Valuing Your Name

While giving his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech this past weekend, Jerome “The Bus” Bettis shared a story about his father. As Jerome went off to college his father told him, “Son, I don’t have much to give you. But I do have my good name.” His father went on to say with a smile,  "Don’t mess it up.”

That simple interaction guided The Bus throughout his college football career and on to the NFL. It stayed with him as he lifted the Lombardi trophy when the Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XL in his hometown of Detroit, and ultimately to the wearing of the golden Pro Football Hall of Fame jacket last weekend in Canton, Ohio. During his acceptance speech, Jerome addressed his son in the crowd telling him that he was now passing on his good name to the next generation.

During the CBS Hall of Fame weekend game halftime show, commentators Al Michaels and Cris Collingsworth interviewed Jerome about his career and what it was like to be included as one of the all-time greats. He once again shared the story of his father and his name. He also told how his Steelers coach, Bill Cowher, had a strategy to have a dominant defense and then support it with a solid running offense. He lit up as he shared how the Steelers almost always won when they carried a lead into the fourth quarter because all they had to do was hand the ball to The Bus and wait for time to run out for the other team. Not only did he have a good name, he became a brand his fans and teammates could count on. He was blue collar in his work ethic, like the city of Pittsburgh and its fans. The name of an individual, the name of a team and the name of a city all married into one story of success.

How do you carry the name of your company, non-profit, city or faith-based organization? Perhaps you didn’t have a moment like Jerome, when his father formally passed the name onto him with such high expectations. But you can be the first to begin the standard of holding your group’s name to a new level.

I am proud of the Benefitfocus name and look to show it in many ways. For example, when I hold meetings I always place a pen and pad of paper at each seat, both with the Benefitfocus logo. It may seem excessive, but I ensure that our logo is facing up on each pen. This displays respect for each person taking the time to attend, by providing them the tools to capture what I hope to be great ideas. It’s a simple act but powerful over time. The standard of setting up a room that way is born from a desire to uphold our company name with esteem every day.

Have honor and pride in the work you do, in your teammates, in your personal and corporate brand. Look for opportunities to enhance that brand. Accept the baton of carrying the name with excellence. Then you too will be able to pass the name on with pride.