95: What Would Your Brand Do?

Image used by permission by purchase from iStockPhoto.comDuring the past couple Augusts, I’ve attended the Global Leadership Summit via satellite campus.  Each year, this gathering of business and ministry leaders (over 165,000 in 2011 alone) draws some of the leading thinkers and speakers from both the nonprofit and for-profit worlds.  It’s the closest thing I’ve experienced to TED Talks.

This past year, Bill Hybels, the event’s creator and host, left us with a challenge, the completion of which has been on my to do list until tonight [New Year’s Day].  The assignment: define your organization in just five words.

For years, I’ve rolled my eyes at mission statements and the like, especially the ones that get posted on store walls or printed in company brochures.  I don’t really care what a company’s mission statement is.  If your customer service and marketing already exemplify it, I already know your vision and values.  If they don’t, why give me a yardstick to to measure your shortcomings?

Tonight, though, I finally assembled five words to define my company.

For the past week, I’ve been working on my content for 10.5 hours of classes I’ll be instructing at the Certified Auctioneer Institute (CAI) in March.  Tonight, I was working on a section of the material about defining your brand and then filtering various business and media decisions through that brand.  That’s when I bumped into the challenge of the five-word sieve.

After making my list of five words, I wondered what my clients would list as my five words and if any of their lists would resemble mine.  I also thought that it would be entertaining to hear from my friends, industry peers, and family as to what they, too, would list as biplane productions‘ emphases.  But it was my five words that stared at me like a list of New Year’s resolutions—to conduct my business in such a way in 2012 that the definitions of biplane productions‘ observers would fall as close to these five words as possible.

The point of this exercise wasn’t to create magic words or build a corporate guessing game for you.  My goals for biplane productions aren’t much different than yours: create mutually-beneficial transactions, cultivate long-term relationships (with both industry peers and clients), nurture an expert brand to an expanding audience, and get bigger black numbers that come with smaller red ones.

No, the point was to create a filter that will guide your brand and mine at each decision of literally hundreds or thousands of decision points—from website user interface to direct mail style sheet, from voicemail greetings to email signatures, from company dress code to bidding platform(s).  The ramifications of those cumulative choices will, in turn, move our companies closer to or farther away from our respective goals.

All of us may not need to make a five-word list.  We certainly don’t need another plaque on the wall.  But we all need to be looking at our everyday decisions through the lenses of our brands.

I lead one of the three squads of the parking team at my church.  Eight of us direct traffic for the 8:30am service.  After we get everybody into the building and the signs & cones rearranged for second service, we eat breakfast together in our church’s cafe.  During one of these breakfasts, I had each of the team members discreetly write the five words they’d use to describe who we are and what we do.  Using a flip chart, I transcribed the cumulative list of words; then we tried to find five common denominators.  It was a great exercise to recast the vision of why we exist and what we do.  I love the heart of my team mates, as they were expressed in these summations:

Common Grounds group chartRESPONSE
The working definition of worship at our church is “the appropriate response to God’s revelation.”  So, serving is part of our response to unmatched grace, mercy, love, acceptance, and truth.  We hope that people can see worship in what we do and how we do it.  Words that came in this category included: joy, serve, glorify, awesome, expressive, and excitement.

Every encounter with Christ and Christians either pushes people toward Jesus or away from him.  What we do out on the asphalt (and grass) could change someone’s trajectory; and we’ve heard multiple stories of those new vectors from attendees, other servers, and other team members.  This is more than showing up to check something off a guilt list; this is ministry.  Words that came in this category included: greet, desire, energy, welcome, encourage, smiles, safety, connect, humble, and touch lives.

The Christian journey was designed to be completed with other travelers, each helping one another grow closer to Jesus.  Even the toughest personalities on our team are frail, because we’re all human.  We need encouragement, accountability, acceptance, and even boots to our back pockets.  Some of the most authentic conversations I’ve experienced have been with members of my team.  Words that came in this category included: love, unity, observe, conscientious, encourage, connect, humble, growth, and initiative.

I have cried during our pre-game prayer circle time.  I’ve locked arms with friends, laid hands on those who’ve made themselves vulnerable, and heard prayers that have to shake heaven.  In the least, they have shaken me—shaken us.  I’ve held Rick’s iPhone on speakerphone, as we prayed with someone in prison.  When a need or hurt is expressed by a teammate via email or group text, prayer ensues.  Listening to new believers pray has been both precious and convicting, as they skip religious jargon for straight-up conversation with heaven.

This word appeared over and over again.  True, biblical love expresses itself in many ways—often in the ways categorized in the other four words.  Our pastor quotes some famous writer all the time: “Love is always on its way to someone else.”  As a parking team, it’s our role to be conduits to each other, to friends, to strangers—even to the combative.  If love isn’t the filter for our response, all of the above degenerates.  Love is the reason, the expression, the connection.  As Paul wrote, without love, we are nothing.

How would you describe the ministry or serving team to which you contribute?  Is it where you’d hope it would be?  If not, what can you do to affect change in the direction of that ideal?

[footer]Stock image used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com.[/footer]

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