to an unlimited magnitude.
The exercise below will help you get started on finding your core truths.
Core truths Exercise
The objective is to identify three to five words or phrases that define the atmosphere of your organization by assimilating, analyzing, and thinking about the legends, the folklore, and the people within your organization who represent it best—these are the Alpha Dogs, the influencers. Think about what really matters. When you attempt to crack the code, it is important to seek the deeper meaning behind the words people have used. It’s important that you, and you alone, are doing the thinking here. When you follow the process outlined in my book, you have researched, observed, listened, and clarified what you heard. Putting all this information together is like assembling a puzzle whose image begins to emerge as the pieces fit together. That’s your job.
Which truths are most meaningful? Why these?
Don’t over think it! Let the truths emerge. As you contemplate the big picture and reflect on the fundamental truths of your organization, they will become clear. It’s like an optical illusion: the harder you focus, the more elusive the image buried within becomes.
My wife has a very effective tool for finding the “holes” in our Christmas tree light pattern, a trick she learned from her dad. She stands about 10 feet away from the tree and squints hard. When she does this, all she can discern is the pattern of lights outlining the tree. It becomes easy to see where there are too many lights or too few. Do the same here. Mentally take a step back from the information you’ve gathered about your organization’s truths and squint. Suddenly, the fundamental truths that shape your own organization and form its style will become clear.
Finding your business’s truths can be exciting, scary and even a bit controversial. But, like the McDonalds saw, a well organized and powerfully executed campaign can make all the difference to your company. Don’t be afraid to step up and make some changes with your goals in mind— there’s nothing like great vision to energize a company.