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Brand and Culture Alignment: Meet Janelle Barlow

Q: Why are you involved with Awaken?

A: Jim Wardlaw and I have known each other since meeting many years ago at a conference where I was presenting. We’ve maintained a professional relationship since then. We’ve both been intrigued by business topics, such as branding and sales, which isn’t a subject area many small and mid-size businesses really pay attention to. I really like what he does to get his clients looking at a larger vision for their businesses. To me, he’s always been on the cutting edge of how to get people working together effectively.

Q: What is the nature of your presentation?

A: My presentation will explore the criticality of aligning culture and brand. I view branding, in its most simple terms, as “I promise, I deliver.” Organizations, for the most part, are pretty good at making promises, but aren’t always good at delivering or selling. In business, there’s an intersection between brand, selling, and service. Brand is the emotional connection to the customer. Selling is about making it possible to give customers the value you offer. Service is about creating loyalty. Ultimately, the hardest part of creating loyalty has to do with service because the kind of service businesses offer is directly related to their culture. If a company’s work culture doesn’t support its brand (the promises it makes to customers), it’s hard for teams to deliver that service. Getting everything aligned isn’t easy, but, as I say, it’s critical for success. It’s easy to get caught up in fulfillment service, delivery, or the product development side of things instead of looking at what makes things happen in a unique way. And the energy of people, the ones who fulfill contracts, services, and orders, can be greatly amplified if brand, culture, service, etc. are aligned. If they’re not, promises aren’t kept, trust is reduced, and loyalty is decreased.

Q: In your opinion, why is organizational culture important?

A: Because it absolutely affects everything a company delivers to its customers. Organizational culture is essential, especially when companies are in the business of selling services and products. When an employee is unfriendly or grumpy, it reflects an underlying level of cultural discontent. Perhaps the culture doesn’t align with their own values or maybe the company doesn’t care for the individual worker. Individuals are best suited to work for companies that are healthy, supportive, and match who they are so they can feel like part of a team. And, the best way to design your culture is to make sure that it’s aligned with your brand promise. For example, if your brand is “We do things fast,” then you need to have a culture that supports that speed. Taking care of a customer shouldn’t be so burdensome that everything slows down. It’s important to keep in mind that cultures shouldn’t be rigid; rather, they should have flexibility built into them so that leaders can bend the rules when needed. For this reason, the concept of agility in organizational cultures has become prominent in today’s business.

Q: What are you looking forward to at this year’s Awaken conference?

A: I didn’t attend last year’s Awaken conference, but I’m looking forward to seeing Jim and the participants. It seems like such an interesting group of people will be attending. And the hotel sounds fascinating. I suspect that the hotel is part of the culture of the event; just looking at it can influence people’s thinking. I’m also looking forward to figuring out what I’m going to say, as I base what I’m going to say after I’ve had a chance to talk with some of the participants. I’m always working on my final message after meeting my audience, so I’m as current as possible.

Q: Attendees will be learning a great deal from you and other presenters at Awaken 2020. What specifically do you hope to learn?

A: I’m hoping I can gain insight into participants’ problems prior to the event. My experience is quite broad, and I like to bring in specific examples that relate to participant issues. For me, it’s the interaction with the people that matters. I want to learn as much as I can from my audience (which are my customers) by the comments they make and the questions they ask. It’s important for my own development. And I hope to get a wonderful room in that hotel to see what its history is all about.

Are you ready to align your brand and culture? See Janelle at Awaken 2020! Get your tickets here.