By Scott Bushkie

Remember early January when schools closed and the wind chills reached -45 degrees? At 6 a.m. on Tuesday that week, my Denali stalled on Highway 41. Ironically enough, my engine computer told me it was overheating.

I dialed AAA expecting a short wait time due to the cold but optimistic I was still well ahead of rush hour. Imagine my surprise (and chills) when I was put on hold for over 58 minutes.

Let’s talk about honoring your brand promise. When I meet with business owners looking to sell their business, it’s one of the key factors we look at. Are you a commodity business or do you have a brand promise that sets you apart from the competition? And how well do you execute on that promise?

Those two overarching themes can have a significant impact on the value of your business and the potential for a successful sale.

I’m representing a utility locating company in the oil and gas industry, and their brand promise is to deliver the highest level of safety. They make sure they have the right people with the right tools and training so that the excavators who follow behind them don’t hit any underground utilities/lines.

In the last seven years, this company has had only four at-fault line strikes. They successfully marked 16,000 tickets last year alone, in an industry where the national average is three line strikes for every 1,000 tickets.

This company was the first to outfit employees in fire retardant clothing and the first to make certain DOT training mandatory for all employees. They make safety a priority, and that’s why they’re seen as thought leaders in their region.

They live their promise. Here at Cornerstone, we promise to do what we say we’re going to do. And that takes discipline.

What I’ve learned in more than 15 years in the M&A business is that the hardest word in our industry is “no.” We’re sales-oriented people. But at the end of the day, the client is paying us for realistic information and the ultimate sale of their business – not big talk and unattainable values.

We promise Honest Conversations and Superior Results. We do that by limiting the number of clientele we work with, investing in extensive resources, and being willing to say “no, we can’t do that.”

I expect AAA to live up to its brand promise by ramping up resources when high demand and dangerous conditions are expected. I don’t pay my dues to have them answer the phones only when the weather is nice.

AAA offered to refund my dues this year or give me a free renewal for my inconvenience. I took the refund. Next year, I’m going to look for other options.

So I ask you, are you living up to your brand promise? Or are your clients looking elsewhere for more reliable, authentic service?

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A thought-leader in the industry, Scott developed the Cornerstone Process to offer investment banking M&A-level services to the lower middle market. The result is a closing ratio that’s more than double the national average.