Every leader dreams of one day building an iconic brand, one that attracts business simply because of its legendary reputation. It all starts with one important leadership decision: quality over quantity.

Take Apple as an example. It’s an iconic brand on a global scale that puts quality over quantity. Their attention to detail has earned them a cult-like following and retail stores that have the highest per square foot profitability of any other brand in the world.

Certainly Apple has a volume business – they sell billions and billions of dollars every year – but that’s not what their business is based on. They earned their loyal following by putting quality first, from the products they create to their retail shopping experience.

Now, let’s take it down to a smaller scale. What does building an iconic business mean to a small business? How does it impact the leadership decisions of, say, a good, old-fashioned ice cream store?

This is where the Tale of Two Ice Cream Stores will prove helpful. Both are selling the same (type) of product, both with an iconic reputation, but each with a different approach to the question of quality over quantity.

The first ice cream store, store A, is located within a massive theme park, one that people travel from all across the US to visit. While the ice cream store is iconic, it’s only because of its association with the theme park.

This particular ice cream store has easy access to a volume business with thousands and thousands of visitors coming to the park on a daily basis. Needless to say, this ice cream store doesn’t have to do much to increase volume. The theme park does that work for them.

A recent visit to this particular theme park had us amazed at the size of ice cream people were walking out with. What surprised us even more was that they were charging $4 for what was perhaps the best ice cream we had ever had, and served us with polite and enthusiastic service.

Now, compare that to ice cream store B. Unlike the first store, this ice cream store is iconic all on its own. Tour buses from all over would stop at this place just to get an ice cream. This time we were blown away for completely different reasons.

$4.25 got you two tiny scoops of the most disgusting ice cream you can imagine. It tasted like freezer-burnt vanilla from the bottom of your grandmother’s freezer that had been there over 5 years because she doesn’t eat dairy anyway. The focus of this ice cream store was definitely not quality over quantity, and the service was ‘stressed-out, tired-of-people, when-is-my-shift-over’ style.

How do you want your customers to feel when they leave the store? Do you want them to feel like they stumbled onto something amazing or disappointed that they were fooled by a cheap tourist trap that wasn’t living up to its reputation?

As a business leader, what your customers experience comes down to your values. If your corporate culture values quality above all else, if you feel a sense of integrity about what you are doing, if you pass these values onto your employees, that is the mark of a great leader.

If, however, your success shifts your focus from the quality that earned you the reputation to begin with, if you make the business about how many people you can crank through, if you hire carelessly, it’s just a matter of time before you lose your iconic status and become another brand tarnished by its own success.

Ultimately, it comes down to what people are saying about you that determines whether or not you stay an iconic brand. Certainly, if you got there, you are worthy of the reputation. Now, it’s just a matter of ensuring that you keep it by earning it with each and every customer who walks through the door.

Need help building a culture, product and service that reflects your corporate values? Schedule a leadership training seminar with me today!

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