You and I live and build our business in a time where almost every consumer product or service can be turned into a commodity in a rapid period of time. There are rare occasions where composition of matter patents, etc. may provide a true strategic advantage for a period of time, but almost every successful SaaS product, CPG product, or consumer electronic can and will be copied in short order.
So in that reality the question really becomes How do we/I differentiate? Brand is no longer a thing that your company solely dictates, but is now more than ever, one of the most dynamic and evolving relationships and conversations that your company gets to actively participate in on a minute-by-minute basis.
Everyone wants a great brand, but few have a leadership framework to achieve it and a marketing/operational framework to deploy it and manage it over time. Enter the Extreme Leadership (LEAP) Framework and the Experience Marketing Framework. The former is my favorite foundational leadership framework invented by a good friend and fellow Inc. Contributor Steve Farber. The frameworkwas first published over a decade ago in his bestselling book The Radical Leap. LEAP is an acronym that instructs leaders to cultivate Love, generate Energy, inspire Audacity, and provide Proof.
Most old school executives may cringe when they entertain the idea of love being a foundational element of their business and strategic planning, but admirable companies like Southwest and Sundial Brands have been putting it in the center of the highly profitable, sustainable, and growing stories for multiple decades. To cultivate love as a leader is one of the cornerstones of great culture and Farber would argue that culture eats strategy for lunch.
Richelieu Dennis (Founder and CEO) of Sundial Brands epitomizes this belief and is a great case study with his company's recent double digit growth, investment from Bain Capital, and #breakthewalls and #everybodygetslove campaigns that are the current representation of how this company has always put love in the heart of their business that was started out of a tiny Queens, NY apartment on his Grandmother's recipes after being displaced by a civil war in Liberia, Africa 25 years ago. Sundial is a certified B-Corp with close to $300m in annual sales and a 31% growth rate year-over-year in 2016. that has cultivated love with what they call community commerce (see below).
Great leaders generate lots of energy! Leadership, according to Farber, is really about transformation. According to the laws of thermodynamics energy can neither be created or destroyed but can be transferred or transformed from one state to another.
Great leaders and great cultures provide a platform and a process to allow the human beings within that organization to step up (regardless of their position on the org chart) and generate organizational energy through the impact of their influence and commitment to live the core values causing a transformation of that culture in a positive direction.
Toinspire audacity is to live and work with a bold and blatant disregard for normal constraints in order to change the world for the better and to enroll others enthusiastically in the same regard. Farber has coined this 'living in the pursuit of the OS!M". The "O" stands for "Oh", the "M" stands for "Moment" and I will give you two guesses what the "S" stands for to keep this article editor approved at Inc.
Sundial recently stepped into the OS!M with love as their compass when they launched the #breakthewalls campaign which was designed to challenge segregation in the beauty aisle and open up new markets for their product lines while staying true to their core heritage as a minority-owned, family-controlled business that has always put humanity first in its operating agreement.
Great leaders provide proof that their frameworks, strategies and tactics actually worked in driving stakeholder agreed upon core metrics and ROI. Farber has decades of case studies that show that LEAP works in building strong cultures and strong profit and loss statements, and Sundial Brands is a living breathing example of one whose trajectory seems destined for several more years of explosive and inclusive growth built on a foundation of love.
I suggest you pick up a copy of Radical Leap and put a focused effort on where and how to fit L-O-V-E in your business. In an era where the customer experience battleground is your main differentiator and your brand is an ever evolving one-on-one relationship with each end user at scale, I would argue that it is more important than ever for driving strong culture and financial performance.