A Comment on Reputation

A recent Wall Street Journal article relayed that most corporate executives felt two elements were true about reputations:

  1. Reputation should be part of any business strategy because it influences how a company is treated by shareholders, customers, partners and regulators.
  2. Company should state what it stands for and then cleave to their values, no matter what. Publically falling short of their openly expressed values is one of the worst blunders a company can make because the media love to report on hypocrisy and double standards.

This seems to be in direct conflict with Jonathan Macey’s book “The Death of Corporate Reputation”, in which he writes:

“It used to be the case that for a diverse array of companies and industries involved in the capital markets, nurturing and maintaining the organizations’ reputation was absolutely critical to their growth and continued success. I argue that this simply is no longer the case, at least in the U.S.”

For Christian business owners, our reputation is one of the most valuable assets we have. Reputation is built over the long term by the two parts of your wake: what you do and how you treat people. In order to build a great reputation, you must have the skills to finish a job with excellence. In addition, you need to have the people-skills necessary to authentically connect with others, build alliances and engage in conflict resolution. If you can build both sides of this equation – professional skills and people skills – over time, you will develop a good reputation. What you accomplish and how you treat people will constitute your reputation.

The Bible speaks of having a good reputation as more valuable than fine perfume or great riches (Proverbs 22.1, Ecclesiastes 7.1). Instead of seeking to be rich, the Bible tells us, we should seek to build a good reputation. Those who have a good reputation are more rich than those who live in the largest of houses, drive the finest in cars and enjoy the best comforts and advantages life has to offer. In business parlance, this means treating your employees, partners, customers and vendors with the respect and honesty they deserve. It also means developing, communicating and the living by your personal and corporate values.

Always be growing in your professional skills – but be sure to pay attention to your people skills too. Doing both will ensure you don’t need to give a lot of attention to maintaining your reputation, because by taking care of people and demonstrating your professional expertise, you’ll find your reputation will take care of itself.

Bill English, CEO


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