High-Growth Truth: Reputations Are Built Not Given

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On April 30, 2017

There is a great scene from the classic TV show, Happy Days that contains a high-growth truth: Reputations are built not given.

In the scene, mild-mannered Richie Cunningham is trying to stand up to some tough guys but doesn’t quite know how to do it. So he seeks out the advice of the Fonz—whom everyone seems to respect and even fear. Richie asks him how he does it, noting that he’s never even seen Fonzie fight anyone.

Fonzie explains the importance of having the right attitude and presence. Richie tries the approach . . . and fails miserably. As the tough guys prepare to beat him up, Richie turns back to Fonzie and says, “This isn’t working!” To which Fonzie replies, “I forgot to tell you, that you actually have to have a reputation for actually having hit someone at least once!”

It works the same way with your business. It’s great to set goals for being the best, the fastest, the most accurate in your particular corner of the market. But can you back it up? Plenty of companies spend time crafting a tagline that they hope will attract customers. They may talk about their great customer service, or how they always put their customers first. But that kind of talk has been around for a long time, and customers are increasingly skeptical when they hear it. Does your company actually have a reputation for treating clients well?

I talk to companies all the time who are convinced of their Unique Value Proposition. They’ve spent weeks hammering out a statement about how they are different (better, faster, easier, more value, etc.). The only problem is that they haven’t actually done any of the things they’re talking about.

That’s why execution is so important. If you can’t “walk the talk,” the best marketing in the world isn’t going to bring you sustained growth. So what are the keys to excellence in execution? In Scaling Up, Verne Harnish mentions three essential disciplines that have to be in place.

  1. Priorities: Make sure you focus on a few things and get them right
  2. Data: Ensure that you’re collecting both qualitative and quantitative feedback to evaluate (Measure the right things and measure them often enough)
  3. Meeting Rhythm: Make sure you’re meeting frequently enough to evaluate your data and make good decisions

By the way, execution isn’t just something that smaller companies need to pay attention to. Here’s a look at some huge companies that let execution slip (and the ridiculous reasons they gave for why it happened). Reputations are built, not given. The only way to build your reputation is to consistently deliver what you promise. And that means setting the right priorities; measuring your performance; and continually evaluating and adjusting based on what you discover.