Posted by Douglas Sorocco at October 30, 2005 12:37 PM
I guess I am in a branding mood these days.
John rants about a recent airplane experience where an executive sitting next to him didn't exactly leave a good impression of the executive's company. It's a funny read for anyone who travels on business fairly often, with the "punchline" being:
The only thing I could think about was my loss of respect for the Fortune 500 Company she worked for. The company had just lost a potential customer because of one executive’s unrelated actions.
John's post reminded me of a recent experience I had that was eerily similar. It is so similar, it makes you wonder how many times such "employee brands" actively work against the "corporate brand".
So, onto my experience: I was traveling out east to a business meeting a day early and so I was traveling "lawyer incognito" -- i.e. I was in jeans and a sportshirt.
It turned out the person next to me was a young associate lawyer with a BigLaw firm -- her briefcase was plastered with the firm logo, her legal pads were festooned with the firm logo, and she was writing with a firm logo'd pen. It was almost like she was a pro athlete with a sponsorship deal.
She was also sick -- coughing, sneezing and generally moaning about her predicament. I thought I would be nice (Okie friendliness) and offer her a couple of tissues I had in my Booq bag (remember, I was traveling incognito) as well as a couple of cough drops.
She wasn't all that impressed.
In fact, she shrieked at me that she would never accept anything "of the kind I was offering" from someone like me. Everyone sitting around us heard her, the flight attendants heard her and, more importantly, the general counsel of a Fortune 100 company heard her.
So, she suffered through the flight coughing and sneezing on everyone -- and no, she didn't cover her mouth when she coughed.
After getting into Baltimore, the general counsel walked up to me and commented about her rude behavior. I remarked that "life is too short" to worry about it but that I would be mortified to have her as an employee in my firm. The GC asked me if I was a lawyer and laughed when I mentioned that I was and that I was the hiring partner for my firm. We ended up trading business cards and it may turn out that we can do business with one another. If not, at least I met an interesting person to have dinner with when I am out east.
As we were walking through the airport, the GC remarked to me that he would be sure to "blackball" the young lawyer's firm from ever doing any work for him. I asked him why, afterall the young lawyer was sick, probably stressed and the firm shouldn't be held to blame for her poor attitude.
The GC's response: "everything she does reflects on the abilities, culture and ethos of her firm. You don't engage the marketing materials, you engage the people. If she is the type of person the firm thinks is 'top notch,' the firm doesn't have a clue."
Wow. His comments will make me reevaluate whether or not to buy logo'd merchandise for our firm in the future - but, more importantly, they will be in the forefront of my brain when making hiring decisions in the future.
Our people are our "brand" - I know what branding message I want to be sending, and it isn't what we saw on that flight. Are your employees/associates/team members getting you blackballed?