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It's No Accident

Your company's reputation is too important to leave to chance.

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This story appears in the November 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Your company is trying to make its mark, but do you have aformal plan to develop a definitive reputation? More often thannot, a firm's reputation is not deliberately honed- justhappens. This passive approach ultimately falls short of clearlydefining who you are to customers, vendors and other partners.

In "Reputation Building: Small Business Strategies forSuccessful Venture Development" (Journal of Small BusinessManagement, April 2003), Albert Goldberg, Gilat Cohen and AviFiegenbaum looked at small firms in the same industry that werebetween 8 and 12 years old and their reputation-buildingstrategies. They found that small, growing firms that activelypursue formal reputation strategies do so in one of fourcategories: image-visibility, core competencies, dynamicexploitation and partnering. The least successful of these isimage-visibility, since smaller companies generally don't do agood job of crafting a well-coordinated plan for single image,widespread visibility in the marketplace. Technically orientedsmaller companies often overemphasize a one-dimensional focus onproduct development, but the most successful core competencystrategies involve developing a range of internal strengths. Thefocus of dynamic exploitation is rapid sales and growing profits inthe short term, at the expense of establishing long-term links tothe market and partners. And partnering with a wide variety offirms does not in itself ensure a solid reputation, becausecustomers may not recognize anything distinct about your businessother than its varied alliances.

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