Sharing Success

“Whose Reputation Is at Stake?”

“Reputation” is even more important today than when Dino first wrote this in 1999.


In virtually any industry, most enterprises experience average results, while only a few consistently outperform their competitors over time. As a young entrepreneur, I wondered why that is true and eventually realized that the “reputation” of a business is the most important element of its success. Webster’s defines reputation as: “(1) overall quality or character as judged by other people, (2) a place in public esteem, (3) a good name.” What business wouldn’t want a positive reputation?! So why are the reputations of so many businesses “average” and so few “outstanding”?!


I submit that there are three things shared by businesses with exceptional reputations:

1. A leadership whose passion for excellence cannot tolerate anything less than an “outstanding” reputation.

2. An employeeship who individually and collectively feels ownership of the company’s “outstanding” reputation.

3. A company wide shared belief that quality superiority of their products/services is the very foundation of their “outstanding” reputation.

Let’s review the definite order of these factors. First of all, exceptional reputations do not “just happen,” but rather always originate from the vision/energy/drive of a leader(s) who will accept nothing less. Said another way, if leadership is not passionate about excellence, don’t expect it of employees! Second, there must be a widespread belief among employees that they own the company’s reputation and that reputation reflects on them personally! Third, an exceptional reputation depends on everyone from top to bottom of the enterprise sharing the belief that demonstrably superior quality is the reason customers have awarded them an exceptional reputation! I can’t stress this enough. If you/your people do not truly believe in the quality superiority of what you offer, your business cannot achieve it, and your business reputation will not reflect it!


The foregoing trilogy is absolutely the sequence my company went through and the reason for the reputation we enjoy. I personally saw how an exceptional reputation can become so addictive that employees became self motivated to maintain it. That is, team members come to feel that their own personal reputation is at stake in the quality of every unit of output! If/when an enterprise can achieve this point of self actualization regardless of size or industry, it becomes a most formidable competitor. Here’s why:

• Long term business success depends on the depth of customer loyalty.

• Customer loyalty requires consistently superior quality because loyalty depends on continued satisfaction.

• Loyal customers result in an exceptional enterprise reputation, which results in employees becoming personally addicted to its continuance!

The solution is as simple as A B C:

A. Identify the key variables important to your target customer, thereby defining the type of reputation you want to build.

B. “Deliver” customer satisfaction on those key variables better than any competitors, and thereby build an exceptional reputation.

C. Invite employees to personally “own” that exceptional reputation and thereby make it self fulfilling over the long term.


Our self imposed editorial policy prohibits giving specific examples of how we implemented those A B C’s in our family company. But here is how I would approach your business.A. As an Independent restaurateur, the single most important success factor is the superiority of your food relative to competitors, period, end of report. Food quality superiority should top your list (above location/pricing/ambiance/etc.) because that’s what builds customer loyalty more than any other single factor. (Service ranks second in importance because prompt, friendly service may prevent complaints but mediocre food doesn’t build customer loyalty and repeat business!)B. Food quality superiority can’t be faked; you have to fully commit to that goal or it won’t happen. Fully committing to food superiority means:

• Testing/tasting/buying the best ingredients regardless of cost.

• Testing/adjusting recipes until each menu item you offer is as good as it can be.

• Kitchen staff that consistently produces superior quality.

C. Finally, to ensure the continuity of your restaurant’s exceptional reputation, hire/train/coach your employees to adopt it as their very own!Remember, mediocre reputations just happen. It takes your leadership and disciplined effort to become known for “excellence”!