Are your standards sending the wrong message?

 A company that expects to continue to grow efficiently and effectively must put controls in place to manage the process of growth. Additionally, setting standards and expectations is also essential to assuring consistency and quality.However, what I have been seeing recently are cases where standards are actually counterproductive, and may potentially be doing more harm than good.


Are your standards sending the wrong message? Here are areas I am seeing companies fall victim to in their good intentions with regard to standards.


1. Regulated Graphics: As a branding expert, I am an adamant supporter of the value of having branding standards. However, what I am seeing more of, disappointingly, are what I would classify as branding regulations versus branding standards. Branding standards should be in place to elevate and preserve the corporate image, protect the intellectual property, and to assure consistency across multiple platforms. When standards go to the extreme of eliminating the potential for creativity, they have become regulations and actually hurt the brand more than elevate it. More concerning, is when the rules and guidelines are so rigid, that it becomes more about you than who you are ultimately trying to appeal to and impress. When your standards become more important than effectively appealing to your customers and target markets, it is time to rethink your standards. 


2. CYA versus TLC: When your signage, policies, procedures and communication with others becomes more legally based than loyalty based, you may want to take a step back and define who you are really serving. Take a moment to view your "cannots" and "will nots" from your current and future customers' perspectives and also your current and future employees' perspectives. If what is being seen or read first, in literature, in signage, or as someone walks into your establishment, is what they cannot do or you will not do for them, "Houston, you have a problem."


3. Rescinding Verbiage: I am seeing another trend, that is unfortunately inspired by the litigious society too many businesses fear. A special promotion or limited time offer will be advertised, and then in small print will be verbiage such as, "Pricing can change without notice." or "We cannot be held liable for any inaccuracies contained herein." First of all, there is a thing called proof-reading, and second, limited time means limited time. So basically, what these companies are saying is that they don’t have to uphold their offers because they have it covered with the "fine print." Shame on them.


4. "Empowerless" Procedures: My daughter and I were at a drive-through awaiting the ice cream cone and sundae we ordered. Glancing through the window, I witnessed that a new employee was being trained to properly fill the cone. The trainer placed the demo cone she had prepared on a scale, and then to my surprise threw it in the trash. I was thinking, "Wait a minute, that was my ice cream cone." Then the trainee made a cone, slightly smaller and it was delivered to me. I asked why the one cone was discarded and the reply was, "Because it weighed too much." So in an effort not to waste, I wonder how much "more" waste is occurring because of the fear of giving a customer a gram or two too much. Go figure. 


5. ?????? ???????: I leave this with question marks in hopes that the above four will inspire you to take a look at your standards, procedures, and policies with a fresh eye on how they are best serving your company, employees, customers, community and industry as a whole. If your "standards" are sending a wrong message or a confusing message, it is time to evolve the standard, or perhaps eliminate it altogether. 


Standards, policies, documented procedures and protocols have a valuable place in business for effective operations and higher valuations. Just don't allow them to become your scapegoat or excuse for not doing what is right and best.

Sherré DeMao is author of the nationally acclaimed books, 50 Marketing Secrets of Growth Companies in Down Economic Times, www.50marketingsecrets.com, and Me, Myself & Inc., www.memyselfandinc.com, Her column seeks to help business owners build and grow sustainable enterprises and businesses with economic value and preference in the marketplace.