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Chick-fil-A, Inc. ( is a family-owned and privately held restaurant company founded in 1967 by S. Truett Cathy. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Chick-fil-A operates more than 2,300 restaurants in 47 states and Washington, D.C.

For more than 20 years, black-and-white Holstein cows have admonished us to “EAT MOR CHIKIN.”

The rebel cows, as they are known, have painted their message of self-preservation on billboards, water towers, buildings, and more.

The real-life cows—including Kat, Freedom, Freckles, and Molly—have starred in dozens of television commercials and even have their own calendar—known as the Cowlendar.

In 2005, Chick-fil-A launched Cow Appreciation Day. Customers who come to a restaurant dressed as cows receive a free entrée. “Cow Appreciation Day is the one day where it’s okay to dress ‘udderly’ crazy and get rewarded for it,” quipped Jon Bridges, their Chief Marketing Officer.

The cows have even been inducted into New York’s Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame. (Coincidentally the campaign was also developed by The Martin Agency in Richmond, Virginia.)

The EAT MOR CHIKIN campaign has helped fuel the company’s amazing growth. Twenty years ago, when Chick-fil-A started the campaign, they had 750 restaurants and less than $1B in revenue. Now they have over 2,300 restaurants and over $9B in revenue.

In addition, Chick-fil-A generates more revenue per store than any other fast food restaurant. The average Chick-fil-A unit generated around $4M in 2017. For comparison, the average McDonald’s generated $2.7M and the average Starbucks generates $945K.

This is especially impressive since Chick-fil-A restaurants are closed on Sundays.

In addition to driving business results, the EAT MOR CHIKIN campaign provided a clear and consistent message that aligned the interests of franchisees, employees, and customers in a fun and engaging way.

The company credits much of its success to the stability of their leadership team. While corporate leaders at many quick-service restaurants change frequently, many senior leaders at Chick-fil-A have been with the company for more than 20 years.

They are also extremely selective when selecting their franchisees. Each year, over 40,000 people inquire about becoming a franchisee, but only about 100 get selected. Thus, becoming a Chick-fil-A franchisee is ten times harder than getting into Harvard!

“When we select someone, we select them for life,” explained retired COO Jimmy Collins. Clearly, they apply that same thinking to advertising.

Does your company have One unique and endearing personality?

P.S. As it turns out, their frequent diner rewards program is called Chick-fil-A One™. They are speaking my language!




The Government Employees Insurance Company employs more than 40,000 associates in 17 major offices around the United States.

They unleashed the accelerating power of alignment with a clear and compelling value proposition.

Never heard of them? The Government Employees Insurance Company is commonly known as GEICO (

“Fifteen minutes can save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance.”

GEICO started running the “fifteen percent” campaign (developed by The Martin Agency in Richmond, Virginia) in 1999.

In 2013, they even added a parody campaign where someone reads a "fifteen percent" ad and a second person sarcastically says, "Everybody knows that."

Fifteen minutes.

Fifteen percent.

One message.

For over fifteen years.

Alignment is both an internal and an external issue. Creating a clear and memorable tagline creates brand alignment for GEICO with consumers. It also provides tremendous clarity to everyone inside the company.

Every decision can be evaluated based on its alignment with the brand promise.

GEICO has done such an amazing job owning their value proposition that every competitor has been forced to find a different one.

Clearly, the campaign has produced incredible results. Since launching the “fifteen percent” campaign, GEICO has grown revenue from $5.6 billion to over $26 billion!

Having One Tagline is a highly effective way of creating alignment. Assuming, that is, you have the discipline to stay with One.

Does your company have One clear and compelling value proposition?




UPS (NYSE: UPS) has 481,000 employees, 5,000 UPS Stores, 1,990 facilities, 123,000 delivery vehicles, 248 jet aircraft, and 316 chartered aircraft.

UPS unleashed the accelerating power of alignment with One Color.

UPS is enormous. But it all started with One Entrepreneur in One City with One Idea.

In 1907, James Casey founded the American Messenger Company in Seattle, Washington.

In 1919, the company expanded to serve the Oakland, California, market and changed its name to United Parcel Service. The change was to remind the company that operations were still united.

Even in 1919—One Century ago—alignment was critical to success!

The brown color used by UPS is called Pullman Brown. Legend has it that the brown color was chosen because it would make it easier to keep their trucks clean.

Amazingly, UPS has a trademark on its unique shade of brown.

Every company has a color palette. But only a few literally own One Color.

It seems like such a simple thing. Trivial, really.

There are thousands of books about corporate strategy and competitive advantage.

