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Nigel Risner on the 12 principles for leading a high impact company…

What does it take to build a high impact company or an inspiring brand? Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of visionary entrepreneurs on issues such as positioning, leadership, and culture. While the operational and tactical specifics may vary, there are some inspiring tips that I’ve learned along the way that transcend industries:

Don’t seek success, seek meaning. Success is a result. If you put too much weight behind it, you lose sight of the real driving force, which is to live your purpose and create meaningful work for you, your clients and your customers. You should first show up to serve others, and the successes that follow will be all the sweeter.

Have some moral courage. If something doesn’t feel right, have the courage to change it. If you’re working for or with someone and your values don’t align, or you’re compromising who you are, then it’s time to rethink where you are and what you’re doing.

Erase the tagline, adopt a motto. A motto is a statement of purpose and belief — it serves as your guiding principle and spirit of the cause you are advancing. I’ve asked so many entrepreneurs what their motto is, and often the answer is “we don’t have one” or “I don’t know.” By defining what you believe in, and encapsulating those beliefs into a brand motto, it gives you, your team and your customers an inspirational idea to rally around.

Champion a movement not a campaign. Extraordinary companies devote themselves to an issue and see it through. You should not be not be swayed by quick fixes or cheap marketing tricks. Everything you do should reflect your mission and beliefs.

You are a lifelong experiment. Purpose is what guides you. What do you do and how you do it are simply expressions of that larger purpose. If you’re a person with different interests, never limit yourself to just one focus or business – it can lead to disenchantment.  Richard Branson expresses his purpose through over 400 companies. Virgin Group alone holds more than 200 companies, including Virgin Galactic, his new foray into space tourism. You will try, fail, and succeed and do it all over again. It’s okay to experiment and dream.

Wherever your head is, that’s where your business is. If running a business was easy, everyone would do it. There are days we all get tired. If you are foggy, distracted, tired or disinterested, your business will follow the same pattern. If that’s happening, it’s time to rethink where you are. To get back on track, keep focused on the cause you’re advancing and remind yourself why you are doing what you’re doing.

Make it, master it, then matter.  Every business goes through constant evolution. In order to make a difference, you must first make it, then master it and then you can make it matter.

“No” may be the best thing you ever hear. Sometimes you have to hear the word no, be rejected, or miss the mark. Rovio, the company that created the infamous Angry Birds, created 51 games and was on the brink of failure. Angry Birds was its 52nd game and the game that led it to success. It’s what you do with the rejection that matters.

Don’t prioritise numbers over people. Your values create your culture, and the people that you hire should feel safe. Extraordinary leaders and companies don’t start cutting their employees out when the business hits rough financial times. They work to keep their employees safe and by doing so, the team can come together to achieve long-term success.

Ignite the hearts of those around you. You have the ability to inspire people you work with — employees, partners, vendors, etc. — every single day. Understand their motivations and the impact you can have on other people’s lives, and work to ignite their passions.

Consider open book management. Employees are more likely to work harder and try to help the business grow if they understand what is going on inside the numbers. I’ve seen companies that are practicing open book management with incredible success. Whether you choose to adopt this idea or not, it can have positive effects on your company and employee productivity.

Your reputation is one customer at a time. How you treat your customers when something goes wrong makes the difference between an extraordinary company and an ordinary one. Your customers’ happiness should always overrule any “policies” or “guidelines” you have in place. If you screw up, or you can’t get it right, you should do whatever it takes to make it right, even if it means referring them to someone else who can. Your customer is paying attention to every move you make. Your reputation happens on one customer at a time.


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