Warren Buffett understands the importance of a good reputation — and how difficult it is to overcome a poor past. When Buffett wants to add another company to Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio, he’ll ignore those options with bad reputations even as he looks at companies with cash-flow problems and members of weak industries. Says Buffett,
When a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is usually the reputation of the business that remains intact.
He has every confidence that he can deal with any other problem in a business, but even Warren Buffett doesn’t feel up to repairing a poor reputation.
Build An Amazing Reputation
We know that a poor reputation is not something we want. But how can we build a reputation that really helps our businesses (and our personal brands)?
Many companies build their reputation by ‘underpromising and overdelivering.’ They want to give the image that they’ve gone a step beyond for their clients while really just performing at their normal level. As far as reputations go, this sort of average performance isn’t bad: businesses that succeed in underpromising and overdelivering certainly won’t scare off prospective clients. But they also won’t have a great reputation.
To get a great reputation, your business needs to go beyond average. You need to promise great things and deliver. Go back to Warren Buffett for a moment: everyone wants stock in Berkshire Hathaway because of his reputation of making money for his investors. He got that reputation by demonstrating, time and again, that he could get the great returns he promised. You don’t have to get Buffett’s return to build a great reputation, but you do need his ability to follow through.
On one level, building a good reputation is easier than building your brand. You don’t need to print out fliers or distribute business cards to let people know about your abilities; your clients will do it for you. You do need to make sure that your clients have a few good things to contribute to your reputation, though. At the most basic level, your customer has to be satisfied. Your product must be problem-free or your service must be completed on time. But you should take customer satisfaction to the next level. Go beyond their expectations and provide a product with an extra bell or whistle.
As your business grows, your brand will change. Your logo may go for a redesign and your website may get an upgrade. But the reputation you have today will still be affecting your business. In ten years, your customers will still remember you — if you go beyond their expectations.