Yet UPS leveraged the simplest and humblest of colors to create an amazing competitive position.

Immediately recognizable. A global One-of-a-Kind.

For eight years, UPS ran an advertising campaign that asked, “What can brown do for you?”

Perhaps it is time to consider a different question, “What could owning One Color do for you?”

Just to be clear, there is a big difference between having a corporate color palette that your ad agency created and owning One Color.

Does your company have One Signature Color?




The Virgin Group ( is a global conglomerate of over sixty businesses in five core sectors: Travel & Leisure, Telecoms & Media, Music & Entertainment, Financial Services, and Health & Wellness. Their portfolio companies employ 69,000 employees in 35 countries.

Virgin unleashed the accelerating power of alignment with One Brand.

In 1970, Richard Branson—now Sir Richard Branson—started a record company.

Recalling the origins of the Virgin brand name, Branson said: “I was 16 years old, sitting around with a bunch of girls, and I’d come up with the name Slipdisk Records for our new record company, and one of the girls said, ‘No, call it Virgin. We’re all virgins, you’re a virgin in business.’ So, we decided on Virgin, and then I couldn’t get it registered in the registry office for four years because they thought the word Virgin was rude. In the end, I wrote a letter to them quoting the English dictionary to show it means pure, untouched, it’s the opposite of rude. So finally, they gave it to me.”

Virgin has become one of the most valuable brands in the world. It is also one of the most recognizable with 99 percent brand recognition in the UK and 96 percent in the U.S.

In addition to the unique logo and the color red, the brand creates alignment across the portfolio of businesses with six brand values: heartfelt service, delightfully surprising, red hot, straight up, insatiable curiosity, and smart disruption.

Lisa Thomas is the Managing Director and global head of brand at Virgin Enterprises. Here is how she described the process of managing the One Brand strategy, "Sometimes we lack focus and my job is to ensure we are brilliant and consistent where it matters. Not just around the brand, the logo—but also around our business mantra: happy people make happy customers, which makes for happy shareholders."

Many people think a brand is a logo.

In reality, it is much more than that. It expresses who you are, what you believe, why you exist, what you do, and more.

The Virgin brand permeates every molecule of the company. The brand is infused into the culture, the vision, the mission, the values, the colors, the tone of voice, the services, and even the architecture of the office space.

In addition, the Virgin brand extends into human resources, since people are “the personification of the brand.”

Clearly, the One Brand strategy has produced amazing results. Virgin Records was the first Virgin company to reach a billion-dollar valuation in 1992. Since then, eight other Virgin-branded companies have become billion-dollar enterprises.

Does your company create alignment with a One Brand strategy?




Every company has a corporate brand.

But most are undifferentiated and uninspiring.

Here’s the problem: people don’t align with undifferentiated and uninspiring brands.

So, you must start by evaluating your corporate brand. (While your company may have many brands, it is your corporate brand that ultimately creates alignment.)

Your corporate brand has many functions.

First, your corporate brand must be an umbrella. It must be large enough to cover all your products and services. It must work in all your geographies. It must appeal to all your stakeholders.

While some will debate the “extendibility” of a corporate brand, Virgin uses theirs for every business they enter. Obviously, this creates alignment across their entire portfolio.

Second, your corporate brand must identify who you are and differentiate you from your competitors. Some of the key components of your corporate brand include:

  • Your company name
  • Your corporate logo
  • Your corporate visual identity
  • Your corporate value proposition
  • Your corporate personality
  • Your corporate tagline

So, perhaps you are thinking, “We have these things … so, we are aligned, right?”

Remember, people don’t align with undifferentiated and uninspiring brands. So, just because you have them does not automatically mean that they are any good.

Finally, your corporate brand must be a powerful magnet. It must attract the right people—including employees, customers, partners, and investors—to your company.

This week, we will explore how fast-lane companies like Virgin, UPS, the Government Employees Insurance Company, Chick-fil-A, and De Beers unleashed the accelerating power of alignment by creating a corporate brand so powerful that millions of people want to align with it.

NOTE: These stories are excerpted from my book, Drive One Direction.




Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) is the world’s leading internet entertainment service with over 109 million members.

They unleashed the accelerating power of alignment with a very unique Culture Code.

In 2009, Netflix’ CEO Reed Hastings, Chief Talent Officer Patti McCord, and a few others collaborated to create a 127-slide presentation about the culture they wanted to create.

Since it was posted online in 2009, the Netflix’s “Culture Code” deck has been viewed more than 10 million times. Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, described it as one of the most important documents to ever come out of Silicon Valley. (The current version is now a long text page on their corporate website.)

