Building a Reputation

Akolawole Shoremi

“It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you will do things differently.” ― Warren Buffett

Dear Reader,

Compliment of the season to you. My most expository awareness on how powerful a reputation is was through a crime novel written by John Grisham. In the fiction, which revealed the evils being perpetrated by foremost multi-national companies of the world, John Grisham pictured the length to which the managements of few pharmaceutical companies will go to create an outrageous demand for a new drug, whose disease it is meant to cure was introduced to the public by private researchers and scientists working for these same companies. This crime against humanity further extends to the unusual cause of the sudden outbursts of certain diseases as being witnessed across the world. The interest of the brains behind this crime is solely to wade in dollars in millions or multi-million; our crime as the rest of the people of the world is ignorance.

According to this novel by John Grisham, The King of Torts, on a secret discovery of the crime perpetrated by these multi-national companies, some certain set of lawyers turned overnight millionaires on attempts to expose the evils. Even an ordinary omission in the list of the side effects of a drug becomes a threat to pull a company down. Of course all these will not go down without legal and illegal fights, the point however is that the battle to either mar or sustain a good reputation is ignited.

In my last article, “The Ants and the Business Colony”, I explained the importance of building a business colony and the great deal of efforts involved. Furthermore, I explained why we should be more concern about winning by smaller efforts. Likewise in a previous article, “The Business of Value”, I recommended a set of principles, formulated by the late US Rotarian, Herbert Taylor, popularly known as the Four-Way Test. Therein, I stated that though the Four-Way Test may not be satisfactory to the demands of running a business driven by profit, it will, however, help build a brand whose product(s) or service(s) will have a trusted reputation for generations.

Mark Twain, while sharing his concerns about reputation, advised that we should always do what is right as it will not only gratify half of mankind stating that it also has the capacity to astound the remaining half.

It was after my encounter with John Grisham’s “The King of Torts”, I recalled an old experience frequent to my growing up. My father, being an ex distributor to some beer companies had a custom. He had told us to sort aside contaminated or half-filled drinks each time we took delivery of goods. Upon return of these ‘flat’ drinks as usually termed, my Father’s business got compensated with more drinks. A few bottles of ‘flat’ drinks may offer him a whole crate or more depending on Father’s bargaining mood. And on occasions when he is at peace with the profit profile of our warehouses, he will simply ask the flats be destroyed or at worst handed them out for exact replacement. Regardless of his mood, the companies are always opened to compensations over their manufacturing errors. This signalled how expensive the errors can negatively affect their reputation via sale.

I will tell you more.

Some years ago, a friend, Festus Omoyinmi, who incidentally came across a ‘flat’ soft drink, took the contaminated bottle as an evidence to the nearest depot of the manufacturer. He did not only expressed his displeasure over the production, he also threatened to file a lawsuit in case of denial. Festus was not only appealed to, he was also called upon few days after to exchange the ‘flat’ drink with three crates of the drink. My friend may have appeared an opportunist but it would have been unfortunate had he unknowingly drink the soft drink containing such manufacturing dirt.

The above instances are convincingly unintentional. No company will wish to publicize its dirty linens. The possibility of a production error cannot be ruled out. The only expectation is that it should be protected from the public as much as possible, let alone to be mistaken for consumption.

An entrepreneur does not need await his start-up turn into a conglomerate before reputation becomes a watchword. As recommended in The Four-Way Test, whatever the vision of a company, it must be fair to all involved. Most importantly, the interests of the consumers must be protected in direct proportion to the value of a product or service being offered.

An article featured on ‘How to Protect Your Reputation’ published on advised the following to protect the reputation of a company having established a good corporate image:

  1. Rumour Procedure. If what others say is not true, you should employ the following three steps of the rumour procedure (1) Don’t publicize the rumour, (2) Promote the opposite of what the rumour says without mentioning the rumor, and (3) Provide undeniable and verifiable proof to support (2).
  2. Fact Procedure. If you did something wrong, you should employ the following fact procedure (1) Admit and apologize, (2) Limit the scope (or put the mistake in perspective), and (3) Propose a solution so the mistake is unlikely to reoccur.
  3. Turn negatives into positives. On a daily basis, misunderstandings and other negative situations will occur between you, your company, and the marketplace. You need to do what you can to turn these into positives.

As rightly expressed by Socrates, “the way to gain a good reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear.”

We Can. We Will. We Must

Akolawole is a Social Media and Customer Service Executive, a Columnist with Stockswatch newspaper, a Techie, Media geek, and an active Advocate on Entrepreneurship and nation building. He can be reached via and/or +2348085366022 (SMS only).


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