What does it take to build an extraordinary company? An inspiring brand? An infectious culture? While the operational and tactical specifics may vary, there are some lessons that I’ve learned along the way that transcend across industries. Here are 12 unforgettable tips to leading an extraordinary company:
1. Be loyal to the nightmare of your choice
I heard Anthony Bourdain say this on “Parts Unknown” as he endured a difficult and dangerous trip across the eastern part of the Congo. The journey was harrowing – he called it the most stressful, terrifying trip of his life. But he’s so committed to his dream and his work, that he braved the nightmare. The phrase originally appeared in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and speaks of fully committing to the path you have chosen, for better or worse.
2. Don’t be a slave to the ordinary
This is a mantra that Motto has adopted. In life and in business, you’re always presented with opportunities to either fit the mold or break it, to fall in line or buck the status quo. The one trap we see most often with our clients is that they know, in theory, that ‘different’ is a competitive advantage, but fear of failure keeps them bumbling around in the sea of sameness. In order to be remarkable, you can’t be a slave to the ordinary.
3. Erase the tagline, adopt a motto
A motto is a statement of purpose and belief — it serves as your guiding principle and spirit of the cause you are advancing. I’ve asked so many entrepreneurs what their motto is and often the answer is “We don’t have one” or “I don’t know.” By defining what you believe in, and encapsulating those beliefs into a brand motto, it gives you, your team, and your customers an inspirational idea to rally around.
4. Champion a movement not a campaign
Extraordinary companies devote themselves to an issue and see it through. You should not be not be swayed by quick fixes or cheap marketing tricks — keep focused on the cause you are advancing. Everything you do should reflect that mission and belief.
5. Wherever your head is, that’s where your business is
If business was easy, everyone would do it. There are days we all get tired. If you are foggy, distracted, tired, or disinterested, your business will follow the same pattern. If that’s happening, it’s time to rethink where you are in business. To get back on track, keep focused on the cause you’re advancing and remind yourself why you are doing what you’re doing.
6. Remember the fire in your belly
My parents have always been very influential in my life — they were also entrepreneurs. I grew up with an entrepreneurial spirit that practically made it impossible for me to work for someone else. Over the years, they’ve both given me incredible advice, but there’s one thing they said that always stuck with me. Anytime I’ve ever become discouraged or at the point of giving up, they would remind me: “You can go on, and you will. Remember the fire in your belly — it will be the only thing that sees you through.”
7. Make it, master it, then matter
This is a phrase I picked up from Daymond John, founder of FUBU and investor on Shark Tank. Every business goes through constantly evolution. In order to make a difference, you must first make it, then master it, then you can make it matter.
8. “No” may be the best thing you ever hear
Sometimes you have to hear the word no, be rejected, or miss the mark. Rovio, the company that created the infamous Angry Birds, created 51 games and was on the brink of failure. Angry Birds was their 52nd game and the game that led them to success. It’s what you do with the rejection that matters.
9. Don’t prioritize numbers over people
Your values create your culture and the people who you hire should feel safe. Extraordinary leaders and companies don’t start cutting their employees out when the business hits rough financial times. They work to keep their employees safe and by doing so, there is greater likelihood to come together to achieve long-term success.
10. Ignite the hearts of those around you
You have the ability to inspire people you work with, employees, partners, vendors, etc. every single day. Understand the motivations and impacts you can have on other people’s lives and work to ignite their passions.
1. Be more transparent with your financials
If your employees know where your numbers are, and whether you you’re doing well or poorly, there is a sense of camaraderie. Employees are more likely to work harder and try to help the business grow if they understand what is going on inside the walls. I’ve seen companies that are practicing open book management with incredible success. Whether you choose to adopt this idea or not, it can have positive effects on your company and employee productivity.
12. Your reputation is one customer at a time
How you treat your customers when there is a discrepancy, you fail to deliver, something is wrong, or when they are unhappy, makes the difference between an extraordinary company and one that is not. Your customer’s happiness should always overrule any “policies” or “guidelines” you have in place. If you screw up, or you can’t get it right, you should do whatever it takes to make it right, even if it means referring them to someone who can. Your customer is paying attention to every move you make and your reputation happens one customer at a time.
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This post originally appeared on Forbes