The Business Value of Good Will
Ask an MBA student to define “good will,” and you’ll likely hear a drawn-out answer like “Goodwill refers to the intangible value the business has created above the value of its tangible assets such as manufacturing plants, cash on hand or equipment.” Wikipedia adds that “the term was originally used in accounting to express the intangible but quantifiable "prudent value" of an ongoing business beyond its assets, resulting perhaps from the reputation the firm enjoyed with its clients.”
But what does this really mean, in layman terms? It takes many shapes and forms, but specifically in the SharePoint world it could mean giving away free software, giving away swag and funny t-shirts, speaking at conferences and sharing expertise (generally without a sales pitch), helping connect partners and customers (whether or not it leads to your own sales), creating or supporting various channels (online and offline) where the goal is to help others to connect, engage, and to be successful.
The end result of good will is typically a stronger brand, a loyal customer base, and a positive reputation. All good things that we all want for our companies.
The hard part of good will is convincing those driven by the numbers and key performance indicator-mindsets to expand their thinking. As I discussed in a previous article on the role of evangelism (which is what I do), not every good will activity automatically translates into a customer call to action, or a trackable / measurable / clear-cut activity. How do you recognize the role of strong company reputation in winning a competitive situation? It’s pretty hard to do.
Another concern for those anxiously engaged in building good will are those naysayers and cynics who believe that nothing is the world is truly free – all of these freebies and experts and helpful content conceal something more sinister: sales. Well guess what….they’re right. Those of us who spend our corporate lives trying to generate good will for our companies are doing it with the sole purpose of generating more business for our companies. And so what? Is this really surprising? And does it really change the value of what we are providing? Does Coca Cola spend millions of dollars to be more involved with local communities and in giving to charities out of the goodness of their hearts, or, in the big picture are they trying to maintain (or build) name recognition, stay relevant, and get people to buy more soda pop? But I digress…
Most people recognize that good will is a necessary reality in today’s competitive landscape, and that it’s just the right thing to do. Being good community-citizens and trying to build your business are not mutually exclusive activities. Do we need to get better at how we measure and manage good will? Maybe, but does it matter?
What are your thoughts?