Here is something you might not know: Kenney College graduates receive a custom made diploma, in Latin, crafted by a calligrapher. Our diploma is truly a work of art. We are happy to make this extra effort for our graduates. After all, an MBA is an amazing accomplishment worthy of special recognition.
Yet, there is also a personal reason: My family name is on each diploma. Those diplomas represent, to me, sacrifices made by my parents; grandparents; and distant ancestors who boarded a boat in Ireland to embark on a new life in a new world.
I share this simple example so that professionals will consider something: Would you do things differently if your name — indeed the name of your loved ones — was on the side of the building; or atop the company letterhead?
It wasn’t too long ago that using surnames in the branding of a business was the norm. Ford, Proctor & Gamble, Edison, Westinghouse and others put their names on the line routinely. Today, branding consultants advise against the use of surname for valid reasons. But as a society…haven’t we lost something? We don’t recommend, of course, that all business owners use a surname in their branding. We simply suggest creating a culture of accountability begins with pride of ownership.
It’s easy to hide behind brand names in relative anonymity, but that doesn’t mean we should. We should run our businesses like everyone knows the founder(s) are accountable. The scientific findings are undeniable: A company culture is going to develop the personality traits of the founder(s) as their norms. Stated differently, what the founder values….his/her employees value. If you take pride in your company’s name, so will your employees. We need not use our surnames for branding, but we should manage our brands as if we did.
When founding Kenney College, a lot of friends and advisors gave advice. Some said to name the school for a famous entrepreneur. Others suggested a generic name that conveyed business and leadership. Nobody suggested calling it Kenney College. However, the Kenney College name was chosen for metaphorical reasons. My wife and I wanted our students to know “if we can do it, you can do it”. We want to humbly serve others, and be the best we can be. If we stick to this simple premise, I’m sure we’ll do my parents, grandparents, and those pioneering ancestors proud.