It’s good for them and good for us
by Mehran AssadiMr. Assadi is president and chief executive officer of National Life Group. Visit www.nationallife.com.
Main Street America is populated by people who believe passionately in serving their communities, doing good for others and caring for their families. Those are solid, longstanding values that are worth honoring.
Too often, though, the people of middle-America doubt that companies sincerely share the same values as they do. They’re cynical about the motives of so many institutions today, including our industry.
And they think they can’t afford something as basic and vital as a life insurance policy. A LIMRA study last year concluded 80 percent of consumers misjudge the cost of coverage – and the numbers are even higher for younger consumers. 1
That same study found that consumers want to do the right thing to protect their families and their businesses for the long term. So, what we should we as an industry do to tell people on Main Street America about what we do?
Tell your story
The answer isn’t complicated. We need to tell them our story, how it mirrors that of America itself, and demonstrate to them that their values are our values. Because they are.
Every year there seems to be another study confirming what we’ve long understood — a company’s standing on social issues matters:
- More and more consumers are buying products with a cause
- The vast majority of Americans are likely to switch to brands associated with a cause
- Consumers want to hear how companies are supporting social and environmental causes. 2
Our industry is so well poised to join this movement. Since the founding of the republic, we have been serving the cause of the family and small businesses by providing them peace of mind that, when the unexpected inevitably happens, we will be there to keep our promises.
But even more than that, a mission or a cause that transcends business is important to consumers, and we should join them. For my company, we’ve built a culture around a cause, which is our values: Do good. Be good. Make good. Everything we do revolves around those six words.
Jackie and Kevin Freiberg are best-selling authors and business management consultants who recently published a new book, Cause!, which focuses on companies that have built themselves around a mission.
They highlighted cause-driven companies, including my own, because these are the kinds of businesses that engage their employees and their customers and, ultimately, perform better. And there is plenty of research to prove the point.
Consider the creation of The Stengel 50 by former Procter & Gamble global marketing officer Jim Stengel, who worked with research firm Millward Brown. Stengel studied 50,000 brands and found that those focused on the cause of improving people’s lives grew three times faster and outperformed their peers. Over a 10-year period studied, The Stengel 50 out-performed the Standard & Poor’s 500 index by 400 percent over the same period. 3
Others support Stengel’s conclusions. Edelman’s 2014 Trust Barometer found that 84 percent of respondents believe that business can pursue its own interests while doing good work for society. And 92 percent of consumers want to do business with companies that share their concerns. In other words, customers really do want to work with a company that has a cause. 4
This is all central to the beliefs of consumers all across Main Street America.
And the same holds true for employees. Deloitte found that organizations that have a strong sense of purpose are much more optimistic about their ability to stay ahead of the industry and to outperform their competitors.5 Deloitte’s research also found that when employees are engaged with their company’s culture and it aligns with corporate strategy and purpose, there can be as much as a 50 percent differential in performance. 6
Deloitte’s research found that an engaged work force supports the cause:
- 80 percent of people who work for companies with a strong sense of purpose believe their organization encourages employees to innovate, while only 35 percent of those at other companies believe the same thing.
- 79 percent of employees at cause-driven companies believe their employer encourages them and their colleagues to take full advantage of developing new business growth opportunities. Only 34 percent of employees at other companies express the same sentiment.
- 77 percent of employees at companies with a cause believe leaders at their organizations seek out the ideas and opinions of employees. And just 19 percent of employees at other companies believe the same thing. 7
Our kind of people
We want people like this to work for us. And we’re sure that people like this will do business with us when they learn more about our mission, purpose and cause.
We believe our mission to do good in our community, for our employees and for our customers is what attracted the attention of Jackie and Kevin Freiberg as they were researching and writing their book, looking at companies such as my own, Toms Shoes, Southwest Airlines and Lululemon.
We take Do good, Be good, Make good to heart. Just as they have been for 167 years, employees here are engaged at every level of the organization. They’re empowered to make a difference with our customers, and together with management, they work in the community to make a difference.
This is an approach that has worked tremendously for us and helped to guide our growth. Many others in our industry could follow a similar path.
Once you’ve developed a clear, cause-driven mission, communicate it with your employees. And then give them the power to build on the mission and reward and recognize them when they advance the cause.
Invite your community to join the cause by extending it to them. Understand the needs of the people who live and work around you and help them to achieve a shared cause. Our charitable foundation does that every day. And so do our employees when they take paid company time to volunteer for nonprofits in the community.
It never hurts to share the word of your mission. Tell customers about what you do and why. Invite them to join you – and give them the tools to participate.
And, perhaps most importantly, stick with it. Everyone will recognize if this is just a marketing campaign. But when they see that you’re at it year after year, they’ll believe you. And they’ll line up to join you and do business with you. ◊
5. Deloitte. Global Human Capital Trends, 2015 http://www2.deloitte.com/ro/en/pages/human-capital/articles/human-capital-trends-2015.html
6. Deloite. Culture of Purpose, 2014. http://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/about-deloitte/us-leadership-2014-core-beliefs-culture-survey-040414.pdf
7. Deloite. Culture of Purpose, 2014. http://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/about-deloitte/us-leadership-2014-core-beliefs-culture-survey-040414.pdf