The Power of Reputation

Strengthen the Asset That Will Make or Break Your Career

The Power of Reputation

Author: Chris Komisarjevsky
Pub Date: April 2012
Print Edition: $22.00
Print ISBN: 9780814417973
Page Count: 224
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814417980

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Excerpt

Reality, Perception, and Your Most Powerful Asset

Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of. . . .

The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.

—Socrates

AS THE SUMMER turned to fall I took my car to the dealership for repairs.

The weather was just starting to turn cold and I just didn’t like the sound

when I turned the key and the battery started to crank the engine. “No

time like the present,” I thought. I wouldn’t feel right if my wife, Reina, or

one of my kids needed to use the car and it wouldn’t start, especially if they

were by themselves.

When I spoke with Louis Ciolino, the lead service consultant I always ask

for, I tried politely to let him know how important it was that the battery be

tested and, if even just starting to go bad, be replaced. To Louis, this could

have been an unimportant request that he didn’t have to take seriously. But

I had hardly started to talk, expressing my concern, when Louis looked up

from his computer and said, “I haven’t changed my face in 30 years.”

Yes, Louis does have an interesting way of phrasing things. But I knew

exactly what he meant. Over the years, he’s never changed his priorities: to

remain customer focused and caring. Needless to say, Louis takes pride in

what he does. He is a professional and is one of those remarkable guys who

knows his customers by first name. He never needs much more than that

in order to recommend the best course of action.

This time was no different.

Louis knows what it takes to build a solid reputation for service. He

knows it means working hard, being personally committed, and building

relationships. Most of all, he knows that he has to be trusted, not just for

one day or one service visit, but for the long run.

This is the reality behind his reputation. He has earned it through

offering true service in a friendly way that everyone appreciates. That’s

why so many of us keep asking for him, why we tell our friends and

acquaintances about him, and why his career is successful.

Reputation Is Powerful

I’m no different from any other guy who brings his car in for repairs. But

I am assured of quality and can avoid the apprehension that many experience

because I simply take my car to Louis.

As a public relations professional, professor, board member, manager,

volunteer, combat veteran, and, most of all, a father, I am acutely aware of

the importance of reputation. And I’m not alone in doing so—people

everywhere keep their ears to the ground and follow up when they get a

good recommendation. If their first, second, and third experience with

someone demonstrates that there is reality behind a reputation, they will

continue doing business there. Moreover, when trust is there and proven

over time, they may even ask for new services, expanding the relationship.

Everyone, in turn, benefits from the increased business.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to

speak with people at all professional levels and in different types of organizations

about their views on reputation. In those conversations, I’ve never

been able to resist the temptation to ask a very simple question: “Do you

believe that reputation is important?”

The answer often comes quickly. While holding back a slight chuckle—

or maybe a laugh—they say, “Of course.” Some might punctuate their

reply by rolling their eyes, while others just look at me quizzically. I sense

that more than a few of them seem to think that just asking the question

means that I must have been living on the moon.

When I push for an answer, no one minces their words. They come

right out and tell me that, if anyone thinks reputation isn’t important, they

must be crazy.

Perhaps the fact that they are so direct and blunt is because they took

the time and effort to build reputations that have withstood the pressures,

endured good times and bad, and continued to serve as the foundation for

their success. Or perhaps a few have even learned the hard way that a loss

of reputation or unwillingness to live up to a commitment and fulfill a

promise can prove to be the leading edge of a major problem, if not

advance warning of a looming collapse. When I ask them to rate reputation

on a scale of importance, from one to five, it always rates high. Some

tell me that it is the most important—number five—while others rank it

at number four. It seems everyone agrees that reputation is at or near the

top when it comes to the ability to be successful.

Clearly, reputation is among our most treasured and powerful assets.

At its simplest, it is what others think of us. This simple fact affects everything

we do, everything we say, everyone around us, and everything we try

to accomplish . . . private and public, personal and professional.

For some, reputation makes the difference between success and failure.

For others, it closes the gap between mediocrity and success by creating

special opportunities to move beyond the ordinary and accomplish

the extraordinary. For still others, it offers a unique advantage to overcome

challenges that otherwise might have been considered daunting or

even impossible.

In my experience, on the road to success there is nothing more important

than reputation when it comes to a strong foundation on which we

build our relationships, decisions, achievements, and careers.

Think of the way reputation affects the way you relate to the businesses

and organizations in your life. We judge organizations much the

same way we judge the people around us. We look them in the eye, listen

to what they say, notice what they don’t say, watch how they behave, and

then we make our judgments. Subconsciously, we ask ourselves: Do we

think they can be trusted? Do we think they are reputable? Do we think

they will do what they say, and do we think that what they do will be

meaningful? We ascribe human values and characteristics to every kind of

organization—whether a for-profit or a not-for-profit. We use our

answers to decide whether we want to relate to that organization, whether

through buying a product or service, investing in them, or taking them on

as a vendor or client.

