As life progresses, I seem to come more and more back to the lessons taught to me by my parents. Growing up in New York City, my parents were understandably concerned about whom we chose as friends – who we chose to “hang with.” My mother would always say “birds of a feather flock together” – smart people associate with smart people, honest people tend to be around other honest people, achievers group with achievers, etc.
Brands are like coffee beans. Several years ago, I read a book about branding by Scott Bedbury who was one of the primary architects of the Starbucks brand. He said, “Brands are like coffee beans, highly sensitive sponges that absorb whatever odor is around them. And they don’t discriminate between the good, the bad, and the ugly.” You are the sum total of all of the best experiences and the worst experiences of your customers with you, your employees and contractors, your partners, your suppliers.
Recently, I questioned why a colleague referred to a client a firm known for trying to be all things to all people, therefore delivering lower quality services. The colleague replied, “because they provide us with referrals.” If you have no standards of excellence for your referrals, what does that say about the quality of your firm? And if a company with a spotty reputation refers your organization, what can someone infer about you and your organization?
Some folks may think that this is too strong a stance. There are numerous people out in the market that did not make the cut as a partner or associate of our firm. We have built our firm’s reputation over the last 30 years by recruiting and retaining only the best talent that is focused on client service, maintaining a high degree of integrity and professionalism, and seeking to associate with those of like mind. We only refer to our clients and friends those that demonstrate similar qualities.
Is this old-fashioned. In this era of social networking – Facebook friending and LinkedIn connections – there seems to be less concern for standards. People connect or friend with anyone and everyone who asks. One of my sons says that people no longer make judgments about you based on your associations – that it’s an old-fashioned notion.
Is that true? Does my mother’s “birds of a feather” caution still hold? Or, has it gone the way of the rolodex?