Entrepreneurs who have the courage step out of their company’s brand, whether big or small, and let their personal brand shine, will likely increase their company’s corporate culture and lead to a better performing business.
“If the leader of a brand puts forward some of his or her own personality, it brings about better culture into their business, that is a more inclusive culture – this will also do wonders when it comes to a business’s operations.”
According to Greenberg, retailers that are doing this well include Myer, Harvey Norman and Alibaba’s Jack Ma. “Richard Umbers is a prominent face for Myer, which has undoubtedly helped to build a good relationship with its staff.” As a public face, Umbers has good traction in the media, and for the right reasons. Tick and tick. “Gerry Harvey is another one, who does this very well.”
Greenberg says the paradigm of retail has changed over the years, from shareholders who were once seen as the most important, whereas these days it’s about staff empowerment.
“There’s a strong argument that in the old days of business we used to say it was shareholders first, because that’s the nature of capitalism, customers second, and then the other stakeholders after.” Times have changes though and this once popular business model has shifted. “Today company culture is what it’s all about in retail and business, and consumer centricity is the other big ticket item. Jack Ma of Alibaba – he changed things a year ago, when he said ‘staff first’.”
The billion dollar Chinese e-commerce success story lies in its CEO’s quirky approach to staff. Jack Ma is undoubtedly the face of Alibaba. Ma renounced his role as chairman 14 years after founding the company, to uptake a lesser title as chief executive. A short, thin and tiny figure with characteristic cheekbones and a mischievous smile – his distinctive looks have certainly worked to his advantage.
His quirky approach as a humble CEO often sees Jack Ma make headlines for the brand, often referring to himself as “one hundred percent Made in China.”
“I am a very simple guy. I am not smart. Everyone thinks that Jack Ma is a very smart guy. I might have a smart face but I’ve got very stupid brains,” Ma has famously said.
His massive success in online retail on a global scale has proved otherwise. Jack Ma’s charm and charisma has played a significant role in attracting the right talent and capital to the company, and at the same time building his own fame. In fact, some of his staff refer to him as “Jack Magic.”
“Teamwork” is an important word at Alibaba, and for its staff it means regular outings, group games and singing (yes they sing there apparently). The company invests in its people, hosting regular recognition of high performers in the business, awarding them prizes like Louis Vuitton wallets, limited edition apparel, bonuses and even cars!
While we all can’t afford these in our businesses, its certainly a nice concept to aspire to, when it comes to recognising and rewarding well deserving staff.
“You start from the inside (staff), customer second, shareholder third, but of course, recognising that if you can get those things right, the shareholder would be smiling. Happy staff, happy customer, good business,” says Greenberg.
And of course all of this transcends into a good bottom line. Because let’s be honest, a business is still a business, and we need profit to survive.