How we perceive, and therefore describe, those organizations can vary

dramatically. The words we use to describe them are the ones that most

often relate to our own values. When we think well of a company or an

organization and have a positive view of the values that underlie its decisions,

we use endearing human terms such as “good,” “warm,” “fair,”

“ethical,” “responsible,” “trustworthy,” and “personable.” Or we describe

an organization as one that “we like” and “treats us well.”

When it is an organization we don’t like, our descriptions turn nasty:

“doesn’t care,” “takes advantage of us,” “rips us off,” “is dishonest,” “misuses

our donations,” “is unfair,” and “chases the almighty buck at our

expense.”

To look at this from a completely different perspective, I asked some of

the people I’ve interviewed over the years to tell me what kind of animal

comes to mind when they think of some of the more widely recognized

companies. The answers were pretty graphic and telling. When they said

“snake,” it spoke volumes of what they thought about a company’s

integrity and honesty. Companies that were described as a lion or a tiger

suggested a reputation for aggressive competition. Sharks conjured up

images of financial avarice and ruthless behavior, with no compassion or

regard to the success of others. At the same time, puppies and house cats

were descriptions of kinder, gentler companies whose business activity was

mild, well meaning, pleasant, a Ma-and-Pop shop—and perhaps even easily

taken advantage of by ruthless companies.

It doesn’t take much thought to realize that these reactions to the reputations

of a range of companies tell an important story about our own

reputations as individuals. Reputation often has its base in an emotional

first reaction. It might be a gut response, based on what action has been

taken or what words have been communicated. The truth is that whether

or not a reputation has grounding in actions and experience, at the core of

reputation is simply a feeling or a belief.

This is why reputation can seem to be so hard to control or manage. Its

root is in the nebulous realm of emotions, in each person’s feeling about you

or your organization. The good news is that the seeds of a good reputation

are identifiable, and you can plant those seeds so that positive roots will grow

and positive experiences will flower. Plant the right seeds and success is yours.

Celia Berk, chief talent officer for Young & Rubicam Group, is often

called upon to help people with their professional development. She

explains it this way:

I tell them that they are the ones who must “manage” their own

careers. That includes their reputations inside and outside the

organization.

Most importantly, as they manage their careers and reputations,

they must remember that their actions have consequences. If there

are inconsistencies, there is little credibility.

Reputation Is Your Most Important Asset

If there is one message in this book to remember, it is just this: In every facet

of our lives, reputation is among our most treasured and powerful assets.

I intentionally choose to describe reputation as an asset, simply

because an asset is anything we own that has exchange value. This point

is important.

Think of it from two perspectives.

First of all, we own our reputation. Whether or not we feel we deserve

it, the responsibility for the views of us that have taken shape in other people’s

minds falls on us and us alone. When we take responsibility, when we

“own” our reputation—that is the moment we can do something about it,

when we can begin to consciously shape it.

Second, as an asset, reputation has an exchange value. We engage in

active exchanges based on our reputation—either attracting business,

attention, or support from those around us, or repelling it. Revenue

climbs, we earn a promotion, we land a long-term client, or we negotiate

great terms with a vendor we also respect. Or none of those things happen.

Margery Kraus is founder and chief executive of the worldwide consulting

firm APCO Worldwide, which developed a Return on Reputation

Indicator and Index in partnership with the Retail Industry Leaders

Association. Here’s what her research shows on the power of reputation to

affect the bottom line.

Our Return on Reputation research demonstrates that “doing the

right thing” is also “the right thing to do for business” . . . just as we

know that “doing the right thing” is so important to our success as

individuals. One of the interesting aspects of this research is that it

directly tracks the linkage from behavior to perception to action.

Using the retail industry research as an example, there is a direct

correlation between perceptions—those met, not met, or

exceeded—and the bottom line.

In any kind of reputation research, the underlying principles are no

different than those that determine the success of our own careers.

Through all of the work I have done with different organizations—

from trade associations to social service organizations, and from

governments to corporations—the data consistently show that reputation

and meeting expectations are key.

As you delve into this book, consider what your own reputation goals

are—what is your personal bottom line? Are you looking to build a business?

Do you want to earn a promotion? Lead a team effectively? Widen

your network of potential clients? Grow sales? Attract quality vendors

and allies?

All these things are possible when you have a positive reputation

because it is a major determining factor in the choice that people make

when considering their options. More often than not, your good reputation

is the reason they choose you.

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