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Back in the game

Back in the game

The CEO of Adidas, Herbert Hainer, tells us how businesses can once again capture the public’s trust.

February 20, 2011 4:07 by

For corporations operating in a changed world and challenging business environment, reputation is everything. According to a recent study among a global audience of 25- to 64-year-olds, being able to trust a company is one of the most important factors in determining its reputation. However, in an economic downturn, people tend to have less trust in business. So, how does business get back in good graces?

At the Adidas Group, I struggle with this question every day. One observation is that regaining trust in business begins with the chief executive, a company’s most visible spokesperson. How chief executives act, publicly or privately, plays a large role in shaping perceptions of business. Although the vast majority of chief executives behave responsibly, the media focuses a significant amount of attention on those running large multinationals, and recent times have portrayed a number of executives in bad light. If we want to regain the public’s trust, then chief executives must, foremost, lead the way by example.

Companies must also establish stronger communications with their key audiences, including employees, consumers, customers, shareholders, and the local communities in which they operate. Here are a few other thoughts to consider.

Employee Communication
To regain trust, start with educating employees. Given their vested interest in the organization’s success, employees are a company’s most logical supporters. If you don’t have the support of those who work for you, how could you possibly expect to gain the trust of others outside the company?

I’ve always felt strongly that our 42,000 employees need to be ambassadors of our brands. Their loyalty and passion has to be authentic, and this starts with fully understanding and embracing our mission, business, and strategies, then communicating them locally in relevant ways. Therefore, it is vital that our senior management team, myself included, regularly engages with employees to ensure they understand our strategy and are integral partners in our organization.

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