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HomeArticle: Corporate Identity Crisis
Does your company suffer from a
corporate identity crisis?


By Ravi Kathuria
At your next management team meeting, ask your team a few searching questions: What is our business model? What aspects of our business approach are non-negotiable regardless of changes in our marketplace, customers, competition and economic environment? If your management team members struggle to answer, and/or disagree with each other, your company could be suffering from a corporate identity crisis.


Business Model Discipline

Consistently successful businesses understand their business model and exercise exceptional discipline in sticking to that model. These businesses never suffer an identity crisis regardless of the circumstances. They know what they stand for, what they bring to the marketplace, and for whom. There is no confusion, room for misinterpretation or disagreement. Everyone from the board of directors to the frontline employees understand the business approach and its critical tenets. Sounds utopian? It is more common than you might think. Businesses with business model clarity and discipline exist all around you.


Core Management Philosophies

The components of your business model are your core management philosophies that capture your strategic principles. Each philosophy describes the non-negotiable aspects of your business approach. The unique combination of these philosophies would clearly and cohesively define your business model.

Core management philosophies are at a much higher level than strategies and tactics. Strategies and tactics are subject to constant change, core philosophies are not. They describe the business model at a fundamental level. If you change your philosophies, you will create a completely different company.


"Successful businesses understand their business model and exercise exceptional discipline in sticking to it."

Defining Your Business Model

If your company has not clearly and cohesively articulated its business model, start immediately. Ask yourself a series of questions to help you crystallize your business model. Remember, you are looking for aspects of your business that do not change and are non-negotiable. What are the specifics about your business approach? Do you focus on a particular industry segment, geographic region, or customer type? Do you only focus on a certain product or service type that would define your business? What product attributes do you exclusively target?

Let us look at an example. If you are a car manufacturer, are you a low-end, mid-level or luxury brand? If you are a luxury brand, is your focus on delivering the quietest, most comfortable ride, the highest reliability, the best driving experience, or some combination of those attributes. The unique combination of product attributes will define your company. Every aspect of your company, from its competencies and capabilities, to its processes and procedures must align with your core philosophies.

Let us consider another example. If you are a hospital, are you a general hospital or are you a specialized center. Is your focus on treating cancer regardless of the age of the patient, or, are you a children's hospital that will treat kids regardless of the disease they suffer.
Who are you, and what you do, must be clearly and explicitly engrained in your organization. You cannot be a cancer center for three years, a children's hospital for the next two, and then switch to focus only on emergency rooms. You could, but that's when the hospital would have a severe case of identity-crisis. It sounds ridiculous that any hospital would do that, and yet, it is amazing how many businesses make the mistake of not understanding their business model and constantly revise it. They lack discipline. Is your business one of them?

Ravi Kathuria 
A recognized thought leader, Kathuria has been quoted in various publications including The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, WorldNews, and featured on the BusinessMakers show, CBS Radio, Nightly Business Report, TEDx, and is a monthly columnist for the SmartBusiness Magazine.

Kathuria is the author of the highly acclaimed book, How Cohesive is your company?: A leadership parable. It is a realistic and intense story of how a CEO struggles to transform the business and, in the process, struggles with his personal transformation.

Kathuria is the founder and president of  Cohegic Corporation, a management consulting, executive coaching and sales coaching firm. Halliburton, Hewlett-Packard, St. Lukes Episcopal Health System, AT&T, and Imperial Sugar Company executives have co-published seminal business articles with Kathuria in the Houston Business Journal on sales effectiveness, performance, corporate culture, and change management.

Invited to speak at large conferences and corporate meetings, Kathuria is a thought provoking and vivacious speaker. He has spoken at the 5th Annual Veterans Entrepreneurship Conference, Rice University, Business Forum on Emerging Markets, University of Houston's Wolff Center For Entrepreneurship, University of Texas' Fleming Center for Healthcare Management, Institute of Internal Auditors, Dover Club, Galleria Chamber of Commerce, American Business Women's Association, French American Chamber of Commerce, Business Resources Group, Financial Executives Networking Group, Silver Fox Advisors, Houston Technology Center and the 2011 SPE Americas E&P Health, Safety, Security, and Environmental Conference.