Many of their ideas are antithetical to the traditional HR approach. Their vacation policy is, “Take vacation.” Their expense policy is five words long: “Act in Netflix’s best interests.”

Another unique aspect is “the keeper test” that managers use to evaluate employees: “If one of your employees told you he or she was leaving for a job at a peer company, would you fight hard to keep that employee at Netflix? If the answer is ‘no,’ then Netflix will move that person out of the business. Sustained B-level performance, despite ‘A for effort’, generates a generous severance package, with respect.”

Perhaps most interesting is their approach to alignment, which they describe as “Highly Aligned, Loosely Coupled.” Here is how they explain it:

As companies grow, they often become highly centralized and inflexible. Symptoms include:

    • Senior management is involved in tons of small decisions
    • There are numerous cross-departmental buy-in meetings to socialize tactics
    • Pleasing other internal groups takes precedence over pleasing customers
    • The organization is highly coordinated and less prone to error, but slow and frustrating

We avoid this by being highly aligned and loosely coupled. We spend lots of time debating strategy together, and then trust each other to execute on tactics without prior approvals. Often, two groups working on the same goals won’t know of, or have approval over, their peer activities. If, later, the activities don’t seem right, we have a candid discussion. We may find that the strategy was too vague or the tactics were not aligned with the agreed strategy. And we discuss generally how we can do better in the future.

The success of a “Highly Aligned, Loosely Coupled” work environment is dependent upon the collaborative efforts of high-performance individuals and effective context. Ultimately, the end goal is to grow the business for bigger impact while increasing flexibility and agility. We seek to be big, fast, and nimble.

Netflix’s unique approach to alignment has produced stunning results. Since publishing the culture deck in 2009, Netflix has grown nearly tenfold!

Does your company have a radically unique corporate code?



LinkedIn-Post_MayoThe Mayo Clinic has over 4,700 physicians and scientists. Like many companies, they have a list of core values.

But they are crystal clear about which one is Number One.

In 1863, Dr. William Mayo opened a private medical practice in Rochester, Minnesota. His sons, William and Charles, continued to build the practice around a relatively innovative concept at the time—hiring a diverse staff of specialists to work as an integrated team. Their model produced better health outcomes and quickly began drawing patients from around the world.

The Mayo Clinic’s core values “are an expression of the vision and intent of our founders, the original Mayo physicians and the Sisters of Saint Francis.” There are eight of them:

  1. RESPECT—Treat everyone in our diverse community, including patients, their families and colleagues, with dignity.
  2. INTEGRITY—Adhere to the highest standards of professionalism, ethics and personal responsibility, worthy of the trust our patients place in us.
  3. COMPASSION—Provide the best care, treating patients and family members with sensitivity and empathy.
  4. HEALING—Inspire hope and nurture the well-being of the whole person, respecting physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
  5. TEAMWORK—Value the contributions of all, blending the skills of individual staff members in unsurpassed collaboration.
  6. INNOVATION—Infuse and energize the organization, enhancing the lives of those we serve, through the creative ideas and unique talents of each employee.
  7. EXCELLENCE—Deliver the best outcomes and highest quality service through the dedicated effort of every team member.
  8. STEWARDSHIP—Sustain and reinvest in our mission and extended communities by wisely managing our human, natural and material resources.

However, they specifically identify One Value as their primary value: The needs of the patient come first.

Elevating One Value to be Number One makes things incredibly clear. It takes courage and discipline, since every value is important.

It has worked for Mayo. In 2018 over 1.3 million people from 136 countries went to the Mayo Clinic for care, and in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings, the Mayo Clinic is the Number One hospital overall and Number One in more specialties than any other hospital in the nation.

What is your company’s Number One Value?



LinkedIn-Post_HiltonHilton (NYSE: HLT) is a global hospitality company with a portfolio of seventeen brands, 5,700 properties, and over 923,000 rooms.

Hilton improved alignment by creating One List of core values.

Perhaps you are thinking, “Of course they have One List of values.” However, this was not always the case.

When Christopher Nassetta took over as CEO in 2007, he discovered that Hilton had over thirty different lists of core values.

Here is how he described the process of consolidating them into One List:

“We did a lot of work with teams around the world, and asked people to look at all their values statements and boil them down. Then we took all those ideas with us on a two-day offsite with about 12 of us. There was a lot of overlap, and we tried to consolidate it. What I ended up saying to them was, let’s use some of our own skills and brand it, not because I want to be cute about it, but because people will remember it. I started looking around the room and at the letters and they came together as HILTON—H for hospitality, I for integrity, L for leadership, T for teamwork, O for ownership and N for now. To reinforce them, we are constantly referring to the letters—in newsletters, in town halls—almost to the point where we are driving people crazy. But it works.”

For your reference, here is the One List of Hilton values:

  • HOSPITALITY—We're passionate about delivering exceptional guest experiences.
  • INTEGRITY—We do the right thing, all the time.
  • LEADERSHIP—We're leaders in our industry and in our communities.
  • TEAMWORK—We're team players in everything we do.
  • OWNERSHIP—We're the owners of our actions and decisions.
  • NOW—We operate with a sense of urgency and discipline.

As you can see, each value has both One Word and an expected behavior. This extra step turns static values into a dynamic corporate code that can drive behavior.

Of course, this starts with having One List.

Does your company have One—and Only One—List of core values?




The Blommer Chocolate Company ( is the largest cocoa processor and ingredient chocolate supplier in North America.

Blommer unleashed the accelerating power of alignment with One DNA.

Blommer Chocolate was founded in 1939 in Chicago, Illinois, by three brothers; Henry, Al, and Bernard. For almost 80 years, the Blommer family has run the company.

The company now has over 800 employees, including the third generation of Blommers: Peter, Rick and Steve Blommer, Peter Drake, and Tori Blommer-O’Malley.

(Although these Blommer family members come from different branches of the family tree, they still share some common DNA. This could actually be confirmed by Autosomal DNA testing, which measures the number and length of common DNA segments.)

Peter Blommer, the grandson of Henry, started working for the company in 1991 in the Union City, California, plant. He became the President and Chief Executive Officer in 2009.

To manage the rapidly expanding company, Peter needed to recruit and incorporate outside executives who were not part of the Blommer family but shared the company’s DNA.

After all, your company’s DNA—just like your personal DNA—defines who you are and differentiates you from everyone else.

Here is how Peter Blommer described it, “Our unique company DNA is a function of several factors, including our history as a family business, our company values, our philosophy of management, and more. Creating company-wide alignment with the Blommer DNA was a top priority when I became CEO.”

At this point, roughly three-quarters of the senior management team is comprised of executives from outside the family.

The results from Blommer’s investments in strategic alignment have been sweet. (Pardon the pun.) The business continues to grow, the family relationships are healthier than ever, and the company is positioned to thrive for generations to come.

Your company may not be a family business, but that does not mean you can’t run it like one. You can treat your employees like family. You can treat your customers like family. You can even treat your vendors like family.

Of course, this means that you must codify your company’s unique DNA.

Do your values emanate from the founder’s DNA?



LinkedIn-Post_OneCodeEvery company has values.

But most struggle to make them more than just words on posters.

According to Wikipedia, a value system is “a set of consistent ethic values and measures used for the purpose of ethical or ideological integrity. A well-defined value system is a moral code.”

Most—but certainly not all—of the companies we studied had a codified list of core values.

Unfortunately, core values can also be a source of cynicism. Sadly, several CEOs we interviewed did not have their company’s values memorized. Dozens of employees shared stories of executives whose behaviors were in direct violation of their company’s values. Perhaps millions have been impacted by other forms of corporate hypocrisy. has built a very nice business selling posters mocking core values. Here are a few examples:

  • Perseverance: The courage to ignore the obvious wisdom of turning back.
  • Procrastination: Hard work pays off over time, but laziness always pays off now.
  • Mediocrity: It takes a lot less time and most people won't notice the difference until it's too late.

Unfortunately, Gallup’s research revealed that only 23 percent of employees know how to apply their company’s values to their work. Nonetheless, we included core values as one of the Accelerators because many exemplar companies used them effectively to create alignment. Some of the common best practices include:

  • They codified their values into One integrated value system. We call this your One Code.
  • They passionately communicate the values, so everyone knows what they are.
  • The employees—especially the senior executives—live them, breathe them, and personify them.
  • They only hire people who share their values, and never tolerate behavior that violates them.
  • They infuse their values into every fiber of the company, aligning every process, guiding every decision.
  • They reward and recognize people who demonstrate their values.
  • They justify them, so everyone knows WHY these are the values.
  • They translate their values into a set of expected behaviors. (Netflix calls this their “Culture Code.”)

Core values can’t be seen on the balance sheet, but they can be one of your company’s most valuable assets. They can allow a company to withstand a crisis. They can guide leaders faced with radically complex decisions.

Assuming they are more than just words on posters in the break room.

This week, we will explore how Blommer Chocolate, Hilton, the Mayo Clinic, and Netflix codified their values to unleash the accelerating power of alignment.

NOTE: These stories are excerpted from my book, Drive One Direction.